During this time of giving and receiving gifts, we should remember the importance of gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation. “I feel gratitude in my heart”. It is a learned way of handling what we receive. We teach our little ones to say thank you, but gratitude is not our natural bent. We have to develop and exercise gratitude.
Being grateful is very important. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Giving thanks is a part of God’s will for us. Recent studies by psychologists can tell you why this is God’s will. Here are some of the results they’ve found:
It helps build relationships
Improves physical health
Improves mental health
Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
Increases mental strength
(Consult the below reference for more details.)
7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round, http://www.Forbes.com, Amy Morin, 11-23-2014
Living our lives as people of gratitude not only fulfills God’s will for us, but as he intended, it affords us a happier, healthier way of living. So let us be encouraged. Develop and exercise this all important trait.
We all have troubles that come our way; they are a part of life in this fallen world. I tend to draw into myself when troubles arise. I focus on solving the problem; I worry over the problem, and I lose sleep thinking about the problem. If the problem is long term, I eventually fall into despair. Then I enter into that dark cavern of self-pity. Once again, I have succumbed to the trap of inward focus.
You’d think I’d know better, but alas I find myself caught again. In this state, I don’t pray for others, I’m not very kind, and I don’t have time for others. Inward focus makes me useless to those I love and not very pleasant to be around. When I finally come to the end of myself, I cry out to the Lord, “Save me!”
The lord, in his patient and kind way, reminds me that I need to trust my troubles to him. He redirects my focus to the needs of others, and I begin to look outward. To my amazement, life becomes brighter, and my troubles become less important. By putting my troubles in the hands of the only one who can do anything about them, the burden is lifted. I can actually become a nice guy.
Will I fall into this trap again? I hope not. The “pit of despair” is not a nice place.
Why are you down cast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
I found out that Praising God is the first step out of the trap.
Webster’s Dictionary defines meek:
1 Enduring injury with patience and without resentment – submissive – humble
2 Deficient in spirit and courage
The first definition doesn’t convey the characteristics of weakness but of Christ likeness. This definition speaks of the qualities Jesus displayed on the cross. It is a Godly perspective. The second definition imparts thoughts of weakness, timidity, and cowardice. This is a worldly perspective. Which of these will inherit the earth?
In 2 Corinthians chapter 10 the Apostle Paul responds to the to the Corinthians’ worldly interpretation of his meekness. He uses a little sarcasm in verse 1 when he states: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!” They had obviously accused him of being cowardly. He goes on to let them know that his meek/humble approach to them was not out of weakness but out of caring for them. He was trying to change their viewpoint from worldly to Godly.
I believe that the ones who endure the injuries of this world with patience and without resentment, who are submissive to Christ, and who humble themselves before their God will inherit the earth. These are not weak people. They are the ones who have been overwhelmed by the love of Christ, and from their humble thankfulness give that love to others regardless of the cost. This takes strength and courage.
Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:
When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.
To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.
As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.
Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life. One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives. God’s will can be explained by these two commands. Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose.
What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill. Bonnie calls this our passion. For her and me the passion has been for children in need. Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children. The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and satisfied as we walked with the Lord. What is your passion?
The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him. We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill. “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”
Psalm 116:8-11 reads: For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
When I was young I learned about the Lord in Sunday school. I even went to church. However, my daily life was on me, and I didn’t think much about the Lord during the week. Then divorce came into my life. On my own, I tried to fix the emotional distress of this tragedy. I floundered in a cavern of unsuccessfulness. Finally, I came to the end of myself and called on the name of the Lord. He was right there to help.
Jesus delivered my soul from anguish, my eyes from tears, and he gave me direction for my life. Jesus gave my life purpose, and I stopped randomly stumbling through life. Overnight, life completely changed. I felt alive again as I started my new life walking with him. In his mercy and grace, Jesus was very good to me.
“How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” asked the Psalmist in verse 12. He shared his answer in verses 13 and 14. “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of his people.” To me this means I will praise the Lord for the salvation he purchased for me. And, as I have vowed, I will continue to serve the Lord for the rest of my life. This I will do in the presence of his people. Gratitude and faithfulness will be the hallmark of my existence.
If you haven’t found the mercy and grace of Jesus just call on the name of the Lord. He will answer you.
Repost from August of 2016.
I’m sitting here in my study looking at the weather station that shows it’s 105 degrees on the north side of my house in deep shade. Yes, it’s hot! In the back yard it’s 109. My refrigerator died earlier this month, so I had to buy a new one. My not very old washing machine quit working, but woo, I was able to fix it. The espresso machine went on the fritz. All this is happening when we’ve recently lost a fair portion of our monthly income. Life has its difficulties.
In addition, I live in drought ridden California, so we’re trying to be very careful with our water usage. A sprinkler valve stuck in my front yard sending a great wash of water down the street. I replaced the valve, but not very well, so it broke loose and flooded the front yard. Yes, and I forgot a hose I left running that flooded my back yard. Really, I’m trying to be good! The August water bill will reflect that I’m not being very successful. Life has its difficulties.
As I reflect on these difficulties, I’m suddenly embarrassed. A vision of the suffering across the earth passes through my mind. I see the pictures of starvation, famine and war suffered by my fellow humans. My difficulties pale in comparison. I live a very comfortable and blessed life.
Even though it’s hot outside, my air conditioned house is a comfortable 80 degrees. I love my new refrigerator, and it’ll be paid off in a few months. I have the convenience of a washer and dryer right here in my house. The espresso machine is working again! And though we’ve had a financial set back, all our bills are paid. Life has its blessings.
About now you’re wondering where the scriptures and the adaption of a spiritual message are. Well here it is. When living in God’s world, trust him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (See Proverbs 3:5) Both difficulties and blessings are covered by this verse. It is his world. We can trust him with the outcome. He worked out our salvation. He can handle all the rest. He loves us through the difficulties and the blessings.
Reposted from July of 2015
Bravery is a desirable trait. Most of us find it so. The Encarta Dictionary defines bravery as: courage in the face of danger, difficulty, or pain. Throughout the annals of history there have been innumerable acts of bravery. Usually when being brave, a person puts aside self-concern and moves onward. They have the hope of a good outcome, but they are willing to face the possibility of a bad one.
Matthew records in chapter 26 of his gospel the story of Jesus’ final hours before he was arrested. Jesus knew he was facing a brutal death. There was no chance of a different outcome because what he was facing had been planned from the beginning of time. In the garden of Gethsemane he said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Then he went a little ways away to pray. He prayed three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus also said to his disciples, as Peter raised a sword to defend him, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus had the power to remove himself from this terrible situation at any time. Instead, he bravely faced a certain horrible death. He was compelled by obedience to his Father ‘s will and a deep love for you and me. This is surely the bravest act.
Two thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer:
Pray it every day; because, it is a daily prayer.
When you pray alone, you should personalize it. In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father.”
Last night, as I lay on my bed awaiting the curtain of sleep to envelop me, I began to reflect on those times in my early years when I escaped being caught up in evil. The stimulation of these memories caused me to raise prayers of thanksgiving. God was in my life protecting me even before I fully recognized him. As I thought about this, I realized that God was answering the Lord’s Prayer. He was delivering me from evil.
I tend to trivialize the Lord’s Prayer because I memorized it many years ago as a child. The repetition of this familiar prayer has washed over its implications. In my meditations, I encounter a highlighted view of these meaningful words. I recognized that God has indeed delivered me from evil and kept me from temptation. He has provided my daily bread, forgiven me, and taught me to forgive others.
Jesus gave this prayer to his disciples saying “this is how you should pray.” I found myself saying “yes” this is how I should pray. Jesus starts his prayer by setting a proper placement between man and God, and then he gives us a few words to deal with daily life. He covers it all. Of course, I did know this before, but isn’t it wonderful how you can come to a deeper revelation of a familiar passage of scripture? The words of the Lord’s Prayer have taken on new significance for me.
I’d like Jesus’ prayer to be continually with me both as I speak it, and as I experience its impact in my heart. I desire to offer it to God my Father with an expression of love and thanksgiving for his continual answers.
It is a tendency among us humans to want to throw off restraint. From the very beginning, when we had only one restraint, don’t eat from this tree, we have chosen to see restraint as a hindrance to our freedom. The story in Genesis chapter 3 shows us clearly the fault of throwing off restraint. We gained freedom but suffered the consequences.
Restraints do hinder our freedom, but they are often good for us. When driving down the freeway, we are restrained by the speed limit. Speed limits are for our safety. They are good restraints. When the patrolling officer gives us a ticket, we suffer the consequences of ignoring restraint.
When I was a vice principal in charge of discipline, I used to say to offending students, “You can choose to exercise self-control, or I will apply external control. Self-control is much easier for you and for me.” We are either restrained by internal restraint or external restraint. Self-applied restraint, self-control, is always the better choice, and in the case of receiving a speeding ticket much less expensive.
The only way we self-centered humans can manage in society is with laws and rules that restrain us. As Americans, we have a great deal of freedom. We should be thankful for our freedom and respect the laws and rules that keep us in line. I find this difficult don’t you? I always want more freedom. This gets me in trouble. There are always consequences when I step beyond the rules.
Isn’t it incredible that Jesus paid the price for my renegade behavior? He took the consequences for me. What amazing love and compassion he has shown me. I should be constantly humbled with gratitude. Yet I still want to throw off restraints.
The other evening I was driving home from work feeling tired but happy. The next thing you know, I began thinking about a past sin – one that brings me deep regret. My good mood was being dashed. Suddenly, I remembered that this sin has been forgiven and forgotten by God. It is in the past, and I’ve surrendered it at the foot of the cross. I have been set free by the blood of Jesus. Dwelling on past iniquities produces nothing good.
Others might want to condemn me for past sins, but God doesn’t. He forgave me. I am reminded of what King David said in Psalm 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned…” Ultimately, though my sins have injured others, my sins are against my Father who is ruler of heaven and earth. With love, he overcame the sentence of death that I earned by sinning. He gave his one and only Son to pay for my sins. This has been done. Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
So why am I still haunted by sins that God has forgiven? I seem to hold on to my guilt. Perhaps my self-depended nature won’t let me forgive myself. Maybe those sins that I think I’ve surrender at the foot of the cross weren’t really surrendered. A touch of eternal reality might be needed here. Psalm 103:11-12 reminds, For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Since God has forgiven and forgotten my sins, and he has set me free from the law of sin and death, the appropriate response would be to discontinue wallowing in them. What good is freedom if I keep returning to the bondage from which I’ve been freed?
So I exclaim, “What sins?”