THANKSGIVING – Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

thanksgivingI was reading the words penned by Paul this morning in the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. Paul was encouraging the believers and reminding them on how to prepare for the second coming. At the end of the chapter in verses 16-18 Paul admonishes them to be joyful always; to pray without ceasing and the be thankful in all circumstances. I’ll touch on the first two of that mandate but I really want to focus on the last part which is being thankful in ALL circumstances.

REJOICE ALWAYS! – I truly believe that joy comes from keeping all things in life in proper order. A short acronym for this is J-esus, O-thers, Y-ou. Joy is a fruit of the spirit that flows from an abiding relationship with Jesus. Joy is seeking Jesus first and foremost and then in turn following and obeying God by loving others. Joy is not dependent on circumstances, but rather in keeping a continual focus on God which helps us keep a proper perspective in all circumstances. Joy should be a natural outflow of the spirit filled believer based on what God has done for us. Philippians 4:4 tells us “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

PRAY CONTINUALLY! – God’s ultimate goals for us is that we live in surrendered obedience to Him. Our prayer life is a direct reflection of our inward heart attitude. In Acts 17:28 it says that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” In essence our lives would then become a spiritual act of worship to God. Prayer should be a natural outflow of a person abiding in the love of Christ. We need to follow Jesus’ example and to pray in all circumstances and without ceasing. In James 4:2-3 it says, “you don’t have because you don’t ask and it says that when you do ask you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives.” When we learn to pray correctly which is God’s word over circumstances, this IS the will of God. Knowing God’s Words is understanding the heart of God and James 5:16 tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

GIVE THANKS! – Verse five says, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Many would say, well that is a good goal to aspire to, but really, to give thanks in ALL circumstances? It’s easy to thank God when life circumstances are going in our favor but it’s a little different to thank him when we face hardships and difficulties. I truly, believe that when we give thanks especially in the most difficult of circumstances, that there is a blessing that flows from this act of obedience and it is the “Peace of God” that exceeds any circumstance (Philippians 4:7).

Gratitude is an attitude we choose based on proper perspective. We can either choose to focus on the problem or we can choose to focus on the One who holds the solution, our creator. I believe when we continually choose to focus on our lack in any area of our lives, we get stuck in a cycle of self-preservation versus living the abundant life that God promises to us as believers. An abundance doesn’t mean we have all “we” think we need, but rather God freely gives us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of himself and through the promises of His Word (2 Peter 1:3).

If it were not for difficulties, trials and sufferings in our lives we wouldn’t understand our need for Christ, the one who offers us hope. Romans 5:3-5 put it this way, ” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

I believe rejoicing in sufferings means cultivating an attitude of gratitude amidst our trials and suffering because we know that God (who is the source of all good), is working all things for our good (Philippians 1:6).  In Him we have forgiveness of sin (past, present and future) and a hope for an eternity with Him forever, where there will be no more tears, death, mourning or pain (Revelation 21:4). Because of these great and wonderful promises we offer thanksgiving because of who Jesus is, our loving Father, our precious Lord, Redeemer, Savior and Friend. We praise Him because of what he did for us on the cross and offer up a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving because there is . . . no greater love than this (John 15:3)!

Father God, thank you for your amazing love for us. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for our sin so that we didn’t have to. Thank you for the relationship we can have with you because of what Jesus did for us. Help us to cultivate that relationship with a continual attitude of gratitude in all things, even the most difficult things. Help us to fix our eyes on you and empower us through your Holy Spirit to do all that you have called us to do. We give you praise and thanks our precious Lord and Friend! To you be the Glory both now and forever! AMEN

Do you have Power?

lightbulb2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Seems like every Fall we get some rip-roaring storms that cause power outages throughout our county. The strong wind and rains will bring down limbs and sometimes entire trees come crashing down into nearby power lines. Just recently we had one such storm.

The funny thing is that when this happens, it seems to bring lots of cheering and excitement from my silly kiddo’s. For them it is a time when we light candles and oil lamps, start a cozy fire in the wood stove, play games, and get to be creative trying to find something to eat by cooking outside over a camp stove.

After having been through enough of these power outages, I seem to enjoy the initial first hour or two without power, but then after any length of time, it seems to get old super quick. I find myself hoping and praying the power comes back on quickly so I can enjoy simple things like, flushing the toilet and/or taking a hot shower (since we are on a well and have our own private septic tank).

Since almost everything we own requires power, life can get pretty limited without it. We can often take everyday things like power for granted, but when you are without it for any length of time, it seems to make you all the more appreciative of it when it does come back on.

This reminds me of some parallels in our faith. We as believers in Christ Jesus are given incredible power when operating through the power of the Holy Spirit of God living inside us. It also makes me think, “Do we really appreciate and appropriate that power?

In the Gospel of John the fourteenth chapter, when Jesus was talking to the disciples at their last meal together before his death. The disciples were perplexed at what Jesus was sharing with them. They were is followers, they walked beside him. The thought of him leaving them frightened them. They had many questions and still didn’t quite understand the enormity of who he was and what was about to happen.

At one point Philip in verse eight says, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus responded by saying, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! Here he was giving them little picture of the trinity but they could not yet understand because God’s plan had not yet reached it fulfillment. Jesus was man (God in flesh), who continuously consulted his Heavenly Father and was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God here on earth and accomplish God’s ultimate plan for the redemption of man.

Down a bit in verse fourteen Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

Those are some pretty powerful words right there. Ask anything in my name and I will do it. Wow, really God? This is no name it claim it theology. It’s a matter of knowing the will of God through knowing his Word and then asking in Jesus’s name to do the things God asks of us through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. How many of us believe and are operating out of the authority and power of that promise given to us by God? I know I am not, forgive me Lord.

Down a few verses Jesus gives the Disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit who will be them as their advocate (helper). He promises that he will never leave them and that he (the Holy Spirit) will guide them into all truth. These promises are for us! This is the Holy Spirit working in a through us. We need to operate in his power and leading in order to be effectual for God’s kingdom purposes. Faith without the Spirit’s empowerment is limited. But Spirit led faith is powerful and effectual!

Although most churches would say they believe in the Holy Spirit. I see so few operating in His Power. If we as a church try to down play the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church, in essence we are removing God’s Power to accomplish his purposes for us here on earth. Unfortunately, without the work of the Holy Spirit, churches become “religious organizations” with little to no effect for God’s kingdom.

The same power and authority given to the Apostles to carry on the work of Jesus in the book of Acts, is the same power and authority given to us today. If you are a believer, you are an ambassador for Christ and we are all called to continue on the work of Jesus here on earth. We cannot do what God is calling us if we do not have or appropriate the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.

The Holy Spirit IS the life of the church. Just as our spirit gives life to our physical bodies, God’s Holy Spirit is the life of the believer and the gives us the power to accomplish all that God has for us. If you feel like your faith is lifeless and powerless, I pray today that you ask God to fill you with his life-giving Spirit!

Father God thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit living in us that is our helper, teacher, advocate and intercessor. I pray that you would light a holy fire in our hearts that burn with love for you. Give us a love for the lost, broken and hurting around us. Empower us by your Spirit to do the things you are calling us to do. Fill us with you power and help us to walk in your ways. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

The Greater Plan

mapAnd we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a kid I hated getting in trouble. I always wanted to please my parents and make them proud of me. But as much as I tried to please my parents, I would have this one little continual problem that always seemed to get in the way. It’s called self and my own sin nature.

The bible says we are born with this sin nature passed on to us from Adam and Eve. By one man sin entered into the world and through one man, (Jesus Christ) we were sent free from the penalty of that sin (Romans 5:12). Praise God!

Occasionally the (old man) still gets the best of me. Often times in life we seek to please God but still find ourselves falling short. We are in a continual battle against our flesh, but praise God that with him “there is forgiveness of sins so that we can serve him (Psalm 130:4). Christ Jesus already won the victory for us on Calvary’s cross.

So does our sin disqualify us from God’s work? If course not, the bible is full of people (sinners just like you and me) who God continued to use for His purposes. The only person who ever walked the earth and lived a sinless life is Jesus.

A few weeks back when teaching a Kid’s Church class, I was reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau. They were twin brothers with very different appearances, personalities, likes and dislikes. Esau was a hunter. Jacob liked to hang around his tent (home). Their story, as recorded in the book of Genesis, tells of the younger brother Jacob deceiving his older brother Esau out of his blessing and birthright for a measly bowl of stew. We think, how stupid is that? His hunger overruled his brain and because of it, he lost part of his inheritance to his younger brother and the designed role of leader of the family. We do the same today when we let temporary satisfaction override the long-term consequences for our actions.

As the story continues, Jacob was then afraid for his life because his brother Esau threatened to kill him so he took off running. Isn’t that the typical reaction when we sin, we tend to run and start hiding. It was the same in the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. But God knew when he created them that they would sin and God had already devised a plan to save them from it.

God had a plan for Jacob’s life and He has a plan for each of our lives. God often has a way of using unexpected people to accomplish his purposes and plans. It is through Jacob’s sons that the twelve tribes of Israel were started. This was part of God’s promise to Abraham about making him a great nation and his descendants being as numerous as the stars. Did God shun Jacob because of his sin and deception? Absolutely not, God already knew this was going to happen and weaved it into his glorious plan. God continued to pursue  Jacob and he eventually turned his heart toward God and walked in surrendered obedience to Him.

This story is a promise of hope for all of us. If we are truly Christ’s child, God continues to work through our decisions (both good and bad) to bring about his purpose in our lives. To know that should bring huge relief to us because there is no way we are ever going to be good enough, brave enough, or strong enough on our own to be used for God’s purposes. When God calls us to do something, he also equips us for the task. It is solely by his pure unmerited grace that he allows us to be part of what he is doing here on the earth and that happens through submission and dependence upon Him.

Although no one likes to be disciplined by God, because of the obvious reason that it hurts. The bible says that God disciplines those he loves. When being chastised because of my wrong choices, I can rejoice that my father God loves me too much to leave me in my sin and where I’m at because my ways are always self-destructive. Psalm 119:71 puts it this way . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

Just as a baby learns to walk, all of us in our spiritual growth process have to do some falling down in the process. It’s all part of God’s plan. He wants us to come to the end of ourselves so that we are purely relying upon his grace in our lives. God wants what is BEST for me and if left on my own, my path it would be one of destruction. The bible says that Jesus is the Way, The Truth and The life (John 14:6). Doing thing Gods way bring about life and peace and further’s God’s purposes here on earth.

Jacob went on to be a great God-fearing man and would eventually not make a move without God’s instruction. We can be assured that in all the trials, storms and messiness of life, that God is teaching us valuable lessons in the process. Jacob’s sin caused him to be temporarily exiled from his family but in the process he learned lessons that would further his spiritual growth and his dependence on God. God made a new man out of Jacob’s surrendered life. He eventually changed his name from Jacob (meaning deceiver) to Israel (meaning he who prevails with God). Praise Be to God for the Victory we have In Jesus!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the many lessons that can be learned from Jacob’s life. Thank you Lord Jesus that you are good and that you continue to work all things for our good. Thank you for the victory won on Calvary and that because of it we can walk in freedom and newness of life through the blood of your son Jesus Christ. Thank you that you allow us to partner with you to do your work here on earth. Help us to daily walk by the spirit into all that you have for us! To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN