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Posts Tagged ‘1 Thessalonians 5:18’

 

If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

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Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

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In March of this year I began a new journal, A Celebration of Small Things, in an effort to become more aware of God’s daily gifts.  But after discovering the quotes below it became clear: my gratitude list is missing whole categories of blessings.

See what you think of these statements.  (Note that with each quote I’ve included my own prayer-response and a corresponding scripture.)

 

QUOTE #1

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Just be thankful you have a glass!

—Jack Wellman

 

You’ve given me a beautiful glass, Father—a life overflowing with loving family and friends, days filled with purpose and pleasure, surprise blessings that satisfy my heart with joy. The words “thank you” seem trivial for such gracious gifts.

 

 

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

Psalm 92:4 NIV

 

QUOTE #2

Give thanks for ‘all things’ for, as it has been well said,

‘Our disappointments are but his appointments.’

—A.W. Pink

 

I thank you, Father, for the doors of opportunity you’ve closed, the challenging moves to new communities you’ve ordained, and the wishes of my heart you’ve withheld. Each disappointment I know was for my benefit and your glory. Thank you for hindsight to understand in part, and the promise that one day I’ll understand in totality.

 

 

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

John 13:7 NIV

 

QUOTE #3 

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;

second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life;

third, although they took my all, it was not much;

and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.

—Matthew Henry,

on the night he was robbed

 

Thank you, Father, for Henry’s example of grateful positivity. No doubt he lifted his own spirit with such a prayer, and I can imagine your smile of approval as well. When trouble assaults my life, may I be as grateful and positive as Matthew Henry.

 

 

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

 

QUOTE #4

There’s one thing for which you can be thankful—

only you and God have all the facts about yourself.

—Dub Nance

 

Oh, Lord, thank you for being a God who delights to show mercy, lavishes compassionate forgiveness, and understands well my frailty. Thank you also for molding me day by day into the image of Christ—in spite of my shortcomings (Micah 7:18b; Psalm 103:12-14, and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

“But God is so rich in mercy that,

on account of His great love with which He loved us,

He made us who were dead in trespasses,

alive in unison with Christ.”

Ephesians 2:4-5, Berkeley Version

 

QUOTE #5

The best things are nearest:

breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes,

flowers at your feet, duties at your hand,

the path of God just before you.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Oh, yes, Father. Thank you for numerous “best things” close at hand such as: a spontaneous hug, the chortling giggles of a grandbaby, a carnival of birds frolicking in the backyard trees (at least six species at once), and savory chicken/sausage soup—made by Steve—for a bleak and blustery day.

 

 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house.”

Deuteronomy 26:11 (emphasis added)

 

Indeed, ALL the good. Thank you, Father, for bringing to mind these new blessings to count.

 

And now, precious readers, which quote especially caught your attention? I’d love to hear about it. Please share your choice and thoughts below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.com; http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

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“I can’t remember the last time I felt truly happy.”

“Nobody understands what this situation is like.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced one or more of the emotions behind those statements,  including:  discouragement, self-pity, hopelessness, and fear.

When circumstances seem out of control and problems defy solution, what can we do?

A good place to start:  praise God.

I know.  That seems an odd course of action and counter-intuitive.  But that’s what God instructs us to do (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Now why would that be?

Reason #1:  Praise is a powerful weapon against those emotions listed above. It fosters peace and contentment by taking our minds off our problems and focusing our attention on God.

David shows us the way in Psalm 103.  In verse two he says,  “Forget not all [God’s] benefits.”  Then he lists  a number of them:  forgiveness of all sins, healing of all diseases*,  redemption from the pit, God’s love, compassion, righteousness, and justice (vs. 3-6).

What would your personal list include?  What specific ways has he provided for you, guided and protected you, fulfilled promises to you, and empowered you?

“Praise is the honey of life

which a devout heart extracts

from every bloom of providence and grace.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon

Reasons #2:  Praise invites his presence, and with his presence comes his strength and help.

“Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy.  the Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.” (Psalm 28:6-7).

I have to be honest here.  There have been times when my praise to God had to be squeezed through gritted teeth.  And the first words of affirmation did not immediately lift me into golden clouds of euphoria.

What I can tell you is this:  Depression, discouragement, self-pity, and hopelessness were kept at bay.  And I felt the presence of God around me, giving me strength to press on.

How has praise brought God’s strength and help into your life?

Reason #3:  Praise lifts our spirits and gives us hope.  When words won’t come, we can turn to the psalms.  Chapter 145 offers one example of eloquent praise:

“God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough.  There are no boundaries to his greatness. ..

“God is all mercy and grace–not quick to anger, is rich in love.  God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace…

“Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures.  Everything God does is right–the trademark on all his works is love…

“My mouth is filled with God’s praise” (vs. 3, 8-9, 16-17, 21,  The Message)!

Can you feel the hope, comfort, and strength stirring in the depths of your soul?

Keep praising!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, yes, Lord, may my mouth be filled with your praise, whether I’m celebrating on a mountaintop or plodding through a valley.  Thank you for the delight of the former and your comfort and care through the latter.  I praise you that all things are under your control.  With a grateful heart,  I put my hope and trust in you. 

* All of our diseases are healed:  1) instantly and miraculously, often as the result of prayer, 2) slowly over time, often with extended prayer and medical intervention, or 3) eternally, when we reach heaven.

(photo credits:  www.health.com; http://www.worshipsounds.wordpress.com.)

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“Worship the Lord your God and his blessing will be on your food and water” (Exodus 23:25a).

Food and water.  Common, everyday things.  But this verse promises God’s blessing on them.  In other words, even the mundane things of life can put smiles on our faces.

Mundane things like:

  • The graceful dance of tree limbs in a soft breeze
  • The tapping of rain on the roof, while cozied up in bed
  • The spontaneous hug of a child

Such delightful gifts are embarrassingly easy to overlook.  Most of us are much too busy and moving too fast.

So how do we take hold of these subtle blessings and treasure them?  The first five words of the verse give the answer.  It happens when we worship the Lord our God.

I’m not talking about the hour or two we may spend in church sometime on Saturday or Sunday.

Worship means expressing to God his worth—his worth-ship.  And it’s something we can enjoy all day, every day.

Yes, I said “enjoy,” because worship should be celebratory.

One means of celebrating our God is to express appreciation. “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything,” Paul recommended (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

As we begin to notice and appreciate all the delights God has bestowed, we experience a contentment and steadiness of spirit that defies explanation.  And to be contented and steady is a very blessed way to live!

Another means of celebrating our God is to express praise.  Gratitude expresses appreciation for what he’s done in the past, what he’s doing in the present, and what he will do in the future. Praise expresses admiration for who he is and honors him for his glorious attributes.

Attributes like:

  • Creativity, inspiring him to design tree branches that dance and sway in the breeze
  • Loving kindness, expressed with pleasurable gifts like raindrops rapping on the rooftop
  • Comfort, offered through the spontaneous hug of a child

As we begin to praise God for his attributes, we experience a change of perspective.  Our attention moves from personal circumstances to God Almighty.  He is:

  • Glorious in the splendor of his majesty
  • Capable of awesome works
  • Abundant in his goodness and compassionate on all he has made
  • Faithful to all his promises and righteous in all his ways

Interested in more descriptors?  See Psalm 145!

Bottom line:  When worship is an integral part of our lives, joy abounds, because God’s blessing rests upon us in all things!

“Worship the Lord your God and his blessing will be on your food and water” (Exodus 23:25a).

Such a simple exercise to implement;  yet such astounding results.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

(Art & photo credits: http://www.lawlessgallery.com  ; http://www.godwordistruth.wordpress.com ; http://www.lessonsinashell.blogspot.com )

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