Archive for November, 2009

24
Nov
09

be grateful

I was reflecting this morning on Thanksgiving and the question arose in my mind, “What does it really mean to be thankful?” In light of the fact that the Bible tells us, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT), I think it is crucial that we understand what true gratitude really entails.

It was Aesop who noted that, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” And the Roman philosopher Cicero added, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”

Why would these ancient philosophers be inclined to think that way?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that gratitude must be more than saying “thank you” occasionally when someone does something for us – It must be a lifestyle.

If Cicero is right one of gratitude’s “children” would have to be humility. True thankfulness has as its base a lack of pride and arrogance and acknowledges the contributions others have made in our lives. Things we could never do for ourselves no matter how self-sufficient we think we are.

And then there is meekness. That’s not a popular word in our culture I know. In western civilization it denotes weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. For a Christ follower, to be meek means that we are not overly impressed by a sense of our self-importance but, rather, that we treat others with gentleness, courtesy and consideration because we have a keen appreciation for others’ Spirit – enabled talents and abilities. It is only when we learn to truly value others and their abilities which God has deposited into their lives that we can fully express the kind of thankfulness that acknowledges the full range and expression of God’s love demonstrated through his sovereign work in creation.

The last of gratitude’s “children”, that I thought about at least, is perseverance. What I mean by that is being thankful for what we have received in our lives rather than being bitter and covetous over what others have been favored with and celebrating with them in their blessing, all the while continuing to have faith that our goals are going to be realized one day.

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17
Nov
09

can you feel it?

It’s here! Can you feel it? The tension is mounting. The excitement is beginning to bubble up. The anxiety is about to overwhelm us. It’s the Christmas rush! It’s only the middle of November for Pete’s sake! (By the way, does anyone know who Pete is?)

Travel arrangements are being made, Christmas party plans are being juggled, musical practices are being worked into the schedule, and advertisers are doing their best to convince us we are behind on our shopping! (It occurs to me that there is probably a lot more fast food being eaten due to all of this. I wonder if a study has ever been done?) Are you tired yet? And to think, Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet.

In Luke 21, Jesus warns about an ungodly culture that would be characterized by wanton consumption of goods and pleasure and tells us that the outcome of such behavior would be anxiety and a spirit of intimidation (verses 34 and 26, respectively). I think that often we, as Spirit-filled believers, find ourselves being “pressed into the mold of this world” (Romans 12:2) and then wondering why we don’t have any peace. In our society it is countercultural not to be so consumed with the holidays that we overspend, overeat and overbook ourselves to the point that we are on the verge of an emotional and/or financial meltdown!

Just so you know, my family and I love the holidays. We love decorating. We love the festive atmosphere. We love getting together with friends and family. We love buying gifts for each other. But the key to enjoying the holidays is to remember why we do what we do. We’ve kind of lost that. The activity – planning, shopping, cooking, going, going, going, has become the point rather than spending time with people we love and celebrating the Christ!

10
Nov
09

life in the garden

Working in the Garden.JPGWhat do you think of when you think about the Garden of Eden? Warm days and balmy nights? Unparalleled beauty? Relationship without conflict? Utopia, however you define it?

Did the word “responsibility” come to mind? You might wonder why I would ask something like that. Well, consider Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it.”

From the beginning God’s plan for us was to be his image bearers. We are to be like him. Among many other things, God is a creator and a producer. We, as God’s image bearers, are to have an impact, for good, on every situation we find ourselves in. Every place we go, every relationship we are involved in, and every person we meet should be better off as a result of our influence. That is the job God has given to us – “to tend and care for” his creation. That includes all of his creation (i.e. natural resources as well as people).

I know what you are thinking: “Oh great! Just what I need, another job and someone else to be responsible for!” But before you get yourself too worked up, let me explain how this is not only possible, but fulfilling as well.

God designed you with a purpose. Paul wrote, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10) Did you notice what he said? You are a masterpiece, designed by God, created to accomplish his purpose for your life.

It doesn’t end there. Paul also tells us, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” (Romans 12:6) Not only has God created us with a purpose in mind, he has also equipped us to fulfill that purpose. There is no greater joy and fulfillment in life than to figure out what God has called you to do, develop that ability, and then just do it!

04
Nov
09

challenges

marathon-runnerOne of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa: “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” As far as I’m concerned she nailed that one.

Life can be pretty challenging at times. Family issues, personal crises, conflicts, financial setbacks, workplace decisions and health issues can come rushing in individually, or in groups, leaving us feeling like we’re riding a Tilt-a-Whirl in a hurricane. As a matter of fact, the longer I live the more I am convinced the ideas of control, order and “normalcy” are illusions we create in our minds as a means of maintaining a little sanity. At best they are exceptions and not the rule. Before you question my spirituality, let me remind you that even the Apostle Paul had his moments. It was him who wrote, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9)

Does this mean we resign ourselves to a fatalistic mindset and mope through life? No. We do exactly what Paul said – “We get up again and keep going.” The promise we have been given in Scripture is that “despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Again, it was Paul who declared triumphantly, “I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” (Philippians 4:13)

I have heard it said the difference between a coward and a hero is just a matter of which way you run. It has nothing to do with fear. Rather, it is a choice of running away from the battle, not believing that God is big enough to help you, or running towards the fight, believing that God trusts you and will deliver you from whatever you are faced with.