Monday, November 24, 2014

An Alternative to Counting Gifts

“Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

Thanksgiving rolls around, and we suddenly remember to count our blessings. The rest of the year, we easily miss out on the joy of offering the "sacrifice of praise to God continually."

That's why many like to keep lists all year round. A gratitude journal. A way of counting blessings one-by-one.

But what if we were grateful for more than what God gives?

What if we focused this year on giving thanks to the One who gives?

What if we gave thanks to His name?

·         T – Trustworthy
Lord, Thank You for Your unfailing faithfulness. Thank You that in a world full of deception, seemingly overruled by the father of lies, You reign in our lives as a God completely worthy of our trust. Thank You that we can lean fully on You, and, in leaning, we will never be ashamed, never crushed, never left helpless. Thank You that we can accept every gift You give, because You are trustworthy. . .

·         H – Holy
Lord, Thank You for Your separateness. Your holy Being. Your love and gifts that come from an untainted, unadulterated, pure heart of holiness for creatures who are far from holy . . .

·         A – All-Knowing
Lord, Thank You that nothing is a mystery to You. When we need, You know. When we ache, You know. When we rejoice, You know. You know our needs, because You are a Father always in tune to our needs. You know our aches, because we’re Your own. You know our joys, because You are the One who knowingly gives them precisely with each of us in mind . . .

·         N – Near
Lord, Thank You that You are a God at hand, and not a God afar off. You draw even nearer, when we draw near to You. You are by our side, never absent, the God who promised You would never leave us or forsake us. It is never difficult for You to give. It takes only a slight motion of Your hand nearby . . .

·         K – Kind
Lord, Thank You that Your kindness surrounds every act of love, every motion our way, every gift withheld and given. Thank you that You’ve promised that Your kindness will never cease. Thank You that nothing comes our way apart from that channel of kindness . . .

·         S – Sufficient
Lord, Thank You for the knowledge that if we were never given a dime, a worldly joy, a longed-for dream, we would have enough in You. You are all we need, yet You give more. Thank You that behind your loving gifts, we can rest content in Your sufficient Person, Your sufficient grace, Your arms wrapped around us in trustworthy, holy, all-knowing, near, kind, sufficient giftedness.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with thankfulness to the One who gives!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Keys to Safeguarding Joy

 “What has robbed you of the most joy?” an elderly man was once asked.

"The things that have never happened," he replied.

Why are children often happier than adults?

My dear friend Rebecca's #3 and #4

Why do babies smile so easily?

Her #6

When does joy get robbed and adults laugh less and only children make us smile?

When we concern ourselves with the things that may never happen.

When we worry more and trust less.

When people loom big.

And God becomes small.

When we’ve seen too much pain and childhood happiness turns into joyless scars.

Maybe these three keys to safeguarding joy were written by a child.

·         Fret Not.  He loves you.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

·         Faint Not. He holds you.
“You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.”
(Psalm 139:5)

·         Fear Not. He keeps you.
“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.” (Psalm 121:5)

Children know they are small, so they trust.

Our joy begins to fade when we forget that.

Joy is always within easy grasp.

And just as easily snatched away.

Never fret, never give up, and never give in to fear.

We are loved, held, and kept by a God bigger than we are.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Run and Never Give In

They’re called “Ultra Endurance Athletes.”

They run epic races and long distances and keep running and running and never give in. 

They run against no one, but their own goal and their own desire to finish.

And to finish well.

On August 8thJason Lester started running the Great Wall of China. His goal was to run the entire 2,500-mile wall in 100 days. 

On October 29th he finished running the wall.

 In 83 days.

Jason Lester, an ultra endurance athlete, ran over a marathon a day for 83 days in a row.

We might call that crazy.

The Bible says we have that kind of race set before us.

Let us run the race set before us with endurance” (Heb. 12:1).

The life of faith is a marathon, not a sprint or a 5-K or a walk in the park.

We’re called to run this race, no matter what that race involves.
We’re called to run our own race—not somebody else’s.
Not sitting on the side lines.
Not hoping to just stroll along.

We’re called to run.

Day after day.

We’re not alone. Many have run the race already, proving it’s possible.
Many ran and never gave in.

They “kept the faith” and “finished their course.”

They kept running, because they staked their lives on who God is and what He had said.

We’re told where to look as we run.

“To Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

He saw the joy set before Him. He looked past the agony of the race, and He endured the cross.

He finished His course.

Because He authored our faith, He will bring us to the finish line, and finish our faith.

Our faith will be perfected.

Today, we run.

Tomorrow, we do it again.

Forever, we will look back at our race and see that He carried us every step of the way.

He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

By looking to Him, we can endure this marathon of faith.

Every day.

“I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”  Psalm 16:8

Click Here to listen to “The Author and Finisher of our Faith.”  
[The final lesson in the Hall of Faith series.]

Monday, November 3, 2014

When You Can Thank God for Breaking Your Heart

She told me what God’s been doing.

How He’s picking up the broken pieces and making something new.

How He’s taken these past three years and molded her and prepared her for the beauty that’s emerging from the ashes.

“I think I like pain,” she’s concluded.

Which tells me she’s seeing the value in it.

It’s not the pain itself she likes, but the beautiful purposes of God that would have never emerged apart from that pain.

The most valuable things in life are those that are ours at great cost.

She’s experienced that cost.

But today, she’s able to thank God for breaking her heart.

 “If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.” – Oswald Chambers

We all remember pains from the past.

But our pain is valuable to Him.

So valuable, He uses the pain to frame the beautiful things He’s making out of the pain.

He frames the beauty He’s making out of the ashes. The pain lines the glory of it, and makes the beauty shine brighter.

He’s the Maker of all things.

He even makes beauty out of ashes.

If He's bringing about His purposes in this world through our pain, we can thank Him for breaking our heart.

“I will heal them
and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.”  Jeremiah 33:6