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.

The Gratitude List

Like most mornings, I started today with a cup of coffee and my Bible. While I was reading, I thought about God’s wonderful deeds for mankind, and my lack of gratitude:

 

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.

~Psalm 107:8-9

This morning I give thanks to these people I’ve never met:

  • Thomas Edison for the light that shines about my head.
  • Benjamin Franklin for the glasses I wear.
  • The Wright brothers and their work in the field of aviation.
  • Charles Babbage, the Father of Computers
  • James Watt for his inventive mind that gave us the steam engine.
  • Alexander Bell who gave the first truly functional telephone.
  • Galileo because his genius improved accuracy of the compass; without which I’d still be lost in the wilderness.
  • Henry Ford and his “moving assembly line” which allowed for the mass production of automobiles.
  • Willis Carrier for the air conditioning that I enjoy during the hot and humid summer days.

Expressing gratitude and giving thanks are themes that run throughout the pages of the Bible. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: I thank God . . .  as I remember you 2constantly in my prayers night and day (1:3).

I encourage you to mimic Paul: Take some time today to reflect on the past year; express your gratitude, and say thanks to those who have helped you along the way and made your life a little easier.

Loving God Because . . .

becauseIt was the insufficient, one word answer that I used as a kid to explain why I had done something:  “Because.”  It never made a bad situation any better, and in exasperation, Mom would say, “Because!  Because?  Because why!?

It may be “because” is in the 116th Psalm that its one of my favorites.  This Psalm begins with a four word statement:  “I love the Lord.”  Then “because” is the fifth word, and it states the condition or reason that the Lord is worthy of love.

I love the Lord because:”

  • He has heard my appeal for mercy (1)
  • He has turned His ear to me (2)
  • He is gracious and righteous and compassionate (5)
  • He guards the inexperienced and saves the helpless (6)
  • He is present in times of sorrows and trials (8)

When you get to verse 15 of the Psalm, you find one of the most tender verses in the Bible: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  What I’m about to say is poor English; however, it emphasizes the truth of this verse:  “He be the cause of our hope in the time of death.”  Its because you’re so precious in the eyes of God, that He gave His Son to die for you, to provide salvation for you, and to make a place for you in heaven.

After reflecting on the goodness of God, and why he loves the Lord, the writer says. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  May God be the cause that motivates you to say, “I love the Lord,” and to give thanks for His goodness.

For the Forty-Third Time: Thank You!

IMG_0712The phone rang twice, and then I heard Johnny Lawson’s voice say a raspy, “Hello.” I said, “I just called to see if you’re still among the living.”  He replied, “Hi Stan, I still recognize your voice after all of these years.”

Johnny was my immediate supervisor when I reported for duty at Peterson Field, in Colorado Springs.  I had one measly stripe sewn to my shirt sleeve and a big mouth that kept getting me into trouble.  Fortunately, Johnny’s uniform was lined with stripes, and he had my back.

Each year when October makes its appearance on the calendar. I think quite a bit about Johnny.  I’ve called this fine man my friend for the past 43 years.

Johnny did more than save my hide, he was also instrumental in saving my soul. Through the wonderful kindness of him and his family, I came to know Jesus as my Savior.

When I think of Johnny, I think of the way Solomon spoke of friends:

  • Some friends may ruin you, but a real friend will be more loyal than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)
  • A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times (Proverbs 17:17)
  • In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).

I have to agree with Charles Spurgeon, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life.  Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”

In October of 1972, Johnny Lawson walked into the emergency where I was being treated for a severe head injury. Over the next month, he and his family went far beyond the call of duty to help nurse me back to health.

Had this friend not found me, I might have failed beneath the bitterness of my trial.  Johnny Lawson is my definition of what a friend is to be.

Thanks Johnny!

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

The Man With The Better Idea

thomas-edisonI have always been amazed at the brilliant and inventive mind of Thomas Edison.   During his lifetime, Edison developed many devices including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and his discoveries were the prototype of the modern day power grid.

To offer some insight into the mind of Edison, I have selected five simple but intriguing quotes that are credited to this wonderful man:

  • The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.
  • The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.
  • I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  • I believe that the science of chemistry alone almost proves the existence of an intelligent creator.

In 1914, Edison’s factory burned to the ground destroying his one-of-a-kind prototypes.  Edison’s response to the catastrophe revealed his character: “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start fresh again.”

This remarkable statement by Edison, reminds me of Paul’s assessment of his life.  Notice the value he places on what he lost and what he gained, and how he contrasts the earthly and the eternal:  “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith (Philippians 3:7-9).”

What do you value most, the earthly or the eternal?  Paul said: ” For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

Simply and Complexly Marvelous

Beauty-of-NatureIf you want to spice up a conversation, bring either religion or politics into the discussion.  There are many diverse opinions on both subjects, and the topic of creation can stir the pot among both the believers and skeptics.

Some people believe in a random Big Bang form of creation, others espouse a view known as intelligent design, and then there are those who embrace the Genesis account of creation.

I find it hard to look at the intricate design of the world and believe it just happened by chance.  In Psalm 9, David writes:  “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

When was the last time you paused and reflected on the “marvelous works” of God?  What would a flower be without its fragrance?  How dark would the night skies be without the light of the moon and stars?  How different would birds be if they were drab in color and whistled and sang out of tune?

The sunrise, the sunset, and the rainbow are the canvas on which the Master Artist paints in vivid colors, and the day would be much different if it began and ended in a colorless brown instead of  fire-red hues.  Speaking of fire, what would fire be without its warmth on a cold night or water without its refreshing coolness?

How about food?  What would chili be like if there was no spice or a breakfast roll without cinnamon?  And, it’s almost too painful to consider a world without ice cream!

How mundane would life be without this complicated, yet marvelous thing we call love?  Isn’t love the WOW factor in everything that God created?

When you read the book of Genesis, you see God at work.  After He had spoken the physical world into existence, God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  Next in line was the creation of the animal kingdom, but God wasn’t finished until He created woman.

Adam thought he had seen it all, but then he saw Eve.  To Adam she saw the marvelous WOW-inducing work of God

Take sometime this week, to marvel at the works of God, and the way He has blessed you.

The Sinister and the Saint

eyeI’m not sure if I should label it progression or regression, but I have gone from wearing no glasses, to bi-focals, and for several years now I have moved into the tri-focal stage.

Each step in this vision process involved a trip to the eye doctor and a prescription for new glasses.  The last time I got a new prescription for eyeglasses, I noticed the abbreviations OS and OD. The OS is for the left eye, and it is a Latin abbreviation that means “oculus sinister.”   The right eye is OD and is the Latin “oculus dextrus.”

The fact that I have a sinister left eye, made me curious, and I looked at the etymology of oculus sinister and dextrus:

  • The Latin meaning of sinister speaks of that which is “contrary, false; unfavorable; to the left.”
  • Dextrus has the meaning of being “right or ready.”

In these two words, we see the struggle that each of us face.  It is the conflict between evil and good or flesh and spirit.  In Romans 8:5, Paul said:  “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

Since your “outlook” is determined by the flesh or the spirit, you may want to take an “in-look” at what the Bible says about desire:

  • James 1:14-15: Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him.  Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin. When sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
  • Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
  • 2 Peter 2:14: Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, they entice unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices.

Which one of your eyes guides you?  Do you see the world through the sinister side or the saintly side?   I encourage you to take a look at your life, and consider using the words of Psalm 119:36-38 as your prayer for today:

“Turn my heart toward Your Law, so I will not earn money in a wrong way.  Turn my eyes away from things that have no worth, and give me new life because of Your ways.  Keep Your promise to Your servant, the promise You made to those who fear and worship You.”

Is A Name Just A Name?

Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgLike many people, Psalm 23 is a favorite of mine.  As I was reading it earlier today, the last four words of  verse 3 caught my attention:  The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

When left to themselves, those last four words, “for His names sake” are just a vanilla phrase.  To really see the beauty of God, it helps to take a quick look at His name.  As written in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the names of God are colorful and explicit in their terminology, and they emphasize the way He interacts with His creation:

  • Jehovah-rophe (the Lord who heals you)
  • Jehovah-raah (the caring Shepherd)
  • Jehovah-jireh (the will provide)
  • Jehovah-shalom (the Lord is peace)

Take these four names of God and make a personal application to your life:

  • When you are struggling with emotional or physical issues, you can call out to Jevovah-rophe.
  • When you feel like you’re alone and no one cares, Jehovah-raah is present.
  • When you don’t know where to turn or what to do, Jehovah-jireh will provide.
  • When the world seems to be shattered and crumbling beneath your feet, Jehovah-shalom is the peace in the eye of the storm.

I hope a focus on “his name’s sake”  will be at the center of your thoughts today.

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.