Grateful Gains

imageUnfortunately, writing thank you notes seems to be a fading gesture. However, we must admit it’s nice when we receive one. As such, my wife and I make grand efforts to ensure our children send thank you notes anytime they receive gifts.

Similarly, how often do we thank God for all the gifts He bestows upon us everyday? From sunrise to sunset, we are all recipients of God’s gift of life. Yet, how often do we take each morning for granted? Even though we may be facing enormous difficulties and challenges, there are various ways we can still demonstrate our gratitude for all we have:

Appreciation: Whenever we take the time to appreciate something, its value to us increases. Thus, when we seek to find and acknowledge those things we appreciate in God, others and in our life the value we place on them goes up. Additionally, when our appreciation increases, so does our desire to maximize all of God’s opportunities (Philippians 3:14).

Reciprocation: When we reciprocate something, we return the gesture. However, how can we possibly return to God all He gives to us? Although the answer is simple, it can be hard. We are to render unto God what is His, care for the needs of others and share our gifts for the benefit of others (Isaiah 58:6-7). No doubt, in a world dominated by self-interests, this can be difficult, but as we quickly learn, we can never out-give God. For our supply is limited – His is endless.

Depreciation: The opposite of appreciation is depreciation, which means rather than valuing a gift, we devalue it by disregarding, or taking it for granted. As a result, its potential worth in our life is depreciated and missed. For example, we may no longer see our time, talents, treasures and testimonies as gifts, but as burdens, or entitlements. When we fail to acknowledge them as valued assets God has given us to invest wisely, the result is depreciation and waste (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

Application: “Taking Grace For Granted?” – Psalm 103:10
Grace has been described as something given that isn’t deserved. It’s like a police officer not giving a ticket even though the speed limit was broken. Likewise, God gives us what we don’t deserve every second of the day. Therefore, may our hearts rejoice in humble appreciation for such amazing grace that saves, loves and heals each and every day.

Restless For Rest?

I recall being so restless during the early days of my career. I would go to the beach and dream of ways I could make enough money to buy one of those beach homes, get one of those yachts and acquire the “good life”. When I was at work, I was always striving to be number one. Whether as a producer, or team leader, number two was never good enough. I had to climb higher, go faster and get bigger. Looking back, I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at the waste of time and energy! Why? I think the story of one man highlights it well. 

He was a speaker at a conference I recently attended and shared how he made over $3.5 million in the market, but in the process, suffered through two divorces and four open heart surgeries. His question was, “does anyone think it was worth it“? Obviously, no one did, but I was once quickly heading in the same direction. However, by the grace of God, He got my attention before I faced the same fate. Thankfully, God offers us One true way to receive the rest our restless souls crave and relief from life’s three primary stressors:

Work: Why do we work? Just to make money, buy bigger toys and accumulate fancy titles? When we realize our identity is not tied to what we do, or what we make, but in Christ, we are released from such strongholds. Then, our work becomes gateways to make a difference for others, encourage others and reflect Christ to others (Psalm 90:17).

Wealth: What is wealth? Is it just money? Thankfully, it’s much more than that. Wealth is how well we steward what we have and what we’ve been given. For example, one can be given $1 million and/or good health and they may squander it all. Likewise, someone with $100 and/or a physical handicap might maximize what they’ve been given. So it is with the treasures we receive from God. For we’ve all been given time, talents, treasures and testimonies to either squander, or invest wisely (Proverbs 11:24). Wealth is realizing these gifts are all His and in seeking His guidance to advance them for His glory.

Wonders: Many are restless for that next “high”. These are the wonderful moments that happen to us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. Thus, when the wonders grow stale, new thrills are sought after. However, with Christ there are never any shortages of thrills. For He fills us with His Spirit, and despite our ups and downs, He grants us the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). We also gain the qualities of perseverance and perspective – which allows us to see things with an eternal “Word view” rather than a short term world view.

Application: “One Way Works” – John 14:6
Ultimately, restlessness stems from a restless heart. Thus, there is no pill, thrill, skill and/or deal that can satisfy a person’s heart, life and spirit like Jesus Christ. For He is the one way that truly works.

Less Of Me

I realize I may be one of the few folks under fifty who genuinely enjoys listening to the Statler Brothers, especially their gospel music. One my favorite songs they recorded is Less Of Me. It’s clear to know what it’s about simply by its title. I appreciate it because focusing on others more than myself at times can be harder than I like to admit. However, it becomes easier when I refocus my sights on Christ and rely on His power to make me all He has called me to be:

Kinder: We’ve all heard “nice guys finish last”. However, I recently shared a conversation with a lady who confessed her friend reminded her that “nice girls don’t get the corner office”. So, why do we think to get ahead, achieve success and win competitively, we have to get nasty, mean and look out solely for ourselves. Clearly, this is an opposing view to the words of God. For He reminds us to help, love, encourage and be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). So, which is it? Is it what the world says, or what the Word says? May we be wise enough to realize true success and wisdom resides with Christ.

Meeker: I have heard meekness described as “power restrained”. And a good example of this definition is Jesus Christ. For He could have easily destroyed His attackers and avoided persecution, but He restrained in doing so and instead demonstrated even greater power in sacrificing His life for all people, including those who hated Him most. However, He is God. So, how can we possibly begin to demonstrate meekness in our own lives? Afterall, it’s easy to believe that if we become kinder and meeker people will begin to run over us. Yet, in the long run, this simply isn’t true. For if God is in ultimate control and has each of us here for a purpose, His commands to us are not void of power. Thus, by obeying and trusting Him over the world’s lies, we receive the blessings only He can give in living life more abundantly (Matthew 5:5).

Blinder: Christ restores our sight. For we were once blinded by sin, but now we see in faith. Yet, I pray to be blinder to the flaws and shortcomings of others. In other words, I don’t want to judge them and see their imperfections as greater than my own (Luke 6:42). This is how we can begin to love our enemies. We see beyond their behavior and to the person. A person with a spirit, and a person with pains, struggles and scars – a person blinded by sin. This is when I pray to be blinded to judging them and instead more open to loving them.

Application: “More Of Him” – John 3:30
Becoming kinder, meeker and blinder is a mindset and behavioral change we simply aren’t strong enough to accomplish on our own. We need help – frankly, we need transformation. We need more of Him, and less of us. We need His Spirit working through us to be kinder, His power released in us to be meeker and His grace flowing through us to be blinder to the flaws of others. To quote the Apostle Paul, “thank God for this indescribable gift”!

Surf’s Up!

Learning to surf can be challenging. For one, we will undoubtedly fall and crash. However, many eager to learn get right back up for the chance to take on another wave. Why? For the thrill of catching and then riding a wave to shore is hard to match. Even if we body surf, there’s nothing like having the power of the ocean propel you forward. Personally, I love the beach and especially going there with my family. For it’s a huge playground where we jog, ride bikes and play endlessly in the sand, sun and surf. It’s also a blessed time of praise and worship where we marvel at God’s creation, read truth-filled books, pray and go “coastin with the motion of the ocean”. However, I also appreciate how I approach and respond to life there and how I can take that approach with me everywhere I go in at least three primary ways:

Attitude: Our attitude and perspective to the things that happen to us have a tremendous impact on our ultimate outlook and response to life. For a surfer the thrill and challenge of catching a wave outweighs any concerns they may have of crashing and/or encountering unpleasant ocean creatures. Likewise, may we face life with the same attitude as we trust God and His direction (Psalm 31:3). For even though we too will encounter unpleasantries at work and in life overall, the thrill of walking with Christ is the ultimate thrill of a lifetime and those irritants shouldn’t keep us from the adventure.

Adventure: We can be confident in knowing God wants what is best for us. He doesn’t desire we settle for anything less than His best. This is why He shares so much truth and direction for us and gave His only Son so that none may perish. As we accept this truth, we then get to go on grand adventures designed by God. Just like going to the ocean allows my family to enjoy various adventures together, as God’s children, He has endless adventures He wants to take us on (Isaiah 6:8). The question is, will we go where He leads?

Announcement: Once we experience something we love, like surfing, it’s difficult not to share it with others, either by talking about it, or encouraging others to experience it. This too is much like our walk with Jesus. Once we experience Him and His love, we can’t help but speak of it and share it with others (Psalm 30:12). We become advocates with passion, sincerity and authenticity. 

Application: “Hang Loose” – Mark 4:19
Why do we get so uptight about things? “Hang Loose” is a familiar Hawaiian expression commonly used by surfers that reminds and encourages others to relax and stay calm. Likewise, the Bible instructs us repeatedly to not fear, not worry, take courage and trust God. It also tells us the cares of this world can choke this truth from us. Therefore, may we too learn the value of staying calm as we walk with Christ. Undoubtedly, there will always be times we crash into the waves of life, but may we always be eager to get back up trusting the adventures He has in store for us are glorious thrills that empower us to greater advocacy for His redeeming truth.