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The God of the Impossible

Tomorrow will be the five-month anniversary of the day the Lord took our son David to his heavenly home. When David was born, my husband and I entered an unknown world of being the parents of a child with extensive medical needs that our lives centered around meeting his needs.

During David’s short lifetime, we’ve faced a long list of diagnoses with diseases we had never even heard of before, fragile bones which resulted is numerous fractures, evaluations by doctors that put David’s life-expectancy at twelve years or less, dozens of hospitalizations which could have ended in death, and even a legal battle to not lose all his essential nursing care when he turned twenty-one. In the midst of all of this, the Lord graciously gave us thirty-four years with David.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful for the work God has done in my husband’s and my life over the last thirty-four plus years to bring us to the place where the attributes of God’s character have moved from being words in a book to being truths we now know by personal experience. Trials are rich soil in which our knowledge of God has the opportunity to grow.

  • I now know our God is a loving and compassionate Father, because I’ve seen His love and compassion in innumerable situations in our lives.
  • I now know God is faithful to keep His promises, because in one circumstance after another God has given us promises and then done exactly what He promised.
  • I now know God has the power to do what looks impossible in my eyes, because I’ve seen Him turn around several situations that looked impossible.

The one situation that stands out to me above all others was what God did when David aged out of the children’s services program that provided him with sixteen hours a day of private duty nursing care. When David’s twenty-first birthday was approaching, the state offered us only two options. We could choose to keep David at home and meet his extensive medical needs without any nursing care, or we could institutionalize him in a state school. We went to visit the nearest state school for the disabled, and they told us they really hoped we would not enroll him there, because they were not able to meet his extensive medical needs. We’ve never faced a situation that looked more impossible!

God gave us a promise: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ As I was praying, the Lord brought to mind the name of a legal assistance program, Advocacy, Inc. (now known as Disability Rights Texas). I made a call to the local legal office, but this was such a major case that we ended up being represented at the Federal District Court by the top legal team for disability rights in the state of Texas, at no cost to us.

Through a legal settlement, God made a way for us to continue to meet David’s needs in our home, with no reduction in the level of services he received as a child, until the day the Lord took him home. And He provided the added benefit of setting a legal precedent through our case that has helped numerous other families who have faced the same situation when their son or daughter turned twenty-one.

Now that our son is safely in God’s presence, no longer suffering but whole for the first time, our family is walking in a season of transition. The past is behind us, the future uncertain. In this situation, a quote I heard many years ago has come to mind. While I don’t have a clear picture of what lies ahead, I do know the One who does. As Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Today, I want to encourage you to look at your current circumstances through the lens of God’s attributes. How has He shown Himself to you through the struggles you’ve walked through? What characteristics of God have moved from simply being something you’ve read about in the Word of God to something you now know by personal experience? Let’s encourage one another today by sharing how your battles with chronic illnesses and whatever other difficulties have been a part of your life have helped you grow in your knowledge of God.

The Antidote to Poisonous Words

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭18:21‬ ‭MSG‬

What were the first words out of your mouth when you woke up this morning? Whether they were spoken aloud to someone or simply words that went through your mind, your words are important. They have the power to give life or destroy, to encourage and strengthen or to demoralize and cause distress.

Last Thursday, we completed the study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. As I was praying this week about where to go from here,  one word came to mind. Negativity. Conquering this habit in both our thinking and our speaking is an essential for a lifestyle of gratitude. And why is this so important? Negativity is like adding poison to your mind and thinking you’ll be okay. It will lead to spiritual decay and even death.

We live in a world where negativity is common place. Add the challenges of life with chronic illness, and our lives can easily be the perfect soil for seeds of negativity to take root and start growing. Did you wake up with pain this morning? After a poor night’s sleep? With anxious thoughts about the future? Our initial thoughts and words each day have the power to set a pattern for how our day will go. If we allow circumstances and emotions to determine how we begin our day, it starts us off in a direction that will rob us of thankfulness and vitality.

The epistle of James, believed to be written by a half-brother of Jesus, has much oneto teach us about the importance of taming our tongues – and the total impossibility of doing this in our human strength.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James‬ ‭3:2-6*‬ 

The tongue is like a rudder that determines the direction of our lives. An out-of-control tongue will lead to a life of unrighteousness and constantly falling short of the will of God. Yet in the next two verses James says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” So what can we do to turn this area of our lives around?

Jesus said, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke‬ ‭6:45‬

So changing the words that come out of our mouths begins with a changed heart. That is a work of the Holy Spirit, but also a process we have a part in.

  1. Begin with prayer. Dedicate your heart, mind and tongue to the Lord daily. Pray specifically for a changed heart that reflects the heart of God. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalms‬ ‭51:10, 12‬ ‭‭
  2. Make a commitment to be a doer of the Word. Agree that you will “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭ The Greek translated corrupt or corrupting (depending on what translation you’re using) means “to produce rot or decay.” If the words in your mind will have this effect in your life, make a commitment to not give them utterance.
  3. Rely on God’s strength to follow through on this commitment. Remember, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭‬‬ Stand on God’s promise in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  4. Begin each new day by dedicating your heart and tongue to the Lord. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
  5. ‭‭Put your heart in tune with God’s Spirit by reading your Bible daily. When God speaks to you through a particular verse, slow down and pay attention. Memorize and meditate on the verse. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  6. ‭‭Accept responsibility for every word you speak. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew‬ ‭12:36-37‬
  7. Give thanks to the Lord for the good work He is doing in you in this area. Remember, we are still in process, but God will finish what He has started in our lives . “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭‬‬

‭‭Let’s keep moving forward in this journey to a consistent attitude of gratitude. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by poisonous words that lead to spiritual rot and decay. Ask God to do the needed work in you to tame your tongue, to rid it of words that are negative and don’t line up with His ways and His Word. God wants to change our hearts in this area. Let Him do the needed work to make us willing and able to bring this area of our lives under His Lordship.

*All verses in ESV unless otherwise noted

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Going “Gratitudinal” – Changing My Attitude to One of Gratitude

The final chapter in Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, is about change. When we are facing difficult circumstances, change sounds inviting. But this chapter isn’t talking about a change of circumstances. The change referred to in this chapter is a change in our attitude toward our circumstances.

An attitude is a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular subject, situation, person or group of people. Attitudes are often the result of our experiences or upbringing, and they can have a powerful influence over our behavior. While attitudes are enduring, they can also change. Attitudes are a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way, and since they are learned they can also be unlearned.

Woodrow Kroll, evangelical preacher and radio host of Back to the Bible has said concerning our attitude about difficult circumstances, “Nothing is so sour that it can’t be sweetened by a good attitude.”

Author, speaker and pastor John Maxwell wrote in his book Developing the Leader Within You, “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

While changing circumstances is a great goal, sometimes we are powerless to do this. For example, I can do nothing to change the fact that our special needs son David suffered for thirty-four years with profound mental retardation, spastic quadriplegia CP, seizures and fragile bones prone to fracture and then graduated from this world to heaven last November. I also can do little to change my personal pain and limitations from the chronic illness and disability I live with daily as a result of an auto accident in 1975 that also took the life of our first born daughter Teresa. But in both of these situations, I do have the power to change my attitude. I can choose to have a God-honoring attitude in whatever circumstances I’m currently walking through.

New attitudes start with new mind-sets and result in new behavior. Let’s take the two circumstances I shared above. In dealing with the challenging life and recent loss of our precious son, I could focus on how hard life was for David and the pain of our recent loss, or I could shift my focus to the truth that David is now in the presence of the Lord and whole after a lifetime in a broken body. In my chronic illness and physical disability, I could turn my mind on all the things I’m unable to do, or I could thank the Lord for the blessings in my life and all the things I am able to do. As Nancy says, “The pathway to personal transformation requires a change in perspective.”

She says, “I’d like to coin a new word for those who may be deficient in the gratitude department (which includes all of us from time to time).” Instead of speaking of “attitudinal change,” Nancy calls us to “gratitudinal change.”

Gratitudinal change comes from choosing “to live in the fullness of your relationship with God, not hindered and hamstrung and holding Him at arm’s length, but experiencing Him richly. Feeling at home in His presence.”

It results in rewriting our story “into a tale of God’s grace, one that He uses to help you be an effective minister of His hope and healing to those who are walking the same kind of path” He has helped us to walk. It’s being “so available to His Spirit’s leading, so aware of others’ needs, and so willing to be open and genuine, that God takes the things Satan meant for evil and transforms them into things of value.”

It’s living as God’s Word instructs us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

‭‭The author gives several specific recommendations to get us headed in the direction of “gratitudinal change.”

  • Surrender your rights to God. If we are to bloom and flourish as children of God in this harsh and suffocating culture – shining like ‘lights in the world’ – we must pour ourselves out as a drink offering before the Lord.”
  • Commit to a set season of gratitude. “Like any other virtue, a grateful spirit is the work of God’s Spirit within the life of a believer who is purposeful about putting off fleshly inclinations and cultivating spiritual ones. And that takes time, effort, and focused attention.” 
  • Take stock of your gratitude accounts. “Who deserves (or needs) a word of thanks from you? Who in your life could use a bit of encouragement today?”
  • Write thank you notes. Remember, “the act of expressing gratitude breeds joy. In the sender and in the recipient… Don’t get hung up on the ‘technique.’ Do resolve to have a thankful heart and to take time to express your gratitude as frequently as possible, by whatever means possible, to as many people as possible.”
  • Do it together, as a Body-building exercise. As we bring this nine-week study of Choosing Gratitude to a close, I encourage you to share with the other members of our group how you plan to put these principles we’ve studied into practice.

Understanding the place of suffering in the Christian life is a key to walking through whatever God permits to touch our lives with a Gratitudinal attitude.

Joni Eareckson Tada became well acquainted with suffering when at age eighteen she suffered a cervical fracture when diving into some shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. She has identified suffering as “God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us... the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.” She adds, “God is more concerned with conforming me to the likeness of His Son than leaving me in my comfort zones. God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstances – things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my character.”

Elizabeth Elliot was plunged into the world of suffering when her husband Jim was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. She said, “This hard place in which you perhaps find yourself is the very place in which God is giving you opportunity to look only to Him, to spend time in prayer, and to learn long-suffering, gentleness, meekness – in short, to learn the depths of the love that Christ Himself has poured out on all of us… The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

Author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth brings this study to a close with these words, “Some of the holy work we need to have done in us and through us can only come through the valley of shadow and suffering. Are you going to be resistant to that? Or are you going to be clay in His hands, knowing that He is intent on shaping you into the image of Christ and wants to use your life for something far bigger than you own comfort, convenience, and pleasure? He wants your life to be part of a grand, eternal redemptive picture that portrays the wonder of His saving grace.”

I encourage you to meditate on these quotes concerning the benefits we gain through suffering. And allow them to cause a change in your perspective concerning the difficult circumstances in your life.

Do you want your life to reflect the character of Christ? Do you agree that God is more interested in inward qualities than in outward circumstances? Do you want to know the depths of God’s love? Do you want to “go forward in ways that are pleasing to Him, ways that place us in the center of His great will and plan”? Then, make the decision to begin looking at your world through “gratitude-colored glasses.”

I want to close today with a song by Joni Eareckson Tada that perfectly expresses the attitude God desires us to have toward the suffering He has allowed in our lives.

Why Choose Gratitude? Eight Benefits of Being Thankful

Be 62C78836-C1F4-4DEA-A7F3-C7ED5F8AD6D6Today we are on Chapter Four in our ongoing study of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. (All Bible verses in ESV, unless noted.)

Have you ever faced such difficult circumstances that you felt being grateful was an impossible choice? Mrs. Wolgemuth begins this chapter on why we should choose gratitude in every situation, regardless of how difficult, with an interesting story from the diary of well known eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible commentary writer Matthew Henry.

While living in London, Matthew Henry was accosted and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

No matter what situation we are currently walking through, there is ALWAYS something we can thank God for in the midst of it. To quote our author, “the person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mind-set can view anything – anything! – through the eyes of thankfulness.

 

Whether you are “grieving a loss that never settles far from your conscious thoughts,” or “crying yourself to sleep at night over a situation with a son or daughter that is beyond your ability to control,” it’s still possible to give thanks. “Maybe you’re facing some health issues of your own, or your income just isn’t meeting your monthly expenses,” you can still choose to be grateful. Even if all of these or some other overwhelming problem is causing you to struggle, an attitude of gratitude is still possible.

But learning to do this may not happen overnight.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, “The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices. It is a godly habit and pattern that over time becomes a new muscle in our spiritual makeup.”

But in such bothersome circumstances, why should I choose to give thanks? What will I gain by doing so? In this chapter, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth lists eight positive benefits of expressing gratitude in even the most painful situations (with one Scripture and a short quote from the chapter on each benefit).

GRATITUDE IS A MATTER OF OBEDIENCE

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

Be thankfulGod has commanded it – for our good and for His glory.” 

GRATITUDE DRAWS US CLOSE TO GOD

We are called to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4).

Or as Nancy puts it, “Thanksgiving puts us in God’s living room. It paves the way into His presence.

GRATITUDE IS A SURE PATH TO PEACE

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV)

To put it even more simply: In every situation … prayer + thanksgiving = peace.”

GRATITUDE IS A GAUGE OF THE HEART

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.” (Psalms 140:13)

The only people who can sustain a consistent flow of thanksgiving between them and God are those who know who, what, and where they’d be if He hadn’t intervened and saved them from themselves.”

GRATITUDE IS THE WILL OF GOD

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

In other words, you may find yourself a lot closer to hearing God’s heart on a certain time-sensitive matter, not by making pro- and con-lists or anguishing between multiple options, but simply by doing what you already know to be His will.

GRATITUDE IS AN EVIDENCE OF BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

Being thankful is a prime example of being filled with the Spirit… The fact is, we cannot whine and complain and be filled with the Spirit at the same time. When a thankful spirit resides in our hearts and expresses itself on our lips, it’s an evidence that the Holy Spirit lives in us, that we are yielding to His control, and that He is producing His gracious fruit in and through our lives.”

GRATITUDE REFLECTS JESUS’ HEART

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28) 

On four occasions, it is recorded in Scripture that Jesus gave thanks to the Father, probably the most remarkable one within hours of His betrayal, arrest, scourging and crucifixion. As He observed the Passover feast with His disciples, Jesus gave thanks before partaking of the elements, which He fully understood “represented His body and blood, soon to be broken and poured out in horrific fashion for the salvation of sinful man. On a night when from a human perspective He had every reason to be self-absorbed and to give in to self-pity, resentment, or murmuring, He spoke words of thanks to His heavenly Father, words that flowed out of a thankful heart.” 

GRATITUDE GETS US READY FOR HEAVEN.

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.'” (Revelation 11:17)

So think of today as a ‘dress rehearsal.’ And do it just the way you will when you’re doing it ‘live’ at the actual performance.”

 

 

 

 

Thankless or Thankful: Which Will You Be?

Today we are looking at chapter three in Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

My heart broke as I read the true story Nancy uses to introduce the theme of this chapter. The story begins on September 7, 1860, a little over seven months before the beginning of the American Civil War, and focuses on the heroic actions of Edward Spencer, a young seminary student who risked his life to rescue the victims of the doomed steamship Lady Elgin.

The Lady Elgin was carrying more than 300 passengers and crew on a sightseeing tour from Milwaukee to Chicago when it was struck by the schooner Augusta. Most of those aboard the Lady Elgin perished wheny the ship broke apart in the waters of Lake Michigan. But seventeen people were saved that night by Edward Spencer, who battled the breakers for six hours. An experienced swimmer, he had a rope tied to his body, and swam through the waves to grab exhausted passengers.

In the process, this young seminary student received numerous injuries from floating wreckage which changed his life forever. Never able to fully recover from the physical toll on his body from his act of bravery, he had to give up his dream of being a pastor and spent much of his life confined to a wheelchair. Yet, the most important thing to Spencer, according to his brother, was not whether he should have risked his life and livelihood to rescue these seventeen people. His biggest concern was whether he had done his best for Jesus.

Nancy gives a sad postscript to this heroic story. When later asked by a reporter what stood out to him the most about this life-changing experience, Edward Spencer replied, “Only this: of the seventeen people I saved, not one of them ever thanked me.” Those words brought tears to my eyes.

A similar story is told in Luke 17:11-19. I especially like the Message paraphrase of this story about ten lepers whose lives were transformed by Jesus.

“It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

“Taking a good look at them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.

“Jesus said, ‘Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you.'”

These two stories, one a part of American history, the other told by Jesus, teach us an important lesson. When we are in difficult, life-changing circumstances, it is easy to become so focused on what we are personally going through that we forget to express gratefulness to those who have reached out to us to help us through our trials. In both of these stories, the people who failed to say “Thank you” were probably feeling a bit over-whelmed by what they had just been through. As Nancy says, “ingratitude is not always a calloused, who-cares shrugging of the shoulders. Sometimes it’s just fourth or fifth on a list we never get around to following through on.”

As I read these words earlier this week, my heart was convicted. Most of you know that my husband and I lost our special-needs son David last October. Since his memorial service in December, we have been extremely busy trying to complete a long list of things that were needed to bring closure to this difficult season of our lives. One of those items was writing thank you notes to many who had ministered to us in various ways during this time. Some were sent almost immediately, others after Christmas, but as I read this chapter I was reminded that there were still some important notes that needed to be written and mailed. So this week, my husband Mitch and I have completed another task on the still lengthy list of things needing to be done by writing and sending these last few thank you notes to some special people in the church where we are members. Our church has a theme which I love: Being living proof of a loving God to a watching world. As we have walked through one of the most difficult seasons of our lives, our church has demonstrated this theme to us in real life, and that meant our gratitude needed to be expressed in a concrete way.

Nancy concludes this chapter with five gratitude robbers that we need to beware of and cautious not to give place to.

Unrealistic expectations.We can start to expect a lot – from life, from work, from others in general – until no matter what we’re receiving in terms of blessings, it’s never as much as we were hoping for.”

Forgetfulness. When we remember all God and others have done for us, gratitude is a natural response. “Forgetfulness and ingratitude go hand in hand.

Entitlement. “When we take simple blessings for granted as if they were owed to us, or conversely, when we start to think that our house, our car, our wardrobe, or our general station in life is beneath what we deserve, ingratitude finds all the oxygen it needs to thrive.

Comparison. “Any time our focus is on ourselves – even if it’s on the good things we’re doing – it keeps us from being grateful for what others are contributing.”

Blindness to God’s grace. We need to remember that God’s mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) “are not blessings we deserve but graces given by God’s loving hand to fallen creatures, those whom He has redeemed by His good pleasure.”

Remembering to thank God is very important, but today’s lesson is a reminder that people also deserve our gratitude whenever that do something that makes our load a little lighter or simply do something that blesses us. Saying “thank you” costs us nothing, and it’s an easy way to spread encouragement to those around us.

A Different Kind of Gratitude

As I shared last Thursday, at the beginning of this year I felt the Lord prompting me personally to do a study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Since that time, several ladies in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness which I help lead have decided to join me in this study. I will also be doing a weekly post on this personal blog based on the chapter we are currently studying from the book.

Nancy DeMoss calls gratitude “a vital transformational life preserver amidst the turbulent waters of runaway emotions,” and because that’s where I’m frequently walking during this season of my life it seems like the perfect time to do this study. As we begin our study, this has for me personally been a week of battling runaway emotions. Between the skin rash I first noticed on December 4th (the day of our son David’s memorial service) that has not responded to treatment, a long list of tasks that needed to be done following David’s death that is taking much longer than we expected to complete, and the adjustments to all of the recent changes in our lives, this has been a challenging and emotional week.

Christ-centered and grace-motivated gratitude is the focus of the teaching in this book. The world acknowledges the importance of gratitude, but without a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, this gratitude usually lacks an object of gratefulness or becomes people-based. The kind of gratitude we need to enter the joy-filled Christian life is different. It is an expression of gratefulness to God that is both a byproduct of and a response to the redeeming grace of God.

A call to this type of intentional gratitude is a call to transformation through God’s grace and spiritual discipline. Change is a process that takes time and ceaseless vigilance. In this area, it will require both confronting the “stubborn weeds of ingratitude” – which manifest themselves in fretting, complaining, and resenting – and choosing gratitude in every situation until a grateful spirit becomes our reflexive response to all of life.

Nancy DeMoss says eventually choosing gratitude results in choosing joy, a quality we all desire to experience in our lives. But getting there will require each of us to constantly renew our mind with the truth of God’s Word, set our heart to savor God’s good gifts above all the world has to offer, and discipline our tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace.

Choosing gratitude involves elevating it to a place of priority in our lives. Nancy DeMoss talks about how Christians tend to view gratitude as an inferior Christian virtue – one near the bottom of the long list of “important” qualities such as faith and love. There is one major problem with that reasoning. A grateful heart is a major key to effectively living out these virtues. Without gratitude, faith eventually deteriorates into a practice of religion that’s hollow and ineffective. Love without gratitude will over time “crash hard on the sharp rocks of disappointment and disillusionment.” Nancy adds,

“True gratitude is not an incidental ingredient. Nor is it a stand-alone product, something that never actually intersects with life… It is one of the chief ways that God infuses joy and resilience into the daily struggle of life.”

Christ-centered, grace-infused gratitude has the power to change lives – our lives and also the lives of those who observe and receive the benefits of our expressions of gratefulness. It is fitting in every situation and all the time, even in life’s most desperate moments and difficult situations. It gives hope and has the power to transform overwhelmed strugglers to triumphant conquerors. Nancy DeMoss says it has the “effervescent power… to freshen the stale air of everyday life.”

Understanding Wisdom and Insight

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As I was doing some study on wisdom this morning, trying to understand the difference between wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and insight as they are used in the Bible, I came across an article that used the well known verses of James 1:2-5 in the J.B. Philips paraphrase to explain this. The title of this section of Scripture: “The Christian can even welcome trouble.”

“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

“And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.”

Though I knew these verses were together in Scripture, I’ve always separated James 1:2-4 from verses 5-8 in my mind. These words stood out to me in our current situation because it was so clearly tied together in this paraphrase. If “in the process” of all kinds of trials, you need wisdom concerning how to meet any particular problem, don’t lean on your own understanding. Ask God for the necessary wisdom.

This immediately prompted me to pray for wisdom, not just in general, but in a specific area that has come up as we seek to move forward into what God as for our future. And as soon as I finished that prayer, another area came to mind for prayer.

Wisdom from God is available for us in the numerous daily decisions we face. Do you tend to handle the small daily decisions in your own understanding? I know often I do. God wants us to go to Him for wisdom in the small and not just the major decisions that need to be made. As my husband and I walk through this painful season after the loss of our son, life is full of changes. God cares about the decisions we make in even the smallest hour-to-hour situations that arise. And that’s a new insight – sight into something giving new understanding – for me this morning into the true biblical meaning of wisdom.