With Thanksgiving upon us, this is always a great time to think about what we are thankful for. For some of us on Thanksgiving day we will even go around the table and say what we are thankful for. We are also taught as a little kids to say “thank you”. Now a days it seems like saying thanks can just be an automatic response with little meaning behind it.
Thankfulness is more than words. It’s a way of life! Psalm 105 shows us what it really is to be thankful. There is so much in this Psalm, but just the first 2 verses show us what thankfulness should look like.
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
When we remember what God has done for us we should be telling people about Him every opportunity that we get. God gave His one and only Son, Jesus, for us and that right there alone should be reason for us to live our lives with gratitude. We need to ask ourselves, "is thankfulness evident in the life we are leading?"
Are there things we take for granted on a daily basis? Even little things; the Bible says "Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father", so what "good things" can you be thankful for?
Another way thankfulness shows up in our lives is in our faith walk with Christ. If you are praying and believing for something, one of the ways you can show God you trust him with it is thankfulness. Even if you haven't "seen" the answer to what you have been believing for, be thankful that God heard you and He is faithful to His Word.
So let’s take time on Thanksgiving and every day to thank God for His Son Jesus. Thank Him for the new life we have in Christ. Ask Him for opportunities to tell about His amazing love and to serve others so they can see Jesus in you. Let's be thankful for things we are standing in faith for and the little things that God has blessed us with.
In lieu of the Fall season, I think back to the days when I ran cross country in college. My teammates and I had a game we used to play during our distance runs through the park. The rules were simple: catch as many falling leaves as you can while running. That’s it. It was called Leaf Game, or Catch the Leaves, or something really profound like that. No matter what we decided to call the game, two things were sure to remain: their hands would be full of fresh catches, and mine would be empty. Every time we’d play, I caught precisely nothing. It was my complete inability to catch anything that drew me to the sport of running in the first place.
One day during the Fall of 2014, months after graduating college, I was out running at a park by myself. It was in the middle of my run when I thought I might relive the good old days and engage in a game of Leaf Game. So there I was, running along the path, extending my arm out at every prospective leaf falling from the trees in this one-sided strife with the laws of physics that would avail me zilch. Eventually I got fed up with wasting all my energy on foliage and decided to focus on running.
15 minutes later, the single greatest achievement of my life occurred.
I caught a leaf.
I couldn’t beleaf it.
However, the way I caught it had absolutely nothing to do with me trying to I catch it. At that point, I'd already forgotten about how crucial it was for a leaf to be in my possession. Here’s what happened: I was simply putting one foot in front of the other, and the next thing I know, this pretty little demonstration of chlorophyll breaking down ends up just falling into my hand. And I had a solid grip on that guy for like a good 20 seconds.
It was inexplicable. How is it that the only time I catch a leaf is when I’m not even concerned about it?
I may never get around to studying enough physics textbooks to find out how I’ll once again perform the unbeleafable (I refuse to apologize for any of these puns).
Yet, studying the Word of God tells me how this can apply to the other leaves in my life.
On the topic of fixating on everything God knows we’re in need of, Jesus says this,
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” (Matthew 6:31-32 NLT)
“Dominate the thoughts”.
One might say, “I’m not worried about paying my rent on time this month.”
Then his friend might reply, “Well It’s 9am and you’ve already spent 50 dollars on scratch-offs this morning. Your rent is dominating your thoughts.”
“Dominate the thoughts” begins internally. Later on, it ends up looking like something.
It could look like a college grad who went on a job interview and is sending out a third thank you email to the hiring manager, following up from the first and second thank you emails that were sent months ago.
It could look like a man–whose wife hasn’t spoken to him in weeks–spending a thousand dollars on Broadway tickets to her favorite play.
It could look like me before I came to Christ, seeking a desperately needed spiritual experience in this world by putting on my best performance to capture the approval of everyone living in it.
One might even say that “dominate the thoughts” mirrors a runner in the woods flailing his arms desperately in the air, hoping to win the game of Leaf Game.
In verse 34, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow in a world where today reeks of tomorrow. Final exams. Massive debt. Health issues. Broken families. Feelings of uselessness. Worried about having no purpose in this life. Unable to find love.
But before verse 34 comes verse 33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
God has so many leaves that He wants to put in our hands. Many of them are the ones we had no idea He even wanted to give us, and they end up being way better than those little twirling helicopter leaves that we waste our time jumping in the air for. But as long as we’re resorting to our own ways and trusting in our own power to get what we need (or what we think we need), we become so exhausted and distracted that we end up running into a creek. God doesn’t let His obedient children fall into a creek. He’ll bring an entire tree down for us to walk across to the other side of that creek, because that tree He brought down for us created a whole pile of leaves that He’s waiting for us to go collect.
The leaf that I caught that day–or what I should really say is the leaf that ended up in my hand–fell from the tree in such an exact way. It was carried by an impossibly specific amount of wind complimented by so many unfamiliar sciencey terms that I’m sweating just thinking about it, and whether or not I’d receive this leaf depended on the all turns I took and the speeds at which I ran.
None of these factors were on my mind, but they were on God’s heart, and all I needed to do was keep moving forward and receive. He’s calling us to move forward, toward Him. To serve Him and our fellows. To trust that what His Word says is true, and to have that trust in His Word show up in our actions. When seeking His Kingdom is the deciding factor in all decisions we make–when we forfeit the daunting task of micro and macro managing every situation of our lives and the world around us–we finally allow access for God to bless us.
Leaf it to Him.
It seems it's all about fitness and looks these days. Now I'm not talking about merely taking care of ourselves or trying to look our best, it's some of the overages. Some folks are trying to alter their looks by presentation, it's all about how they present themselves. Others, well, it's the right clothes, cars, jewelry, etc. For others, they actually go for body changing surgery. I'm not saying that any of the above are inherently wrong, all I'm saying is I'm a simple soul in those departments.
Take, for instance, the gym. Since I'm in my sixties, I'm on what I've come to describe as the "Sixties Styled Gym Program." You see, I've got to be careful I don't overdo it, so about 2 years ago I signed up at a local gym. Every month they take some money out of my bank account. I haven't been there in 18 months, but when I look at my bank statement, I have proof I'm in great shape. Let me tell you, I haven't felt this good in years!
But I wonder, "How's my spiritual shape?"
In his book, SHAPE-Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique SHAPE, Erik Rees asks us to consider the following five areas and how we may use them for His Kingdom Work:
S - Spiritual Gifts - What are you gifted to do?
H - Heart - What are your passions?
A - Abilities - What do you naturally do better than others?
P - Personality - How has the Father wired you to navigate life?
E - Experiences - Where have you been and what have you learned?
If we will consider our SHAPE, I don't think it will make much difference in our abs, triceps, and biceps, but I'm positive it will make a difference in our church and how we impact our community.
As for me, I'm trying to figure out how to get an elliptical onto my bank statement.
Did you know that the person right across from you is facing a struggle?
Did you know that the person who took your order at Chiplote is facing a struggle?
Did you know that everyone is facing a struggle?
You might have heard it before, but the struggle is real for each and everyone of us in this broken world. Even Jesus had his own struggles to deal with. Jesus fought temptation, mockery, adversary, and much more. The craziest thing was, despite his own struggles that he faced His number one concern was always the people around Him. Jesus despite the struggles He had coming his way and what He was facing, loving others was at the top of His priority list. Jesus is supposed to be our example. When we look at Him, we see Him look past His own struggles and look directly at the struggles of others. The example He set before us was one of love. And if we call ourselves followers of Jesus we must try to follow His example to the best of our abilities. We MUST love our families, we MUST love our friends, we MUST love our co-workers and the world around us.
In John chapter 8 we see Jesus finding Himself in a moment of chaos. People brought a woman who was facing her own struggles before Jesus. This woman was living a secret sin and was caught in the act of adultery. They dragged this woman before Jesus. During these times a woman would be stoned to death for this. The people had stones in their hands and were ready to stone her to death. You want to talk about a struggle! Now here comes Jesus into the situation. Jesus sees this woman’s struggles. He could of looked away. He could of watched them stone her. Instead Jesus took a position of love.
Jesus, the perfect Son of God, knelt down and sat in the dust with the woman. He got right beside her struggle. Despite the own struggles going on in His life, Jesus loved the woman through hers. He set aside His own problems and joined the woman in hers.
That’s what you and I are called to in this life. To set aside our own struggles sometimes and simply sit in the dust with our friends, our families, our co-workers, whoever it may be. Don’t stand in arrogance and try to hide the struggle, but just sit in the dust with someone else who needs to be loved. The struggle is real, but so is love, so let’s allow love to lead us.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Let’s just pray”, or “All you can do is just pray”? At some point in my life I’ve probably been guilty of saying both.
I’ll be honest with you, every time I hear the word just used before prayer I cringe. You might be thinking I’m overreacting, but hear me out. I honestly think that when this happens, the person saying it doesn’t intentionally mean to minimize prayer, but using the word just before prayer does just that – minimize prayer.
Usually both expressions are used when someone is at their wits end or powerless to do anything about their circumstances, or as a last ditch effort to just do something. Anything. The word just has many uses, but when it’s used to mean only or merely, and by a narrow margin or barely, just should never be coupled with prayer.
The Creator of the Universe has given us the incredible opportunity and awesome privilege of communicating with Him. This is what prayer is, communicating with Almighty God. According to Isaiah 40:3, prayer prepares a highway for our God. In other words, prayer gives God a legal right to intervene on your behalf. I don’t know about you, but when I’m at my wits end and don’t know which end is up, choosing to allow God to intervene on my behalf is the first thing I should do.
Jeremiah 33:3 in the Message Bible says, “This is God’s Message, the God who made Earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’”
I love being told marvelous and wondrous things! Even better, things that I could never figure out on my own. God is eager to reveal to us things we don’t know. He’s not holding out on us. He’s just waiting for us to ask.
So the next time you are tempted to think of prayer as a last resort, why not stop and think about all the marvelous and wonderful things God is just waiting to show you when you pray…and just pray.