What Does It Mean to be Truly Thankful?


Bible-thankfulness-gratitude

It’s November and bloggers are writing posts about being thankful. Many are wonderful blogs and well worth reading. It is good to be thankful. The Psalms and many other places in the Bible command us to be thankful. Colossians 3:15b (ESV) states, “And be thankful.” But what does it mean to be truly thankful?

A few years ago I posted 101 Things to be Thankful For (November 24, 2016). I’ve been questioning myself to determine if I am truly thankful or is it that things are going well for me so I have nothing to complain about.

I thought I would start by making sure I understand the word. Dictionary.com explains that being thankful is a feeling, or expression of gratitude and it is being appreciative. Merriam-Webster.com tells us that being thankful is being conscious of a benefit received, it is expressive, and it also means well pleased. I turned to a Bible Dictionary and learned that Thanksgiving is an act of worship.[i] So, thankfulness is a state of mind; a matter of the heart. I also think it means to have the proper perspective in life.

It’s easy to feel thankful when surrounded by friends, and food and things are generally going well in life. But are we thankful in the difficult circumstances of life? Some people are struggling with health issues, or the mourning the loss of a loved one. Others are finding it difficult to pay bills, especially at this expensive time of year. Perhaps there are difficult, even toxic, people in our life. There can be many circumstances in life that cause you to feel anxious instead of thankful.

So what can we do to be truly thankful? I think there are several steps.

  • First, deliberately thank God for sending Jesus Christ as your Savior. Thank him for the people in your life and your material blessings. Also thank God for the trials in your life and his protection in the midst of them. Those trials develop your character and mold you into the wonderful person you are.
  • Second, count your blessings. A gratitude journal is one way to do this. I kept a gratitude journal years ago during a difficult season of life. While my circumstances didn’t change, keeping that journal changed me. I was more at peace and accepting of what was happening in my life. And I felt God’s presence daily.
  • Third, accept where you are in life. It takes spiritual maturity to stop thinking about yourself, and be thankful for all the blessings God has given you. God has control of your situation. You are where you are because of his sovereignty. Thank God for his constant presence and protection.
  • Forth, be generous. There are so many people who are less fortunate that we are. Realizing this and sharing helps rise above our circumstances and gain a godly perspective.
  • Finally, recognize that being unthankful is a sin. Romans 1:21 states, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Instead, remember to worship the giver of all good things.

May your hearts be filled with Thanksgiving.

Blessings on your day.

 

Sources:

Scripture: OpenBible.info

Image: Google Images

[i] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary

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The Idols in Our Lives


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The women in my Bible Study recently had a discussion on the Biblical discipline of fasting. Through that conversation I became aware, convicted in fact, that food is an idol in my life. It has been for a long time.

Let me explain. We’re programmed to eat at various times, whether or not we are actually hungry. While food is necessary to sustain life, we think about food a great deal. In the morning the question is, “what do we have for breakfast?” (And don’t even get me started on coffee.) But that’s not enough. We often make dinner plans before we even have breakfast. At work, we look at our clocks wondering what we will have for lunch, and whom we will share the meal with. And there are so many snacks to choose from. We rush home, possibly making a stop at the grocery store first, where we usually buy more things than were on our list. We then rush to prepare a meal. But we have options. We could go out to eat, spending four to ten times the amount that it would cost to cook our own meal. A few hours later we follow that with dessert.

Food is big business.

Our minds revolve around food in some way: when to eat, what to eat, how to pay for what we eat, how good a certain restaurant is, and getting a copy of that really great recipe. Our minds seem to be consumed with food.

Realizing that food was taking up so much brain power, I began to consider the other things that have become idols in my life. I thought I was a good Christian. And I don’t worship idols, or so I thought. So I looked up the definition of an idol.

A simple google search explains that an idol is an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. The Bible is clear on this particular subject. In Exodus 20:3 God tells us, “You shall have no other gods before me” (English Standard Version). There is a footnote in my Bible that adds clarity to this verse. It reads, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” So God wants to be our only god.

We can consider ourselves safe on this matter because we don’t worship images. We don’t put anyone or anything above, or even equal to God.

Or do we?

What about our families, homes, cars, and jobs?

The next definition goes on to explain that an idol is, “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.”

Quite possibly I have many idols in my life.

I thought about that for a while and decided we can recognize an idol by looking at our calendars and bank statements. I pondered this for a while and came up with what I think are the top ten idols in our lives and culture, in no particular order.

1. Food
2. Money/status/possessions
3. Work/profession
4. Relationships – family and friends
5. Technology, including computers, internet, phones, and social media
6. Materialism and comfort
7. Self – meaning our ego, image, status, pride, and beauty
8. Entertainment/Escapism
9. Sports
10. Celebrities

Several others could have made the list, but I limited it to what I consider our top idols.

Ezekiel 14 is a passage in which God condemns those who have taken idols in their hearts. Verses 4 and 5 states (The Message Version):

“Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of GOD, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, GOD, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’ Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘GOD, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities.”

Wow.

So the question now becomes, “How do I remove idols from my life?” Reviewing my top ten idols list, there are things on there that we need in order to live. We have to work to get enough money to buy food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Technology is not necessarily a bad thing, neither is entertainment. And our relationships are very important. These things become idols when we love them more than God.

So that seems to be the answer to the dilemma of idols in my life – to love God even more. Be satisfied with God first, then enjoy the blessings He sends my way.

Consider Philippians 3:8. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

It’s up to me to seek God first; to pursue a more intimate relationship with him. To put Him first. Above all else. As I get closer to God, I pray to lose interest in the things I have held in high regard.

Blessings on your day.

 

“Good is the enemy of “Great”


good-is-the-enemy-of-great

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” – Jim C. Collins

I was reminded of Jim Collins’ quote this week, “Good is the enemy of great.” I was reading the story of Mary and Martha, and was convicted.

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was busy. What she was doing was good. But Mary took advantage of the great thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus while he taught.  There are a lot of good things we need to do, our jobs, household chores, etc. But when we get “busy” and focus on these “good” things, sometimes the more important things suffer, like family time or our spiritual lives. The laundry can wait. People are more important.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve been very busy lately and have neglected family time and intense Bible study. My devotional time has been superficial, because I was distracted with all I was responsible for.

How can we prevent “good” from hindering the “great” in our daily lives? “What is important is seldom urgent,” Dwight D. Eisenhower often said, “and what is urgent is seldom important. The Eisenhower Matrix is one tool we can use to determine what is truly important, and what needs to be delegated or eliminated from our lives. The matrix is a business management tool, but can be used in all areas of our lives. Take a look at the matrix:

matrix

The Matrix is divided into four quadrants to help you determine what is truly important, what can wait, what can be delegated or what or not at all important or useful.

Quadrant 1: Put tasks that are both important and urgent in this box. I include family time and my spiritual growth here.

Quadrant 2: Put important tasks in this box that can wait a while, but don’t put them off too long.

Quadrant 3: Determine what is not important, but urgent, and put those tasks in this box. Often these tasks can be handled by others.

Quadrant 4: Determine what is not important, and not urgent, and put those activities in this box. Perhaps some of these things can be eliminated from your life giving you room for the more important things in your life.

If you are also convicted that what is “great” has been usurped by what is “good” in your life, consider looking at this time management tool.

May your life be filled with what is truly important!

Sources used:

https://www.developgoodhabits.com/eisenhower-matrix/

https://www.biblegateway.com (English Standard Version)

https://images.google.com/

Second Chances


 

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I’ve been absent from this blog for a long time, and I’ve really missed it. But I had the opportunity to go back to school and finally finish earning my degree. That kept me quite busy, so I put blogging on hold. Now I have graduated and look forward to new doors opening.

God allows for the opportunity to begin again. There are many people in the Bible who had second chances, Peter, Jonah, and David for example. Receiving a second chance to do something is a testament to God’s grace. Lamentations 3:21-23 explains, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

While God provides for new opportunities, I think we tend to resist change because of a fear of the unknown. There’s a saying that goes, “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.” Remember that God is gracious and merciful towards us, and he is faithful. Everyday is a new day and a chance to begin fresh, because his love never ceases. Remember Ecclesiastes 3:1, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

So if you have something you’ve been putting off, consider doing it now. Go back to school. Have that conversation with an estranged loved one. Start the diet and working out. Begin the project. Change jobs. The results will take time, but they are worth it and in the end, God will bless you in a special way.

May the Lord richly bless your day.

Julie

 

 

Earth Day


 

Since April 22, 1970 we’ve celebrated Earth Day annually. As I understand it, Earth Day is designed to make us more aware of how humanity is harming the planet and that we should to take better care of this world. Each year there is a different focus, but the ultimate message is, “stop messing up the planet.” I’m all for that. Let’s pick up the trash, recycle, care for the animals, and plant more trees. But, there is more to the earth than plants and animals.

God did command humanity to take care of the planet. Genesis 1:26-28 explains,

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

There are two words in this passage we might not use every day: dominion and subdue. I checked dictionary.com for the definition of both. Subdue means: to overpower by superior force; overcome. It also means to bring (land) under cultivation.

The word dominion explains further. There are several definitions of the word including:

  • The power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority
  • Rule; control; domination
  • A territory, usually of considerable size, in which a single ruler ship holds sway.
  • Lands or domains subject to sovereignty or control.

So, humanity has authority over the earth. We are to cultivate it, rule it, and take care of it. So yes, the focus of Earth Day is important, and grounded in Scripture.

 

I wonder how God feels about Earth Day.

It seems to me God has a special love for our planet. He created it – before he created man. But He did put man in charge of the earth, “over every living thing.” Perhaps we should remember that in addition to thousands of species of plants and animals, there are over seven billion people on our little planet. And God loves each one. Sometimes we forget John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We should have at least an equal focus on people.

Let Earth Day include humanity as well. Let us show everyone the love of Christ and help them also become good stewards of the Earth

Blessings on your day.

Scripture: http://www.openbible.info

Image: Google Images

 

 

So Much To Be Thankful For


Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

During this season of thanksgiving I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the things to be thankful for. This list is really quite short – there are countless blessings to thank God for. I challenge to you add to this list. May you be richly blessed today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. A Bed
  2. A Home Cooked Meal
  3. Ability to Choose
  4. Animals
  5. Aquariums
  6. Art
  7. Babies
  8. Baseball Games
  9. Beaches
  10. Bicycles
  11. Books and Libraries
  12. Braces and a pretty smile
  13. Bubble Baths
  14. Candles
  15. Candy
  16. Cards and Letters
  17. Chocolate
  18. Christmas Lights
  19. Christmas Stockings
  20. Christmas Trees
  21. Church
  22. Clothing
  23. Coffee and Tea
  24. Color
  25. Creativity
  26. Curiosity
  27. Cute Shoes
  28. Desserts
  29. Dishwashers
  30. Doctors and Dentists
  31. Education
  32. Family and Friends
  33. Family Traditions
  34. Fireplaces
  35. Fireworks
  36. Five Senses
  37. Good
  38. Fountains
  39. Four Seasons
  40. Forests
  41. Freedom
  42. Fresh Bread
  43. Fresh Water
  44. Gardens
  45. Gentle Rains
  46. Glitter
  47. God
  48. Good Manners
  49. Google
  50. GPS
  51. Hairstylists
  52. Holidays and Vacation
  53. Hot Showers
  54. Hugs
  55. Imagination
  56. Jesus
  57. Jewelry
  58. Language/Communication
  59. Lipstick
  60. Medicine
  61. Mementos
  62. Memories
  63. Military and First Responders
  64. Movie Theaters
  65. Music
  66. My Home
  67. My Job
  68. Naps
  69. Pajamas
  70. Parks
  71. Pastors
  72. Paved Roads
  73. Pedicures
  74. Pets
  75. Photographs
  76. Prayer
  77. Puzzles
  78. Rainbows
  79. Right to Vote
  80. Salvation
  81. Saturday Mornings
  82. Second Chances
  83. Snow
  84. Spell Check
  85. Spices
  86. Stained Glass Windows
  87. Stop Lights
  88. Sun, Moon and Stars
  89. Sunshine
  90. Teachers
  91. Technology
  92. The Beach
  93. The Bible
  94. The Ocean
  95. The Radio
  96. Theme Parks
  97. Today
  98. Travel
  99. Trees
  100. Wildflowers
  101. Wine

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Images: Google Images

Scripture: Biblegateway.com

In The Eye Of The Storm


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Psalm 91:2

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” 

My family moved to Jacksonville, Florida a little over a year ago. When we made the decision to move I never considered that we would deal with hurricanes. For the second time in as many months, a huge storm drew near to us. Herminie came through Jacksonville as a tropical storm, but Matthew passed dangerously close to our coast line as a category 4 hurricane.  Schools and businesses closed in preparation for the storm. Meteorologists warned of the danger of the storm and explained it could reshape parts of our coastline. We stocked up on supplies and water and made provisions if we lost power. Millions of people living right on the coast were evacuated. As the hurricane drew near to us the wind and rain became frightening, and lasted for hours. I made several Facebook posts with storm updates and asking for prayers. I felt those prayers. Our Heavenly Father saw us through the storm. As I type this blog the storm has passed. We are waiting for morning to survey the damage.

We also face many metaphorical storms in life; job loss, illnesses, infertility, not getting that promotion, betrayal, and death to name a few. We try to control these storms, but we cannot. In some cases we just prolong the pain. The storms we experience leave different kinds of marks on our lives. Some of these storms will change us forever. But the one thing that will never change is God’s love for us. He will see us through these storms; He is faithful and in control. Psalm 33:4 tells us, “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.”

I don’t know what storm you are facing, or the severity. All I can tell you is to put your faith in God, and let Him have control of the winds and rain. Something beautiful awaits you on the other side of the storm. I’ve always experienced an unexpected blessing when the storm passes.

The events of the past few days remind me of the song “In The Eye of the Storm” recently released by Ryan Stevenson. May it bring you peace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=youtube+eye+of+the+storm+ryan+stevenson#id=4&vid=047eeca0aa8530c95519b676266aa85b&action=click

Psalm 107:29  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Image: Artist Unknown – found on Facebook 10/7/2016