Giving Thanks Daily

Today is Thanksgiving. This is a day we set apart to be thankful for the blessings in our life. We will give thanks for the people, our vocations, our lifestyle, God, etc.

What if today, we call this a “day of new beginnings” and talk about all the ways we are thankful everyday? It is easy for many to give thanks one day a year. How would it change our families, our workplace and coworkers, our community, our churches if we remembered to give thanks daily and live in constant joy?We are a blessed people because we have the Spirit of the Living God within us and all around us. We get to share joy daily, live in peace if we choose, share our hope, and be beings of love and light in our day to day lives. What great things to be thankful for!

Over the next few mornings, I invite you to pick a Bible verse on the link below, thinking about all the ways God has blessed, will continue to bless, and is blessing our lilies today. Then, say a prayer of thanks to God, then remember how we can be people of cheer and gratitude. Yes, cheerful people, even if you happen to be out this Friday (or tonight) shopping for Christmas gifts.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/thanksgiving-bible-verses/

How are your thankful today?

More Than Words

Have you ever been told, “just pray about it?” I have told people this for years, especially when there is something of importance going on whether it be with vocation, relationships, new projects, etc. Prayer is one of the things that we know is important; but a great deal of us don’t really put too much thought into what we’re praying for or words that we’re saying.

Luke 11:1-13 shows Jesus’ disciples asking Him, “teach us to pray.” Yesterday, I asked the congregation, “have you asked Jesus to teach you to pray?” This is a very valuable question to ask; especially because this was a convicting question for me as well. If we can humbly go to Jesus Christ to teach us how to pray and listen for His answer, we can realize more and more the reality is we are communicating with God each and every time we pray.

To prepare for this message this past week, I read several commentaries and one thing stood out. One of the commentators for the United Methodist Church had this to say, “According to a Pew Research report, 55% of American Christians say they pray every day. These persons rely on prayer when making personal decisions, and consider prayer and essential part of their identity.” Isn’t this interesting. What I read in this is that 45% of American Christians do not feel they need to pray daily. My question is, how can someone have a real relationship with God if there is not constant communication. Before we get judgemental, I do believe there are people who do not pray because they do not believe God will answer their prayers.

The first thing to look at when we talk about prayer is Jesus gives us assurance that God not only cares about us, but He hears our prayers and does answer them. Luke 11:11-13 says, “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

We all need assurance that God will answer our prayers, that our words do not stop at the ceiling. My guess is that we have all heard about three answers that God gives: Yes, No, Not Yet. These answers we can deal with; but there is a fourth answer we don’t seem to mention very much. That answer is “I have already given you an answer and am waiting for you to act.”

I remember, when I was a child and I would do everything I could do to find a favorable answer to a question. For many of us, it may be the case that we don’t like the answer God has given and we keep trying to get Him to change His mind or at least give us an alternative answer.

No matter what our response to the answers God gives us, we should still be assured that He does answer us. Because we can trust that God will answer our prayers, we should be open to the various ways He answers, oftentimes using other people around us.

The Gospel of Luke passage shows the disciples asking Jesus how to pray. A couple of things stand out when I read what has been called the “Lord’s Prayer.” One is that the normal things we end up focusing on some things and leaving out others. For example we’ll focus on the physical health or a person instead of the spiritual health. This is what I have called “organ prayers.” It is easier to pray for physical healing of body organs than for spiritual or emotional healing to bring a person to completeness and wholeness.

Jesus, on the other hand gives us, not just a script of what to pray, but for us to watch how we are praying and what we pray for. He is showing the disciples, which includes us today, that we should pray with the will of God in mind. Many of us have not taken the time to really think about these words. These are not “magic words” to get God to do our bidding. Instead, when we pray we’ll seek God and His direction.

Father, hallowed be your name: This is important so we remember who we are speaking with and to not use God’s name as something that is common or ordinary.

Your kingdom come: ushering in the kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Does our world look like, right now, how heaven will be? Not yet. There are many things that are still happening. The reality of the Kingdom of Heaven is here; but there is still the culmination of heaven being on earth full time that will eventually take place.

Natural disasters

Devaluing of human life

Distractions from our relationships

More concerned about the individual than the health of the community

not everyone knows Jesus Christ on a personal level

Give us this day our daily bread: completely dependent on God for all we need each day (goes against our individualistic do it by yourself mottos)

Think about Israelites wandering around in the desert and the manna from heaven who did not know where the food was coming from; but they trusted that God would provide each day.

Most of us don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from, or where we are going to get the next thing that we want

Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted (sinned against) to us: As a commentator notes, “Jewish teachings had already linked the necessity of forgiving others to one’s ability to receive forgiveness…the ability to forgive and be forgiven are part of the same gift.”

And do not bring us to the time of trial: “normal trials” for us may include traffic, rude people, sicknesses, anything like this.

  • also think about things that would hinder or harm your relationship with other people (family members included)
  • Consider to seek protection against things that will come between yours and God’s relationship

We pray for healing, for provision, for protection, for our relationships with other people AND with God

As we can see, it really is more than words when we speak to the Living God through prayer who can and will answer our prayers. Praying the Lord’s Prayer is basically praying this way:

“God, we honor you on earth more than we honor our own flesh and blood parents. Please come to rule our lives every day that we l have on this earth. Help us to not worry about the future. We ask only for enough bread to get through this day. Don’t forgive us our sins until we have found a way to forgive every person who has done us wrong. And please God, do not test our faith too much because we know that we are weak and that we will surely fail.”

May we all continue to develop our prayer life and seek the face and Kingdom of God daily.

New blog post: “Lessons Learned From 16 Year Old Me”

I know everyone can look back on their life and see the lessons learned over the years. As I look back on my life, I realize that it was God using those time in which I learned the most valuable lessons to shape me into the person I am today. I am still no where near perfect; but I hope I am closer to the person God desires me to be than I was last year.

When I was 16, I was going for my first paying job, outside of mowing lawns, etc. So like every good small town guy, I applied at Walmart. Thinking about this now, 20 years later, makes me laugh. I remember when I was under 10 years old that the teens worked at Walmart in my small Texas town. This was the place I thought everyone needed to work at when they became a teenager. The time came. I walked in for my interview (several people were interviewing at the same time. I sat down. Right after I left the interview I was disappointed. I didn’t get the job!

Lesson number one learned quickly, be sure not to put all hope or thought into one strategy without thinking about other options. I had to learn how to handle disappointment rather quickly. Another lesson learned was how to lead and follow. Finally, I can look back at the losses and realize I have thankful for my life and where I am today.

Handling disappointment is something we all struggle to learn as we age. We will not win everything and that is okay. We are not meant to win or get everything we want. If we did, we would be the most spoiled people and not care about anyone except what we want and not think about anyone else’s needs / wants. This is something that we just really have to learn. We should remember that God has a great plan for our life and I have noticed that the things in life we get disappointed over may very well be the things that God does not desire for us to have or experience.

I remember very clearly the interviewer asking me, “do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?” and I gave the best answer anyone would give to make themselves look good. Say it with me. “Of course I’m a leader!” Now, at the same time, I heard another teen answering the same question. His answer has stuck with me to this day. “There are times when I am asked to lead, or I step up to lead. But there are times when I know how to follow. So, I am a leader and a follower.” It seems that following another person and trusting they know what they are doing puts us in a vulnerable position. We would rather be in a position of authority and tell people what to do. But this is not what true leadership, or wisdom, is like. True leaders are willing to allow another person to lead. Truthfully, I still struggle with this; even in my walk with Jesus Christ. I like to be in control; but I know there are people I can learn from and people I should let take the lead because of the gifts they have.

Following is also a challenge because the leader will not do things just like you or I would. That is a beautiful thing because then we can show we are learning from everyone. It is too easy to tell the leader what they need to be doing and how to do it; but I have learned we can learn to appreciate different styles of leadership by letting the people do what they feel should be done. There are many times when people look at me, I look younger than I am, and assume that I do not have the experience or knowledge to get the job done. There are times this bothers me; but there is also wisdom to listening. Could we all handle our conversations better? Absolutely. People will always assume they know more than me; but I am learning to thank God for the wisdom and guidance they are attempting to give, even if it is done in an inappropriate manner.

As I look back on my life, I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a 16 year old. Praise God I am where I am today. I believe that if I had chosen different paths in my life, I would not be married to my wife, the most beautiful and caring woman, today. Nor would I have the 2 precious children either. I know I still have a lot to learn. If we ever get to a place where we automatically assume we know how it do it better than another person, or we are smarter, we can miss out on great opportunities to see how God is leading.

Everyone of us will have opinions on what I have just written. And each of us has learned lessons through the years. I invite you to take time and think about some of your most life shaping times in your life and find a way to praise God for the person He is shaping you to be. What have you learned?

To God be the glory. Amen

“Prayer and Praise Week 1”

Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever.” ~1 Chronicles 16:34 CEB

November is the time that giving thanks, or at least these words, are at the forefront of our conscience. We tend to be thankful for all we have, all we have been blessed with, and the people in our life that we like. These are all great things to be thankful for. God’s presence in our lives is another thing we give thanks for.

This year, we should challenge ourselves to giving thanks for what have have and what we experience beyond our preferences. The season of Advent begins in 29 days. Advent is the time we prepare our hearts for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God in flesh, in our lives and within us. To help with this, let’s have 28 days of “Giving Thanks.”

This will be a different way of giving thanks. Instead of pausing each day to say thanks to another person, or to God, we get to give thanks for how we are able to be present in the lives of those around us, even “those people” we don’t like, or think are not good enough. When we do this, we have great opportunities to show the world God working through people. We never know, exactly, how what we do impacts another person.

So this week, we challenged to do the following:

  1. Ask your restaurant server, or cashier, what you can pray for them. Then pray then and there.
  2. When shopping, tell the cashier “thank you for your work.”
  3. Tell a family member how much you appreciate them and what you appreciate about them.
  4. Tell a friend what you appreciate about them.
  5. Write and mail a handwritten note to someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
  6. Invite a friend, or someone you talk to while running errands or at work, to join you in worship to have a chance to experience God through Jesus Christ.
  7. Take time to thank God for being in your life, through the joy, sorrows, frustration, times of plenty and times of lacking

These are much more than simply random acts of kindness. After each day, spend some time thanking God for giving you the opportunities to help and be present in another person’s life. We give God glory and praise when we are present and helping the last, the least, and the lost in the world and thank Him for the blessing in our life, which involves the opportunities to show God in the world.

Will you take this challenge? I pray you do.