Gratitude

gratitude-noteOn March 8, 1713, Matthew Henry experienced an unfortunate incident that offered proof that he was a preacher who could not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Henry had preached a sermon in a London church that focused on the joyful sound, and based on the words of Psalm 89:16: They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.

Shortly after he left the church, Henry was robbed by a couple of thieves. As Henry reflected on this incident in a prayer, he said:

Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.

Henry’s prayer is an expression of gratitude.  He chose to focus less on what he had lost and the danger he had faced and more on what he still had, what he had never been, and that he remained safe and secure in Christ.

Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in his life, Henry chose to cultivate a spirit of forgiveness and nurture an attitude of gratitude. Can the same be said of you?  Which of these three is indicative of your attitude today–bitterness, forgiveness, or gratitude?

To help you stay focused on this discussion I’ll end with the words of Zig Ziglar:  Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Stop and Refocus

refocusIf you started today worrying about what might go wrong, I encourage you to stop and refocus your mind on these five words:.

Slow: Take a deep breath and slow down. When you walk in step with God, you will learn that His love is not measured by a teaspoon—it’s measured by the bucket loads.

Time: Take a minute or two to consider God’s goodness.

  • Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Oppose: Don’t yield to catastrophic thoughts that are characterized by words like must, never, and always. These three words are usually false. Discipline your mind so you think about the hope and joy you can have in Jesus.

  • Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Promise: Claim the promises the are rightly yours. You are not some pauper, you are a child of the King.

  • The key that gives you access to God is not your strength—it’s God’s grace.

I’ll close with some words that can open the door of your mind to some life-changing  thoughts:

Deuteronomy 31:6:   Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

More Super Than The Moon

MOONThere are those times that a person can become so self-absorb, that he acts as though he is the center of the universe.  Then again, there are those cloudless nights when you seem insignificant in comparison to the starlit sky and a brightly shining super moon.

There are a few times each year when the proximity of the moon is so close to the earth, that every star and constellation is dim in comparison to its shimmering beauty.

According to Andrew Fazekas, January1, 2018 might be such a night. Tonight, the distance between the earth and moon will be only 221,559 miles, and Fazekas has said this is why the moon will appear to be so large.

To keep things in perspective, 221,559 miles is well beyond the lifetime of most vehicles.  It is also the distance between Wichita, Kansas and the North Pole; that’s 30 roundtrips excursions to the North Pole and back.

When I witness the beauty of the night sky or I’m mesmerized by a glorious sun that signals the dawn of a new day, I’m reminded of David’s exclamation in the Psalms: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (19:1).

I encourage you to step outside tonight and to take a peek at the “handiwork” of god that He has painted on His celestial canvas; then, step back inside and read from Psalm 8. As you read from this Psalm, you may realize that you’re the most beautiful part of God’s magnificent creation. And, from God’s perspective you’re more super than the moon.

Counting Down

Calendar with strikethrough crosses fields. Vector ImageAn annual rite of the holiday season is the Christmas countdown. Each year, children count the days to Christmas with an eager expectation, that is only matched by their mothers’ stressful preparation.

Now that Christmas has passed, other countdowns have begun. Some people are counting down the days until the start of the new year, and others have already circled the number 14 on February’s calendar in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.

The number 14 is significant to another group of people.  They are counting down the 91 sunrises that stand between them and the start of the baseball season.

When they hear the number 14, they think in terms of a Rose and and a Banks. Pete Rose was a gritty presence on the diamond during his professional career; however, he was given a lifetime ban for committing baseball’s unpardonable sin.

Like Rose, Ernie Banks also wore the number 14, but his legacy remains untarnished. Even though he had not played for over 40 years when he died in 2015, Banks remains a cherished favorite of the Cub’s fans to this day.

Professional athletes know their fans can be rather fickle and their celebrity status is the result of their performance.  If they do not measure up to the expectations of their fan-base, they are quickly booed.

Fortunate for us, this is not the case with God—His love is not performance-based. He will not bench you because you strike-out, but He will toss you another bat, and say, “Ok slugger, give it another try. Focus and remember, you’re the eye of My, and I’ll be in the batter’s box with you; so, swing away (Psalm 17:8).

A Season of Lists

article_post_width_santa_naughty_listMost of us would find it difficult to manage the hustle and bustle of Christmas without the help of a few lists. These are scribbled on a piece of paper, written on a white board, or perhaps they pop up on a To-Do-List on your computer.

Lists are used to organize the events of our day and to lessen the stress of forgetfulness. Hosts pencil in names on guest lists; benefactors write gift lists; and wives scribble grocery lists to guide their husbands as they search for food items. Perhaps the most famous list is that naughty or nice one that’s frequently checked and monitored by old Saint Nick.

As I was rummaging through a desk drawer this week, I found a list that Mom and Pop had clipped out of a paper. It’s called the Ten Commandments For Right Living, and it offers some practical wisdom for life:

  1. Thou shalt not worry, for by so doing thou shalt relive the same disaster many times.
  2. Thou shalt not try to dominate or possess others, for it is the right of every man to govern his own actions.
  3. Thou halt not seek after fame, for unless God is glorified, greatness is a burden.
  4. Thou shalt not work for money only, for money was meant to serve. Money is a poor master.
  5. Thou shalt harm no other person, by word, thought, or deed, regardless of the cause: for to do so is to perpetuate the sorrows of the race.
  6. Thou shalt not be angry at any person for any reason, for anger injures most the one who is angry.
  7. Thou shalt never blame another for thy misfortune, for each man’s destiny is in his own keeping.
  8. Thou shalt relax, for tension is an abomination unto the flesh.
  9. Thou shalt have a sense of humor or thy years will seem much more tedious and painful.
  10. Thou shalt love the beautiful and serve the good for this is according to the will of heaven.

While I might take issue with the way some of these are worded, they do offer some good life principles. Most of the 10 can be summarized in one statement that Jesus made—The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

There’s an ocean of difference between “doing in” others and “doing for” others. Which “doing” do you do?

Fillings and Feelings

positive-thinkingWhen I was a kid, the most important meal of the day was supper.  Mom was an excellent cook, and she worked hard to prepare the evening meal for our large family. Mom and Pop worked even harder at trying to steer their eight children in the right direction.

Each evening the family gathered around the dinner table to eat and to discuss the days events.  One evening,  Mom and Pop spoke about an incident at school in which I had hurt the feelings of a classmate. As we discussed the situation, my youngest brother said:  I have feelings too, see!  Then, he opened his mouth and pointed to the fillings in his teeth.

The truth is, fillings and feelings go hand in hand. How you feel about life is determined in a large part by how you fill your life. If you don’t fill your mind with what is right, what is left?

Your life is like your car, if you fill the tank with the cheapest fuel available, your engine may not perform at an optimal level; likewise, if you fill your mind with two-bit thinking, you’ll never live a grand life.

To fill your tank with some high octane thoughts, heed the advice of the Apostle Paul and think on whatever is just, pure, lovely, commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

Happy Holidays?

Christmas-giftsWhile walking the aisles of a home improvement store, I was miffed by the sight of a wreath emblazoned with two words:  Happy Holidays. This frustrates me because it’s an impotent message that castrates Christmas of it’s substantial significance.

Christmas is not in need of some slick marketing campaign; it’s message might be centuries old, but it’s hardly antiquated.

The secularization of Christmas reminds me of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!

The message of Christmas is filled with love and full of hope. God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of His son and as Phillips Brooks said in O Little Town of Bethlehem: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

The hope of Christmas is not some neatly wrapped gift that is placed under a tree. It is the gift of Jesus—the baby of Bethlehem.

As the day of Christ’s birth draws closer, I encourage you to give some thought to these words of Peter: Prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed (I Peter 1:13).

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

Are You Bushed?

Sleep-DeprivedBecause I don’t like the government tinkering with my sleep pattern, I’m not a fan of Daylight Savings Time. I’m hoping the government will eventually learn that you can play with a clock, but you can’t turn back time.

It takes some people months to adjust to the change, and they stumble around like a zombie, saying: “I’m bushed.”

Whether it’s an interruption in your sleep or some other issue, there are times when most of us have felt like we’re weary, worn-out, and at the end of our rope.  If this sounds like you, you may need to get Am-bushed.

To understand my terminology, think with me about the plight of the Hebrew people during the Old Testament days of the Pharaoh. The Jewish people were in bondage and in need of help, so they cried out to God in prayer. The answer to their prayers came in the form of a desert-dwelling, leather-skinned, sheep-herding, soon to be deliverer by the name of Moses.

At this point in his life, Moses was disillusioned. He wasn’t living the life to which God had called him, and he was running on empty as he yearned for that elusive something that would change his life.

Then it happened, and it was anything but ordinary.  Moses saw a burning bush, heard a voice, and turned aside to wipe the sand out of his eyes.  Was he seeing a mirage or was he dizzy due to the searing heat of the desert?

It was no mirage–it was majesty.  The burning bush was a bush that didn’t burn; it was ablaze; but it wasn’t consumed.

It was a spectacular sight to Moses, and he was stunned when he heard the voice of God emanating from the bush: I’ve seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their prayers. I know their sorrows. I’m going to deliver them.

Even more shocking to Moses was the news that he was to be the deliverer.  In need of confirmation, Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” God replied, “I AM THAT I AM.”

Moses’ life changed on that day when he was Am-Bushed. He had felt as though he lacked eloquence, but God assured him that he was a diamond in the rough.  He had felt empty, so God filled him. His life had been meaningless, so God gave him purpose.

The life of Moses is an epic account of how God uses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. It’s the narrative of what God can do through you.

Tragedy in Texas

broken-heart-valentine-background_1048-4957For many people, today’s shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas has stirred-up unwanted memories of Las Vegas, Columbine and Charleston. We should not be surprised that these events are beyond our comprehension, because they are often perpetrated by people who lack a conscience.

Sociopath and psychopath are words that have been used to described shooters or mass murders like Harris, Klebold, and Roof, as well as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Dennis Rader. The DSM-5 classifies sociopathy and psychopathy as Antisocial Personality Disorders and sets certain criteria for a diagnosis:

  • A disregard for laws, social mores, and the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
  • Sociopaths are agitated, disorganized individuals, and they are unable to blend in with society

Psychopaths are high-functioning individuals who manipulate people with their charming personality. While they do not actually feel emotion, they can learn to mimic emotions to blend in with the crowd.

Due to their lack of conscience, people with these disorders process emotions like a blind man negotiates a maze; one doesn’t feel, the other doesn’t see, and both find the task daunting.

Dr. Martha Stout a Clinical Psychologist and former Harvard Medical School instructor, offers this assessment: An emotional word is love, hate, anger, mom, death, anything that we associate with an emotional reaction. A nonemotional word is lamp, street, hair, rug, that kind of thing. If I had electrodes hooked up to you right now and I said a string of words, and some of them were emotional and some were not, I’d get a larger spike on the emotional words. We are wired to process those words more readily than neutral, nonemotional words. We are very emotional creatures. But sociopaths listen as evenly to emotional words as they do to lamp or book—there’s no neurological difference. ~THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

The obvious question is: How do you treat someone who has no conscience?  The prerequisite to change is a desire to do so, and without a conscience there is no desire. Without a conscience there is no good or evil, and the need for true healing is a recognition of that which plagues the heart.

One thing that never changes in these instances is the need for prayer, and I encourage you to pray for those who were touched by the tragic events of today.