Archive for May, 2013

Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

FUD. I thought it was a word that Phil and I had made up, but I did my due diligence by looking it up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary…and found it’s both a word and an acronym – which is exactly how we’ve used it.

  • A fud is a fuddy-duddy – a person who is stuck on old ideas and old ways.
  • FUD is also an acronym describing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – three qualities that the world breeds. Three qualities that lead us to becoming stuck on old ideas and old ways.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt paralyze us. They make us anxious. I’m developing a new marketing project at work. This blog is one I need to hear because I’ve been paralyzed by indecision on this project. As I write this, I recognize that the indecision is based on the FUD factors.

  • Fear that I’ll fail – How foolish is that? So what if I fail? I’ll learn from it and just try again. This is not a life or death project. So what if others see me obtain poor results.
  • Uncertain that I’ll make wrong decisions – Again, so what? These are short-term decisions. It’s just that they’re in a new area and I want to get it right the first time. I think I need to get over myself. Yes, I’ll get it wrong sometimes. (Note to Self: Quit relying on self and rely on God!)
  • Doubt in myself and my ability to be successful – Have I learned nothing from my long walk with the Lord? Without Him, I am nothing. My trust must be in His abilities, not my own. Pleasing Him is my success, not making right decisions about marketing issues.

If I let myself, I can go down a long, dark road associated with making the wrong decisions on this project – but it’s all associated with FUD factors. It all boils down to being afraid I’ll make wrong choices and I’ll lose all my clients.

Yes, this world breeds FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt! But Jesus said “Be counterculture! Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

You see, fear, uncertainty and doubt are satan’s substitutes for faith. If he can get us focused on those qualities instead of faith, he can paralyze us – keep us from making the decisions needed to move forward.

Christ said “Go!” (Matthew 28:19) Satan says “well, if you go, you might get hurt, you might go the wrong direction, you might fall in a pit.” Christ said “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Oh, and He began that command and assurance by reminding the disciples who was in charge: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 18:18)

  • There is no need to fear – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need for uncertainty – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need to doubt – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)  is a familiar verse to many:

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Which takes us back to our “Living God’s Heart” topic from last month – giving thanks. It builds our faith. It brings us peace. It removes our anxiety. It wipes away the FUD factors.

When the FUD factors have been demolished, when God’s peace fills our heart, faith and confidence grows.

Is indecision paralyzing you? It’s probably because you’ve lost a bit of confidence in God. Thank Him, ask Him for wisdom, remind yourself that He is with you and that He has all authority. Let faith grow in your heart. He’ll fill your heart with faith. I need some of that to make the decisions I need to make this week. I think I’ll go take my own advice! How about you? Do you need to spend a little time with God? Enjoy it!

Lord, forgive me when my focus gets out of whack and the enemy creeps in with FUD. Thank You for allowing me to “go” in Your name – to be Your representative here on earth! What an awesome privilege and responsibility. Help me represent you well. Lead me in the decisions I have to make along the journey. Satan – get your lies and temptations away from me. I choose to trust God. Because all authority has been given to Him. He has won. And I serve the winner.

Lord, lead me. I’ll follow.

Ya’ll can’t see it, but I’m smiling. Praying does that for a person.

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When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
2 Corinthians 10:18 (NLT)

“The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.” How often do we look for commendations from the world? We want the world to think well of us. We want our friends and family to think well of us – and to tell us how great we are and how great we’re doing. This scripture reminds us that whether we are commending ourselves or others are telling us how great we are, it doesn’t really count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend us.

I was recently asked to speak at an event I had not planned to attend. I struggled with the decision of whether or not to accept the invitation. Having not planned to attend the event, it felt like agreeing to speak was motivated by wanting to look good to others. I talked with my husband about it and he gave me some wise advice – in this case, I needed to ignore the mixed messages my brain and emotions were giving me and just do the right thing. The right thing was to accept the invitation. When I took all the motivations I would have for speaking at the event out of the equation, I knew that accepting the invitation was the right thing to do. It was an honor to be asked and it was an opportunity to serve God and others. I had previously not planned on attending the event simply because it inconvenienced my schedule and strained my finances.

When I called to accept the invitation, I immediately knew that saying “yes” brought relief to the person asking and it brought peace to my heart, mind and spirit. I also knew that if I had declined, I would have been feeling regret at the lost opportunity to bless the organizer and others. I would have known that I had really said “no” to God.

Our emotions can mess us up sometimes. Our sinful craving for attention and public adoration is just that – sinful! That adoration doesn’t count for much. Pleasing God is what matters. In my example, pleasing God would bring me the accolades of others, so I struggled to make a decision. Phil wisely reminded me to please God.

When faced with a decision from which the right answer will bring bad consequences, I often say “do the right thing and leave the results to God.” I’ve learned that when making these choices He often shields me from those anticipated bad consequences. Not always, of course, because bad consequences are part of the process of conforming us to the image of Christ and/or displaying Christ to the world. Sometimes, however, doing the right thing brings accolades our way. In all cases, it’s important to remember that the accolades of others don’t count for much. The important thing is to please the Lord.

Of course, the point isn’t that we should stop giving those accolades! Even though the accolades of others don’t count for much, don’t let that keep you from encouraging others. Scripture is clear that we are to encourage others, especially those in the body of Christ. Encouraging others gives them courage to do the right thing…there will be a blog about that soon. Do both – make encouraging others a priority…but in your own life, always remember – the important thing is to please the Lord.

When have you struggled to make the right choice? Share your experiences below so that we can learn from one another.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Confidence: the quality or state of being certain (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

A firm faith gives us confidence – that is, it gives us a certainty, an assurance – that what we hope for will actually happen. That confidence can radically change our lives. In the allegorical story Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard we share in the adventure of the main character Much-Afraid who “escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where ‘perfect love casteth out fear.’” If you’ve not read the book I encourage you to do so.

Much-Afraid learns to trust God more and more as she faces the challenges of the journey to the High Places. She learns from God’s consistent loving-kindness that His love is unlike any love she’s experienced and her faith grows with each submission and each victory. As her faith grows, her nature and character change. Confidence does that to a person. Being certain that we are loved even when we fail, allows and enables me to live differently – uncontrolled by the fear of failing. Being sure that we are loved no matter what others think brings freedom into our lives – freedom to be the person God intends us to be and freedom to love others in a greater way.

A commonly asked question comes to mind: “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt for God?” That question reveals many things.

  • Our answer reveals our passion. If you could be doing anything for God, what would it be? But it’s not just our answer that brings revelation.
  • Considering the question reveals our level of faith. How much do we trust God? How much are we willing to trust God?
  • It also reveals our idols. What are we unwilling to let go of?

As our faith in God grows, so does our confidence. A confident heart willingly makes sacrifices for God. A confident heart legs’ go of idols. A confident heart steps into God’s calling.

Stepping into God’s calling doesn’t mean we have no fear, it means we set the fear aside and focus on the source – we put our confidence in Him, not in our own abilities. Such confidence pleases God and He rewards it. Read what Scripture says about those who put their faith in God:

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
2 Chronicles 16:9a (NLT)

God strengthens those who already have confidence in Him. He gives more courage, more confidence, more strength to those who take baby steps, adolescent steps and adult steps toward fully committing to Him. No matter where we are in our walk, God wants to increase our faith – and a faith-filled heart is a confident heart.

Confidence is a certainty. A heart that is full of faith is certain, sure, confident, of his or her position in Christ –beloved child of God. With the power that raised Jesus from the dead behind him or her. No reason for doubt! You gotta have faith – and your faith-filled heart will be confident in Him!

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1These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
2
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.
3Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
4These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.
5Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance
6by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

I don’t always enjoy reading the book of Proverbs, but I appreciate its value. The Proverbs are straightforward in their purpose and advice. There are many who read through the book each month, reading about a chapter each day. After all, who doesn’t want wisdom?

The first verses of Proverbs 1 establish the purpose of the book – to teach wisdom and discipline. Why would anyone want to be taught discipline? Because it leads to a successful life. That’s a pretty good reason.

Notice that the book has value for those who are already wise – they will become “even wise.”

So as we begin to read Proverbs in our Resting at the River’s Edge readings, let me encourage you not to breeze through them, not to allow your mind to go into autopilot as you read. Ask God before each reading to teach you the wisdom and revelation he has for you in each day’s passage.

As it says in chapter 2 (I’ve read ahead just a little):

2Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.
3Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
4Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Proverbs 2:2-8 (NLT)

Before reading each day, “cry out for insight, ask for understanding.” Don’t read with earthly wisdom, ask God for his wisdom as you read. The exciting thing is that He’ll respond. Proverbs 2 continues:

5Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.
6For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
8He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.
Proverbs 2:2-8 (NLT)

This last passage is the one that prompted me to write today. The Lord grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. I grew up believing that I didn’t have any common sense. I knew I could study and learn things, but things that others knew I didn’t seem to know. That logical answer that many called common sense eluded me. As an adult, I understand that those perceptions were lies and that I do have common sense, but childish notions often haunt us into adulthood despite our best efforts to dispel them. God grants a treasure – a treasure – of common sense to the honest. I seek to be an honest person (because long ago God got my attention with another proverb, but we’ll save that story for another blog). I can trust that God will grant me a treasure of common sense. Along with it He’ll grant me wisdom, knowledge and understanding. He’ll also be my shield and guard my paths. Sounds like great reasons to ask God to reveal Himself to me as I read through Proverbs this month.

Will you join me? If you haven’t downloaded the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule for May, you can do it here. As you read, I’d love to hear what God is speaking to your heart. Post on our Facebook page or add a comment here. Blessings, friends, as you seek God for wisdom. May He give you a treasure of common sense along the way.

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18And all of this [that is, our new life in Christ] is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT)

What a power-packed passage! God the Father was in Christ (“I and the Father are one,” Jesus said in John 10:30). In that union, He was reconciling the world to Himself – making it possible for my sins and your sins to no longer be counted against us. All the wrong I have done is forgiven. There once was a separation between me and God – separation of my own making. It is now gone. The curtain that separated us has been torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). I didn’t remove the separation, God did. He reconciled us; He took the initiative and brought about reconciliation.

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” Hallelujah. Pause to meditate on that sentence, replacing the word “world” with your name. Consider the immensity of what God has done. Think about the separation that has been done away with. You and I now have direct access to the holy, all-powerful God – and not just access, but the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with Him. God! My everything! Always beside me, always ready to lead and guide and comfort and teach and heal me. Always ready to rejoice over me and rejoice with me. Always wanting that reconciliation and not the separation.

God, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting our sins against us. “And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” God wants us to declare the message of reconciliation – through our words and deeds. Christ reconciled us to God through His words and deeds. Having been reconciled, God has given us the awesome privilege of declaring the message of reconciliation. “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.” I am not speaking for myself when I share Christ with someone I meet. “We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’”

What an awesome responsibility. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are “official envoys.” We are “diplomatic agents of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.” That’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of who I am. What does this say about me?

I am…

  • Official – that is, I am not operating on my own authority
  • A diplomatic agent of the highest rank
  • Accredited (by God) to a foreign government (this world) – not only am I not operating on my own authority, I have specifically been given credentials by God to represent Him to a foreign government
  • A resident of this world – a temporary resident (hallelujah!)
  • A representative of my King
  • Given a special assignment

Which parts of the definition surprise you? Which excite you? Working through, pausing to consider, what it means to be an ambassador helps me properly define who I am and what I am to be doing. It gives me the opportunity to pause and consider my calling in a way that doesn’t happen when I simply read the passage of Scripture.

Paul continued with his description of what it means to be an ambassador in the next chapter of Ephesians (which wasn’t a separate chapter when he wrote it, simply a continuation of his letter). He begins by calling us “partners” with God. Our ambassadorship makes us partners – again, a reference to the intimate relationship God wants to have with us. We not only have administrative access, but partnership access. Let’s read more of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

1As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

3We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.

8We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.
2 Corinthians 6:1-8a (NLT)

Paul begins by begging the Ephesians to fully embrace their calling of ambassadorship. “We beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it,” he pleads. If you were given a million dollars, would you simply ignore it? If you made the greatest discovery of your generation, would you then ignore it? In both cases, would nothing about your life change? Would you not tell anyone or bless anyone with your blessing? Paul says, “Today is the day to embrace what God has done for you – to live it and to speak about it to others.”

As ambassadors of Christ, our message is that of reconciliation. Our lifestyle must not hinder the message. “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God.” Does your lifestyle open doors for the Gospel? “We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.” In a depraved world, those qualities will draw people to Christ. They might also get us beaten, put in prison, facing angry mobs, working ourselves to exhaustion, enduring sleepless nights and lacking food. In other words, they may lead to our persecution. Our response to that persecution will reveal the Kingdom we represent.

Mr. Ambassador, Madam Ambassador, what message from your King are you bringing us today?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWe’ve been studying about a thankful heart over the past few weeks. It has helped me through some tough weeks. In the midst of a bad case of stomach flu (or food poisoning, we’re not actually sure which it was) while travelling, I laid on my bed in the hotel room restless and nauseous. I was not a happy camper. Needless to say, my mind wasn’t working any better than other parts of my body. I asked Phil to read Scripture to me. His voice was either too loud or too soft. There seemed to be no perfect volume. His voice, a sound that usually has a very calming effect on me, somehow added to my nausea. Finally, I put my hand up to quiet him and I tried to quote Psalm 92:1-2.

1It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.
2It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.
Psalm 92:1-2 (NLT)

I botched the verse pretty badly. As I recall, it took me quite a while to come up with the first three words. But those three words have become a stronghold for me: “It is good.” When my brain is fried from illness, emotional upheaval or just plain exhaustion, I can remember those three words. And then they start the memory ball rolling and I can come up with the next three words: “It is good to give thanks.” And then the next three words: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” That’s my stronghold. “Lord, I give You thanks.”

I don’t think I ever got the words right that night, but in my jumbled mind, I was able to recall the overall theme and it began to bring peace. Healing didn’t come for another day or so, but that peace was followed by faith. As I gave thanks for God’s protection and healing, a confidence began to replace the defeat that my body and spirit was experiencing.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus said. “Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1, NLT)

Giving thanks changes the environment. It brings peace in the midst of chaos. It brings calm in the midst of the storm. That peace and calm are the precursor to a slowly building confidence. That confidence – well, it’s just another word for faith.

Phil was sick the few days before I was. One of the things he said to me describes the “before thanksgiving environment.” “When I’m this sick, it’s hard for me to believe I’ll ever be healthy again.” He had it much worse than me. I understood what he meant. When we look at the circumstances, it can be very hard to believe anything will change. And when we’re physically sick, it can be very hard to see past our circumstances. It can be very hard to believe that God will win.

Thanksgiving changes the environment. It reminds us of what God has done in the past. It reminds us of where our hope lies. It reminds us that with God, all things are possible. And that changes the environment. Peace and calm replace chaos and anxiety. Confidence replaces doubt. Faith grows.

The thankful heart creates the environment needed for the faith-filled heart to grow. Let me encourage you once again – be intentional about giving thanks. Even when (or perhaps especially when) everything around you is in chaos. Giving thanks grows your faith. And faith is a good thing.

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Dr. Tony Evans is a respected teacher, pastor and author. I came across this video recently and loved it. Do you want to know who Jesus is? Do you want to see Jesus in every book of the Bible? Check out to this short video by Tony Evans.

Want to meet Jesus in every book of the Bible? You’ll need to read every book! Join us as we read through the Bible in Resting at the River’s Edge.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartMake thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High…But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:14, 23 (NLT)

We’ve spent several weeks on the topic of giving thanks, and I hope you are all working on your thanksgiving muscle. Yet I would be remiss to leave the subject without recognizing that there are times when it’s difficult to give thanks.

There are times in our lives when our bodies, spirits and/or hearts are broken. There are times when we feel like God is very far away. At those times, it is difficult to give thanks. Yet still, the commands of Scripture remain that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s at times like this that we need the blessings that come with thanksgiving. Yet making those thanksgivings is a challenge. That’s when we truly learn to make thankfulness our sacrifice to God. It is a sacrifice because we do it out of obedience and out of a long history of knowing God’s goodness, even if we’re not able to feel that goodness at any given moment.

So I’ve gone to Scripture recently. Because I believe that if God tells me to “give thanks in all circumstances,” He will also teach me how to do so. I’ve looked up all the verses that say “give thanks” and believe I’ve found a secret in them – God’s secret about how to be thankful, even in those times when thankfulness seems hard.

There are 33 verses in the Bible that command us to “give thanks.” Those 33 verses identify 4 things that help us to be thankful. Two of those things are reasons to be thankful. The other two things are actions that help us to be thankful. So Scriptures gives us both reasons why we can be thankful and things we can do to help us to be thankful. We’re going to look at those 4 things.

Psalm 136, verses 1 through 3 give us the reasons to be thankful:

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
2Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1-3

The two reasons are right there in verse 1 — Because God is good and because His love endures forever.

“God’s love endures forever.” Almost half of the Scriptures that command us to “give thanks” tell us to do so because God’s love endures forever.

No matter what is happening to you today, no matter what your circumstances are you can know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. He loves you with an everlasting love and His love endures forever. That word “forever” includes all circumstances and is for all times.

He loved you so much that He willingly sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live on earth as a man and then to die on the cross so that the penalty for your sins could be paid. Scripture says that we are all sinners; that we have all asserted our independence from God, gone our own way. The Bible calls that sin. And Scripture is clear that the penalty for sin is death. But the Gospel message is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die in your place and in my place so that we can live for eternity with God. That’s how much God loves us. That’s how much He loves you.

My favorite verse in Scripture is found in Romans 5:8. It says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That’s a love that endures forever.

God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever. It endures forever. And that’s something that you can be thankful for every day of your life. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter how people around you are treating you, no matter how cranky you feel, God still loves you.

When we turn our attention away from the things that have gone wrong in our world and instead think about or meditate on God’s love for us, God changes our perspective and enables us to be thankful.

The second reason Psalm 136:1 gives for giving thanks is a simple one: because God is good. When I think about how powerful God is, how He spoke the world into existence, how the winds and storm obey Him, I am very thankful that He is a good God.

God describes Himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Listen to this:

6And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7

That’s the goodness of God – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving sin. I can be thankful for a God that is so good.

Now those of you who know Scripture, know that I didn’t finish God’s description of himself. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and he does forgive sin.

But the verse goes on to say that the does not leave the guilty unpunished. A good God cannot overlook sin, and we wouldn’t want him to. God’s goodness requires justice. That means that the price or penalty must be paid for our sins. But His goodness also provided a way for that justice to be served. He sent His own son to die for our sins so that we might share eternal life with Him. God has already told us that when he judges sin, the penalty for it will be death. But He’s also already paid that penalty through the death of Jesus. When we accept Jesus into our heart and make him Lord of our lives, God no longer sees our sin. He sees that Jesus has already paid the penalty for it. That’s something to be thankful for.

I wrote earlier that Scripture identifies 4 things that help us to be thankful. The first two are reasons we have to be thankful: Because God’s love endures forever, and because He is good. Scripture also gives us two actions or assignments that help us to be thankful.

The first one is found in Psalm 100, verses 4:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

“Give thanks to God and praise His name.” We are to praise God. It’s pretty hard to praise God without developing a thankful heart. It’s hard to praise him and stay in a bad mood. Even when circumstances are difficult around us, we can choose to praise God. When we do that, we soon find that our spirits rise and we’re no longer looking at the difficulties around us, but at the goodness of God. Even when things seem to be at their worst, there are things we can praise God for.

We can praise Him for his goodness and for his never-ending love. We can praise him for his mercy and for sending Jesus. We can praise him for his presence in our lives. We can praise him for the wonders of His creation. We can praise him for giving us His Word to read. We can praise him for the peace and comfort He gives us.

The second action I see tied to giving thanks is related to praise. We can find it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-9:

8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:8-9

Scripture tells to “Tell of God’s wonderful acts.” When it’s hard to be thankful, remembering the good things God has done and telling others about them changes our perspective and produces a thankful heart in us. Do you know God as your savior? Tell others about Him! Has he blessed your life? Tell others about it. We looked at the first three verses Psalm 136 earlier. If you are struggling to give thanks, I encourage you to read the entire psalm. It doesn’t tell us to proclaim the mighty deeds of God, it simply does it. Here are just a few of the things the psalm says to give thanks for:

Give thanks…

to him who alone does great wonders, (v4)
who by his understanding made the heavens, (v5)
who spread out the earth upon the waters, (v6)
who made the great lights — the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night; (v7-9)
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder (v13)
to him who led his people through the desert, (v16)
to the One who remembered us in our low estate (v23)
and freed us from our enemies, (v24)
and who gives food to every creature. (v25)

The Psalmist is proclaiming the deeds of God. If you were to write your own psalm, how would it read? Mine would read something like this:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.
He saved me when I was running from Him
He set my feet on a solid rock, He removed my need for striving
He blessed me with a wonderful husband
He leads me in adventures of ministry, He gives me joy in serving Him
He forgives my sins
He teaches me the mysteries of life with Him
He restores my soul and He will give me the crown of life

I challenge you, the next time it’s hard for you make thanksgiving your sacrifice, write your own Psalm 136. You will find that God’s goodness will overwhelm your heart; that His goodness is bigger and better than everything that is pulling you down. Your circumstances may not change, but your heart and your spirit will.

You’ve all heard of Hellen Keller. She was born in 1880 unable to hear or see. The circumstances of her life were pretty bad. Yet she found things to thank God for every day. Listen to this quote from her:

“For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to—a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, you can say that same prayer. “Thank you, God, for giving me knowledge of Your works. Thank you for bringing to my darkness the lamp of faith. Thank you, Lord, beyond measure, for the promise of eternal life with you.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can do that now. If you have never said “Yes” to God, you are headed toward an eternity without Him – an eternity in hell, separated from God’s goodness and love. But that’s not what God wants. He loves you, and His love endures forever. He has made a way for you to spend forever with Him in heaven. That way is by asking Him to forgive your sins and to be Lord of your life. It’s His deepest desire for you.

You might pray a prayer something like this one:

Father in heaven, thank you for making a way for me to spend eternity with you. Forgive me, Lord for going my own way. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my life. Teach me what it means to live my life for you. And Father, thank you for the promise of spending eternity in heaven with you. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen

If you’ve prayed that prayer, you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You have more to be thankful thank you ever have before.

When you find yourself in times where thanksgiving is hard, make it your sacrifice to the Lord. Turn to Him, remember His goodness, and give thanks.

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4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT)

Sometimes it can be so difficult to be patient! Sometimes it can be so difficult to be kind! And sometimes it can be so difficult not to be rude! But love is all those things. And much more. Love is a sacrifice of our own wants and desires to the needs, wants and desires of the ones we love. It’s being patient when we feel impatient. It’s being kind when we want to be rude.

I recently learned of a study by a University of Washington psychologist, John Gottman. His findings allow him to successfully predict whether or not a couple will divorce within 15 years! 95% of the time his predictions are correct! That’s pretty amazing.

He found that the single greatest predictor pointing to divorce is one of the partners in a marriage holding the other in contempt. In a Christianity Today article, author Carolyn Arends discusses Gottman’s study and defines contempt like this:

Contempt is a mixture of anger and disgust, expressed from a position of superiority. It denigrates, devalues, and dismisses. It’s not hard to understand why even subtle levels of contempt are damaging—not only in marriages but in all human interaction.
Carolyn Arends in article titled The Trouble with Cussing Christians

Contempt is “often shown through body language: tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movement. Just a roll of the eyes can signal that someone considers themselves above you.” (Randi Kreger reporting on Gottman’s study in her blog Stop Walking on Eggshells)

I see a lot of impatience, unkindness and rudeness in contempt. I see irritability that has gone beyond simple annoyance or frustration, working its way toward contempt – toward assigning blame for some (or every) current situation on the person’s inability to act responsibly (however the accuser defines responsible).

At the crux of impatience is the attitude that your time is more important than the other person’s time, or your way of doing something is better than the other person’s way of doing something. According to Gottman, it’s that hierarchical attitude that makes contempt so harmful. It’s that attitude by one of the partners that they are superior to their spouse.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). And Jesus said this:

21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV)

The word “raca” was an Aramaic term of contempt. It is derived from a word meaning “to spit.” Jesus reminded the crowd that those who use the term were subject to the judgment of the Sanhedrin (the local Jewish religious council). Then he took it a step further. He said that saying “you fool!” – which is clearly showing contempt toward someone – puts one in danger of the fire of hell.

Love is patient and kind. It is not rude. Growing in love means choosing – choosing – to be more patient, more kind, and less rude. It means stopping ourselves when we’re tempted to roll our eyes or say “whatever” in that dismissive tone of derision. (That, by the way – using the word “whatever” dismissively or derisively – is something I’m currently working to remove from my personal dictionary of expressions. I don’t always get it right, but I’m working on it.)

Love is patient and kind. And love is important.

1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing… 13Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13 (NLT)

If you want to live a life full of things that last forever – a legacy that will go long beyond your years – live a life of love.

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9“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10So take this seriously. The LORD has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 (NLT)

That’s the advice King David gave his son Solomon shortly before his death. I find the first sentence to be quite interesting – learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately – emphasis mine, of course. Those key words learn, know and intimately teach us important lessons about our relationship with God:

We learn to know Him intimately. It doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t even come naturally.

“Be still, and know that I am God!”
Psalm 46:10a (NLT)

Being still doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But we can learn to be still. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and satan’s temptations. We can learn the difference between God’s voice and our emotions. If we want to know God intimately, we must learn to know him. We must study His ways and follow His leading. And in learning, there is error. We won’t always get it right. But we can confess any sin in those errors, turn toward Him again and He accepts us and teaches us more.

We learn to know Him intimately. We don’t learn about Him, we learn to know Him. I know many things about President Obama. But I don’t know him. I’ve never met the man or anyone in his family. I’ve watched him in various situations over the years, seen a movie about his upbringing and life influences, but I’ve never talked to him to learn what makes his heart beat. I don’t know Him intimately.

We’re not just to learn to know things about God, we’re to learn to know God. That means meeting with Him, not just reading our Bibles. It means having fellowship with Him, not just singing praise songs.

We learn to know Him intimately. God doesn’t want a surface relationship. He wants intimacy. And intimacy means that we must also be vulnerable to Him. He already knows all our stuff, so let’s just admit it and be transparent with God. When worship becomes tender with the fullness of the Spirit, let’s not rush past it. Let’s learn to be still in God’s presence.

The wonderful thing is that God wants us to know Him intimately. Yes, we must learn to know Him intimately, but we have His assurance that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. We have His promise that He will be found by us. He wants intimacy with us. Let’s pursue it!

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