“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 107:1 CSB
The Bible says a lot about being thankful. In fact, it is commanded often.
Even though I know should be thankful and have much to be thankful for, I struggle with having a thankful heart. Nearly everything in this world seems to lead me down a path of seeking my own happiness. A self-inflating culture stands in opposition to true thankfulness.
For years I’ve been told I am always right and I deserve things to be “my way, right away.” There are few attitudes that are as anti-biblical and anti-Christian as these. (For this writing I am speaking from the consumer side, not the customer service side – much could be said of the value of these approaches as a customer service professional.) As followers of Jesus, we are to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than [ourselves]… [looking] out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) When we are truly looking out for others, it will be hard to be consumed with our own selfish desires. A common side effect of shifting our focus from ourselves to others is a grateful attitude for what we already have.
James 1:17 reminds us that “every good and perfect gift is from above… .” Gifts such as air to breathe, clothes to wear, a roof over my family’s head, healthy kids, a job that provides for my families needs and many of our wants, an incomparable wife whose depth of service to her family is immeasurable, friends and family who encourage and challenge me to follow Jesus and live a holy lifestyle, and so much more.
I have much to be thankful for. So much in fact, I should easily be able to follow Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything.” So what prevents me from having a thankful heart? Discontentment.
Discontentment is the enemy of a thankful heart. With the world around me telling me to pursue my own happiness at all cost, discontentment is always close by, lurking in the shadows. Paul tells the church in Philippi “in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” So what’s the secret? The answer is found in verse 13 – in Christ. Paul’s contentment was the result of a lifestyle of not worrying about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, as the peace of God surpassed all his understanding and guarded his heart and mind in Christ Jesus. He recognized that his life is dependent on Christ, and in Christ, he can do all things. (Philippians 4:6-7,11-13)
One of the prayers I pray with and for myself and my kids is that we will constantly pursue a thankful heart through contentment. Not just during the season of Thanksgiving, but all year ’round. As we follow Jesus, our lives, like Paul’s, should be marked by contentment and a thankful heart.
For a little #ThrowbackThursday fun, check out the VeggieTales video below “The Thankfulness Song”
Looking for something new to add to your family’s Christmas traditions? Checkout theshepherdstreasure.com. I found this resource last year while on church staff, and think it is a fun way to connect with your family during Advent.
Today is my wife’s birthday. A day for celebrating her life and who she is. Three years ago I posted this post about how incredible she is; all of which is still true today.
In his song Made for Me, TobyMac expresses his sentiment for his wife. When the song was released, I quickly became quite fond of it as it expresses my own thankfulness for my wife (lyric video below).
‘Cause she was made for me
You gave her to me
I said I’d hold on loose but I so wanna squeeze you
Just right for me and for the life of me
I can’t believe I get to call her mine
After 17 years of marriage, I still “can’t believe I get to call her mine.” I find it hard to put into words how thankful I am for my beloved bride. While I often fail at being the husband I should be to her, her unwavering commitment to Christ compels her to stand with me, even when I am helplessly broken. Her kindness and compassion, gentleness and hard work, wisdom and servant-heart are markers of her godliness as a mom, wife, and follower of Jesus. I love you, Janna! These traits have been exponentially demonstrated in this last 6 months as you have walked with me into the next chapter of our life together. May God bless you in the most abundant, exciting, and fulfilling ways!! Happy birthday!
…a prudent wife is from the Lord. ~ Proverbs 19:14
Who can find a wife of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. ~ Proverbs 31:10-11
“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the righteous one… the atoning sacrifice for our sins…” ~ 1 John 2:1-2 CSB
I am often weighed down by my sin. I feel the depth of Paul’s cry in Romans 7. When the weight of my sin presses down on my heart, my spirit is encouraged by this beautiful promise: “Jesus Christ the righteous one [is] the atoning sacrifice for our sins…”
God, thank You that, even when my sinful flesh fights for control, You provide the strength to not give up as You are renewing my inner person day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” ~ Proverbs 15:1
Let me start with this confession: This is hard for me.
I don’t know if you struggle with being snippy and harsh with your loved ones, but I do.
Not too long ago I confessed that to someone close to me, and their response startled me a little: “I have a hard time believing that. You are always so mild-tempered and never seem frazzled by anything.”
Why did this startle me? Because I know the truth in my heart that controlling my tongue is hard. It was during that conversation I realized something about myself. I intentionally invest and expend a great deal of energy in appearing “in control” at work and, in general, when away from home. What I don’t do often enough is give my family that same level of energy. They are often stuck with the leftovers of my relational energy.
How can this be?!? These are the people I love the most, and yet, they are the ones I treat the worst!
It turns out that James’ caution about the tongue is spot on (James 3), though that really should be no surprise. At times, taming my tongue seems impossible. And it takes an amount of energy and restraint that I struggle to have.
The more important issue I have to deal with, though, is not what comes out of my mouth but my attitude and the condition of my heart. Jesus said that my mouth speaks from the overflow of my heart (Luke 6:45). So when I let my guard down and speak with anything less than a respectful, gentle tone to my family, what is really happening in my heart? It typically boils down selfishness.
Regarding sin, Paul says “whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) The only “cure” for the real issue is the transforming power of the gospel, that is, the Spirit of God’s renewal of my heart and mind (Romans 12:1-2). After all, the fruit of the Spirit is… gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) I must daily… hourly… moment-by-moment submit myself to the Spirt of God and let Him transform my heart.
God, cleanse me from my hidden faults and keep me from willful sins; do not let them rule me… may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:12-14).
Psalm 78 begins with a beautiful picture of what a community of faith should look like as they strive to cross generational boundaries and be faithful to pass on the most important things to future generations. Then the psalmist gives a brief summary and commentary describing the wonders God showed to the Israelites during the Exodus and beyond.
As I read through Psalm 78, my heart swells as I identify with verses like:
“But they continued to sin against him.” (v17)
“Despite all this, they kept sinning…” (v32)
“How often they rebelled against him…and grieved him…” (v40)
Then we get verses 38-39. Oh, what a beautiful verses!! “Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh…”
Even in the midst of constant disobedience and disbelief in the wonders He performed for His people, God was compassionate and often turn his anger aside. Amen, and thank you, Lord!
As I read, my heart is moved. Thank you, God, for being patient with me, too. Thank You that You are “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” (Psalm 103:8) Thank you that you are not finished with me yet. (Philippians 1:6)
“I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking him in his temple.”
~ Psalms 27:4
This verse became a frequent prayer of mine several years ago. Sadly too often, I find myself coming back to this prayer after having allowed my gaze to move off of God and onto something temporal. I need this prayer, often daily, to remind me where my priorities should be focused. It’s a prayer to realign my priorities within my heart and mind, as well as, for strength to ensure that which my heart and mind determine as priority will be lived out in my schedule.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
~ Matthew 6:33
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
~ Colossians 3:1-2
“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
God, may I be so captivated by You that seeking You is my top priority.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He valued children and cautioned His disciples not to keep them from coming to Him. Whether actively or passively, we must not prevent children from getting to Jesus. (Mark 10:13-16)
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” After taking them in his arms, he laid his hands on them and blessed them.” ~ Mark 10:13-16 CSB
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
~ Galatians 2:19-20 CSB
It is with sadness I announce that on June 13, 2017, I submitted my resignation from FBC as Minister to Preschool and Children to Gil and our staff. Being just under 3 years, this is not the short tenure I anticipated when I came to Tuscaloosa. I have been offered an opportunity, that my wife and I believe to be God’s direction, to join the LifeWay Kids curriculum team.
This announcement was officially released yesterday (June 22, 2017) in our weekly newsletter; found here: http://www.firsttuscaloosa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/fsw062217.pdf
For those who have encouraged and welcomed us, thank you. It has been my joy and privilege to serve the families of First Baptist. While we are excited for a new opportunity, which will also includes an added blessing of being close to our extended family, this decision to leave has not come easily or without sadness. We were not actively looking to leave so this opportunity came unexpectedly. We will miss the families of First Baptist and the Tuscaloosa/Northport community.
Whatever good God may have done through us during our time in AL, we pray the God of all wisdom and power will carry out His good work in your families far into the future… in fact for generations yet to come. As Aaron was instructed to pray over the people of Israel, this is my prayer for you:
“May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.” ~ Numbers 6:24-26