Tag Archive | Gratitude

Only Because of God’s Mercy: God Uses Imperfect People

Hebrews 11 has been called the “Hall of Faith,” but have you ever really examined the lives of the people listed there? These are the people God used to change history, but Max Lucado has described the men and women listed in this chapter as “a rag-bag of ne’er-do-wells and has-beens who found hope, not in their performance, but in God’s proverbially open arms.”

Let’s examine a couple of these men of faith. Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people, lied about his wife Sarah, as recorded in Genesis 12:11-20, saying she wasn’t really his wife but his sister – a half-truth – even asking her to join in the lie because he was afraid the Egyptians would notice her beauty and kill him to take her as their own. And then a little later, he did it again. Not what I would call a man of integrity! And yet he has a major part in the Hall of Faith. God forgave Abraham and continued to use him for His purposes.

Then let’s look at David, whom God called a man after His own heart. 2 Samuel 11 gives us a dark picture of an episode of his life when he saw a beautiful woman and decided he wanted her, even if she was married to one of his faithful soldiers. He not only took Bathsheba for himself and got her pregnant, but when his scheme to cover up his sin failed, he came up with a plan to have her husband killed on the battlefield. Again, not exactly the kind of man I’d look up to. Yet David repented and was forgiven for these sins, and God continued to work through him in spite of his huge failure in this situation.

And there are lots of other imperfect people listed in this chapter, men who had genuine faith in God and were used by Him but still had major flaws in their character. And unfortunately, this wasn’t limited to the men God used in Biblical times. Even the genealogy of Jesus includes some women we definitely would not look up to as examples of godly women: Tamar was guilty of adultery, and Rahab was a harlot, just to name a couple of the women who are discussed in the Bible.

As I read a devotional from Max Lucado’s book Chronicles of the Cross earlier this week that spoke of the men and women God used in the Bible, the message was clear. God uses people to change lives and to change the world – and the only kind of people He has to choose from are imperfect people. He did this during biblical times, and He still does it today. God never condones sin – and there are consequences when we make wrong choices. God allowed Abraham to be chased out of Egypt because of his sin. David repented, yet he faced serious ramifications as a result of his sin. But what a clear picture of the loving and forgiving nature of our merciful and gracious God.

On this Thankful Thursday, lets give thanks for our God who doesn’t treat us as we deserve to be treated, but who gives us both mercy – not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace – blessing us in spite of the fact that we fail daily to live up to His standards. And let’s remember that God uses imperfect people – the only kind He has to choose from. In light of the amazing love and mercy of God, make yourself available to serve Him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian who served God faithfully in the midst of intense persecution by the Nazis that led to his martyrdom, said “Once a man has truly experienced the mercy of God in his life, he will henceforth aspire only to serve.”

The Discipline of Memorizing Scripture

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began a study earlier this year of Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, one of the first assignments was to memorize the above passage. As I struggled phrase by phrase to learn this rather long portion of Scripture, I had no idea of what our family would be facing a few months later – or of how God would use several of the truths in these verses to bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. This whole situation with the sudden loss of our son has given me fresh understanding of the importance of memorizing Scripture so it will be available for God to bring to mind in our times of need.

This passage written by the prophet Isaiah describes some of the reasons Almighty God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to the earth. Beth Moore wrote: “One of the primary reasons God sent His Son to this earth was to bring tender salve and relief to those whose hearts have been broken.”

As I’ve walked through many of the practical aspects of dealing with the death of our special-needs son David this week and of making preparations for his memorial service next Tuesday, this passage has taken on special meaning. I’ve experienced the Lord’s comfort in the midst of mourning, joy and a garment of praise instead of the deep despair I had always thought would be a part of this event which I have dreaded since David’s initial diagnosis as a three-month old. In those early days, we were told it was unlikely that David would live beyond early childhood, yet God graciously gave us thirty-four years with our precious son before He took him home to be with Him and to restore him to complete health.

So during this tough week of dealing with many of the practical aspects concerning David’s death, I’m grateful for the truths of Scripture that God has brought to mind and used to strengthen and comfort me. And I’m thankful that I didn’t give up when I was struggling a few months ago to commit these verses to memory.

Have you made memorizing Scripture a part of your daily walk with God? If not, I highly recommend making this discipline a part of your daily quiet time. I’ve personally found the Scripture Typer Bible Memory app to be a helpful tool for committing Scripture to memory and regularly reviewing those verses I’ve memorized. Our God can use many methods to speak truth to our hearts in our time of need, but as I’ve grown as a Christian I’ve learned that one method He uses repeatedly in my life is that of bringing to my mind a truth that I have already made the effort to memorize.

The Benefits of Choosing an Attitude of Gratitude

In recent weeks, my life has been enriched by a Bible study and video series by Tony Evans that our iConnect Bible study class at church has been going through. So when I noticed the following quote on gratefulness by Tony Evans it caught my attention.

“God says to give thanks in everything. That doesn’t mean you need to give thanks FOR everything. You don’t need to give thanks FOR that bad day. Or FOR that bad relationship. Or being passed over at work. Financial hardship. Whatever it is – you are not to give thanks FOR the difficulties, but rather IN the difficulties. That is a very important distinction, and one I think we often miss. Giving thanks IN everything shows a heart of faith that God is bigger than the difficulties and that He can use them, if you approach Him with the right heart and spirit, for your good and His glory.”

Giving thanks in difficulties is an expression of our faith in a good God. It is a practical discipline that teaches us to see our tough circumstances from God’s perspective.

The last several months of my life have been filled with circumstances I would never have chosen. Financial difficulties, needed home repairs that in the natural are an unsurmountable obstacle, a hospitalization with our special needs son David and then his sudden death two weeks ago have made this one of the most challenging seasons of my life.

And yet as I look back on what God has done in my life during this period, I’m amazed. I’ve experienced peace that surpasses all understanding in the loss of our son, a dreaded event which had previously been my biggest source of anxiety. I’ve grown in my knowledge of God more than during any other recent season of life. And as I’ve gotten to know the Lord more intimately, I’ve fallen freshly in love with Him.

Are you facing a situation that you never would have chosen? Realize there is a reason God allowed the details of what you’re going through to touch your life. Recognize He is at work through your circumstances to bring you to a new depth of relationship with Him, to a new level of spiritual maturity as suffering works to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ.

Today, decide to look for the good in your life. Spend time with the Lord, asking Him to help you see your circumstances as He sees them. Focus on the little blessings you see in the midst of the pain – and if you’re like me, I suspect you’ll find they aren’t so little.

Take time today – and every day – to choose an attitude of gratitude to God. And before long, I suspect you’ll find your entire attitude toward life will begin to change. That’s definitely what’s happened in my life – in spite of the fact that the trials our family has been walking through have no end in sight.

 

Grateful For Grace

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These two verses have taken on new meaning in my life this week, each time I glance out the window or walk out the front door of our home and see one of God’s good gifts sitting in our driveway! After over a year of praying for the Lord to make a way for our family to replace our vehicle that stopped running over a year ago, His gift of provision is a daily reminder of two important truths of Scripture: that our God answers prayer in His own way and His perfect timing, and that His gifts are given because He is a God of grace and goodness, not because of anything we have or ever could do to earn them.

When the Lord provides for a major need in our lives in a way we would have never come up with in our wildest imagination, being grateful comes easy. The words on a neighborhood church sign that we drove by on our way home from the car dealer with our new mini-van last Friday said it perfectly: “God works in unexpected ways!” I never would have come up with the idea of meeting this need through a retired widow living on a fixed income, one who has been a prayer warrior for our family for many years.

The provision to purchase a vehicle without adding to our debt came on the very last day of a month when God had been speaking many life-changing truths to my heart through an e-book by Andrew Murray entitled Waiting On God: A 31-Day Study. This timely study had reminded me that God works in His timing, that as we wait for Him to work in our circumstances He is first doing a needed work in us, that we must wait patiently as we focus on losing our will in His perfect will, that the Giver is greater than the gift and our waiting on Him is the only way to learn to find our life and joy in Him. These truths and a long series of other important reminders of God’s ways during the waiting have been a source of strength during the painful and stretching month of September.

But of all God has spoken to me in this amazing provision, what has stood out above all else are six short words spoken by the leader of our church iConnect Bible study class last Sunday morning, a dear friend who along with his wife has been walking with my husband and me through a situation that is still very much in progress, one where God is doing a major overhaul on our lives. The simple words, “What a gift of God’s grace!”

The very nature of God’s grace is that there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. It is an undeserved gift from God. Faith is a part of the progress, but even that doesn’t earn us anything good from God. Scripture teaches a pathway to grace that God has been walking us down during this past six weeks, the pathway of humility. As James 4:6-10 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

This week as I rejoice in the good gift God has given our family since my last Thankful Thursday post, I am equally grateful for the spiritual truths He has reminded me of during this situation we have been and still are walking through. As we move forward from here, the turning around of the overall situation we are dealing with is still definitely a work in progress. The work in my husband’s life and in my life are also still very much works in progress. But the lessons God has been teaching us about His character and His ways are settled a little deeper in our lives. And they are unchanging. ‭‭We don’t know what lies ahead of us in the coming months. But we do know our God and His ways a little better than when this season first began.

Be Still and Listen

In recent weeks, I’ve set aside time each Wednesday morning to pray and seek God’s direction about what to share in the God-Living Girls Thankful Thursday post that I do each week. Then, after doing my regular morning devotional time, I’ve started writing.

But this Wednesday was different. My husband Mitch and I have been working with a dear couple from our church who are helping us as we walk through some challenging circumstances we’re currently facing, and we had plans for that evening, to share a meal and a Christian movie my husband had gotten from the public library.

I got up in plenty of time to get my article written and ready to post before they were scheduled to arrive around 4pm, but with my mind focused on these future plans instead of on my current task I skipped one very important step in preparing to write. I failed to seek God’s direction concerning the topic, grabbed the first idea that came to mind and started writing. Not the best way to try to communicate effectively for the Lord!

The Lord was determined to get my attention, and eventually He did – but not until He used some interesting circumstances to slow me down. First, I used my WordPress.com site to start writing an initial draft of the article. When our daughter Amy came down to fix lunch, I clicked on my work to save it and took a lunch break, knowing I still had plenty of time left to finish the article before our friends arrived.

Then after lunch, I opened WordPress to get back to work – and the article I had started was no longer there. Puzzled, I started the process again, still not seeking God’s direction. I remembered the basic outline of the article I had been writing and started a second time to complete the post.

By now, it was almost time for our guests to arrive, so I decided to save my work and come back and do my final edit after our evening plans. I clicked on the article to save the latest draft – and my iPad which I was using to write locked up and again the article disappeared. (I learned later when I received a “Like” on my blog that the lock-up had actually caused my article to post on my blog, well before it was completed.)

This time, God finally had my attention. I stopped and prayed, asking God what was going on. His answer came quickly, “Be still and listen.” As I continued to pray, the message was clear. What I was writing was not His focus for this week’s lesson on gratitude. And my eyes were opened to exactly what had been going on all day. By now, it was time for our guests to arrive, so I shared with Mitch what God had shown me and we had a good laugh and relaxed to enjoy the evening with our friends.

The lesson God taught me on Wednesday was not a new one, but apparently one I was needing a refresher on. The key to walking in the will of God is setting aside our own understanding, being quiet before Him, and listening for His direction. Only then are we ready to step out and follow Him into His purposes. But when we ignore this essential step – in writing, but also in every aspect of living our daily lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord – we will miss the mark. And our efforts will be fruitless.

Today, I’m grateful for the lessons God teaches me as I imperfectly seek to follow Him. He knows us completely, and still loves us with an unending and steadfast love. We will make mistakes, but our blunders don’t have to hinder His plan if we simply choose to remain teachable. When I finally slowed down enough to realize God was trying to get my attention, the lesson came quickly and clearly. And I realized this lesson, not the one I had been trying to write based on my own understanding, was what God wanted me to share this week.

On this Thankful Thursday, I encourage you to slow down and take time to hear from God. Rushing forward based on our own understanding is never the best way to live. Has the Lord ever used your blunders to teach you a lesson in how to effectively walk with Him? If so, feel free to share your experience with us in the comments.

Battling Anxiety by Prayer with Thanksgiving

“BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING , but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians ‭4:6‬ NASB

The above Bible verse has been one of my favorites for many years. I memorized it at least ten years ago. I’ve tried to live it out whenever circumstances came that caused anxiety, even studied Max Lucado’s book Anxious For Nothing last year and found help in overcoming some anxiety I was battling during that time.

Yet when I learned about three weeks ago that our home was no longer insurable due to extensive damage during the last two hurricanes that hit the Houston area – that to have continued insurance coverage on our home we had an estimated $40,000 of repairs (not covered by our insurance company) that we needed to find a way to cover – I still had a major battle with anxiety. Yes, I tried to cast my burdens on the Lord, but the anxiety remained. I prayed, but I still was waking up in the middle of the night feeling so anxious about this situation that I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Knowing I needed to find a way to deal with this before it started causing major problems with my health, I prayed and sensed the Lord speaking to my heart that I needed to reach out for help. We had already shared some of the details of what we are facing with the couple who lead our iConnect Bible Study class at church, so I made a call and explained the problem I was having to my friend Donna.

After listening patiently to my explanation of what had been happening, my friend gave me several practical suggestions to use to conquer my fears. First, she reminded me of the above Scripture. We discussed some of the specific fears that were keeping me awake at night. Donna asked me to make a list of those fears and others that came and then find Scriptures I could use in prayer to combat the nighttime fears. And she reminded me of the second action called for in Philippians 4:6, giving thanks to the Lord in the midst of our current circumstances. She also gave several other practical suggestions, which I’ve been putting into practice.

This was nearly two weeks ago, and nothing in our circumstances has changed. But my outlook on the circumstances has turned 180 degrees. Yes, I’m still having an occasional battle with anxiety keeping me from getting a full night of sleep some nights. But the combination of identifying my fears, reminding myself of what God’s Word says about the things I’m fearing, and looking for things to thank God for in the midst of this situation has made a big difference.

Dr. David Jeremiah, founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, said:

“No matter what our circumstance, we can find a reason to be thankful.”

I don’t believe Philippians 4:6 is telling us to give thanks FOR the problems we are walking through but rather IN the troubles that are causing anxiety. Frankly, I’m not thankful about the damage that happened to our home or the fact that neither the government disaster relief agency nor our insurance company did anything to help after hurricane Harvey last summer. I’m not thankful that our attempt to find a new insurance company that would actually do more than take our money ended up causing our insurance to be cancelled because my husband was honest about the current condition of the house. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to give thanks for in this situation.

I am thankful that the damage to our home last summer did not mean we had to move out, which would have been a huge problem with the medical needs of our son David. Many in the Houston area were not so fortunate. I’m grateful that God provided enough money to repair the leak in the roof so that future rainstorms did not result in even more damage. And I’m thankful for supportive friends who are helping us through this difficult time in a way that encourages us to honor God and His Word. And above all, I’m grateful that God has been with us as we walk through this difficult season, doing a work in both my husband’s life and my life.

Prayer is an important key to getting past our anxious thoughts. But remember when Philippians 4:6 gives us counsel on how to overcome anxiety it adds something to prayer. Thanksgiving.

My husband and I have prayed about our situation, reminding God that without His help there is nothing we can do to turn this around. We are doing the things He has shown us to do. And we are thanking Him daily for His blessings in the midst of the hardship.

Are you currently battling anxiety over some circumstances beyond your control? If so, I want to remind you that they are NOT beyond God’s control. He loves you with an everlasting, steadfast love and He has a track record from Creation till now of faithfulness. So instead of giving in to anxious thoughts, pray. Tell Him what you need. Praise Him for who He is. Thank Him for how He has come through for you in impossible situations in the past. And even look for something you can thank Him for in your current stressful circumstances.

The situation may not change overnight – but I suspect YOU will begin to change. And according to Romans 8:28-29, that’s one way God uses everything we face for our good and His glory, as we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Add giving thanks to your prayers and see what happens.

 

Learning To Be Content

God has been speaking to me this week about being content as I face some difficult circumstances that I am trusting God to take us through. Being content in the way the Bible describes this quality will result in an attitude of gratitude that is unhindered by outward circumstances.

We live in a society that focuses on accumulation and consumption. But God’s Word teaches a different lifestyle, one in which we free ourselves from the world’s insatiable desire for more and learn to be mentally and emotionally satisfied with things as they are.

The Greek word arkeo which is used in most of the New Testament references to contentment, goes a step further than the English definition of being satisfied and not wanting more. According to Vine’s Complete Expository of Old and New Testament Words, “arkeo primarily signifies to be sufficient, to be possessed of sufficient strength, to be strong, to be enough for a thing.” Contentment starts with understanding that in Christ Jesus we have sufficient strength to walk in contentment through whatever circumstances God allows to touch our lives.

Rob Kuban, author of the book Christ-Centered Contentment, sees contentment as “the currency of God’s economy and God’s people.” Biblical contentment, Kuban says, is a commitment to choose Christ over consumption.

“The Bible calls us to allow our convictions, not our circumstances, to govern our sense of contentment. True, biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We are to learn how to walk through all kinds of adversity believing in and experiencing Christ’s sufficiency. We have to choose to rest on God’s good promises despite what may be going on in our lives.”

CONTENTMENT IS CENTERED IN GOD’S PRESENCE

“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” (Heb. 13:5)

CONTENTMENT IS EQUALLY ATTAINABLE IN ABUNDANCE AND IN NEED

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

CONTENTMENT IS POSSIBLE IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

I love this poetic description by American author, speaker, and pastor John Maxwell, which gives a clear picture of the lifestyle of contentment to which the Lord is calling us to walk, in contrast to the life of one who lives in discontentment.

“The contented man looks beyond his circumstances and sees a better day; the discontented man looks at his circumstances and sees no other way.

The contented man understands the purpose for which he was born; the discontented man looks at other’s success with a face that is filled with scorn.

The contented man has surrendered to a purpose that demands his best; the discontented man has selfishly hoarded much and grasping for more, will not rest.

The contented man has placed his values on things which will forever last; the discontented man has placed his values on things which will soon be past.

The contented man is anchored to clear goals and is hardly ever swayed; the discontented man has no goals that anchor him and is many times dismayed.

The contented man counts his blessings and names them one by one; the discontented man counts other’s blessings and thinks he has no fun.”

I’ve spent long enough living in discontentment. According to Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13, we can learn to be content in the midst of circumstances that are not those we would have chosen. Our part is to make that choice, God’s part to enable us to walk it out by His power. I know it’s time for me to make that choice. How about you? With you join me in a commitment to learn to walk in contentment in spite of the challenges you are currently walking through?