Learning to be Grateful

On a daily basis we have two options – to complain or to be grateful.

There really isn’t any other way to be. We can complain in the morning that the bed was lumpy, the temperature of the room was too cold or too hot, the coffee was bitter, and the eggs runny. Or we can wake up grateful for a bed to sleep in; a roof over our heads; the sweet smell of coffee first thing in the morning; and the goodness of food to put in our bellies.

Same morning – differing perspectives.

1 Thessalonians 5:18,  “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The daily grind can wear us down. We can become complacent in the drudgery of work, chores, family, church, school, laundry, or “whatever” fills our days. We long for something new and different or we simply wallow in the muck we’ve made and play our tiny violins of pity.

Years ago a friend showed me his gratitude calendar. It was pocket sized and filled with simply words which he penned daily. He said it was his secret weapon for life.

As I thumbed through page after page of tiny squared calendar days, I read his words on different pages, “So thankful for the lunch my wife made for me today. Really tasty!”  “Thankful for the lady at Walmart who helped me find Cream of Celery soup my wife requested for me to bring home. Saved me a great deal of time!” “Very thankful for the package I received today from my uncle in Wisconsin. Best honey I’ve ever tasted!” “So grateful the flat tire on my wife’s car happened during the day and in a safe place for her to pull over.”

I learned this practice of finding something every day to be grateful about was something he learned from his grandmother after the loss of his 16 year old daughter. While at first it seemed impossible to be grateful about anything, once he began implementing it in his life, it changed the way he thought. Every year on his deceased daughter’s birthday he writes, “So grateful I had 16 years with her. So thankful she was in my life.” His grandmother raised 7 children and in the course of her life, she buried 5 of them. She told my friend, “Gratitude makes life beautiful again.”

Today I want to challenge you to pry open your eyes to see all the reasons you have in your life to be grateful. Keep a calendar or journal. Experience what a difference saying thank you can make in how you look at life.


Uniquely created

It is time that you enjoy God’s best for your life. He wants to give you His favor. He wants to extend kindness to us even though none of us deserve it; but He wants to bless our lives and show us favor because we are His children.

Genesis 39:3-4, “And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight…”

Job 10:12, “You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit.”

Psalm 5:12, “For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield.”

Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Numbers 6:25-26, “The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. “

We have to find a way to believe what God’s Words say about us more than we believe what the world says about us. When the negative comments come our way; when failed businesses define us; when our grades don’t display our efforts; when people misunderstand us or exclude us; when our thoughts tell us we are worthless, God’s Word must hold true in our hearts. Self-doubt causes us to put stock in those around us and not God. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14. You are no accident but designed and created uniquely. You are an incredible creation of God!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3

Today, realize who you are in Christ. Tell yourself that you walk in God’s favor; that you are the child of the King of kings; and you are loved more than you can imagine.


Comforted

Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Often we interpret this verse to mean “mourning” as in grieving the loss of a loved one. No doubt; when we lose someone we love, God comforts us; but mourning here also refers to the grief we feel for our sinful acts. It is a loss of fellowship with God – a separation of our relationship to Him. There are blessings in our conviction over the sin we committed. The blessing comes in the pardon of our wrong doing. Redemption comes because we seek God’s forgiveness; we mourn because we have wronged Him and by His blood we are made clean again.

Jesus was also referring to the sins of the world. Anytime we feel the depth and pain of sin, whether it be our own actions, someone else’s, or the malicious acts of a nation, the sorrow draws us closer to God. In our pain and grief, He extends His hand toward us.

2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

There have been times in my life when I asked God to forgive me for something that I did wrong. The attitude in my heart was almost nonchalant – I’d done something wrong, I’d asked for forgiveness, I’m done, right? What I was missing was the true meaning of this verse. God is very grieved when we lie, cheat, judge, steal, hurt others, have addictions, and any other mode of sin. He is hurt by it. When we casually make requests for forgiveness, it must grieve Him even more. The seriousness of sin is eternal damnation – it is no joking matter – and yet, at times we do not understand the seriousness of sin.

Jesus is saying to us, we are blessed when we understand our sin and we mourn over the separation that occurred between us and God when we sinned. This true repentance will bring to us the comfort of God’s forgiveness.

Today, search your heart; ask God to show you areas of wrongdoing to which you need to apply “Godly sorrow.” Sometimes we may need to ask God to give us a sense of sorrow over the sin we’ve committed and for which we are asking His forgiveness. We may need to feel the hurt we have put on others by our actions. We may need to understand how much we’ve hurt God by our sin. It is a privilege when we experience the true sadness for our sinful acts; the burden of death is lifted from us; we are redeem.


Worship

Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”

The Hebrew word for guard is Sha-mar meaning to take great care of something. It means to pay close attention and to protect from intrusion. The word Sha-mar places the responsibility on self. It is our duty to guard and protect and defend.

In this scripture from Ecclesiastes, we are requested to watch ourselves carefully as we go to house of God to worship Him. Our worship must be about HIM and our minds must be fixed upon the things of God.

To honor God in worship, here are some steps you can follow to help you guard yourself:

1. Prepare for worship. Have a good mental attitude. Go before the Lord with a humble and expectant heart. Look forward to going to church or reading your Bible in the morning or meeting with God in prayer. It isn’t a chore but a privilege.

2. Prepare yourself to adore Him. Open your heart and spirit to emotionally connect with Him. It isn’t a ritual; it is an action of openness prompted by one’s self in loving expression to our Father.

3. Be prepared to concentrate. Turn off your cell-phone. Stop making mental lists of what you have to do. Stop planning and find a place in your head to focus on God, and only God.

The scripture tells us to “go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”

4. Approach your time of worship prepared to hear from God either through music or sermon or the Word of God. Don’t be foolish and run your mouth endlessly. One of the reasons people have a difficult time hearing from God is not because God isn’t talking, they aren’t listening!

5. Listen to God and then respond. It is so difficult to speak to someone who you know isn’t listening to you but calculating a verbal response in his or her head. When God speaks to you, listen to what He is saying.

Worship is a time to glorify God; to connect with Him; to hear His Word; and to rejoice in Him and praise His Name. Think about how you worship God. Make changes if necessary. Enjoy being in His presence for He adores hearing from you.


Our Daily Walk

In the New Testament, Christ gives us promises; yet, almost always the promises are conditional. Often, in fact almost always,we must do something to receive the gift of His promise. I like to read the scriptures and underline my part – highlighting what I have to do to experience the fulfillment of His promise in my life.

John 6:35 – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'”

John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Christ is presenting a platform for us to follow. He wants us to bring our issues to Him but in doing so there is something expected of us. We must understand His requirements. He gives this, we give that. Salvation is a “TEAM” effort. Christ requires us to live in accordance with His Words – the Red Letters in your Bible –  so that we become a part of His Team.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!”

Salvation is not about works; it is about the mercy and grace of God. When we are saved, we become new creations in Christ. A transformation occurs in our lives. We are no longer our old selves and our new selves long to obey His commands.

Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Luke 9:48, “Then He said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.'”

Walking in the Promises is a two-way street. Many people miss what they have to do and see only what Christ has done for them. If it were simple, why the sacrifice? Why suffer humiliation in the hands of evil? Christ died so that we might live – because He knew what we will face every day here on earth; because He believed in our ability to remain faithful to Him; but above all, because He loved us enough to give all so that we might live with Him in eternity.

Understanding your part in receiving the Promises of our Lord and Savior is a key element in our daily walk with Christ.

John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Luke 11:28, “He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'”


Our Responsibility

Luke 1: 76, from Zechariah’s Song, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him.

Don’t you know Zechariah was proud the day his son, John, was born? He and Elizabeth probably spent hours staring at the bundle of joy envisioning his life. God had such plans for their John! He would be a man of honor walking before the King of kings! He was to be a man robed in glory, preparing the way for the Savior of the world. As Elizabeth pulled John to her breast to nurse, I can imagine her thoughts for this little boy. She may have seen him living with riches in fine clothing, mingling among important people; yet, their vision for John and God’s were quite different.

What visions do you have for your children? What do you imagine their life to be like? Maybe he/she will be President of the United States? Maybe a sports star? Maybe a concert pianist? Who knows, right?

Luke 1:80, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” From the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have learned as well that John grew up in the desert. The events of John’s life were probably not the way Elizabeth imagined them. She certainly didn’t imagine him growing up in a desert! Perhaps one reason John grew up simply  was to avoid being tortured or killed by Herod. Whatever the reason, he grew up apart from his father, Zechariah. Finally, he died a criminal’s death. The daughter of Herod requested the head of John the Baptist as a gift when John was only 30 years old.

We all have dreams for our children but very few include a sacrificial life such as John’s. Sometimes the plans we have for our children are not the plans God has for them. We want good things, safe things, financially stable things, prosperous things for our kids; yet, God may need to use them in a different way. Perhaps you, like me, find that a tough pill to swallow.

What Mary and Elizabeth knew, many of us must realize. Their boys were the property of God, given to them for a season that they could care for and raise these boys until such time as God used them to fulfill His purpose. That is how Mary could stand at the Cross as her son was tortured. That is how Elizabeth could interrupt proper family order and raise John in the desert. Their sacrifice and love for the boys God entrusted to them is the example we must follow in raising our children.

Consider today the lives of children around you. Whether you are their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, relative, or Sunday school teacher, how are you helping raise them? All of us are responsible for the children of God. Find ways that you can be a role model for the children He has entrusted to your care. Choose to be a steward of each child you are given the opportunity to influence.


Call on Him today.

 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

What whispers in your ear? For me, I’ve heard it all.

“I will never make it.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I can’t be fixed.”

It is a battle we all fight every day. The question is why?

2 Corinthians tells us to boast of our weaknesses for Christ’s power rests in us. Boast? Of my weaknessess?

Recently, I was playing with my grandson in the yard. He wanted help climbing a tree and he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. He yelled out, “Papa, I need you!”

While it brought a huge smile to my face, I thought of God. How important it is for us to reach out to Him. To call out to Him. To tell Him, “God, I need you! I can’t do this on my own!”

Whatever it is – fear, sickness, obstacles, insecurity, grief – He wants to hear from you and in His power you can rest on Him. Sometimes we can be so caught up in our mess, we forget to ask for help from the Deliverer. God has your answer. Call on Him today.