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Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday pick-me-up

”Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
--The Doxology. Thomas Ken
I mentioned last October that I wanted to share a few of the lessons the Lord has been teaching me over the past several months. I started with the principle of “keeping a quiet heart” (Nov. 4). I have shared of His calling me to a deeper faith in Him (Jan. 18). Today, I would like to share about gratitude. My associate pastor defined gratitude as understanding what we deserve and aren’t getting (for instance, hell). I know of no better day than a Monday to share about it. At the end of last year, the Lord, in His grace, began revealing some qualities within me that weren’t very appealing – a critical spirit, negativity and jealousy. Yuck! It wasn’t pretty, and it was quite evident, these qualities were hindering the healing process of my heart as well as hindering my ability to be used by Him. My husband would call it being a “grumpy pants.” And, as I looked at my reflection, I often discovered a “grumpy pants” staring back at me – especially on the rough days.

So, how does one conquer a negative spirit? Through several different channels, the Lord showed me it was gratitude. My BSF leader said habits can either imprison us or free us. She challenged us to make gratitude a habit in our lives and she promised our joy would be found in Christ. So, I began praying each day for a heart of gratitude . . .  for the Lord’s grace to open my eyes to who He is, to His promises, and to the work He’s doing in and around me. I asked Him to enable me to thank Him not because I knew that was what I was supposed to do but to thank Him because it was my very heart’s desire – that I couldn’t help but thank Him. I wanted this gratitude to well up within me until I couldn’t contain it. I asked Him to make my gratitude evident to the world around me through my actions, my attitudes and my words. I didn’t want the gratitude to be about me and the “things” He was doing in me. That sort of gratitude is circumstance based. I wanted my gratitude to be about Him because He never changes.

As I’ve studied the life of Paul this year, the Lord has shown me one of the greatest human examples of gratitude. Paul always had a reason to thank God and his gratitude was evident in every letter he wrote, in his actions, in his words, in his life. When you read Paul’s letters, you see Christ. I believe his gratitude flowed from a deep love for His Savior (who rescued him from the pit of hell), from the calling the Lord had given him, and from the love he had for “his children” (those with whom he shared the Gospel and discipled in the faith). The ironic thing is from a human perspective Paul had very little for which to be thankful. His life was anything but glamorous – beatings, imprisonments, poverty, false accusations, death threats, humiliation, etc (2 Cor. 11). And yet, his heart was overflowing with gratitude. It was a choice. It was the manifestation of His relationship with Christ.

Paul calls us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:4-7
Well, the Lord has been answering my prayer. I’m still a definite “work in progress” but I am growing in my gratitude. And what is so crazy about gratitude is when you really begin to cultivate the discipline of gratitude, your heart changes. There is joy in Him and joy for others in what He is doing in them! I inevitably find myself praising God after I thank Him. That’s why I shared the song, “You are Worthy” a few weeks ago. It’s just the obvious response to my gratitude.

My associate pastor said gratitude or lack there of is a good indication of our relationship with Christ. It’s a gage for our heart. It indicates who we worship and what we idolize. So, where is your heart today? Are you critical? Are you questioning the Father’s hand in your life and grumbling about the outcome? I challenge you to ask the Father to help you see Him in whatever you are facing and enable you to say “thank you.” Joy will come, my friend. I promise you, there will be joy in Him!
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

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