3 Powerful Outcomes To Being Thankful, Even In Difficult Circumstances

Photo by Timothy Valentine

Photo by Timothy Valentine

Tragedy Led To The First Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States was birthed out of tragic circumstances.

After a brutal winter in 1620-1621, half of the Mayflower Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony died. But, with the help of a few English-speaking native Americans, Governor William Bradford and the surviving colonists were successful in establishing a colony and raising their first crop of corn. As a result, Governor Bradford organized the very first “Thanksgiving” feast, a festival that lasted three days! They gave thanks to God for helping them survive a very difficult first year in the New World.

As Christians, an attitude of thanksgiving should be a spiritual outcome of making it through difficult circumstances. Unfortunately though, I fear many times we get angry and bitter with God for His allowing us to go through the difficult circumstances in the first place.

Here are some outcomes of a thankful attitude, no matter the circumstances.

3 Powerful Outcomes To Being Thankful

1. An attitude of gratitude allows us to be content with what we have in this moment in time.

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

God’s will for you is to be thankful in all things. It doesn’t matter whether you’re having a great day, week, or even year. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have everything that you could ever want or need. Acknowledge that He is in charge, that He has a plan for your life, and that you need to be thankful, no matter the circumstances. Focus on what God has given you, not on what you don’t have in your life in this moment in time. If you’re still above ground and sucking wind, then you have at least one thing to praise God for – life!

2. An attitude of gratitude keeps us humble and dependent on God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward Beecher

God desires your complete devotion and dependence on Him. This is the core essence of a growing relationship with the Lord. This is why He possibly allows difficult circumstances to enter our lives – to keep us humbly dependent on Him. A true attitude of thanksgiving is a natural result of being in total surrender to Him and His will.

3. An attitude of gratitude compels us to share with others.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:12-13)

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” – W. Clement Stone

Thankful people share. They share their lives, their abilities, and their finances. They give to others because they want to, not necessarily because they have to. This is all a natural outgrowth of a truly thankful heart.

Questions: Do you have an attitude of thanksgiving, no matter the circumstances in your life? Do you find yourself displaying these three outcomes of contentment, humility, and sharing? If not, why not?

3 Ideas For Creating A Better Prayer Life

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

The Struggle

I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit it. I struggle with my prayer life and this struggle primarily deals with making the time to pray and having a focused mind when I pray.

I’m no George Müller.

But, I do know that I should pray. I want to pray. I even know what I should pray about.

Unfortunately, we live in one of the busiest, fast-paced, most distraction-filled times in human history. We have so many things and so many people competing for our attention. If we’re not intentional about it, then our prayer life will end up being one of those areas that keeps getting pushed off to the side of our lives. We end up giving God our leftovers in prayer time instead of our best focused energy.

Our prayer life should be about a relationship with God. Regular, transparent, intimate communication is all part of a growing relationship. God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit as we read His Word. We speak to Him through prayer.

Over the last several months, I have found myself making a number of changes to my personal prayer time. I have been looking for more focused time opportunities to pray. In this post, I wanted to share my prayer journey with you, and I hope that this will be an encouragement to you and your own prayer life with the Lord.

3 Ideas For A Better Prayer Life

  1. Spread your prayers throughout the day. Back in an earlier era, getting up early and spending an hour or two in prayer was perhaps portrayed as a “normal” activity within the Christian life. While we may go through individual times of intense, long duration times of prayer, I believe that our new “normal” should be praying short prayers throughout the day. If your spiritual life is defined as a relationship with the Lord, then doesn’t it make greater sense to have lines of communication open throughout your day? Prayer shouldn’t be just an item on our morning checklist.
  2. Discover your personal “prayer closet.” For me, I have recently found my car to be the best location for (mostly) uninterrupted time with the Lord. As soon as I jump in the car in the morning to drive to work, I praise the Lord for who He is and what He is doing in my life, in my church, and in my ministry. I confess my sin. I offer up prayers of thanksgiving. And finally, I offer up my daily requests to the Lord. I do this all out loud too while I’m driving down the highway. Other people in the cars around me probably think I’m nuts. That’s okay.
  3. Create a system to focus your prayer time. Previously, I tried to have a digital prayer list on my smart phone, but I found this distracting to use especially if I’m praying in the car. I’ve ended up going “old school” analog by just writing my various prayer requests on 3×5 cards and keeping these in the center console of my car. This system seems to be working pretty well for me so far. Just a reminder, though. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road and refer to your index cards when you don’t have a lot of traffic or other difficult driving conditions. Flipping through index cards during a thunderstorm or six inches of snow is a bad idea!

Questions: How about you? What does your prayer life look like? Do you have a “system” in place that works really well for you? If so, what does your system look like?

Serving One Another Through Our Presence and Participation

Photo by the The Lutheran World Federation

Photo by the The Lutheran World Federation

A Life of Service

The Christian life is a life of service. Nowhere in Scripture do I see a person coming to faith in Christ, and then the Lord asking that person to sit on their hands and do nothing. Quite the contrary. According to God’s Word, we are supposed to use our talents, abilities, and finances to build up the Body of Christ and advance His Kingdom here on earth. This is our mission as believers and as His Bride, the universal Church.

Serving Our Fellow Believers

Not only should we serve others outside of the church, but also we should serve one another within the church body as well.

We serve each other in two important ways. First, we serve each other as church members through our presence, by simply showing up. We need to be present on a regular basis for worship services and small group meetings. I think this is why the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:25, “ … not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We need to show up, to be present, in order to encourage one another, to mature, to help each other grow in our walk with Christ.

Second, we serve each others through our participation, through using the gifts and abilities He has given to us. Each church member has their own special gifts and abilities that they bring to their church. These talents are important for church members to utilize in their own unique role within the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:4-14 (NIV) states:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

An Age of Distraction

Unfortunately, we live in a unique of age of distraction. We have more and more stuff that is distracting us away from our service in God’s Kingdom. We have more media to consume than ever before. We have more social networks to keep up with. We have more activities scheduled on Sundays. We have children’s sports games to attend on the Lord’s Day. We have professional sports games to attend, do the tailgate party thing, or watch on TV.

I recently heard the statistic that a church member who is considered a “regular attendee” actually only attends church 40-50% of Sunday worship services. So, what we’re talking about here is people attending every other week at best. And over time, this statistic is getting worse, not better.

There’s something wrong with this picture. In my opinion, this is an attendance habit that was never God’s intention for His children.

Satan is pretty smart, though. He uses all of these “good” activities in order to distract us from what is most important for us – our spiritual lives, and the Kingdom of God.

Obedience and Priorities

I know I’m probably old-fashioned and not hip like the hipsters, but I believe there should be a high level of obedience when it comes to our presence and participation at church. We should be active weekly in the our local church. We should make this part of our a spiritual life a high priority. I believe this is an expectation of God the Father, otherwise, why would He have founded the Church through His Son in the first place?

Making church a priority in your personal life and family life will mean that you will need to say “no” to a lot of good stuff. It’s also going to mean a lot more work for you and your family as you will need to investigate which activities your children will be able to participate in based on weekend scheduling. If it conflicts with church attendance and participation, I personally wouldn’t do it. My family’s spiritual life is way more important than whether or not my kids are well-rounded in sports or the fine arts.

God cares more about our relationship with Him. Our presence and participation in the Body of Christ is a major part of that relationship with Him.

Questions: So, how’s your family’s attendance and participation level in your local church? Are you fully engaged or merely half in? What changes do you need to make to your weekend calendar to make His church a priority in your life?

You Might Be Out Of Debt If …

Photo by StockMonkeys.com

Photo by StockMonkeys.com

I recently put this list together for a financial article for a church publication. In a Jeff Foxworthy, “You might be a redneck if ..” style, this list reflects ten results of actually getting out of debt and staying out of debt.

Enjoy!

You Might Be Out Of Debt If …

10. You no longer have too much month left at the end of your money.
9. The IRS stopped making house calls at your home.
8. You no longer receive threatening, obnoxious calls from debt collectors or attorneys.
7. You no longer get horrible headaches or ulcers due to financial stress.
6. Your car drives better now than it ever has before.
5. You have money in the bank, and it can stay in the bank.
4. You can fully fund your retirement accounts.
3. You can help pay for part of your children’s college expenses instead of them racking up major student loans.
2. You actually enjoy hanging out with your spouse and working on the family budget, together.
1. You have a greater ability to give even more to God’s Kingdom work.

Question: What have you discovered to be the greatest benefit to being debt free?