Saturday, November 24, 2012

Give Thanks

by Andrew Cromwell

During this season it is traditional to give thanks. A popular activity on Facebook this month is to post “what I am thankful for” each day. The holiday serves as a wonderful reminder to us that we need to live with an outward focus rather than an inward focus.

In order to give thanks, we must first recognize that there is someone apart from us that has given us something. This recognition is actually bigger than it may sound at first because far too often we live our lives as if we are the only one in the universe. I suppose in a sick, twisted kind of way, just the reverse is also true for some people — they see themselves at the center of the universe and so they are unsurprised (and not particularly grateful) when things come their way.
Perhaps more importantly, in order to be truly thankful we must recognize that we have a need — that we are missing something. It is not that you can’t be grateful for something you don’t need (like that special Christmas sweater from grandma), but there is a whole other level of thankfulness when we receive a gift that truly meets a need (like the gift of help when we just won’t be able to finish that project all on our own).

Scripture says that every good gift comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). In other words, God is the origin and cause of every good thing in the universe. Without him, we could not have good things to begin with. He was the One who gave the first gift and made it possible to give every other gift. So when we give thanks this season, we should remember who is the true source of every good gift.

When we give thanks to our Father in heaven, our thanksgiving is deeper and more meaningful. Psalms 136 says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” As we move away from Thanksgiving and into the Christmas season, let’s decide not to leave the spirit of thanks behind. Instead, live with a spirit of thanksgiving each and every day, recognizing the One and true source of all good things in our life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Not Be Thankful?

by Tim Howard 

Next week many families and friends will gather for a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our country has set aside one day on our calendar each year to remind us of the importance of giving thanks.  One day to press the pause button and say: THANK YOU GOD for all you have done.

Among many statements found in the Bible about thanks and praise, David said in Psalms. 92:1 “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.”

It’s good because it opens the door for a heart of gratitude to grow within each of us. Giving thanks is something you say and do but gratefulness is a condition of the heart. An Attitude of Gratitude flourishes when life is lived with thankfulness.

Not only that but it replaces the ugly sounds of criticism, sarcasm and complaining with the reverberation of joy, hope and appreciation. Granted, there’s much to complain about but when you realize over half the world earns less than $2.00 a day; no more than 5% of the world population owns a home and the majority don’t have a car to drive, maybe we have more to be thankful for than we realize.

People who complain and criticize continually are not fun to be around. Thankful people, however, bring a fresh perspective because they are content with what they have and don’t worry about the things they have yet to obtain. They bring joy because they choose to fill their mouths with praise rather than complaints. They create an atmosphere of levity because they accentuate the positive. A grateful heart expressed through thankful words and demonstrated with acts of love will change the atmosphere around you.

Jesus asked a very important question worth answering when he was on his way to Jerusalem. The narrative is found in Luke chapter 17. It was the time he healed ten people stricken with leprosy.  He spoke a word of healing and here’s what happened:  “And as they went on their way, the leprosy disappeared. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done… Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where is the other nine?

Maybe the nine didn’t return because they failed to realize the part Jesus played in their healing. Why give thanks to God when it was just lucky or happenstance? Failing to realize God’s involvement stifles thanksgiving.

Then again, maybe they were so caught up in the present moment and their new found health they simply forget the goodness of God.

It’s easy to lose a spirit of thanks at any time. Especially when you experience hurricane type winds and huge amounts of rainfall that creates flooding like the recent experiences of those on the East coast.

Whatever the case may be, Romans 1:21 reveals what happens when people fail to give thanks: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their views of life, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Thanksgiving will blow the clouds of darkness away and keeps the lights on. Only then will you see life through positive lenses.

As I approach Thanksgiving Day next week, I’m going to invite family and friends to enjoy a common meal. I plan to give every person the opportunity to give thanks to the Lord. As you celebrate, why not give thanks? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reality Check

by Andrew Cromwell

Every once in a while it is a good idea to make sure that you are living in reality. My impression is that there are many people who don’t do this often enough and they walk around with a false set of beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs are harmless, even if wrong (like believing there’s a frog on a log on a hole in the middle of the sea). Other times, wrong beliefs can cost you great grief and suffering (like believing that the stock market will always go up in the long run).

There are a few beliefs that it is incredibly important for us to get right. If we get these wrong, we risk losing everything. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body, be afraid only of God.” We spend a lot of time worrying and being afraid of so many things, but if we can get a few things straight, then everything else will fall into place.

There is a popular belief these days that sincere belief equals true belief. We hear this expressed all the time when people say things like, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” What this means is that people want the freedom to pick and choose the elements of spirituality that they like but they do not want to be bothered with the parts they don’t like.

People want to be able to talk to God, but don’t want to be told that they have to change their life. They want to do spiritual stuff—light a candle, spread a prayer rug, quote a verse—but they don’t want to have to do difficult stuff—adjust their behavior, change the way they talk to others, pray when they don’t feel like it.

People want to believe sincerely that God is okay with them and their life.

But what if He isn’t? What if God isn’t okay with the pick and choose, consumer oriented spirituality? What if sincere belief is just not enough? What if He requires more from us?

Well, if He does, then we had better change our perspective!

I am inclined to believe that when one reads the Bible, there is a picture that emerges of a God who is loving and powerful and who wants to have a relationship with all human beings. But in order for that relationship to happen, we humans have to hand him the direction of our life. We have to be willing to put him in the driver’s seat.

The trouble is, we like the driver’s seat. I know that I do! But I have found that when I let Him drive, the trip is always better. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012


by Tim Howard 

Lily Tomlin once said: "Why is it that when we talk to God we are said to be praying. And when God talks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?" People who struggle with schizophrenia may experience auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions among other things. Unfortunately, people who admit they hear from God are often put into a similar category. If you admit to others you hear from God, be prepared for strange looks.

The answer of course is that people do all kinds of stupid things and blame it on God. God told me this… Two days later God changed his mind and told me something different… Many who have claimed to hear God are locked away because they are self-delusional. Everyone who claims to hear God accurately doesn’t! 

Communication is difficult on a human level so it stands to reason communicating with God will require a learning curve. Just because we don’t always hear God’s voice accurately, that shouldn’t stop us from communicating with Him anymore than it would if we were communicating with anyone else.

Husbands and wives have trouble communicating! I don’t always get it when my wife speaks. I’m sure she wonders if I will ever ‘get it.’ I sometimes misunderstand, misinterpret or just simply miss her point. That doesn’t mean we stop speaking and sharing on various levels. We continue to learn each other’s love language so we can communicate on an intimate level. 

In the Bible, 1 Samuel chapter 3 records a narrative of a young man named Samuel who didn’t know how to distinguish God’s voice. The account is not only interesting but it helps us gain some insight in regards to hearing God. Here are a few things we can glean: 

1. God is speaking but we don’t always recognize his voice. Samuel finally figured it out with the help of an old Priest named Eli. It’s always wise to check with other people who have walked with God for some time when you think God is speaking. They can help you discern his voice.

2. You will hear more clearly if you stop speaking and listen more intently. The Priest told Samuel: “If the Lord speaks again say, speak my Lord for your servant is listening.” Too often we view prayer as only talking to God. A monologue rather than a dialogue. Too often we say: “Listen my Lord for your servant speaks. You can’t hear God if you don’t stop yapping…

3. Samuel was at rest when God spoke. We live in a noisy world where it’s sometimes hard to hear God above the commotion. Do you know what most of us do with silence? Fill it! We fill it with noise. God can speak through the noise, or even over it, but usually, He waits for us to be quiet. Take a time out and press the pause button in your life. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10.

4. Samuel was in the Temple when God spoke. I personally believe God can speak to you while you are mowing your lawn, fixing the car, shopping for a new dress or taking a shower but meeting with others in a Church setting is important. It is so significant that the author of Hebrews in the New Testament said: Don’t neglect getting together with those who believe in Christ.