Exceedingly Thankful


Over the past year, and especially the past month, I have thought a lot about the idea of being thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). From leading prayer zone at the last home football game of the season, to many conversations with friends, to my own knowledge of my circumstances and all that God is doing in and through them. But really?! We're supposed to be thankful in ALL circumstances?

When everything is going well in life, we are getting our way, and we "feel" blessed, gratitude comes easily. It makes sense to be thankful in those circumstances. And then, there are those other times. You know, when things aren't going our way, it's all bad and no good in sight, and we feel like we are being punished for some reason (NOTE: that's not how God works).

Are we really supposed to be thankful when we don't seem to have much to be thankful for?

I have preached for years that "our circumstances do not compromise His character". What we go through in this life does not change Who He is. God on the mountain is still God in the valley. He is God. He is good. Even if and when my circumstances are not.

Having been through a pretty challenging year this year, I have had plenty of time to reflect on all of this. All I've been through. What I really believe about Who God is. In doing so, reflecting on this past year, difficult as it has been, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving.

I don't have to be thankful FOR everything that happens to me. You don't either. Some stuff just isn't fair and can be plain hurtful.

I can, however, choose to be thankful IN whatever circumstance I find myself in. Why?

Because, "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28). Not all things are good. I believe our God specializes in bringing good out of big messes. After all, He turned a blood stained cross into an empty tomb! He can do the same thing in our lives. Bringing good out of even our most tragic circumstances. Beauty for ashes.

Not for all things, but in everything, give thanks.

I am exceedingly thankful.

17 YEARS

November 13th, 1999 I asked Jesus to save me. That was 17 years ago today. As I think about my journey with Jesus, it has been full of great moments. The kind of moments that fill you with pride, gratitude, and great joy. I have gotten to participate in some pretty amazing ministry endeavors in the last 17 years.

I can also look back on some times that were not so pretty.

It is easy, and even normal with the way social media is used, to romanticize our journey with Christ. You know what I mean. Seriously, who wants to hear about our weaknesses? Who wants to hear about those moments when life is hard? Who wants to hear about our failures?

I'm tired of all that. No wonder people are so disenfranchised with the church. We can maintain a facade of perfection but people see through that.

I have walked with Jesus for 17 years. 12 of those years I have served Him actively in ministry.

That sounds awesome, right.

What you don't is that over the course of these years, I have done many things I am not proud of. Sometimes even blatantly doing things I know to be wrong or sinful.

Today, I am reminded how incredibly thankful I am for my salvation. I am thankful for God's patience with me and I am thankful for his grace, that not only saved me 17 years ago, but continues to save me today.

My relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in my life. Today, I approach every other relationship I have with a renewed sense of purpose as I intend to honor Jesus any way I can as I love the folks he has placed in my life. I want to be a better husband, father, and friend because of Jesus. I want those I love to experience His love through me.

By God's grace, it will happen.

Day by day.

Step by step.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Hebrews 10:14

THOUGHTS FROM C.S LEWIS

I have a few devotion books I try to read each day. Sometimes a few days creeps by between picking them up. Among these is a "A Year with C.S. Lewis".

As I read this evening, I began to think about the world we live in.

It would be easy to paint a picture of the world as being hopelessly evil.

With the advancement of technology we have an ever increasing knowledge of what is happening in any corner of the globe almost instantly. We know more of the evil that happens now more than ever before.

Let's not even mention the way the media sensationalizes every story to fit their agenda.

Having said that, here is my reading from today in my Lewis' devotional. This reading was accompanied my the heading/title The Real Test:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”


― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


May we aim to see God moving in the midst of the most evil circumstance. Let us be quick to be relieved instead of wishing "that black was a little blacker".

In a world of much bad, there is much good to be found. Look for it. As you do, you will likely see God doing what He does best. Working out "all things" for good. Turning messes into miracles.

POINT AT YOURSELF

We live in a world where it is normal, and even accepted, to blame others. Even when WE are in the wrong. Blame shifting is a way to divert attention away from us and place it anywhere else. To avoid the conflict, awkwardness, embarrassment, tension, etc.

This is so common that we even read scripture for ammo and utilize it as a weapon.

The Bible works best when it is personalized. Not used to launch an assault on others.

When you open the Bible asking God to speak to you, it is amazing how little time you have to point fingers at others.

Look at this verse as one example:

"Search ME, God, and know MY heart; test ME and know MY anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in ME, and lead ME in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

You see that. Our prayers and our studies of scripture are intended to be personal. Only then are we in a position to help others.

We need to make sure that we are not pointing out faults in others without addressing our own faults. That makes us look like busybodies who do not practice what we preach.



Before you, or I, point our fingers in condemnation, let us commit to first pointing at ourselves. Evaluating and comparing our own lives to God's standard before taking aim at our friends and others.

Point at yourself. You may learn something. You may discover your greatest, most challenging, most rewarding project.

get real

We are living in a society of impostors. Everybody everywhere is pretending to be someone or something they are not.

I believe much of this is due to how consumed we are by social media.

It's easy to show people the stuff we want them to see. It's just as easy to hide those things we don't want folks to see. Sorta like sweeping stuff under the rug. It's all still there. We just hide it and pretend it is not.

I'm not a fan of that.

I know how messed up I am. I know how messed up my friends are. The only people we really fool are those who don't really know us that well.

Each of us were created uniquely and specifically by God. We all have different talents and abilities. We all have different hangups and shortcomings.

Let's embrace who we are and where we are in life. God is not interested in the fake version of me and He is not interested in the fake version of you. He can't use that.

The masquerade ends one person at a time, as we choose to be real.

I'm taking off the mask. Will you join me?

Silver Linings pt 2

We all have a big grey cloud we COULD focus on.  You know, all the negative aspects of our situations & circumstances.  

I believe with all my heart that those who make the greatest difference in this life are those that focus not on the cloud, but the silver lining, the bright spots in those things we face.

There is ALWAYS a silver lining.

Sometimes the shiny stuff is obvious.  We just have to choose to focus on the positive over the negative.  

Often, life can seem so overwhelming that it gets really difficult to find or focus on anything good.  We pray for God to give us a break (as we yell, or whine, or scream, or cry....).  It is not uncommon for a friend or someone outside our mess to be the one to bring something positive to our attention.

The band Kutless tells us in their song "What Faith Can Do" that we have "gotta face the clouds, to find the silver lining.". 

We must face our clouds.  Even our darkest ones.  In doing so, we can see how strong we are.  We can be shaped by the trial.  

We can choose to let our cloud make us better.  We can choose to search out that silver lining & be positive in the midst of negative chaos.  

As we do this & journey through life, others will look at us astonished.  

They might even question how we do it.

Silver Linings part 1

 
"Every cloud has a silver lining".  Generally this phrase is tossed around as someone is facing a difficult circumstance or trying season in life.

The truth contained in this little phrase is transforming if we choose to look for those "silver linings".  

As I served in Iraq I dealt with a man in a leadership position over me.  He did not like me.  I ended up losing rank.  

One night at dinner one of my soldiers was giving me a hard time about it.  I looked up & said, "it's ok.  I still have a hot wife & a cute kid & they don't care what rank is on my chest".  

As I continued eating this soldier responded, "D*** it Clark!  How do you ALWAYS do that?!".  "What?", I asked.  He said, "No matter what happens you always find a silver lining!".  

As I reflected on that chow time conversation I thought of something profound.

Everyone has a big, grey cloud they COULD focus.  

The folks that make the greatest difference & have the biggest impact in THIS life are those who choose to focus on the silver lining.

Look for part 2 sometime this week.  Love y'all.