A New Twist on Accountability

iron-sharpens-ironOne of the members of my Groups Leadership Team recently provided his Men’s Accountability Group with a different perspective on their weekly eleven questions that some of them had been using for approximately four years. I loved it so much, that I asked him if I could post it to my blog, which he agreed to.

So what’s the new twist he provided? Well he rewrote the questions and turned them around from what they confessed NOT to be doing, to what they actually HAVE done in that particular area of discipline in their lives. In other words, they turned the negatives into positives and refocused the questions in order to show righteousness, help others and grow closer to God in the obedience of the Holy Spirit. What they have experienced with the new questions has been transformational as they focus on righteous deeds and are engaged in deeper conversation, avoiding the obligatory “yes” or “no” questions.

Here are those list of questions, both the old and the new…

Old Questions:

  1. Have you been with a woman this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgement?
  2. Have you been completely above reproach in all your financial dealings this week?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any explicit material this week?
  4. Have you spent time daily in prayer and in the scriptures this week?
  5. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling this week?
  6. Have you taken time off to be with your family this week?
  7. Is there anything in your life competing with the Lord?
  8. What are you now or becoming addicted to…coffee, food, sex, pornography, sports, alcohol, toys and possessions, work, power, position, title, prestige, solitude, retirement, money?
  9. Have you just lied to me? Have you been honest in all of your dealings this week?
  10. Are you living in self-sufficiency?
  11. Have you done anything in the last two weeks that took courage?

New Questions:

  1. In what ways did you look for an opportunity to treat or view a woman in a Godly way this week according to Scripture?
  2. In what ways did you redirect God’s financial blessings to you this week toward others, His church or His work?
  3. What positive actual steps did you take this week to keep yourself pure?
  4. What specific things did you do to become more relationally intimate with God this week?
  5. How were you able to hear and how did you respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit this week to live beyond your own needs and desires?
  6. What positive actions did you take this week to show that your priorities are in alignment with God’s priorities as a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, church body member, co-worker or neighbor?  How were you intentional about this?
  7. Where did you actually spend your time last week? Why? How have you shown with your time and deeds that I desire Christ above all else?
  8. Explain what you have actually done this week to bring your mind, body and spirit into submission to Christ?
  9. In what ways have you shown your Savior and others that you were living in the Truth this week? In what ways do your actions and intentions match or misalign with your beliefs?
  10. Explain how you totally depended on God this week in work, relationships, marriage, finances, health, ministry, salvation, state of mind, well-being, past, future.
  11. In what ways in situations and circumstances did you operate in your own strength and skill instead of asking God to intervene with His strength and wisdom with courage to speak? Courage to remain silent? Courage to defend? Courage to act? Courage to ask questions? Courage to face lawlessness and death? Courage to believe the unpopular and unseen? Courage to believe by faith? Courage to start new or over again? Courage to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness? Courage to believe that you are valuable and worth dying for?

When you look at the difference in these questions, you can clearly see the power of a good question. Can’t wait to see how this group goes deeper in their walk with Jesus by asking such focused and God honoring questions!

ABC’s of Prayer

177624_originalI don’t think we often realize what a privilege it is to have instant, direct access to God. God loves us so much, that He has made Himself available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And yet, I have to confess, prayer is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines for me to practice. 

In Acts 4, we read how the Christians prayed together with one heart, mind and spirit as they lifted their voices to God (Acts 4:24). The result was a great boldness in sharing God’s message. In the same way, a great force of God’s power can be released as we commit ourselves to effective prayer. But in order to be effective in our prayers, we need to understand what God’s Word has to say about prayer. As we read and study the Scripture, we can learn what the will of God is and as we know His will, we can pray and ask according to His divine purpose. With this in mind here are a few things I have learned about how to pray effectively over the years from the Scriptures.

In order to pray effectively, we need to pray…

Abiding

Abiding is the key to successful praying. In John 15:7, Jesus states, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.”

Believing

In Matthew 21:22 we read, “Everything you ask in prayer, believing you shall receive.” Faith, which is an attitude of believing, pleases God.

Clean Heart

John declares in 1 John 1:9 that, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession restores communion with God and is a preparation for further fellowship with Him.

Directed by God’s Word

I love what 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” If you want to pray with confidence for God’s will, pray the Scriptures!

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

The Bible says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). I like that about the Holy Spirit. He goes where I cannot. He comprehends things I cannot. He does things I cannot. But when it comes to the things I need to do, He equips me to do them.

Forgiving Others

Mark 11:25 states, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Holding a grudge is not good for the soul. And an unforgiving attitude hinders our prayers. So talk to God about it. Ask Him to give you the strength to forgive others, so you can let go and move on.

Godly Motives

Pray with the right motivation. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Selfish motives cannot be blessed by God.

Humbly

Pray with a humble and submissive spirit. As it states in 1 Peter 5:6, Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Our hearts often connect with God’s heart in a God-honoring way as we develop and approach Him with humility.

Interceding for Others

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18). When you pray on another’s behalf, you experience the blessing and grace of God, as you reflect His character, conduct and commitments.

What might you add to the list?

The Tale of Two Seas

11934625_1620979234832173_649298077_nIn Israel there are two major bodies of water. One is the Sea of Galilee, a beautiful lake 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, filled with fish and surrounded by lush foliage. It is Israel’s largest fresh water lake and absolutely picturesque. The other body of water is the Dead Sea, 50 miles long and 11 miles wide and it’s shoreline is 1300 feet below sea level. I have been told that seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, and the saline or salt content of the water of the Dead Sea is 10 times saltier than the oceans of the world. The Dead Sea definitely lives up to its name. No seaweed or plants of any kind live in or around the water. There are no fish or any kind of swimming, squirming creatures living in or near the water. And fish accidentally swimming into the waters from one of the several freshwater streams that feed the sea are instantly killed.

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are fed by the Jordan River There is really only one difference between these two bodies of water, really only one thing that causes the Sea of Galilee to be beautiful and alive while the Dead Sea is barren and lifeless. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee takes water from the Jordan River, and then it gives water. The water simply passes through. As a result, the Sea of Galilee is full of life and beauty. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only takes water, but it gives nothing back, and as a result it sustains no life. Those two bodies of water bear witness to a truth of human life. It is in receiving and then giving back that life and hope are sustained. In other words, The Sea of Galilee is a conduit, The Dead Sea is a container. The first is full of life, the second is full of death!

The same is true in our spiritual life. If you and I have spiritual input but no spiritual output, we will become stagnant, lifeless, bitter, and caustic. However, if we like the Sea of Galilee are receiving and giving back, we become vibrant, healthy and life-giving. No wonder Jesus did much of his ministry along the shores of the Sea of Galilee! Because God never designed us to be like the Dead Sea; we are designed to be like the Sea of Galilee. This is the wisdom and reality of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Be Still

2-be-Still-and-Know-That-he-is-GodThis past week I got to experience the wisdom of Psalm 46:10. It’s the verse, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I remember the first time I was encouraged to practice the wisdom of this verse. It was the summer of 1986, while I was preparing for a summer missions project to the former Soviet Union. I was in New York and the project leads asked us to spend 30 minutes practicing the discipline of being still. Not praying. Not problem solving. Not dreaming. Just being still before God. Almost 30 years later, I still remember the awkwardness I experienced at Kings College that afternoon, as I tried to get my mind and body to be still. And true confessions, 30 years later, it is still hard for this Type A personality to be still. So to remove the distractions from my life, my family and I headed to the mountains this past week. Free from internet connectivity and out of cell phone range.

The Hebrew definition for “stillness” is to stop striving, to let go, to surrender. Whether it’s practicing Sabbath, or being still, the psalm reminds us that we can take comfort in letting go and resting in God to provide help, strength and safety in those times of renewal. Yet, this is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. It is not uncommon for the noise of this world to crowd into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And that’s why it’s important to unplug and surrender to the One who ultimately provides.

One of those moments of stillness this past week, was during a hike to Eagle Lake. Our family left particularly early that morning in order to beat the crowds and the forecasted thunderstorms that afternoon. When we arrived at the lake that morning, we realized that we had the whole lake all to ourselves. It was a majestic moment of stillness. Just us, in awe of God’s majesty! As we took it all in, we watched a mother duck care for her ducklings. We witnessed fish feeding. We saw the reflection of the Sierra Mountains on the stillness of the water. We heard the birds chirping. We breathed the fresh forest air. And we couldn’t help but be still, to take it all in and then later take time to pray. It was a glorious morning being still before God.

This past week held many opportunities for me to reflect, renew and meet God in the stillness. And it got me thinking, “why don’t I do this more often?” So, as I reflect on the last week, I wrote down four good reasons why it’s important to be still. And I share these with you in hopes that you might also experience the joy of being still.

So here’s why it’s important to practice stillness…

  1. To remember that we’re human beings, not human doings. If our salvation isn’t based on what we do (Ephesians 2:8,9), than neither should our significance be based on what we do. Instead our identity needs to be in who we are in Christ. When we cease striving, we recognize who we are, what we were created for and it causes us to live a more balanced life. Now don’t get me wrong, God desires us to participate in His plan and do things for Him, but our doing must be the result of being in His presence. In other words, our works are the overflow of being with God. Remember this, we are human beings, children of God, to do good works; not human doings, doing good works, to be children of God. There is a big difference there.
  2. To understand our limitations. Let’s face it! We’re not God and we can’t save the world. By practicing Sabbath and stillness, we understand our limitations. Understanding our limitations allows us to let go and let God, be God! And this frees us up to truly rest in the arms of the One who has it all in control.
  3. To express our dependence and trust in God. When we pause to spend time with God, we really have to trust God to provide the time we desperately need. In God Calling, Sarah Young writes as if Jesus is speaking the following words, “Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day. Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Me, the King of the universe.” Sometimes it’s hard to make room for God in the busyness of my day, but it’s pretty amazing how God multiplies my time when I spend time with Him and honor Him in stillness. When we pause, we’re saying, God I trust you to fill in the gap!
  4. To hear God speak. Here’s some truth…we can’t hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit in the hectic pace of life. God often speaks out of the depths of His own silence. First to create the world, then to renew the world through the incarnation of His Son. And God calls us to silence as well. He invites us to go into our room, our chosen sacred space, and to shut the door and pray to our Father who is in secret, assured that our Father who is in secret will answer our prayer (Mt 6:6). It is in that silence that we can listen to God, hear His voice, and discern His plan and purpose for our life.
In considering the wisdom of this psalm, I wonder if perhaps God is asking you to seek His voice in rest and stillness, as you cultivate your relationship with Him. You see, as Christians, we often get the impression that growing in our faith means adding a bunch of spiritual activities to our crazy-busy lives. But lately, I’m finding that drawing near to God is more about subtracting, than adding. Yet for this Type A personality, I have to admit that this new paradigm is a difficult one to embrace, but I believe that as we do, we keep urgency from edging God out of our lives. And as we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)!

12 Quotes from Abba’s Child

img_4539Many Christians have bought into the lie that we’re worthy of God’s love only when our lives are going well. If our families are happy, our careers successful and our life is good, then God loves us. But when life gets hard, and our sins threaten to reveal our less than perfect self, we scramble to present our good self to the world and God, as if God’s love for us is conditional.

Yesterday, in watching the movie Ragamuffin, the story of contemporary Christian recording artist Rich Mullins, I was struck by the depth of God’s love and how He accepts us just as we are. And I was also reminded of the teachings of Brennan Manning, whose words have inspired me over the years to freely accept my identity in Christ, as a beloved child of God.

Deeply affected by God’s extravagant grace, I spent the morning, pulling out some of the nuggets from Brennen Manning’s book Abba’s Child. And to reinforce some of those ideas, I thought I would post 12 of my favorite quotes from the book to challenge us to embrace our acceptance in God’s eyes.

  1. Jesus says, “Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.”
  2. Self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that call us the “Beloved.”
  3. In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
  4. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.
  5. The pharisee within usurps my true self whenever I prefer appearances to reality, whenever I am afraid of God, whenever I surrender the control of my soul to rules rather than risk living in union with Jesus, when I choose to look good and not be good, when I prefer appearances to reality.
  6. To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you – this openness is the triumph of the child of God over the pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Feelings put us in touch with our true selves. They are neither good nor bad: They are simply the truth about what is going on within us.
  8. In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.
  9. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.
  10. Genuine faith leads us to knowing the love of God, to confessing Jesus as Lord, and to being transformed by what we know. 
  11. God is love. Jesus is God. If Jesus ceased loving, He would cease being God.
  12. Through His passion and death Jesus carried away the essential sickness of the human heart and broke forever the deadly grip of hypocrisy on our souls. He has robbed our loneliness of its fatal power by traveling Himself to the far reaches of loneliness (“My God, my God, why have You deserted Me?”). He has understood our ignorance, weakness, and foolishness and granted pardon to us all (“Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing”). He has made His pierced heart a safe place for every defeated cynic, hopeless sinner, and self-loathing derelict across the bands of time. The Cross reveals that Jesus has conquered sin and death and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of Christ.

Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

Healthy Things Grow

growBack in August, following an almost unanimous vote by our church to merge with Hillside Christian Church, I gathered our group leaders and shared a phrase I hoped would be helpful to our them as we began a season of change. The phrase was, “Healthy things grow. And growing things change. And change challenges us. Challenges cause us to put our trust in God. Trust breeds obedience. And obedience makes us healthy.”

As I look back at that statement, I never realized how many times I would quote that phrase as I pondered decisions and talked to others. And in praying, meditating and considering the truth of this statement, here are some of the things I have learned along the way…

Healthy Things Grow
Have you ever noticed that healthy things grow? Plants, children, our emotional lives, our relationship with God, and even our relationship with others all grow. If these things are healthy, they are progressing, moving forward and changing. In fact, in the last month, my son shot up a whole inch. While that was tough on the pocketbook, we rejoice that he’s healthy and growing. That’s because healthy things grow.

Growing Things Change
If it wasn’t for change, we wouldn’t have seasons! Or butterflies! Or progress! In fact, we might still be living in the dark ages. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for change. Change in my preferences. Change in my attitudes. Change in my behavior. And even change in my clothing styles. You see, this is how we know things are growing. They change and are different from when we last saw them.

Change Challenges Us
Mark Twain once said, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.” As humans, we like things to stay the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and comfort. After all, why mess with a “good thing”? But let’s face it! What if the “good thing”, could be better? The challenge that comes with change, is that it leads us into unknown territory. So we resist it. We like the familiarity. Even if the familiarity is unhealthy. As humans, we prefer the path of least resistance. That’s because change challenges us to make adjustments, take risks, and trust God for an uncertain future.

Challenges Cause Us to Put Our Trust in God
Here’s the reality! Challenges cause us to dig deep and depend on God more fully. Yet when presented with a challenge, many of us choice  to remain comfortable, knowing that change may require something of us. When I officiate a wedding, I often use this phrase, “May God give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep you humble, and just enough success to ensure that you stay dependent upon Him.” You see, God knows exactly where to apply the pressure to cause us to turn to Him in faith. God wants us to grow in faith, and challenges force us to trust in Him.

Trust Breeds Obedience
Remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”? The antidote to fear is not safety and security. It has always been trust that leads to obedience. If we truly trust the Lord, He will reveal His will to us and show us what to do. Thus, trust breeds obedience.

Obedience Makes Us Healthy
Let’s look at it this way. Obedience takes trust! Trust creates expectancy! Expectancy breeds faith! Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In life, there will inevitably be something that forces us to trust God in a new way. And this is the great adventure of living with Jesus!

We Are God’s Handiwork

ephesians-2-10“You don’t have woo!” That’s what I heard from another church, a few years ago, as they explained their decision not to hire me. I had three of the four things they were looking for, but I didn’t have woo!

What is “woo”, you ask? Well “woo” is the supernatural ability to win others over. Did I just say, “supernatural”? Perhaps that was a little tongue in cheek. I guess it would actuality be more of a personality trait than anything. But some seem to elevate it as more important than a “spiritual gift” and a lot of churches seem to want leaders who have it!

Really, I’m not bitter! I am quite content that I don’t have “woo”! And in the case of the church that turned me down, because I didn’t have it…well they appear to be having their own set of problems, in their search for it! So, God actually used it to protect me, and for that I am grateful.

So what am I trying to say here? I guess I can try to manufacture it, which wouldn’t be true to who I am. Or I can be who God made me to be!

Believe me when I say, I am glad for those who have woo! We really need people like them in the kingdom! And truth be known, I am actually drawn, like many others, to people who have woo. But instead of trying to be something I’m not, I’ve gotta be who God created me to be. And in truth, by being who God created me to be, I will actually win others over, instead of trying to be something I wasn’t created for. Yes, people can see right through the fabrication.

So, I don’t have woo! But I have a lot of other God-given traits and gifts that are just as important to the body of Christ. As the Scriptures declare in Ephesians 2:10, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Each of us has a role, a part, in the grander plan of God. We were shaped by God, for God. He made no mistakes. And each of us, if we play our part in the kingdom of God, will sense God’s pleasure and fulfill God’s purpose here on earth.

I don’t have woo!

There I said it! Perhaps I will sleep a little better tonight having acknowledged that! Yes, I am at peace with who God created me to be. No mistake about it.

The E’s of Decision Making

4260399_300x300While the Scriptures give us a lot of direction for life, there are a lot of issues we face that don’t seem to have a direct scriptural response. In other words, the Bible seems silent. But in actuality, the Scriptures are not silent on these matters. Instead, the Bible gives Christians the liberty to make God-glorifying decisions based on their convictions and principles from God’s word.

As followers of Jesus, God desires us to reflect his character, conduct and commitments, yet each day we are faced with lots of choices that the Bible seems unclear on. In other words, what does the Bible say about the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the activities we engage in. Well, below is a list of questions, based on the principles of God’s word that can help guide you when making choices, in what I call the grey areas of life:

  1. Expedience: Will it be spiritually profitable?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  – 1 Cor. 6:12
  2. Edification: Will it build me up?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  – I Cor. 10:23
  3. Excess: Will it slow me down in the race?
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1
  4. Enslavement: Will it bring me into bondage?
    I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
  5. Equivocation: Will it hypocritically cover my sin? Does it give me a license to sin?
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13
  6. Encroachment: Will it violate my conscience?
    He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23
  7. Example: Will it strengthen and help other Christians by example?
    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13
  8. Evangelism: Will it lead others to Christ?
    Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. – 1 Cor. 10:32-33
  9. Emulation: Will it be consistent with Christ-likeness?
    Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – I John 2:6
  10. Exultation: Will it glorify God?
    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
  • So what questions do you have? Run them through the principles above. And remember what is good for me, might not be good for you. So be careful not to judge, but hold true to your own convictions.
  • As a people charged with the task of being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), a “royal priesthood” called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9), we must consider how our choices contribute or detract from our calling.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving IstanbulPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, we join King David, on this Thanksgiving Day, in rehearsing just a few of the multiplied reasons why we love being your children—why we love being loved by you. By your Holy Spirit, free us over the course of these next several hours to abound in gratitude and overflow with thanksgiving, that we might offer you the heart-filled praise of which you alone are worthy.

Father, here are a just a few of the way-too-easy-to-forget benefits that you give us so richly and fully in Christ:

We praise you for being the God who forgives all of our sins. Because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, all of our sins—past, present and future—sins by our words, thoughts and deeds, all of them have been forgiven. When we trusted Jesus, you didn’t give us a clean slate and a second chance at life; you gave us a new heart and your robed us in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Hallelujah, for such a standing in grace!

We praise you for being the God who heals all our diseases. Everything about us is broken—everything about us bears the effects of sin and death, but you are the God who is making all things new through Jesus—all things. In this life, the healing journey has begun—a story with a guaranteed ending of whole-being health—in body, heart and soul. We will be healthy forever! Hallelujah, for such a living hope!

We praise you for being the God who redeems our lives from all kinds of “pits”—from the pits into which we have aimlessly fallen in life; from the ones into which we are thrown by our enemies; and from the ones into which we foolishly jump. Nothing will ever separate us from your sovereign and sufficient grace.  Hallelujah, your name is Redeemer!

We praise you for crowing us with love and compassion. You have taken our garland of guilt and shame and have crowned us with the victory of your beloved Son, Jesus. He has triumphed over sin and death for us. Hallelujah, your banner over us is love and your rejoicing over us is loud!

We praise you for satisfying our desires with good things—partially in this life, and fully in the life to come. You freely give us all things to enjoy, and to share with others. May that be evidenced today, as we gather as family and friends—all in need of your daily mercies and steadfast love. Hallelujah, for intending our joy and for renewing our strength! May everything within us bless you holy and grace-filled name! So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and hope, in Jesus’ name.

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