Choose

This week was not a great one for me. Without boring you with details, let just say that I allowed myself to wallow in toxic thoughts that did not bring out the best in me. I knew that I could do better. In prayer in the small hours of this morning, the Spirit reminded me of a simple choice that I can make, moment by moment, one that is God’s will for me. I spoke His Word in prayer and it my thought for you this day – “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT)

Here is the reality with which we deal. People will do things we do not like.  Some will be rude, others just thoughtless.  The food may arrive at the table cold. Our spouse may come home from work weary and difficult. And the list goes on …  the natural response? Life stinks! People are terrible! God does not care about me!  How often have we heard people say that or said it ourselves?

Christian, by the power of the Spirit and the discipline of our mind we can choose a different path. We do not have to sink to the depths of the world that surrounds us living in ways that are dark and irritable. Joy is possible, regardless of our situation!   We can, through Christ Jesus, choose to find a reason to offer thanks. Quickly I must add- not the phony or forced kind of ‘thanks’ that is just a kind of politeness: but rather the overflow that comes from security in Christ Jesus as Savior. Real thanksgiving rests on a rock-solid confession of our beloved status as ‘children of God’ which is His declaration.  

G.K. Chesterton reminded us that we need to get in the habit of “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.”  A Christian who wants to reflect the heart of Jesus to the world will learn to be grateful – to God, to others – consistently. It takes practice.  Paul, in his letter of joy, Philippians, acknowledges the reality of his circumstances which were not good. He was in custody and being criticized, yet he speaks of his joy. Then he tells us – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  That includes choosing JOY!

The Self will devour as much attention as we give to it.  When life becomes difficult, when people disappoint us, when things do not turn out as we had planned, when friends forsake us, when health fails, when loneliness surrounds us *(misery can make a long list!)  we may be tempted to shrink into a little ball of self-pity, marinating in the sauce of ‘poor me.’   The blues come naturally at such times as we sing “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.”  In that moment, it is quite easy to be deceived into thinking that gratitude is impossible, something that only someone else can know.  If we wait to feel thankful, we will not be thankful often, if ever.  That is why the Lord directs us to choose thanks as a way of life.  So the Spirit whispers to us – “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)

Henri Nouwen, a man who knew deep inner conflict, reflects on his own journey writing that “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”  Re-read that line. It is powerfully true!

November is supposed to be the month of Thanksgiving. You and I can start with choices today that will make that date about more than turkey and mashed potatoes.

  1. Begin the day with thanks to God. Do not let it be a perfunctory, “Thank you, Lord, for all You have done.”
    Make it personal, from the heart, authentic. Speak it.
  2. That first person you encounter in the morning – let your first words be thankful and again, make it real!   
  3. When irritation stirs in you, meet it with prayer and the choice to “Let go and let God.”     
  4. Change the channel (literally!) and figuratively. Yes, too much ‘news’ will destroy your gratitude. Put on the praise and sing. “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—” (Psalm 103:1-2, NIV)

From experience I can tell you that it is absolutely true that the more thankful we are, the more natural it becomes to respond to life and others with gratitude.  Yes, we can, through Christ Jesus learn to accept life, not as it might be, but as it is.

Here is the word from the Word. Let’s live it!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” (Psalm 107:1-2, NLT) 
“Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.” (Psalm 107:31-32, NLT)

Would you say “amen?”

(Video of this blog at this link)

____________________

Goodness Of God

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson

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