Our ONLY Response is Gratitude

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

I have been working on my upcoming Kids Discipleship lesson. We are starting in Genesis with the creation story, and every time I read it, the Spirit reveals something new to me.

Not only did God create the world from a vast void of nothingness, He created it specifically and perfectly for us. From the moisture in the air to the nutrients in the earth, He created it for you. From the plants in the forests creating oxygen, to the smallest creatures in the ocean processing carbon dioxide, He created it for me. The water we drink, the air we breathe, the stars we admire, and the depths we explore, He created it for each and every one of us to live in and enjoy.

We, of course, realize this intellectually; that God created all there is. However, how much of that creation do we actually give Him credit for? Do we give Him credit for our jobs? Do we give Him credit for our homes, our families, the air we breathe, our very lives? Do we give Him credit for our success, our talents, our skills? The fact is that nothing we have or do is because of us. We can’t take credit for anything in our lives. Everything that is…is because of Him. When you can really internalize that, you begin (with the help of the Spirit) to understand that the only response we have is gratitude.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33

If we know that God is going to provide for us what we need (emphasis on need), and we know that everything we have is from Him, and created specifically for us, then why do we spend so much of our time and energy allowing discontent to seep into our joy because enough is never enough?

From the very beginning God created a perfect environment for people to enjoy. There was plenty and God was present with them. But, when faced with the option of more, having enough quickly became not enough, and the result was catastrophic. Eve may not have died as soon as she ate the apple, but because of her disobedience, death came into the world. Adam may have taken the apple from Eve, but he took it just the same. All of the favor, provision, and blessings of God weren’t enough…they (we) want more.

The Apostle Paul shares his perspective, I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

Have you noticed that most people don’t seem happy? They believe that happiness will be found after they’ve purchased the larger house, the newer car, found the perfect partner, obtained the promotion, reached a million followers, etc. Only to find out that once they have it, there is something more to strive for. Enough is never enough, and they never take time to be content with what they have. Always striving, always looking for fulfillment and satisfaction, never achieving that which they ultimately long for.

I’m not saying we should just stand still, and God will provide for all our needs, I’m saying that we should be grateful for what He has provided to each of us, and do all we can every day with what we have to give him praise and glory. Our lives should always point to Him.  We should do the best we can at our jobs whether as a cashier or a CEO, giving praise and thanksgiving every day.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Joy is found in gratitude. Gratitude that stems from knowing that God created us intentionally and provides for us the same way. He is neither slow nor stingy in His provision. When we order or lives correctly, giving all we have to His service, He will provide all we need. That doesn’t mean that we’ll be living high on the hog, it doesn’t mean we’ll have everything we want, it doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties and challenges. On the contrary, the life of a Christ follower is fraught with trials, but it does mean we are never alone, and that God will provide us what we need, when we need it. It means we can experience a bit of His Kingdom here on earth.

Lord, teach us the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. We can do all this through you who gives us strength. ~Amen~

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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Altar of Thanksgiving

Close-up Of Gratitude Word With Pen On Notebook Over Wooden Desk

Throughout Old Testament Scripture we read that altars were created to commemorate some act that God performed on behalf of His people. Whether it was to mark the creation of a covenant, celebrate a victory, remember a promise, mourn a defeat, or forge a relationship, altars were created to memorialize what God had done for His people so they would not forget, so they would remember and have something to point to when sharing with their children and their children’s children.

An altar was a sacred place; it was where we came to make offerings and to atone for our sins. It is where we laid down our burdens and our sins and came clean before God. The altar of God was a place without pretense or pride, we humbled ourselves before God and acknowledged our lack, our inability, our weakness, and utter brokenness.

In our churches today, altars are seen much the same. The altar is a place where we come forward seeking forgiveness, provision, strength, guidance, and interceding for those we love. In our churches the altar has become a place where we bear our deepest pain, struggles, desires, failures, and fatigues. It’s not to wonder that the altar has become known as the mourner’s bench or the sinner’s rail, a place one comes to when they’ve sinned or need help, but this is exactly what the altar is for! God wants for us to come to Him with our troubles, He want to be the balm that soothes our weary souls, He wants to offer forgiveness, and discernment, and direction. God wants us to come to His altar with all our troubles and to lay them down.

The altar is a place of release, a place where we can unburden our hearts to the one who already knows everything and loves us regardless. The one who died for us even while we were living in our sin and brokenness. It is no wonder that people are drawn to the altar when they don’t believe they have any place else to turn.

I love Christmas movies! I love the feelgood nature of the, and there seems to be an unlimited number of movies to make you shed tears of joy. I’ve noticed that when it comes to Christmas movies, most of them, at some point, find the protagonist at a church, at an altar, asking God for help, for guidance, for Him to intercede in a miraculous way. In some cases, it is just a plea for a sign to show God is there. The altar is so much more than a place or a thing. It is where we come to meet God. It is where some of us have made life altering decisions, experienced the Holy Spirit in a way that is inexpressible. It is a place where we not only come to meet God, but also a place where we can point to and say, “that spot right there is where I met Jesus for the first time.”

We have a lot of altar calls happening in churches right now. If your church is like my church, we are opening the altars every week as a place for people to come forward and meet God. Whatever the reason, they come with their heads in their hands, tears streaming down their face, knowing that awaiting them are the loving arms of the Father. Each week, people walk forward to seek forgiveness, ask for provision, seek wisdom and direction for challenges in their lives. The altar is part of our public worship and a sharing of our deepest hurts in a safe community that loves and supports us.

While thinking about this today, I began to wonder why our altars are a mourner’s bench and a sinner’s rail, and not a seat of worship and praise? Why do our altars see more tears of brokenness than tears of joy?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100

While this year has been incredibly hard for millions and millions of people. I have been trying to focus on all the ways that God has continued to bless me, my family, friends, and my church. Trying to see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. God is teaching me patience, grace, and more patience. During all the hardship, fear, anxiety, struggles, and feelings of absolute inadequacy in the face of so much, God has remained faithful. Each day I find something else to praise God for, some new way He has blessed me, or that I just hadn’t noticed before.

I want to go to the altar, not to ask or to receive but to give to God the only thing I have, my praise, my gratitude, my thanksgiving. What an amazing testimony it would be if just one Sunday, instead of opening the altar for people to bring their wants and needs, instead to bring their praise and worship. What a witness to have a church full of people fill the front of the room around the altar to just thank God for all He is doing in their lives, amid their troubles, in the midst of uncertainty, in the middle of the mess, we thank God for all He has done to bless our lives, to show us favor, to provide for our needs, and to never leave or forsake us.

A church full of people, on their knees at the altar of God just giving praise and thanksgiving?

The altar of God is always open, the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts so we don’t actually have to go to a place to ask for forgiveness, provision, peace and direction. We can do that from anywhere. On our knees at our bedside or an altar in the church. The important part is to go there. My challenge to each of us is to remember that along with our requests, along with our wants and needs, we should always remember to thank, in advance and with expectation the one to whom we owe all things.