Thursday

When your heart is full--how to say "Thanks"


I’ve recently enjoyed spending time with a very special little person. 

Just over a year old, Lauren is a 24-pound bundle of curiosity, wonder, and fun. She reminds me how delightful it is to look at the world with new eyes. Everything’s an adventure. The most mundane objects (dog toys, light switches, and kitchen gadgets) are fascinating and worthy of exploration and investigation.

This isn't Lauren, but apparently she likes strawberries, too.
One fun aspect of hanging out with Lauren is watching her eat. I’m not surprised, really, after an exclusive diet of mommy’s milk for most of her life, that she finds food delightful. 

I love how she interacts with me about her food. If she’s hungry, she asks (as only a one-year-old can) for something to eat or drink. When we sit down to eat, she turns eager eyes toward me, confident that I will share whatever I have. If the steady supply of grapes or strawberries slows, she asks for more. Her trust that I will supply her need and her frequent requests for more fills my heart with happiness. I enjoy being her bountiful provider.

Psalm 116 reminds me God feels the same way.

It’s apparent that the psalmist’s heart was overwhelmed by God’s goodness when he penned this song of gratitude and praise. His thanks just bubbles out:

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low and he saved me. . . You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (v. 8).
 
And because the psalmist is overwhelmed with gratitude, his natural response is to want to do something wonderful for God in return: 

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” He asks. How can I bless God like he’s blessed me?
Listen to the unusual conclusion at which he arrives:

“I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (v. 13).

Lifting up (or celebrating) our salvation makes sense to me, but calling upon the name of the Lord? How does  praying to God express love and gratitude to him? Asking him for more seems like the opposite of thankfulness. 

If a stranger gave me a hundred dollars, I don’t know if he’d feel especially blessed if I said, “Thanks, now may I have another hundred?”

Except God isn’t a stranger. He’s a rich, loving, generous provider who DELIGHTS in giving good gifts to his children (Luke 11:13).

Just like I love sweet baby Lauren, God loves me. Because he loves me, it gives him great pleasure when I come to him in faith and trust to ask for what I need. It gives him even greater pleasure to pour out his provision on me and see me smile.
 
So the next time your heart bubbles up in gratitude because of how God has worked in your life and you want to bless him back, stop and pray. Talk with him about whatever your needs are and trust him to answer your prayers as only he can. 

It will bless him, and it will bless you.

For what are you thankful today? And what are you asking God to do for you in the future? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Monday

Taking my salvation for granted

True story—there was a man who:

Traveled constantly and had no home of his own.

Experienced racial abuse and prejudice.

Was betrayed by co-laborers.

Was sleep deprived.

Was hungry and thirsty, often and for long periods of time.

Lacked proper clothing and shelter.

Went to prison more times than he could count.

Was beaten repeatedly for his faith, sometimes legitimately fearing for his life.

Was whipped with a cat o’ nine tails five times.

Was beaten with rods three times. Was once stoned and left for dead.

Was shipwrecked three times, once spending a day and a night in the sea.

Carried the emotional and spiritual burden for thousands of church members and worked harder than anyone else.

Before he accepted Christ as his Savior and surrendered to the ministry, the apostle Paul had been on the fast track to a lucrative and prestigious career. He traded it for a life that included the experiences I’ve listed above.

When I read about the ways the apostle Paul suffered for his faith in 2 Corinthians 11, I am overwhelmed. If I were Paul, I suspect I’d be whining. Often and loudly.

My dirge would sound like this:

God, life was pretty good before you intervened. Since the day I accepted you as Savior, I’ve had nothing but trouble. People don’t like me. Even my friends don’t understand me. I do what’s right and get in trouble. I don’t have a lot of the stuff others have, and sometimes I even do without basic comforts. I thought having you in my life meant everything would be sunshine and roses. Instead, everywhere I turn, life’s hard. If this is the faith life, I’m not real impressed. 

Instead, listen to what Paul wrote from a Roman prison:

“Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

“. . . this grace was given me: to preach.” 

Paul didn’t see his calling as a burden or a sacrifice; he saw it as a joy. A grace. An awesome privilege. 

And instead of seeing himself as a prize God was lucky to get, listen to how he described himself: “less than the least of all God’s people.”

Paul understood that the greatest thing in the world is to be saved. And the next greatest thing is to be used in God’s service. No matter what it costs us in this life.

Sometimes I’m guilty of forgetting just how lost I really was, but Paul never lost sight of this. Listen to how he describes himself:

“For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” (1 Cor. 15:9).

Paul never got over how lost he was when God saved him

Sometimes I do.

I forget the fear, guilt, confusion, emptiness, and hopelessness of a Christless life. I forget how far away from God I was and how far he had to reach to save me. I forget that I was destined for a Godless eternity in a place called Hell. And I forget the bloody, torturous death Christ suffered in my place.

And I whine that God isn’t serving me well. That life’s too hard. That the promise of future rewards doesn’t compensate for present pain.

And my foolish heart becomes ungrateful.

Until I read Paul’s words, and I remember, as John Piper writes in Taste and See, how it is to feel “that you are justly damned and hopelessly lost and cut off from God and life and joy. Then to learn that God has made a way. That he will forgive you. That he will accept you and love you and work all things for your good. That all your sins can be forgiven and cast into the deepest sea and never brought up against you anymore. Oh, the preciousness of being saved . . . !”



Yes, indeed. The preciousness of being saved.



How about you? Is it easy to forget what life was life before Christ? How do you keep the joy of your salvation fresh? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. 






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Thursday

Why do we forget His power when the evidence is all around us?



O LORD my God! When I in awesome wonder




Consider all the works Thy hand hath made;





I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,






Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed:






When through the woods and forest glades

I wander







And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;






When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,






And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze:






Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!



Remembering that the same God who created the universe and holds the stars in place
cares for you and me.

He is powerful.
He is wise.
He is good.

Why do we fear? 

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made," (Rom. 1:20).

What truth about God does his creation remind you of? Share it by leaving a comment below and bless us all.

(My husband and I recently enjoyed a 30th anniversary trip to Canada and New England, including my home town of Bristol, Rhode Island. These are a few of our photographs.)



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