Category Archives: Thankfulness

The Most Powerful Prayer

prayerEveryone wants to pray well, and pray powerfully, but what if I told you the most powerful prayers have never been heard by your ears.  Maybe you don’t believe that, but it is true.

Luke 22:31 says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

Focus on that word, ‘fail.’   Don’t you just hate that word?  I bet you can think in a moment of some of the words fails you ever had.  It’s not hard to do because failure seems haunt us.  Maybe you’ve failed, but have you failed like Peter?  I mean, its hard to beat a guy who pledges his life to Jesus, whom he said was the Messiah, and that he will die with Him, but within a matter of hours after Jesus is arrested, Peter has denied him three times, the rooster has crowed, and Jesus has looked him dead in the eyes across the courtyard.  Now……that’s failure of Biblical proportions.  I’ve often tried to empathize with Peter’s humiliation, and I can’t imagine the shame and guilt he felt at that moment.  I’m sure when he heard Jesus had died on the cross, believing he would never be able to redeem himself to this man he love, Peter probably wanted to go into hiding and never be found.

Peter could’ve let that be the end of him as a disciple but there was something which preserved him.  We never read how Peter prayed for himself to be bold and courageous, but we do know someone prayed for Peter, and it was Jesus.  Jesus had prayed for him knowing the sifting was coming.  Why is Peter even present with Jesus and the other disciples in John 21?  Is it because of Peter’s prayers?  Not at all, but it is because Jesus prayed for him.

Romans 8 speaks some important reminders for believers.  In so many words it says my present sufferings do not compare to the future glory to be revealed in me.  It mentions there is a hope in me for what I do not have but the Spirit helps me in my weaknesses.  It reminds me how God is working in all things for me because I love Him, and He’s not only called me but justified me.  I see here how there can be no one against me because God is for me, and I am more than a conqueror in Him.  All this is made possible because of what verse 34 mentions, “Christ is at God’s right hand interceding for me.”  Jesus didn’t just pray for Peter, He is praying for you and me continually.

Can you relate to how I’ve failed Him because you’ve done it too?  I’ve said words I should’ve never said because I couldn’t control my tongue.  I’ve thought the worst about others when I should’ve given them the benefit of the doubt.  I’ve been bitter against those who’ve hurt me when I was supposed to forgive.

But there is hope for me because Jesus was praying for me.

I’ve trusted in myself rather than Him and even put my faith in myself or other people rather than Him.  I’ve been puffed up with pride when humility would have been the right decision.  I’ve desired and even given payback instead of grace.

But, you know what?  Jesus was praying for me.

I know that He is still praying for me, and I’m thankful for the prayers I’ve never heard from the lips of Jesus yet have a profound impact on  my life.

Apart from repenting of my sins, I’ve never been able to change myself, and I’m sure you’ve found out this truth too!  I focus on loving Him, and He corrects my living.

If you’re wondering what you can pray to overcome your failings, you may be missing the most powerful truths about prayer that I have been comforted by most……

My ability to push through the difficulties in life, to overcome the flesh, temptation, and even the enemy is not so dependent on the power of my prayers, but on His.

Advertisements

A Giver or a Getter

Asgive a believer, you live each day out like most other people.  You have your ups and downs like anyone else.  You work hard, deal with various difficulties,  have a hectic schedule, and even do much more than anyone ever seems to notice.   The difference between you and anyone else comes down to whether you feel life owes you something or you owe something to life.  Maybe, better yet, God owes you something, or you believe you owe something to God.  It’s really a matter of perspective which basically develops from a matter of thanks-giving.

Let’s be honest but many people always want to know what they are going to get and are very unconcerned with who gives.  It’s simple – people like free wifi and its something very expected when they enter stores, restaurants, or stay in a hotel.  Yet, its not free.  Someone has to pay (give) so you can have it (get) wifi without any expense to you.  We go to stores and expect sales and deep discounts (get) but the store has to be willing to compromise the price (give).  Without even realizing it, we easily get into this mindset of making sure we are getting what we deserve without giving any consideration to our responsibility to give so others can get.

Do this for me, do that for me, help me work on this project, take out the trash, give me a ride to the store….get, get, get….and we give little consideration to when we give back.  If we’re not careful we start to bring this mentality into the church and we’ll only give sufficiently for what we feel we are getting while forgetting our giving is to be based on our attitude towards God rather than the leaders of the church, other people in the church, or what we think the church offers us in particular.

Is it worth my while….

to give?  Worth is a funny thing because we establish value three ways to decide what something is even worth.  First, we have an idea of what something is worth dependent on its reputation….it’s a matter of what I’m willing to pay for that type of item, but my value for differing brands of the same item can fluctuate where I’ll pay more for one brand over another because its ‘better’.  Two pairs of sneakers can be priced the same, but you view one brand as more favorable than the other and you’re willing to pay that amount for that pair.  Secondly, worth or value is established by what I want.  I may be willing to pay much more for something than you may choose to pay because I have a particular interest whereas you don’t.  So, what I want will change the value of what I pay for something.  Lastly, there is need.  I may not want to pay $3 for a gallon of gas but because I’m about to run out of gas, and driving is always better than walking, I’m going to pay for it so I can get where I’m going.  Whether I like it or not, I’ve established to that gas station that there are people who value their gas enough to pay such an exorbitant price over other competitors and they won’t feel the need to change it.  The brand doesn’t have a good reputation, and I don’t want to pay it, but I do because I need it.

Do you need Jesus?  Each of us does, so why would we withhold anything from Him dependent of what we feel He should give to us.  Nobody likes the church talking about money, but Jesus did and He was clear how those who could handle earthly riches would be found worthy to handle spiritual riches.  Most believers I know would like to have spiritual depth, but its difficult to become spiritually deep when we cling to money so tightly and desire to get so much more of it rather than just be faithful as God has asked.  No one likes to talk about tithing, and many want to argue it away for the believer but in the end God has left 90% for us and asked for only 10% to invest in His work, or rather to prioritize His work.

He’s the Creator and I’m created, so who am I to say He’s not worth my giving?  I’m sure there are many excuses I could come with as to why I shouldn’t have to, or better yet, why I choose not to, but the work of God must be worth something to me.  It must be important enough for me to give as He has desired.  It’s not overwhelming or even oppressive, but I know as I give, His work can be better equipped to reach the lost.  Are not lost souls worthy my faithfulness to Him?

What does it say to Him if I don’t want to give to Him because I’m too busy giving to other interests in my life I’ve decided are more important?  As a believer, I can be so focused on being a getter (I know, I made up the word) but since He gave so much, and saw me worth the giving of His life, surely I can give Him mine, and even be faithful with my finances.  New TV’s, cars, hobbies, are not evil in and of themselves, but if my involvement in any decreases my ability to be faithful then I have an issue with my priorities.  Jesus put me before Himself…in other words, He put my need for eternal life and restoring my ability to have a relationship with God before His own physical welfare.  After all, He doesn’t demand it all, but He does desire my faithfulness, and I should too.

What I received because of Jesus’ death wasn’t free.  He paid the price for my sin, so I could have eternal life in Him.  Are you saved because you give faithfully?  No, that’s not at all what is being said or implied here.  Yet, faith and works do complement one another and illustrate the right priorities of a believers life.  Even then, its not just about finances, but about my whole life being His.  Let’s remember, the servant serves the master, and each of us are His servants, so let’s serve Him well.

Live it out….

I will be a thanks-giver; making it a matter of my will to give out of a thankful heart.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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!