Release Yourself Through Forgiveness

Opportunity for Wisdom

She lied! There was actually no doubt about the action. It was a blatant, outright falsehood. How could Sam forgive her? The damage to his trust, to their relationship, had been done. Why did he need to tell her the truth anymore? Why not betray her trust as she had done his? That seemed fair.

As Sam met with his friend and shared about his pain and anger, the friend pointed him to Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The contrast was glaring. Sam’s friend suggested that the response to the hurt be kindness in return. What??

In Scripture, we often see the irony of opposites. Tozer once wrote about these opposites. “[A Christian] empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.”

Now, when we have been mistreated, abused, and sinned against, it is correct to confront in love and to speak truth to the offender. But you also need to forgive, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because God through Christ, has forgiven you. We don’t forgive because we don’t really appreciate the depths to which we ourselves have been forgiven.

Forgiveness Linked to Being Th(i)nkful

When a person is working through what it means to forgive and not harbor bitterness, there’s a battle within. It feels wrong that the offender doesn’t get what they deserve. And then there is an ‘aha’ moment when we realize that we don’t forgive an offender because they deserve to be forgiven. We forgive because we are so enormously thankful for how God forgave us through Jesus. Forgiveness begins with thankfulness. How thankful we are that we didn’t get what we deserved!!

Think about this admonition.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:14-21

As we think thanks about God’s forgiving us for the millions of evil thoughts, motives, actions and words we have had through our lifetime, and continue pondering the new foundation of the Word, the Spirit and a clean conscience He has given us to stand on, we can release the stone of unforgiveness towards the one who has maltreated us. It may take time. It may need to be worked through with a counselor. But as we think thanks on how God has forgiven us, it gives us a motive to forgive, too.

Releasing Them Releases Us

We don’t forgive others just because we have been forgiven. We also forgive because harboring bitterness and waiting to take revenge is a toxin that poisons us, not them; a cage that imprisons us, not them. Harboring unforgiveness and bitterness has mental, emotional, and biological consequences for us.

There is a release and renewed vigor when we choose to forgive. There is a wonderful freedom that comes from forgiving a person that has hurt us, even if that person has since died. God has created us and He knows that forgiving is what will eventually bring deep healing. The irony is that people often hug their prison cage and sip at their poison. God forgives us so that we can release others and thereby release ourselves. The Lord will deal with the wicked and the unrepentant.

Sure, the optimal scenario is when the offender comes and seeks forgiveness. Until then, we give “accorded forgiveness” based on our own resources as those who are thankful that we have been forgiven much. But when an offender seeks forgiveness, then we enthusiastically give our “completed forgiveness.” Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, but it is one big decision followed by a thousand small decisions not to bring the matter up again by way of revenge. Forgetting is weakness. Forgiving is strength.

To forgive is to imitate the God who forgave us and continues to forgive us even when we fail to ask. We are so very thankful for His steadfast love and faithfulness, and our forgiving others begins with that thankfulness.

“We don’t forgive because we don’t really appreciate the depths to which we ourselves have been forgiven.”

David Brown

Who Is Your God?

Do You Know Who Is Your God?

A thinker recently told me, “Every mature man needs to figure out who is his god.” I liked that. Do you know who is your god and how you worship that god? You do worship, you know. Whether you are aware of it or not. Every human being worships something or someone.

Do you realize that with any other god beside the One True God, you can never be fully thankful.

A god, or idol, is anything that wins over the true God when two ways diverge. When you come to a fork in the road that requires a choice, you pick what you worship.

Counselors have identified three main gods or idols: the god of comfort, the god of control, and the god of people-pleasing, but they take on varied mantels to attract us and pull us in.

Tim Keller identified several similar Idols: power, work, achievement, image, dependence, independence, religion, irreligion, inner ring, racial/cultural, ideology, materialism, family, relationship…..

Most of us feel a pang of guilt when these idols are mentioned. Most of us could raise our hands that we battle with more than one. There is one sure thing: these gods always disappoint and fall short. These gods will leave you unthankful because they cannot be relied upon.

If you have formed a relationship with the One True God, Yahweh, His character and promises are unchanging, and though His ways lead into deep darkness at times, we know that He is micromanaging every detail for His plan and glory and for our good.

You want to worship such a God the way that He desires you to worship. He desires to cleanse you from your sin and to make you new. His new life and indwelling Spirit changes you from the inside out. He begins to renew your mind as you put off the shackles that belong to another god, and put on the things that please the true and righteous God.

As we conform to the image of the Lord Jesus, we become less us and more Him. We live life with a different perspective than someone who lives for the deceptive and disappointing gods of this world. One of the elements of Christlikeness is to live life thinking thanks to the Father (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21, John 11:41, Colossians 1:3).

As we think thanks, we learn to see His fingerprints in our every day lives. Our minds look for things to give thanks for on a continual basis.

The beautiful thing that happens to us when we worship the One True God is that He satisfies us. In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

Deep Darkness

One of the true tests of what your worship happens when you are going through difficulties. It is easy to be thankful and trust God when things are going smoothly.

What about in ‘deep darkness?’

Psalm 23:4 says that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The “shadow of death” can be literally translated as “deep darkness.” Even in the times of deep darkness I do not need to fear evil. The reason the psalmist gives is because the Shepherd is with me, His rod and staff comfort me. If you have the god of comfort, you will be very uncomfortable. If you have the god of control, you will be outraged. If you have the god of people-pleasing, you will struggle to keep your friends and family happy in the deep darkness.

Thinking thanks even in the deep darkness seems almost impossible even with the One True God. It feels like it is hard just to breathe. Yes, it is very hard. And it may take a long time before we are able to get to the point where we can even contemplate thinking on something that we can be thankful for.

But when we finally look up, we will see that we did not wander off on our own; the Shepherd has been there. Then we can begin to see things that are gifts from the Shepherd, and then follows a slow release of a deep joy that builds as we gain perspective from a distance.

He has not left me to wither up by myself. He is with me!

Just that thought is enough to give you cause for thinking thanks. He has not forsaken me. He cares about me intensely. He has even counted all the hairs on my head. He loves me with an everlasting love that will not end (Jeremiah 31:3).

God’s Trusted Character

So who is your god? Do you know? Have you identified who it is?

The gods of this world that I am tempted to worship are temporal. They do not satisfy. Yes, maybe there is quick, temporary satisfaction, but they will never follow you into the deep darkness. Only One Shepherd will.

If you worship the God of the Bible, you have the confidence that He is the Blessed Controller of all things. He will work all the difficult things together for my good, conforming me into Jesus’ likeness.

Actively pursue thinking thanks. Figure out a way that works for you. Whether you say it orally to someone daily or write it down or make a voice message to someone. Weave it in to the fiber of your life. Obey the Shepherd who walks with us and guides us.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I Thessalonians 5:18

Every Monday

It’s Deliberate

Every Monday we send each other a thinkful list. Our brains search through our immediate situation and we deliberately find things that we can think thanks about. We have done this now for over two years. It is amazing to me that when I read my friend’s thinkful list, I always feel edified. I know that she has hard things in her life, but she chooses to focus and draw out things for which to give thanks to the Lord.

Being th(i)nkful is choosing to deliberately focus on the good in our good times and the good in our bad times.

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

Psalm 77:12

Why?

So why do I need to go through the discomfort of forging new brain neural pathways of finding things to think thanks about?

That is a good question. First of all we need to do this because our Shepherd has asked this of us.

He has given a direct command to give thanks in all circumstances that I find myself in (I Thessalonians 5:18). He wants me to ponder His works, His ways, His solutions. It is a good thing for me to trust my Shepherd. It is a good thing to take time out. My Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures and He leads me beside still waters. Taking 20 minutes out of a hectic schedule to gather my thoughts about what I am thankful for is lying down in a green pasture for a bit. He is pleased. And He restores my soul.

Secondly, this practice will become easier when I have carved that neural pathway deeply. I enjoy thinking about how you can do something more wisely and with less challenge. I can trust my Shepherd’s way because:

“All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

Psalm 25:10

Wonder in Reine

My husband and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. David whisked me away to Norway and we had the best getaway ever!! We had been dreaming of going to Reine, Norway and climbing Reinebringen. It is a demanding steep hike to the top of a mountain. On the summit you can see for miles. We got to actually do it!

You can get disoriented driving around all the little roads and alleys in these fishing villages. But up top, you get an incredible overview of where everything is, and how it fits together. God has this kind of view all the time. He sees the beginning from the end. He is the Sovereign One over every nook and cranny and is therefore worthy of our trust.

So if He says, “Karin, give thanks in everything,” I need to heed that. His Spirit is within me and living with me through all of my troubling circumstances. He loves me as He loves His Son who went through troubling circumstances. He knows that thinking and thanking Him will be for my good, so I need to obey. I desire to discern, delight, and do His will in my life, and He wants me to express thankfulness as a core life-skill.

One last thing! We discovered such wonder at the fjord by Olstinden, Reine. The water was clear and turquoise. Looked quite magical, and we stood in awe at the perfect weather and pristine beauty.

Whenever we see such beauty – whether God-made, or manmade, or just created by computer-generated imaging – eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the imagination, the wonders God has prepared for those who love Him! So we can always be thankful that the future for God’s true children is far better than anything we can see or experience now, as amazing as that might be.

Keep thinking thanks and keep your gaze on Him and His view of your life. Do it every Monday with a friend.

Even in the Cesspool

Not the Cesspool!

It smells so bad! Could a person actually get used to toxic odors and it not bother him anymore? Recently I learned about an imprisoned brother who was given the grace to actually overcome the horrid smells of a cesspool and find reasons to be thankful for it.

Chen Min Lin lived during a time and place in history where it was illegal to talk about his personal conversion and the Bible. This pastor shared his faith … to a fault some would say. He was incarcerated for 18 years for this crime. After many years, he was assigned to the dreaded cesspool duty. He felt that he had been given a death sentence.

How could he possibly serve God in the cesspool of this prison, trudging around in a field of filth? But the stink of this field had one distinct advantage (pun intended). He was alone. He would always be alone, and no one would disturb him. And so, it was there in the most awful place that he found communion with his Creator. He would pray, lift up his hands, sing to the Lord, and commune with Him right there in the cesspool as he worked.

It became a treasured place to walk and talk with the Lord, even while cleaning the cesspool. (Click on his name to watch the short video describing his joy of finding joy even in the cesspool.)

How I View My Challenges

How do we view heavy challenges that come our way? I know how quickly I am tempted to complain. Yesterday I was struggling through sitting in a very hot church service. It was a fiery day in the mid-nineties outside and our church was going through load-shedding with no power. So not even the fan would work. I was listening to David teaching a Bible college course for four hours in the afternoon.

As I sweated and tried to fan myself with a paper, I realized how easy it was for me to get irritated with something as little as heat. What about all the Ukrainian believers who are right now freezing to death and starving, going weeks without bathing? My endurance surely was quite lacking. 😦

Oh, how good it is to view our challenges with God’s eyes.

James gives us a great perspective. Hard times build endurance and fully-outfitted maturity:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

New Resolve

So whatever my hard thing is presently, thank you, Lord!

These difficulties have a purpose. They are shaping me. God is using the difficulties to create something beautiful in me … if I will allow Him to do that! In some cases, the hard thing ends up being a growth point, or a growth era, in my life. Though I may hate it now, I will look back and see glory in the cesspool … where my gray prison walls were exchanged for a radiant sun and gentle breezes … where a kaleidoscope of watching eyes were exchanged for the freedom of being alone with God.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:15-18

Help me, Lord God (Simakade in isiZulu), to worship you on the pathways you have chosen for me. You may call me to cesspool duty. You may call me to endure the trauma and unspeakable losses of war. You may call me to a dithering and withering job. You may call me to a disappointing and discouraging marriage. You may call me to something as simple as sweating in a hot African church. But as you choose my path, also choose your largest vial of grace and pour it out on my soul to see Your fingerprints, Your opportunities, Your promises, and Your image being formed in my person.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

C.S. Lewis

The DNA of Joy is Thankfulness

What is DNA?

Virtually all living things have a programming code within themselves. It is what makes them who or what they are. You have it and I have it. It is, of course, deoxyribonucleic acid … better known as DNA.

DNA: a self-replicating material that is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.

Paul Tripp makes a bold statement when he states that “the DNA of joy is thankfulness.” The genetic makeup of joy is thankfulness.

We need to first come up with a good definition of joy. You can see the word “hap” in happiness, which is a feeling of pleasure based on happenings around us. It is a positive emotion responding to external stimuli. When outside circumstances become difficult, the positive feeling is gone.

Joy, in contrast, is like a hardy plant that grows based on processes taking place on the inside – the replication of billions of DNA. Like a spiritual evergreen that is rooted in the water of life, joy is a slowly growing positive contentment generated by the Spirit of Jesus inside the believer that is not a mere product of my circumstances. Joy generates an inward smile … not flashy spike of outward elation. When outside circumstances become difficult, the inward replication continues and even increases.

But what ideas is the Spirit using to generate this good and positive calmness in my heart and mind? John Piper writes: “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world” (John Piper, Desiring God, “How Do You Define Joy?”).

First, the Spirit takes our minds to the Word of God, flipping through its pages to discover the steadfast love of the Lord for His people, His sovereignty over the odds, His ability to bring beauty out of ashes, and glory out of oppression. This builds our confidence in Him for our present struggles.

Second, if we give Him the chance, the Spirit also takes our minds through the world of our lives, our friends, family, and church community to search for His fingerprints, for answers to prayer, for so many things to be thankful for even in our struggles.

If you look at the Word and your world only on the surface, you will struggle to find the beauty of Christ and the splendor of His designs. This is often why over-busy people crash and burn when things go wrong; they don’t have time to search for Spirit-guided insights into the Word and the world. Spirit-led “th(i)nkfulness” requires reflection. The more you think and look for the beauty of Christ, the more DNA of thankfulness you produce … and it takes a lot of DNA to grow this tree of joy.

Carrying Th(i)nkfulness

Paul David Tripp gives us a poem in his book New Morning Mercies that explains how remembering to be thankful to God and all He has done can bring us inner joy:

I wish I always

carried it with me.

I wished it always

shaped the way

I look at life.

I wish it directed

my desires.

I wish it was

the natural inclination of

my heart.

I wish remembering

your boundless grace

would silence

my grumbling.

I wish my worship of you,

my trust of you,

my rest in you

would drive away

all complaint.

If my heart is ever

going to be freed of

grumbling

and ruled by

gratitude,

I need your grace:

grace to remember,

grace to see,

grace that produces

a heart of humble joy.

Paul David Tripp

How This Might Work Practically

Studying Psalm 107 helps to create joy’s DNA. Five times the writer encourages the reader to thank the Lord for His goodness and His steadfast love and His wondrous works to the children of men. He ends with: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

When we cultivate remembering God’s steadfast love for us, and rehearse all that He has given to us, we begin to wind up that DNA double helix of thankfulness that will produce joy. This is great for husbands and wives, dads and moms, at the end of an event or a weekend to call out, “OK, let’s rehearse the good things God did for us this weekend,” and then do a rapid “thinkful volley” back and forth. The remembering gives a rush of new DNA, building joy in us and inspiring us to trust Him for future days.

Life in the Scorched Earth

But sometimes a field fire just torches your tree. All joy seems lost. I am all too familiar with deep sorrow in these past six months having lost a sister, brother-in-law, dad, nephew and other precious things. How can I remember God’s steadfast love when I sit in ashes?

It is precisely when my circumstances are difficult that I need to remember the steadfast love of the LORD. Though He sent the fire and the tree of joy is gone, there is still the rootstock and the DNA of th(i)nkfulness is still replicating. The God of the fire is also the God of the living water underneath me. My God is still on the throne. He is trustworthy even when He allows hard things. He is with me and comforts me. He cares for me even through tears of sorrow.

With enough DNA, the little sprig of joy will pierce the blackened soil, and joy will begin its journey of growth and fullness reaching toward heaven.

Choosing to remember His steadfast love will genetically produce joy.

Anonymous

Learning A Secret

The Joy of a Secret

Do you have a secret about how to do something well? Some little-known way to make a meal or a moment really special for other people? Something that is a winner every time? Not a bad secret. Not luscious gossip about another person. Not a way to get rid of people you don’t like. A delightful secret to getting a job done.

Recently I became aware of a secret to making grilled cheese ~ mayonnaise!!! Spreading a layer of mayo on the bread before grilling the sandwich makes it grill evenly, look delicious, and taste like you used butter. 🙂 I was overjoyed to learn this secret, I love knowing this secret, and well, ok, I guess I love passing it along … so it can hardly be called a “secret” anymore.

Learning A Secret Cure

But there is another huge secret that I would love to whisper in your ear. This secret is much more important than grilled cheese. This secret has to do with fighting depression and angst. It is a key to processing life, the downs, dark shadows and despair that come our way.

This secret did not originate with me, but instead with the One who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. The Apostle Paul had a life and ministry that was hard on his body – hiking mountain passes, coping with his ship going down, and getting attacked by mobs. Sometimes, he received a financial gift; at other times he had to pay his own way. He wrote this from prison:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

Learning Paul’s Secret

Here is Paul’s secret: I have learned to be content.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “content” as an adjective meaning “in a state of peaceful happiness.” Someone has said that “contentment is wanting what you have, not having what you want.”

Whether I am going through a very discouraging time or whether I am riding high on the wind of accomplishment and joy, I can choose to be content and be th(i)nkful. That seems almost impossible. How can I be content, in a state of peaceful happiness, when I feel my life is falling apart? Feels bizarre.

The secret key is how you process the happenings in your life. What are you thinking about? Whose perspective are you choosing?

Fight for the Secret Key

Importantly, Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13 that he has learned the secret of being content. Learning typically means chosen and fought for. When you learn another language, you must choose to do so and then persistently fight to follow through. Paul learned contentment. I wonder how many times he failed while trying to learn.

Can I also learn this secret? Can I craft brain neural pathways of contentment? Of course I can. God gives the “how-to” in the last verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Christ wants me to choose contentment, to fight for contentment, and when I fail, to choose contentment again. Call out to Him for His strength in order to be content with what He has allowed in my life.

The Outside and Inside

But contentment is about my view of things outside of me, my circumstances. My only discontentment should be about what inside of me is unlike Him. I must never be content with the extent of my fallenness, my fleshliness, or my rebel sighs against my circumstances and their Author.

You see, in God’s mind, our externals are about our internals. Our circumstances are meant to test and change our hearts and the hearts of those watching us. He does not waste pain or difficulty. God has designed my challenges and my successes, my wealth and my poverty, my health and my disabilities. He is behind everything in my life. In Isaiah 45:7, our God makes it very plain:

“I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

Isaiah 45:7

Part of the choosing and fighting for contentment is choosing to search for things for which you are thankful. Th(i)nkfulness produces contentment. I can be thankful for what is going well and talk about the “glass half full.” I can be thankful that I don’t need whatever seems to be lacking because God has promised to meet all of my needs.

I can be thankful for pain and loss and sorrow because I am learning, I am dying to my own will, I am becoming deep and not shallow, I am praying more than ever, I am more sympathetic to others suffering in the same way, I am receiving His grace to overcome, I have His presence and attention through this, I may get extra gospel opportunities, I have a hope that this too will pass, and if I die, it will be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Summing up, the secret to fighting depression and angst is to repeatedly express my thankfulness to the Author of my circumstances, and then to fight my way through many, many lessons, with His strength, to learn contentment. Now, go and share your secret with somebody else.

“Be content with what you have for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

Turning Back to Say “Thanks”

One Leper’s Return

One day as Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, He was met at the edge of a village by ten lepers who were keeping their distance, as the Law of Moses required. Knowing Jesus’ reputation as a healer, they cried out to him to have compassion on their suffering.

No one in Jewish history had ever been healed of leprosy. The rabbis concluded that such a healing would surely be a sign of the Messiah. Strangely, Jesus told the ten men to go and show themselves to the priests, something you were to do when you were already healed, as you can read in Leviticus 14.

No doubt puzzled, they did what Jesus told them to and went on their way to Jerusalem. And as they went, they were healed! Can you imagine? A miraculous healing – instantaneous and complete – and the only recorded instance of Jesus healing multiple people at the same time! But more than that, for a leper, the relational healing that would follow as they could again be readmitted to the community that had shunned them for years.

One of them, a Samaritan, immediately turned back, and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and gave thanks. Then Jesus asked in disappointment, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:11-19).

One. Only one. Only 10% turned around and said “thank you.” He said it with a loud voice – I love that part! He must have been overwhelmed with thanksgiving.

What baffles me, and bothered Jesus, is why the other nine didn’t say thank you?? They weren’t thinkful. They didn’t think back. They didn’t turn back. No doubt, they were overjoyed, but they just kept moving forward, running to see the priest and then their loved ones, and perhaps attributing the miracle to Jesus. But they didn’t think, stop, turn back, and say “thank you.”

Think. Stop. Turn Back.

Psalm 107 captures why Jesus was disappointed in the nine. It begins, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.”

The writer then recalls four deadly scenarios where God stepped in to help people: 1) some got lost in a scorching desert, 2) some were prisoners of war, 3) some were suffering a deadly disease, and 4) some were caught in a raging storm at sea.

In each of the four scenarios (vv. 6, 13, 19 and 28), “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” And after each rescue, the writer admonishes (vv. 8, 15, 21 and 31), “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Your Path

In this post, I am not addressing the dilemma of when we call out to the Lord and He does not seem to answer. I want you to ponder what you do after you ask and He gives you exactly what you asked for. What then?

When you prayed for safe travel … and arrived safely.

When you called out for healing … and got better.

When you asked for help on that exam … and completed it having remembered everything you studied.

When you begged for mercy in a troubled pregnancy … and gave birth to a perfectly healthy child.

When you tearfully asked the Lord for encouragement … and a rainbow radiated out of the dark clouds in front of you.

What then?

Will you think, stop, turn back, and say “thank you?”

Will you be the one? A ten percenter?

Or will you be one of the nine … who is just so pleased and happy … and keeps moving forward eager to tell others how your situation turned around? Will you just be “thankful for” and not “thankful to?” Will you make Jesus cock his head and once again wonder how a person can be so helped and yet not turn back to say “thanks.”

Psalm 107 begins by saying that if you’ve been redeemed from a bad situation, you need to say so and give the Lord the credit due to him. When we believers hear the word “redeemed,” we immediately think of being saved, bought back from the hopeless slave market of sin. So, perhaps we can start there with our thanks.

But beyond that, the steadfast love of the Lord has blessed us with so many good things, and answered so many of our prayers for help in the affirmative, that we surely have much to thank him for.

Psalm 107 ends: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

20,000 Thankfuls

How It Started

“Get it on your thankful list,” he yelled as he left the rehab. She had just finished explaining to her counselor something that she really worked hard to complete. Part of the program at this drug recovery center was that every day each person had to make a list of five things they were thankful for. It was an assignment. It felt irritating at first. Actually felt impossible.

Trying to write down anything that she was thankful for felt like walking up a steep hill.

But since she would have to report on what she wrote down at the end of the day, she acquiesced. After a few weeks, the hill didn’t seem quite so steep. The practice of writing down what she was thankful for came easier. It had become a habit … a good habit.

Other people coming through the program soon got into the same required habit. She had started recording the required five things just on the paper she had available, but it wasn’t long before she ran out of paper.

The thankful lists made their way into inexpensive journals. The required list of five things at the end of the day often grew to eight, ten, or even twelve things. She had a nice collection of those journals now. Encouraging to behold.

In fact, Sarah was getting close to finishing three years at the rehab and her thankful list had a running tally of 20,034 to date.

Counselor’s Toolbox

As a counselor I have found that the practice of learning to think thanks and expressing that thanks to God and to others has a place in my “Counselor’s Toolbox.”

In whatever counseling situation that I find myself in, gratitude is a necessary part of finding solutions and remedies.

In Ephesians 5:1-4 there is a interesting contrast presented:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."

Choosing to think and express thanksgiving is the opposite of the sin that Paul is warning the Ephesian believers about in this passage. It is the correct behavior of a person walking worthy of the Lord, walking in love, pleasing the Lord.

How Long Is Your List?

Knowing that practicing gratitude is so helpful, does it alter your own behavior? Do you have a list of things that you are thankful for? I do not have an updated tally for mine. I have so many journals and papers filled up that I am sure it is in the thousands. I do know I kept track of the first 1000.

I encourage you to invest in a th(i)nkful or gratitude journal if you find yourself in a difficult season in your life. It is a well-documented tool of hope and solution. Our Creator God knows our frame and our challenges … and He ordered us to do it.

Virtually every sin that we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness

In the Mundane

Thinking Thanks in the Mundane

“Today I didn’t ‘waste’ the mundane. It was a temptation to view folding laundry as a nuisance. But today it turned into something with eternal value. The Holy Spirit urged me to pray as I folded Josiah’s shirt: I thought about his heart. I thought about King Josiah of the Bible (his namesake) and prayed, ‘Lord, give Josiah the desire to be a man after your heart, like King Josiah.’ Josiah’s socks: ‘Oh Lord, let Josiah be a man that runs hard after You.’

Sarahlyn’s little tea towels: ‘Lord, thank you for a little girl that wants to spend time with me drinking tea. Thank you for her heart to serve.’ Emily’s shirt: ‘Lord, use her mightily and her heart for writing music to glorify Your name. Use her Lord.’ And on and on I prayed until every piece was folded, matched, and grouped together.

The job became a joy and my thankfulness for each person and God’s goodness to me nearly spilled out of my eyes. 🥲 It’s incredible how many thoughts we can have in the mundane that have very little value. That can even be in a spirit of complaining or self-pity, or about something that isn’t good and pure. No benefit whatsoever. They can even be working against God’s best for us. But turn that time into a moment to thank Him and pray, then you’ve done kingdom work. Those are thoughts worth dwelling on. That is worth my time. We have a choice what we do with our minds in the ‘mundane.’ (At any time really.)

What if we choose to meditate on what’s good? What if even in those menial tasks that we can easily resent or see as a less desirable way to spend our time, we chose to use it as an investment… into the heart and soul of another, a deposit for eternity? What if we chose to pray? What if we chose to give thanks along the way? What a difference that would make today AND in eternity.”

This was written by my dear friend, Dawn. She has been a great inspiration to me throughout the years. I love how she takes the everyday mundane and makes it into a teaching tool.

Everyday 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When the Lord says to give thanks in all circumstances, he means giving thanks not just for the hard times, but even in the everyday mundane. I begin by being th(i)nkful, disciplining my thoughts to search for the good, the meaningful behind the mundane, asking His Spirit to guide my thoughts as a radar to spot the undetected.

Formulating that thanks into a prayer thanking the Lord for the gems in the mundane is like making an eternal deposit, turning cardboard into emeralds. In addition to that, when you weave into your prayer specific requests for the people connected to that mundaneness, your intercession not only encourages your own heart, but also brings a blessing for people outside yourself.

How could you be th(i)nkful in the mundane today?

Th(i)nkful Round

Th(i)nkful Round

“Who wants to start?” Nick drew in the attention of his children as they tried to stay the wiggles. They were doing family worship time before bed and it was very difficult to actually sit still and listen. Recently they had incorporated a way to teach the children gratitude by doing a Th(i)nkful Round. “I am thankful forrr …” and the word trailed off while they brainstormed. The responses varied greatly. Sometimes it was profound. Sometimes it was simple. But all the comments pursued thinking thanks.

Putting a specific habit into place takes forethought. It is a mental labor with furrowed brows. The victorious life for the believer is pursuing Christlikeness. Learning to dream the dream that God dreams for you. Finding and walking in the steps He prepared for you. Seeing your life through His eyes. Discovering how He wants to use you for His glory.

Carving and reinforcing brain neural pathways of thinking thanks to God for everything in your life
is a defining part of becoming Christlike.

Colossians 3:17

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

In Colossians 3 there are three verses in a row – 15, 16, 17 – that exhort us to give thanks. It should be pervasive in our lives, the glue that holds things together. Perhaps the Lord urges our gratitude knowing it is extremely beneficial for us as His created beings. Learning to focus on thanks, and expressing it, makes hope ooze out to flavor every element of our existence.

In fact when you focus on the grace that God has poured out, to love us while we were still in our sin, how can you but think thanks?

“It has been said that in the New Testament doctrine is grace, and ethics is gratitude; and something is wrong with any form of Christianity in which, experimentally and practically, this saying is not being verified.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God.

Iron Sharpens Iron

One way to strengthen your Christian growth is through the accountability of friends. It is like iron sharpening iron Proverbs 27:17 says. It is beautiful how we can edify one another in developing these traits. Whether it is in the setting of family worship in the home or just over a cup of tea with friends, community around you is a great influencer. So, before you get up and walk away from your time together, do a quick Th(i)nkful Round.

I have a dear friend who asked me to keep her accountable every week about being th(i)nkful. So every Monday we text each other our th(i)nkful list. I believe we have done this over two years now. It is so cool for me as well. I love scrolling back on our texts, seeing one list after another of things for which we thought and wrote down our thanks to God. It takes only a few moments to do this, but the effect of it in our brains and hearts last a lot longer.

Action Point

So I would love to assign you an action point. 🙂 What are you actively doing to establish a consciousness of thinking thanks? How about letting me hear of strategies that you are putting into practice? Perhaps your ideas will inspire others to grow in this area.

Last night at Grace-Toti we started our prayer time with filling up our thanks basket. It was amazing to see hands pop up all over the place of things for which people were giving thanks to the Lord!

Let’s get the Th(i)nkful Rounds going. May those rounds be frequent and strong… all around the globe.