November 2014 Posts

Give Thanks (And Not Just Once a Year)

Give Thanks (And not just once a year

Have you ever noticed how important giving thanks is to God? When mankind does not give Him thanks as they should, it ticks God off. Think I’m being too dramatic? Consider these words:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them… For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…. – Romans 1:18, 21 (NASB, emphasis added)

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven for they did not give thanks. Powerful words.

God deserves our thanks, and not just once a year. But what should we be thankful for?

No matter what else is true of our lives, we owe God our thanks for the very life that pulses through our veins. What did you or I ever do to earn or deserve life at all? We owe Him thanks for being able to function physically to whatever degree we can do so. We owe Him thanks for being able to think, reason and choose to whatever degree we can do so. We owe Him thanks for the people around us who are gifts from God for us to relate with. We owe Him thanks for the desire and capacity to love and be loved. Those are all gifts from God! Give thanks!

But even more than all those reasons, He has given us the free gift of Jesus, who was willing to come, live among us and die for us so we could experience both the forgiveness and new life promised to those who receive that gracious gift. For this great gift, we need to give thanks!

Not only does God deserve our ongoing thanks for what He has given us, the Scriptures also indicate we will give thanks—if we are under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit. Hmmm. Do you give thanks on an ongoing basis? If not, it is an indication that His Spirit is not leading your life.

Paul says in Ephesians that we should be, and keep on being, under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, and if we are, it will be evident in our lives. He tells us how with a series of descriptive participles. He says we will be joyful, we will be serving others and we will be “always giving thanks” (Ephesians 5:18-21, NASB).

What might that look like?

1. When you get that raise you have been hoping for, what is your first thought?

“Boy, I worked hard for that. It’s nice that they finally recognized my worth.”
OR
“Thanks, God, for giving me the ability to work and the desire to work hard. Thanks for blessing me with this raise.”

2. When you are almost in an accident, what is your first thought?

“Wow, that was close. What was that guy thinking?”
OR
“Whoa, thank you, Lord, for sparing me from what could have been a really serious situation.”

3. If you lose out on that job you thought was the perfect one for you, what is your first thought?

“You’ve got to be kidding me! How could they not hire me? I was made for that job. They really blew it.”
OR
“God, I don’t really understand this. I’m so disappointed. But God, I know you are in control. Thank you for looking out for me and for whatever job you have for me.”

A constant prayer of ours ought to be, “God, help me to be thankful. Help me to believe that you are almighty and you love me. Help me to trust you and give thanks, even when I don’t understand and it doesn’t feel good. You are good. Thank you!”

Joy Is a Choice

Joy-Is-A-Choice

The wound left by death and loss is severe.

A friend once asked, “When does it go away? When does the overwhelming pain stop?” Getting the weight of pain off our shoulders can become the preoccupation of our lives. But, unfortunately, the harder we try to get rid of it, the worse it becomes.

Pain is not the enemy of living. Death and separation cause a great deal of pain. God allows us to hurt over the loss of someone near, but for good reason. He wants us to be more complete, more of who He designed us to be, more of the people we so passionately long to be deep inside. As we grow in our understanding of the true nature of joy, as we open our hearts to the love that still waits to be given and received, as we sense the help of God’s Spirit, and as we set our priorities with eternity in view, God will use the pain we are experiencing to bring us to a place where we can live the “changed life” joyously.

In my struggle over the loss of [my son] Kyle, I have found much strength and direction and encouragement in the book of James. James, the half-brother of Jesus and senior pastor at the church of Jerusalem, wrote these words to his dispersed, hurting congregation: “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

James goes so far as to say that the trials in life are “many.” There are more of them than we can count or imagine, and they come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors. Facing the death of someone we care deeply about is one of the major trials we encounter in life.

A most remarkable phrase in these words from James is the simple word “whenever.” He does not say “if,” but “whenever” we face these potholes. Pain and suffering are a part of life. Not if, but when. Each of us who has lost someone near needs to realize that pain is not the enemy of life; rather it is a primary means God uses to help us discover a more complete, fulfilling way of living.

James goes on and says, “knowing the testing (purifying) of you faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

God wants to bless us. Do you believe that? I didn’t. I said the words, but I never really believed them. We have a perfect Father who knows how to give us the greatest possible joy in our lives. And He is willing to help us, even when we don’t enjoy or appreciate what He is doing in our lives. True joy and blessing and fulfillment for each of us is found as we live through the difficulties in a trusting, dependent relationship with God.

It is because we know that God will bring us through the difficult times that we can experience pure joy in the midst of tremendous pain. That is at the heart of God’s plan. No matter how much we may hurt over the loss of someone near, we can be free to experience joy.

 

(Taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor’s When Life Is Changed Forever; selections from Chapter 12, Harvest House Publishers)