Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanks and giving

When we have truly thankful hearts, giving becomes merely an expression of that inward contentment. Speaking a thank you is just one way of expressing thanks for all that you have received. Writing a thank you note or sending a small token of appreciation are additional ways we say thank you.

When we give to God our tithes and offerings we are not only recognizing his ultimate ownership of everything, but we are also expressing gratitude to God for the many blessings we receive each and every day. We cannot out give God, but we can tangibly show him how thankful we are by responding to him with generous hearts.

One of my favorite verses begins "For God so loved the world he gave..." We show our thanksgiving and love for God by returning just a portion of the blessings we have received.

One of the tell tale character traits of a Christian is that they are generous. They give not only in thankgsiving and worship to God, but they also recognize that God's blessings are not only for our own indulgence, but to bless others as well. We Christians are God's agents of blessing all around us. It shows up in how quickly we respond to needs, how much we tip, how available we are to be a friend. Our opportunities for giving are limitless.

Giving for a Christian is a mark of belonging to God. It is kind of our tattoo; we wear it as our identification with God. People can see it as we show God's love for them in practical expressions of giving and love.

How can you say "Thanks" to God today?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Count your blessings

"Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done."

That song gives us a wonderful beginning. Can we really count our blessings? Let's see... I have a husband who is essentially healthy, he loves me, he is faithful, he is knowledgeable about fixing things, I have employment, a roof over my head, plenty of clothes, plenty of food, I have my health, I got a good nights rest last night, I am on my way to church this morning, I can worship God freely, I was able to have some study time and prayer time this morning without interruption, I have a dog who loves to play and enjoys being with me, I can type, I can read, I can walk and run, I have enough stuff that I will be giving some away to a local charity just to get it out of the house.

We could go on for days like this. But have you ever stopped to consider all the ways that God has protected you as a blessing? How many crises did you avoid merely because God intervened? Did you miss an auto accident? Could you have tripped and fell? God protects all the day long and we don't even know how many things we have avoided because of his protective love.

Of course the greatest blessing of all is that God provided the only way we could come to him in the person of Jesus Christ who even though he was God, came down to earth to reconcile mankind to himself and pay the penalty for our sins. We have no greater blessing and no other hope of salvation apart from Him.

So go ahead; count your blessings, name them one by one. It is a great way to build a thankful heart.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The ideal marriage

Have you ever noticed that there are some couples who just seem to be so compatible and so joyously married and others seem to just be bearing through and enduring life together? I know that every couple has its own challenges, but I am amazed at how God draws two different individuals together in unity and how we respond to one another in love greatly determines the character of our marriage. Some marriages are more difficult than others just as some people are more difficult than others. When people have hardened hearts toward God and toward one another there is a limit to how much God can use them as his witnesses to a lost and dying world.

I am not sure on earth that we will ever see the "ideal" marriage; that is reserved for Christ and his church. There are some couples who have so allowed Christ to capture their hearts that they can truly act in one accord as Christ has called us to. They honor and respect the differences of their spouses and seek to reconcile differences quickly before God that in everything God may have the preeminance.

There is one couple I am associated with that exemplifies this model for Christian marriage. As I have been contemplating Thanksgiving and our need to have hearts full of gratitude, I noticed that this couple has a habit of thankgsiving toward one antoher. Things that I often take for granted in my own husband, they verbalize thanksgiving for. The husband often praises his wife behind her back when sharing his week. His wife thanks him frequently for little kindnesses he displays toward her. He hands her a book, she looks him in the eye with an expression of love on her face and says "thanks, honey".

I am challenged by their example to be more thankful for not just the outstanding acts of kindness shown to me by the people in my life, but also for the smaller acts of kindness that often go un noticed. As I prepare my heart for this Advent season, I plan to look for those smaller blessings and make a habit of saying "Thank You".

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Thanksgiving

I had such high hopes for the Thanksgiving holiday. I had planned to write a short note to the people that are dear to me and tell them how thankful I am for their role in my life and how I have been blessed since God placed them together in my life.

I had intended to have an attitude of gratitude throughout the day singing praises to God and worshipping him through the day. I had planned that this holiday would be one that was truly focused on God's provision for my every need and I would spend the day counting my blessings.

In reality, I found that getting up at 5:00 am and cooking through the day took most of my focus. I love to cook and it was a joy to whip up some tasty treats for the great banquet, but I have to say that rather than focusing on God, my mind was on the timer and organizing the next thing to go into the oven.

Thanksgiving was not the holiday I had made it to be in my plans, but it is not too late to begin those thank you notes. It is not too late to practice giving thanks not only to God but also to his representatives here. In giving thanks, I keep those roots of unforgiveness and bitterness at bay and I recognize my dependence on the mercies of others and the provision of God in my life.

Today, I will practice thanksgiving. By the way, if you are a reader of this blog; thank you for your interest in reading my thoughts and I pray that there will be something that is an encouragement for your soul. I thank God for this medium of communication. We can all be authors and encourage other Christians all around the world through the internet. If you are a Christian struggling today, keep up the good fight. These are light and momentary trials we are experiencing and they will be for God's glory in the end and we will see more clearly his hand at work some day in the future. We don't know what is next, but God is using each experience to grow us for the next thing.

If you are not a believer and you have come to this blog, I appreciate your patience with me as I share how God has grown me. I know he has a plan for your life and he may have just drawn you to this blog for the purpose of challenging your thinking about his role in your life. We are all sinners and we have all fallen short of God's holy standard of righteousness. We are all alike in our need of God to make a better plan than we can on our own. Guess what? He did! He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins - death. Jesus invites you to become his. All you have to do is believe and place your faith in him. Just one step at a time.

If you have never prayed a prayer of faith it goes something like this: You can insert your own words....

Dear God,

I know that I am a sinner and I have disappointed you over and over. I am greatly grieved by my failures and I recognize that I am not able to save myself but I need your help. I acknowledge that Jesus is the only hope for my right standing with you and I accept him as my Savior having paid the penalty for my sins. Please come into my life and give me the Holy Spirit that is given to each of your children that I might live for you. I look forward to a life lived for you accept Jesus' provision for it. I pray in the name of Jesus, the only name worthy to come before your throne of grace. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Avoiding Discontentment

The Bible teaches us what a right relationship to God really looks like. Throughout scripture we learn that God has some characteristics that man does not:

1. God is Sovereign - He is almighty and omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for him. Every event that transpires in our lives is known and allowed by Him. (See Matt 19:26, Luke 18:27, Rev 1:8). Our lives are completely in his hand whether we recognize it or not. It is at his will that we continue living and it is at his will that we have health, intellect, emotions and provision for our needs.

2. We are God's Creation - (Gen 1:27, Eph 2:10, Col 1:16). Because God created us, we are subject to him. He is the chief authority in our lives and we have no claims of independence from him.

3. God is holy - Not only is God all powerful, he is Holy, Righteous and Perfect. Man does not achieve holiness in his own power by his own devices. Man by nature is sinful. We think, say and do things that are not honoring to God and often repulsive to him.

I know that I am prone to discontentment from time to time and I have been thinking this week about the different things that impede my thanksgiving and contentment.

1. Coveting and greed: In coveting and greed we communicate our dissatisfaction with the things God has provided to us. It is as if we say, God, you haven't treated me fairly and your plan is insufficient for me. God calls this idolatry (Eph 5:3-5).

2. Bitterness and anger: Like coveting and greed, we are prone to be bitter and angry when others have hurt us for some reason. We are communicating to God that we have not been dealt with in the way we feel is fair and we expect (maybe demand) better treatment than we have received. The Bible tells us that when we are bitter we are held captive by sin (Acts 8:23) This is the very thing that Jesus came to save us from.

3. Unforgiveness and Malice: These are often our outward actions when we have allowed bitterness and anger to build in our hearts. We withhold from others the forgiveness that we freely received from God toward us. We act as if the offenses of others toward us are greater than any sin we may have committed toward God. In withholding forgiveness we assume the role of God in relationship to other people and we diminish our own sin before God. Luke 6:42 cautions us against judging someone else by a different standard than we hold for ourselves. The Pharisees were noted for such behavior and Jesus reproached them for this.

4. Criticism and Sarcasm: Oh the evil twins. We are so prone to minimize our sins and maximize the offenses of others. When we recognize our position before God, we are humbled indeed and can see how we are not the recipients of justice nearly as much as we are the recipients of grace. Praise God he doesn't give us what we deserve for we all deserve to be in hell.

5. Pride: Probably the source of all of our frustration with other people and our discontentment is our inner self telling us that we are better than we really are and whispering that we can be independent and make our own way in the world. What a sad state of affairs, but isn't that what Eve chose when she followed the snakes advice to eat the apple? She questioned God's authority and relied on her own reason to make her decisions. When we do the same, the results are just as devastating.

Almost every barrier to contentment has its root in pride and wrong thinking about our merit and God's authority. We must take captive our thoughts before God if we are to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

This year I have been trying to apply Philippians 4:8 in my life so that my thinking can be more in line with God's. Paul tells us: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, - think about such things."

When we realize our relationship to God as his creation completely dependent on Him for our every provision, health, wisdom, material needs our response can be nothing but adoration and thanksgiving for his kindnesses toward us. God's greatest blessing toward us has been the offer of adoption as his own children through the sacrifice of His son Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins and made the provision for us to be able to approach God the Father in Heaven.

This Thanksgiving, no matter how hard our circumstances we can bow and give thanks to our Father in Heaven who keeps us in his care and offers us a way of salvation.

God bless!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Giving Thanks

Philippians 4:11-12 "For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Giving thanks comes hard to us. God calls us to give thanks in everything. If you want to know God's will for your life it is spelled out in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Why is it that we are always focused on what we still don't have rather than thanking God for his provision?

Paul helps us with this matter when he says I have learned to be content. He knew that contentment doesn't come naturally to us. This is something we need to learn. As we increase our trust in God to provide for our needs, the more we can be thankful even as we are waiting for him to answer our prayers. We learn that our contentment doesn't come in response to pleasant circumstances, but as a result of a secure relationship as God's child. We know that our Father in Heaven loves us and he cares for his children. Even though we may be experiencing trials and opposition here, we can be thankful that we are adopted children of God. We have the hope of eternal salvation and we can know that God can use any circumstance for our best and for his glory.

Recently, I was challenged to thank God for those things that money cannot buy. In following the challenge, I realize that most of the significant things in life are the things that money cannot buy. Our joy comes not from pleasant circumstances, but from a right relationship with our Heavenly Father who keeps his eye on us and loves to give us wonderful gifts.

For as long as we live, our life is hidden in Jesus Christ and we can revel in our position with him. When Jesus is our all in all we find that we really don't need anything more and we can be content.

As I prepare my heart this week for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I am counting my blessings. Are you?

Friday, November 2, 2007

St. Louis

We got a little wet on our way to the arch, but we still avoided all the dangerous weather on our way home. What a beautiful rainbow we saw.





Pumpers

video

Colorado











Arches National Park

Just one gorgeous view after another.




















Red Rock Canyon

This was one of my favorites... at the visitor center they had stamps for your national parks passport... I got a stamp from Smokey the Bear here!








Zion National Park

The monoliths at Zion National Park seemed designed to show the grandeur and vastness of God's creation and how small man is in comparison. These are among the largest rocks in the world. Looking up, you have to extend your neck just to see to the tops.














Bryce Canyon

Just one gorgeous view after another. I think Bryce is even more beautiful than Grand Canyon. The color is magnificent! It even snowed while we were there!









Utah Rocks!

Everywhere you look in Utah it is one beautiful vista after another. What a wonderful God we have that created such diversity and beauty for our enjoyment.