Saturday, November 29, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude

by Tim Howard

Thanksgiving Day celebration may be over but giving thanks should never end. Every day is an opportunity to express thanks and grow an attitude of gratitude. 

If you are going to give thanks every day, you will need to focus on what is good. Paul the apostle says it this way:  “… friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Phil. 4:8.  When you do this, you are able to give thanks.

You see what you look for! If you look for the good, you will find it. If you look for the bad you will find that. There are a lot of good things happening all around us but with all the negativity in the press and the preoccupation with the dark side of life, it’s difficult to stay focused on the things Paul mentions.

The challenge is great but remembering to give thanks is imperative. When you stop giving thanks you open the door for a downward spiral to occur. This happened to some people and it’s recorded in Romans chapter one. They knew there was a God but they didn’t respect Him, they didn’t give Him any of their time and they stopped giving thanks – thinking they didn’t need Him. The result was devastating. You can read about it in Romans 1:24-32. Their unwillingness to give thanks to God opened the door for a critical spirit and judgment.  When people forget the blessings they have received, the temptation to complain and criticize increases.

I remember reading an article by Jay Leno. He wrote:  “Are the American people complaining because they have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter?  Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?  Or perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home.  You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings.”  Maybe we have forgotten how blessed we are!

Giving thanks and offering praise is a discipline - a deliberate focusing of our thoughts on that which is good. King David made this commitment: Every day I’m going to find something to praise God for. I will never stop looking for good because God is good. It is always the season to give praise. I too have made that commitment. I don’t thank God for everything that happens because everything isn’t good but in the midst of everything I do commit myself to giving thanks. Why? Because God uses everything to grow us up. He even uses the bad things to accomplish His purposes.

You and I would be wise to end our day with thanks to God and begin our day with praise. Remember this as you walk through the Christmas season at a frantic pace. It will help you stay on track and develop an Attitude of Gratitude. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

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 15, 2014

Back to the Future

by Tim Howard

Back in 1996 a television program aired called – ‘Early Edition.’ The main character would somehow receive a Newspaper – delivered to his house that would give him tomorrow’s news.

What would you do if you had an inside track on tomorrow’s news?

If you were a gambler you might be tempted to bet on a few football games and make a killing or possibly you would use the information to help someone in trouble. Whether it is for selfish gain or selfless benevolence, that knowledge would be used!

Everyone has a desire to know some things about the future.

Will my newborn be a girl or a boy? I want to plan ahead. Back in my day, you didn’t have that ability. You had to wait till delivery day. Would you want to know the specific day you will die, whom you will marry or whether or not a business opportunity will succeed? The list of things could be endless.

Everyone has a reaction to the future. In Luke 2, Mary became afraid when she was told about her future. In John 21, Peter didn’t’ like what Jesus revealed and wanted to change it. Gideon had a lot of questions and doubts and I’m sure the future causes you to experience a variety of responses and reactions.

Many in our culture seem obsessed with the future. They peer into crystal balls, read tea leaves, research horoscopes or go to someone who claims to be gifted with the ability to see the future.

Solomon, however, says: “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?" Ecclesiastes 8:7, The only correct answer is God! If you want to know about the future, you have to go back to God’s Word.

Here are 3 things God says you should not do in regards to your future:

1.  "Don’t presume about tomorrow!
James 4:13-14 “Now listen, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen.”

2.  "Don’t panic about tomorrow!
" Jesus says: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matt 6:34). Even though things are beyond your control, they are not out of His control.

3 "Don’t procrastinate until tomorrow."
Solomon said: "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done." You haven’t been guaranteed tomorrow – only today. I read this poem last week: "Procrastination is my sin. It only brings me sorrow. I know I ought to change my life. And I will – tomorrow”.

Here are 3 things God says you should do in regards to your future:

1.  Stay close to God. He’s the only one who knows the future and the only one who can lead you to victory.

2. Get ready for the future by obeying God. He will use your obedience as His pen to write your future – Your future hasn’t been written yet.

3. Trust God and step out in faith. Prov. 3:5-7  “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.

Run to GOD! Run from evil! This will give you a bright future…

Do I need to be afraid of what’s ahead? Not if I know God and go back to His Word and discover His future for me!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Failing Forward

by Andrew Cromwell

Proverbs says, “The godly may trip 7 times, but they will get up again.” When it comes to failure, the difference between the godly and the wicked are that the godly keep getting back up and pressing on.
Have you ever failed? Failed to keep a promise? Failed to follow through? Maybe you had a business venture fail. Or you had a marriage fail. We have all experienced failure at some level. Some failures threaten to be life shattering and we wonder if we will ever be able to recover.

When we fail, our tendency is generally either to look for someone to blame or to run and hide. We like to play the blame game because it makes us feel better about ourselves. If we can blame someone or something else, then we don’t have to take an honest look at the role we played in the failure. If we run and hide, it is because we don’t want to be hurt again and so we stop taking chances.

Both responses are just wrong. When we choose to blame or run, we simply steal our opportunity to grow through the failure. The attitude we want is the one Thomas Edison had, when at the age of 67 nearly his entire workshop was destroyed in a fire. He said, "There is value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Now we can start anew."

The next time you face failure, let me suggest three strategies that will help you fall forward rather than stumble backward.

First, ask yourself, “What do I know?” You need to know that failure is not final. You need to know that God wants to work in your failure, if you will only invite Him into it. He is not surprised by our failure even when we are. And He always offers us grace and help in the midst of our brokenness. You need to know that Jesus is in your corner -- are you in His?

Second, ask yourself, “How can I grow?” There is always an opportunity for growth in every difficult experience. C.S. Lewis said, “Failures are sign posts on the road to achievement.” No great man or woman accomplished anything without also experiencing great failure. The key is to learn and grow through it. What must change in our character, our behavior, our beliefs and our motives?

Third, ask yourself, “What do I show?” There are people that whine and cry and throw a fit when the going gets tough. And then there are those who have decided that they are going to see their difficulty as an opportunity to demonstrate grace, humility and strength. I am not talking about putting on a false face and acting as if everything is ok. Rather, I am talking about choosing to lean on God’s power in such a way that He shines through, even when we are broken, battered, and bruised. What shows in you when you fail?