Grateful Ones Give

A week ago tonight, I returned from a great trip overseas with a couple brothers from our church and some other brothers in the area. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with friends to visit old friends in Turkey. Praise the Lord!

One of the things all seven of us men wanted to do while we were in Turkey, was get gifts for our wives. Why? Well, not only because we love our wives but because we are grateful for their sacrifice in letting us go.

Five of us have small children at home, so our wives graciously agreeing for us to leave the country for two weeks is no small thing. And, when you realize that and are filled with gratitude, you want to give. While we did not have a lot of extra time while in the country, it seems like every little bit of extra time we did have was spent trying to figure out how we could bless our wives.

Although I do not believe I did a very good job in the gifts department, I am definitely reminded of the truth that grateful people are giving people.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing my short Thanks & Giving sermon series, preaching from Exodus 35-36 on how “Gratitude Leads to Giving.”

Do you desire to give of your treasures, your time, and your talents for the glory of God? Do you long for the gospel to advance and, as a result, long to be a part of that advancement (via your treasures, your time, and your talents)? If you cannot answer those questions with an enthusiastic yes, I believe something critical is missing in your life. Only a changed heart and life – a new heart and a new life – will generate what is necessary to experience this kind of passion for God’s glory and God’s gospel.

Turn to God and to His Word today. Surrender your all to Him. Let us be grateful people who, as a result, are giving people.

If you recognize your need for growing gratitude to God but have not yet received the new life that is required for such ongoing gratitude, check out the Story.

Two Steps to Attitude Transformation

No one wants to be known as someone who has a bad attitude. Well, at least no one in his right mind wants to be known as someone with a bad attitude. And, part of having a good attitude is having a grateful attitude.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our Thanks & Giving sermon series and be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, talking about how “Gratitude Is Ongoing.”

1. GIVE PRAISE.

The Bible does not put conditions on God’s commands for us to be joyful and thankful. You will not read anything like, “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Again I say rejoice sometimes,” or, “Rejoice when you feel good and healthy, and rejoice when life is comfortable.”

Instead, you can read commands like, “Rejoice always!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

What does “always” mean? Well, it means always. In fact, we are to “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

That sounds impossible, does it not? Rejoice always? Give thanks in everything? How can we possibly do that? We cannot, not in our own strength and ability. We cannot possibly, by ourselves, rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Unfortunately, we tend to be too quick to complain, be discouraged, and be ungrateful. For that reason – because of our sinful nature – we need the next step, too.

2. GO IN PRAYER.

Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). By this simple and yet critical command, Paul is reminding us of our constant need for God. To “pray constantly” does not imply that we ought to have a 24/7 quiet time. What it does mean, though, is that we are never in a situation in which we do not need the Lord’s help, the Lord’s wisdom, the Lord’s grace, the Lord’s mercy, and the Lord’s favor. Thus, we need to always be looking to Him, depending on Him in prayer.

Prayer is not our last resort; prayer is our first priority. And, when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your heart, you realize that. As God transforms our hearts, he transforms our attitudes. He grows in us a desire for fellowship with Him and with His church, growing in us a recognition of our need for constant prayer and dependence.

Pray on your own. Pray with your family. Pray with your church. We need to go in prayer – all day, every day.

WHAT NEXT?

If you are headed into the Thanksgiving holiday without much desire to give thanks, turn to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word, and pray His Word back to Him – prayers like Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Psalm 5:11; 32:11; and 40:16.

Please realize, though, that none of the above is possible unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only His sacrifice on the cross can take away our sins and make a way for us to truly rejoice and rightfully go to the Lord in prayer. Only His resurrection from the dead secures our victory from sin and death, giving us the ultimate reason for praise. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, please click HERE for more information.

If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, give praise and go in prayer – always.

If you recognize your need for attitude transformation but have not yet received the new life that is required for such a transformation, check out the Story.

“What do you saaaaay?”

Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.

We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation, we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?

Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.

Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?

THANKS AND GIVING

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?

THANKS AND GOSPEL

If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.

While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).

Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?

I am grateful for THIS view from my office window, and Micah is grateful when he gets to kill flies (what he was on a mission to do when this picture was taken).

To WHOM is your thanksgiving?

No doubt the vast majority of Americans are, in some way or another, celebrating Thanksgiving today. We are giving thanks for various people and various blessings, whether we talk about them while we sit around the table together, share about them through social media, or remind ourselves of them in our own hearts and minds.

When you “give thanks,” though, to whom is your thanksgiving? Sure, you might be thankful for your spouse, for your family, for your friends, etc., but to whom are you thankful?

Generally, we give thanks to someone who has done something beneficial for us. For example, on a typical evening I certainly ought to give thanks to my wife for a delicious supper, for a clean house, and for the seemingly constant care she provides for our children. All of us ought to be able to think of people not only for whom we are thankful but also to whom we give thanks.

Most importantly for followers of Jesus Christ, of course, is our thanksgiving to God. Everything good we have is from Him and for His glory.

On Thanksgiving (and always) we ought not only to say, “I am thankful for ________.” We also ought to be saying, “Thanks be to God for ________.” And, at the top of that list should be resurrection life.

Lord willing, during our worship service with Richland Baptist Church Sunday morning, I will be preaching on “The Victory of Discipleship” from Mark 16:1-8. As I have been studying this passage of Scripture this week, I cannot help but think we do not rejoice and give thanks to God nearly enough for the victory that was and is won by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

If not for this victory of discipleship, my grief over the physical death of my dad (seen in the picture above teaching my sister Steph how to cut the turkey in 2013) would be too much to bear. If not for this victory, our lives would be hopeless. If not for this victory, we would ultimately have nothing for which to be thankful.

The victory over sin and death is the most important thing that has ever happened, and so God is the most important One to whom we need to give thanks.

Is your mind set on truly seeking and thanking Him, or are you more set on yourself? Are you intent about honoring Him, or are you more concerned about getting honored?

Seems like I have heard multiple people say (and I agree completely): the more life is all about you, the more miserable you are. May the Lord help us have the right focus and the right thanksgiving!

Adoption, Thanksgiving, Birthday

Well, a lot of things have happened in the past week, so please consider this a “brief” update. We arrived in the U.S. a week ago Sunday and got over jet lag pretty quickly. Praise the Lord!

Last Wednesday we went to court to begin the “re-adoption” process in getting Zoe’s name legally changed and getting her U.S. birth certificate. Miraculously (thanks to God’s providential hand and thanks to our good friend Nathan Carroz, who happens to be a good lawyer, too), that process was much easier than we ever anticipated. Our court hearing went smoothly, and we got Zoe’s birth certificate that same day (a process that usually takes months). Then, we were able to apply for her U.S. passport and should have that back in 2-3 weeks. Praise the Lord!

Today was our meeting with a local social worker who came to complete Zoe’s 3-month “post-placement report.” That went really well. The final thing we have to do is apply for Zoe’s Social Security number, and we will be able to do that, Lord willing, next week. Then, it’s just a waiting game before everything is complete. When we started the adoption process just over one year ago, we never dreamed it would go this quickly or this smoothly. God has shocked our socks off in blessing us beyond our imaginations and has been so good to us. Praise the Lord!

Last Thursday, of course, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Marsha’s family here in Windsor Valley. It was a fun day at Marsha’s parents’ home, even though it included 14 kids running/crawling around the house. Thankfully, the weather was nice, and we did a lot of playing outside. To see some pictures from the past week, please click HERE. We sure are thankful for family and friends, as we have the best. Praise the Lord!

Then, Saturday was Silas’ second birthday. We had a great time celebrating with everyone here at Marsha’s parents’ house, and you can see some pictures by clicking HERE. Hard to believe Silas is already two years old, as most of you haven’t seen him since he was a baby! Time does fly, and God’s incredible blessings surround us more and more all the time. Praise the Lord!

Today was my dad’s PET scan to see if/where his Adenocarcinoma cancer has spread. We probably will not know anything until his next appointment on Friday, but please continue to pray for his healing and for his faith in Christ to be real and strong. This is obviously a difficult time for him and the rest of our family, but I am beyond thankful that God is always in control and has a perfect plan. His ways are sometimes difficult to comprehend, but His faithfulness and goodness never end. Praise the Lord!

 

THANKFUL

I am thankful today…and ALWAYS…for countless things. Most importantly, I am thankful for my gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; for my amazing and beautiful wife ; for my sweet and fun sons; for the opportunity we have to adopt a child from Ethiopia; for a family that loves and cares for me; for my friends who go above and beyond; for my church that walks in unity, love, humility and boldness; for the Church – the precious body of Christ; and for the gospel – that anyone who calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may this day be only one of many days you walk in thankfulness for what the God of the universe has done and continues to do. To God be the glory!