Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How to be Transformed by the Discipline of Thanksgiving ... Part I

Before Thanksgiving I promised I would provide a "Reader's Digest Condensed" version of a wonderful series on gratitude, blogged by my friend Dr. Doug Lee on his Whole Life Worship Blog.

Here you go, starting with his November 11 post ...

Exercising Thankfulness. Gratitude is like a muscle which grows with use. Like exercise, it's hard work, a discipline ... but worth it. As we go deeper into thanksgiving, we will discover how to leverage its transforming power for life!

The Hardness of Starting to Give Thanks. If giving thanks were easy, a lot more people would be doing it! It takes discipline to set aside time, quiet yourself, focus your thoughts, and intentionally express thanks for all you should be thankful for (especially when you don't feel thankful!). As a good exercise, try using the inconvenience of a stoplight to express thanks for three things in your life.

Thankful for Loved Ones. Many of the blessings God pours out on us come in the form of those family and friends who love us. Be sure to thank God daily for them, and to let them know how thankful you are.

Thankful for What We Have. The most basic things we tend to think of as "ours" (like time, or breathing air into our lungs, or our ability to think, or move around) are not really "ours" ... they are gifts from God! A "sense of entitlement" is the besetting sin of our culture. In reality we are simply stewards of these basics of life. As in the Parable of the Talents, how are we investing what God has given us, even if it's somethign as simple as our time? Are we seeking to multiple the impact for His Kingdom? And the first step in such investment is gratitude.

Thanks for the Memories. How often do we think about the people who have gone before us, and how their actions paved the way for the blessings we have received. My mom and dad have both passed into the presence of Christ, and how grateful I am that they shared Christ's love with me as a child. I have a half-lifetime of memories of fun family times with my family, which is now continuing with my four brothers and sisters. Too often we think only about the negative impact of any dysfunction (and all families have it). But, without the godly input from others that I have received into my life, where would I be today? And what about all the Sunday School teachers, pastors, Bible study leaders and more who have poured into my life?

Thanking God for Our Jobs. Surveys show that the vast majority of Americans hate their jobs. But God has created us to be creative and industrious people. Our jobs are simply another opportunity to exercise stewardship and make a difference in the world around us, all while receiving the sustenance we need as a result! You may not be able to change the circumstances of your work, but, once again, you can change the most important thing about it: your attitude. And remember that, with God, "nothing is impossible."

Giving God an Opening. Saying even the littlest “thank you” to God is like saying “Welcome, Lord! Come into my life!” It’s not just an acknowledgment; it’s an invitation. If we give God even a little opening, He does the rest. Ultimately he opens our souls to His everlasting and enduring presence.\

Thanking God When It's Hard. The Bible says to "give thanks in every circumstance." But sometimes we can be confronted by horrendous, unthinkable trials: The loss of a child. Betrayal by a spouse or loved one. A desperate illness or injury. How can we truly be thankful for such things? The patriarch Joseph, who endured more such trials then we ever will, gives us a clue when he says: "You meant it for evil ... but God meant it for good." Paul assures us that God works all things together for the good for those who love Him ... and that nothing can separate us from that love!

Recognizing Gifts From the Father. The man born blind, whose story is recounted in John 9, no doubt felt his blindness was a curse for many years, rather than a gift. But the reality was the opposite. Christ said that the blindness existed to display the glory of God in his life. It changed the course of his life dramatically. After being healed and becoming a disciple of Jesus, it's not difficult to believe that the man realized what a gift his "curse" had been, at least from an eternal perspective! Some of God's gifts are easy to recognize, others are "in disguise." Thankfulness is the key that unlocks the disguise.

You Get What You Get, So Be Thankful for It. The Bible says that "contentment with godliness is great gain." We all know people who have a lot of stuff, but aren't content. We may also know people who don't have much of this world's goods and advantages, but are very content. Who between the two has the greater blessing? For so many of us, the goal is accumulating stuff, when it should really be gaining contentment. And thankfulness is the key to gaining contentment.

Starting with Doug's November 25 post, "Thank You for Creating Me," he adjusted his focus to those things which God has done (universally) for all of us. I will finish up this summary tomorrow by highlighting his remaining three posts. In the meantime, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday and will continue to practice the discipline of gratitude!

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