Practice for Thanksgiving

thanks 6If there is something you want to get better at then you have to practice.  If you want to run faster, you have to practice the mechanics of running.  If you want to be a better salesman, you have to practice techniques of sales.  Anything which needs developed will remain undeveloped until we begin a practice routine.

Practice develops skill and reflex.  Thanks to practice, a person deepens their skills and when a situation arises which requires that skill, my first reflex will be the skills I’ve invested the most time into.  I find people practice the art of being critical more than being thankful.  If you disagree, just think about how many times you complained this week, especially about inconsequential issues as opposed to being thankful or even expressing thanks.  That would tell me I practice the skill of being critical far more than the skills which lead to thanksgiving.  So, if I’m going to be thankful I have to learn what to practice in order to develop and maintain a thankful life.  Philippians 4:4-9 will help to guide us.

Do Rejoice! (vs. 4-5)

Have you ever noticed how much of what you do in life is conditional?  If certain conditions are met, then you respond one way, but if they aren’t met, then you will respond another way.  If someone is nice to you, then you are nice back, but if someone is harsh towards you, rather than be nice to them also, you probably react in the same manner towards them.  See?  Conditional.

I have to learn to stop thanking God, or being thankful in general, only when certain conditions are met.  Conditions like….everything working out as I want, my happiness, my idea being accepted and so on.  Paul and Silas show us the power in rejoicing as they were jailed in Philippi unjustly, but chose to pray and sing hymns to God.  As they chose to practice a thankful principle of rejoicing God sent an earthquake which opened all the jail cells. The guard and his family are saved, baptized in water, he washes their wounds and feeds them, and they are released the next day.  Let’s not miss this was all made possible due to their reflex and skill to be thankful in all situations regardless of the conditions.

If I allow conditions to dictate my mood or state of mind then I will find it difficult, or even impossible, to live the thankful life.

Do Pray! (vs. 5-6)

Prayer guarantees my trust in God and guards me from anxiety.  Anxiety is paralyzing, debilitating, and keeps me from thankfulness.  When Jesus said there was enough trouble to deal with today and to stop worrying about tomorrow, He mentions that pagans (unbelievers) run after the needs of what they will eat, drink, or wear.  Jesus couldn’t be clearer how the believer shouldn’t be chasing after what unbelievers seek because they should know better…..God is in control.  Maybe they don’t, but that would be due to a lack of prayer.

It’s difficult to remain thankful if you fail to have open communication with God.  Anxiety will keep me from acting in prayer because I will start to think prayer doesn’t make a difference, but it does.  Prayer keeps me close to God, so I don’t lose contact with Him.  Prayer keeps me focused on God, so I don’t forget He’s in control.  If I am aware and confident in His control then I won’t feel like my life is out of control!  Thank God for stability.

Do Whatever! (vs. 8-9)

Don’t you just love this word?  If you were to ask someone where they wanted to go eat, and they said, “Whatever,” you’d think they didn’t care.  We generally feel like whatever is a nondescript word, lacking meaning, and expressing a lack of interest.  It can be, but it isn’t always.

Paul uses this word to bring definition to the life of the believer.  Verse 7 speaks about the peace of God, and people do want peace.  There’s not one person you know who wouldn’t like to have more peace in their lives.  The only issue is this…..the peace Paul speaks about is of God and is for those who are from God.  If you’re a believer, His peace is for you.  Let’s be clear, though, you have to live the right life…..the whatever life.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. 

If I want God’s peace, then I have to live in line with whatever is according to God’s character.  What God views as right, pure, lovely, etc.., is how I must live and be or His peace cannot be mine.  This is why when you lie peace is evasive because lying isn’t noble.  You won’t find genuine peace in lust, hate, or anger because it’s not what God defines as lovely.

I think many Believers want to be thankful, but you have to start rejoicing, praying, and doing whatever is according to God’s character and desire.  Then you will have God’s peace, but live a thankful life!

Live it out….

I will practice the principles of thanksgiving and live a thankful life.

 

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Do I Need a Second Opinion?

smiling Doctor holding stethoscopeIf you’ve ever been to the doctor, you may hear a diagnosis you don’t like or feel uneasy about, and the natural decision at this point is to seek a second opinion.  You probably want to check and make sure what you’re being told is absolutely correct, or pretty much correct, at least.  Honestly, there are so many times in our lives where we gather information from various resources or individuals and then we come to a decision.  If you do this with God’s Words to you, you will find yourself making one poor decision after another.

When God speaks…

….it establishes what He says.  We see in the creation account in Genesis that God spoke and so it was.  He speaks into existence light, a gathering of water so land would appear, the production of vegetation, life in the form of animals on the land, sea, and in the air, and of course, man and woman.  When God speaks it will be.

So, why do we not just accept God’s Word when He speaks to us?  Why do I struggle so much with the accuracy or the legitimacy of God’s Word?  God said it, but I’m not sure if I believe it, can count on it, or if it will even come to pass, and the problem is we fail to grasp the one thing which happens when God speaks – it always comes to pass.  Yet, I’m unsure if what He said is going to happen in MY life……here is my issue.  Somehow, I have some kind of ability to automatically deter God’s Word from being as He said it would be in my life.

Do we have free choice?  Of course, but what I’m saying is God’s Word is His Word and no one, not even you, is going to stand in the way of what God intends, so don’t second guess Him.

I Second Guess God…

….because I need a second opinion.  Do you know a spiritual second opinion can be fatal when God has spoken? This is proven in Genesis 3.  After God has spoken and established and shown His Word is true, Satan comes along and speaks to Eve who is open to second opinion, and if you know the story you know it doesn’t end well.

After God speaks, the enemy is quick to come along and try to get you into a debate over, “Did God really say?”  If we entertain this discussion we will begin to doubt God’s Word and it’s authority and power over our lives.  We will think God doesn’t intend to do for us what He said, we are undeserving, or it just can’t be realized in this lifetime.  Or just as bad will be the thinking God didn’t mean what he said, and we can start compromising God’s Word and even our relationship with Him.  What happens is we begin to deceive ourselves and our relationship not only suffers because we don’t trust Him, but the relationship is liquidated as we check out to listen to another voice.

One Last Thing…

….that needs to be said.  God cursed the serpent and He cursed the ground but He didn’t curse Adam and Eve.  There were and are consequences to the fall of mankind, and we readily see those same consequences today.  The ultimate judgment for their sin is death.  Yet, for those who repent and return to Him they will find victory over death through Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26).

You may have doubted God, rejected Him, run away from Him, but be assured of this…..Jesus died for you.  If you will accept Him, receive Him, repent of your sinful ways and commit to the LORD and abide in His Word, you will have new life.  New life to come, but new life now.  You don’t need any second opinions when you have the only one which matters!  Trust God!

Confidence Driven Thanksgiving

Confidence word destruction

It is in my experience that many believers talk much about God but have difficulty living in a manner which expresses or validates the talk.  One area this is found is in the area of confidence.  I’m not going to make an argument for self-belief, self-esteem, or even self-enablement.  What I want to illustrate is a level of living which is borne from confidence in God in such a way that my actions express to God how thankful I am for His Word so that I live with His Word as my guide and my rock.  A great passage to illustrate this is Deuteronomy8:1-11.

Release it….

Every time I play with our dog, Daisy, she gets excited, wags her tail so hard that her whole body shakes, and waits for me to throw her favorite toy for her to go get and bring back to me.  She’ll run, get her toy, and run straight back, but won’t give up the toy.  What ensues is a wrestling match to get the toy out of her grip, so we can play.  What she fails to understand is we can’t play ball if she won’t release it to me to throw.

So many times we want God to deal with the issues of our lives, but we won’t release our grip from dealing with those issues.  We say we want His intervention, but we are too busy micromanaging our lives that God is really given no place to be God.  When I can release my plans to the LORD, I will find Him to be dependable and sustainable.  Not only does God use the very issues of our lives to remind us (if we want to be reminded!) that He is able and willing, but He sustains so many other areas of my life which are not needs because God is supplying those needs so readily.  Unfortunately for us, we see the one issue we are dealing with and may begin to wonder about God’s faithfulness all the while forgetting how God is sustaining so many areas of our lives.  God really is good!  It’s hard to be able to declare that unless you’ve learned to stop worrying, stressing, and managing all of your life and learn to turn over control to Him.  Do that and you will see God do only what God can do.

Remember Him….

We easily can get discouraged in life.  Discouragement sets in when I fail to understand what I should have been sure of.  A runner knows the course, the beginning and the finish line, and he knows the length of the race.  If he were to ever become discouraged, he could remember how far he had already come, know exactly where he is, and know how much further he would need to go.  Rather than get discouraged with unknowns, he could continue on because of what he knows to be true.  The same is with God.  We ought to be able to look back and remember how God has been faithful in our lives – how He has led you, guided you, provided for you, given you strength and hope – and we should be encouraged God will not change from who He was towards us before.  Even more so, we can look at our present condition and be able to see how God is moving on our behalf today.  The Israelites could see their clothes had not worn out all the 40 years in the desert and their feet never swelled.  That was a present day faithfulness of God they could remember and press on.  Lastly, let’s not forget what is ahead.  Jesus said He would go ahead of us and prepare a place for us.  We may never experience heaven on earth, but we will experience eternity with Him as we continue to run the race with perseverance and finish strong!

Revere Him…

In our passage we read the phrase, “the LORD your God.”  When I read this, I’m reminded of my relationship with God.  My relationship isn’t based on another person’s relationship with God, but I have my own relationship with Him.  He isn’t the LORD God of another person’s life, but He is the LORD my God!  In each passage we see this phrase (vs. 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11) it reveals how a personal relationship of reverence for God should look like.  First, I remember His faithfulness to me.  I can praise Him for His faithfulness to others, but I have my own testimony of God’s faithfulness towards my life!  Second, I will serve Him.  When God is another person’s God, I have no obligations to Him, but He’s my God, so I will serve Him.  Third, I will obey Him.  Since He is the LORD my God, I am compelled to obey His Word.  Fourth, I choose to allow Him to lead me because He is the LORD my God.  Fifth, I praise the LORD my God.  Lastly, I will not forget the LORD my God.  I can’t reduce Him to acts of faithfulness, but He is personal to me, and my love is for Him, not for what He does.

When a believer has a confidence driven thanksgiving, we won’t just have something to talk about, but our living will reveal the validity of our claims.

Live it out this week….

I will show God thankfulness by living confidently in His ability, faithfulness, and for His glory.

 

 

The Overcomer

overcomerYet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us – Romans 8:37.

With reading that passage, I can just imagine the mass of believers saying, “Amen!” to this passage and thinking how true it is, but possibly never really experiencing the valid truth of it all.  If I haven’t experienced the overcoming nature, is it because of my circumstances, some person standing in my way, my upbringing, culture, or maybe its not my gift!?!  No matter what the excuse, you’d be wrong whichever way.  To be an overcomer isn’t a matter of what is hindering me as much as it is about who’s enabling me to live in the reality of this passage?

Make a critical decision…..

…..to be an overcomer.  I know, you’re thinking, “Seriously?”  Yes, I’m serious.  To overcome begins with a decision to be what God’s Word says, and in addition to this, you have to make a decision on how you are going to view circumstances.  You can look at all the successful people around you and say they have it easy, or something worked in their favor which is not available to you, but you would be mistaken.  All people face circumstances and those who overcome have chosen, at first, to overcome the issue.  Those who haven’t made a decision to overcome at some point decide to lay down and die…RIP!  Are you a believer who is struggling with living the overcoming life?  If so, you need a new way of thinking through your challenges.  You need to see them not as issues to discourage you, but they can be your greatest motivator.  Maybe you’re not following completely yet, but just keep reading!

Get a Transformed Mind…

…..if you want to start succeeding in faith.  Romans 12:2 tells us this, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  What does this mean?  Well, it’s as simple as being disciplined enough to think……Godly!  If you are praying and wanting God to just drop the overcoming life, or a transformed mind on you then you’re missing your responsibility to have your mind transformed by Him.   You’re going to have to get into God’s Word and spend some time with your LORD in the pages of your Bible and allow that living Word to find a place in your thoughts, heart, and your life.  It will take more than just a five minute prayer life, and you need to start spending some quality time talking and also listening to your Father.  Yes, you need to spend some time communicating with Him, and you’re going to need to draw near to Him, so He can draw near to you.  I can’t imagine hoping a complete stranger who has the keys for my life is actually going to help me if I never develop a relationship with that person, but we do this with God.  We think we are close to Him just because we attend church, or follow some basic Christian disciplines, but we’ve failed to know Him.  Even so, we’ve failed to become known by Him as His child, and His servant.  The more time you spend with God and experience who He is, what He thinks about you and His love for  you, and what His plan is for you…..this will increasingly transform your mind from, “I can’t ever….”, to “With God, all things are possible.”

My Response should be like…

…..King David’s.  He had to come face to face with the champion of the Philistines, Goliath of Gath.  (1 Samuel 17:23-27)  David shows us what the response of an overcomer is and how it is practiced or lived out in our lives.

1.  Overcomers respond to the challenge, not the problem.

How many times has someone said something about someone else and that person, to stand up to what was said, chooses to say something derogatory about that other person?  It’s a real low blow and pretty immature.  David was better than that because the situation wasn’t really about him.  He didn’t respond to Goliath as if he were his problem but as if his words were a challenge to the God of Israel and he was right!  Goliath was challenging God and David knew his God was up for the challenge.  It’s critical how you perceive the problems in your life and how you perceive God.  If all you can do is focus on problems then it’s hard to focus on your God who is up for the challenge.  When obstacles come, the challenge for you is this…..how much do you know God and trust Him to be faithful and able?

2.  Overcomers don’t allow themselves to be shaped by circumstances, criticism, or the opinions of others.

In 1 Samuel 17:28-33 we see David’s older brother, Eliab trying to deflate David’s champion attitude into some kind of defeatist attitude.  He was embarrassing and belittling David and even went as far as questioning his integrity.  In the same way, the enemy is always trying to tear you down, insert doubt, and give you reason to focus on your own powerlessness.  The enemy may be right that you can’t do it on your own, but you aren’t on your own!  We allow others to overly influence us, and we focus on their words rather than God’s Word about us.  When the circumstance or opinions say, “YOU CAN’T!” is when you have to know what God has said and go with that instead.

3.  Overcomers live by what God’s Word says, not by what they see, hear or imagine to be true.

Before David even took up his sling there was a battle of words and Goliath was shouting at the top of his lungs and intimidating the armies of Israel with his boasting.  It was Goliath’s word against God’s Word!  David responded with a word from God…”I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied….”  David didn’t get in a shouting match, He spoke what God put in his mouth to say and then he let the stone fly and God did the rest!  Speak God’s Word over your situation, call on your God to come to your aid, ask Him for insight, help, and strength, and you will see God’s hand move in your life.

4.  Overcomers respond with courage to seemingly impossible challenges.

We each face incredible opportunities that are camouflaged as impossible situations.  Your problems are not unsolvable, impossible, or unfair.  It’s here where your thoughts have the ability to guide you….your thoughts about situations, your thoughts about your God and His love for you, and even God’s availability to you and His ability.  We all have Goliaths, but how are you going to respond?  Each of us can be like David, draw on God’s courage within our spirits and rise to the challenge because God is with us and we never stand alone!

An Active Thanks to God

Slide1It’s nice to be thanked for what you’ve done, how you’ve gone out of your way for someone, or how you’ve just shown how much you cared.  We like to be recognized for what we believe we’ve done for others because it makes us feel good about doing it.  Unfortunately, many times we have reduced our thankfulness to just a word and maybe we’ve been unappreciative for what others have done for us because we expect them to do it.  We may justify our neglect of thankfulness by feeling it is their duty to do what they’ve done for us.  Perhaps we even expect God to perform a certain way because, after all, He’s God and He’s supposed to do this or that.  Fortunately for us, Colossians  3:12-17 can correct our error.

Colossians sheds some light on how we respond thankfully to God because of the salvation He has brought to our lives through Jesus.  See, we can’t merely say, “Thanks, Jesus!,” and go on living however we please.  There is an action involved with our thankfulness and Colossians shows us we actively thank God in three ways.

1.  Give the Word a Home.

vs. 16a

Have you ever lived with someone who is difficult to get alone with, or even worse, made it clear they didn’t want you present.  They invited you in but now have issues with how you decorated your room, how you do the dishes, and how you put the roll of toilet paper on the holder.  Not only is there constant conflict, but it is all you anticipate.  If we say we desire Jesus and to be saved, and we invite Him into our lives, but will then give no place for His Word in us, we are the same as that difficult person you lived with in the past.  We knew who He is and what He would expect, but we invited Him in and all we do is fight Him on what He desires to do.

If I want to give the Word a home in me, I’m going to have to learn to live harmoniously with Him.  To do this, I must hear God’s Word.  Matthew 13:9 makes it clear that I have the ability to hear God, and the ability to tune Him out, but I must make a choice to hear Him!  Next, I have to handle God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15)  Jesus accused many of being ever hearing but never perceiving.  They heard the Word but were clueless as to what it meant or even how it applied to their lives.  That’s what happens when you won’t get experience with the Word by spending time in your Bible and learning it.  Thirdly, you have to hide it in your heart.  (Psalm 119:11)  I’m not trying to contradict myself from what was said before, but what I mean is you need to treasure God’s Word.  Just like you would put a piece of expensive jewelry in a safe place, God’s Word has to be treasured  and exalted.  You must value it above all other objects in your life.  Lastly, you have to hold it fast.  (Philippians 2:16)  God’s Word can’t stabilize your life if you won’t stand on it.

2.  Give the Word Purpose

vs. 16b

Something Warren Wiersbe once said in a book I read made an impression on me long ago.  Not to quote him exactly, he mentioned how we are not producers but distributors.  God produces in us what we are then instructed to distribute.  We don’t have to come up with the plan because God already has His plan.  Now, I’m part of that plan, and what He has done in me is what I’m to distribute to others.  This part of the verse tells me how to distribute God’s Word.

First, I’ve got to be able to teach others God’s Word.  This shouldn’t be understood in the context of actually getting in front of people and teaching them, but more easily taken as being able to instruct someone in God’s Word.  This is valuable to believers you know where you may be encouraging them in the promises of God or even in a testimony about God to those who don’t know Him.

Second, I must admonish others in God’s Word.  I realize we don’t like to tell people what they are doing wrong, but if we have any love for one another, we will be able to speak the truth in love, or as Colossians says here, ‘with all wisdom.’

Third, I must praise God.  Teaching and admonishing are important, but I wasn’t created expressly for those purposes, but I was created by God to give Him praise.

3.  Give the Word Meaning

vs. 17

Colossians 3:17 finishes up with reminding us to give God’s Word meaning in all I do, whether its in my actions or in my words.  Well, that pretty much sums up all each of us can do, right?  It may be hard to practice, but we have to speak as Jesus would speak.  After all, I’m not out to model what a true believer is, but I’m a representation of Jesus.  Each of us is seeking to show others who Jesus is.  What better way than to speak as He did (in the Word) and does now (through the Spirit).  Not only is it important to speak like Jesus, but also to live like Jesus in the actions I take.  We are told to think before we speak, and it would be best for believers to consider Jesus before acting out.  How would Jesus respond?  How would Jesus correct?  How would Jesus show love?  That’s important for us to understand.  And lastly, Paul reminds us to give thanks.  Jesus didn’t complain, but He accepted the Father’s Will, and even when it was difficult, He found it meaningful and worthwhile and God was worthy to be praised.  People around us need to see how Jesus has helped us stop complaining about our circumstances, worrying about outcomes, or even being afraid of the known and unknowns of life.  We can show them how Jesus would respond by living in joy continually, giving thanks to God always, and possessing the peace which comes from knowing He loves us and is for us.

Live it out this week…..

Being thankful for my God and His work in me, I will live His Word through my life!