GRATITUDE

In a recent bible study, we had a great discussion about Gratitude.  The sharing was super and we got into a long discussion about the role that gratitude plays in our lives  . . .  in the level of joy that we each live with . . .  or don’t.  After a lot of discussion and turning this subject all around I think we all agreed that the main thing that having gratitude does is bring us closer to God.

Think about it.  If we believe that all things came from God then it would make sense that He is responsible for the things that we have to be thankful for.  Now, this can open up a new discussion on whole different track . . . is God responsible for everything that happens . . . our getting that promotion  . . . having a healthy baby . . .  our mom getting cancer . . . uncle Fred dying in a car crash?!?!  That is a track I will discuss in a future posting, but in short; my thought on this is that there are natural laws of our universe and there are natural consequences to decisions we make.  And let’s face it; bad things happen to good people!

I don’t believe that God causes these bad things to happen.  I do think that He allows them to happen . . . but He will use even the bad stuff for good.  See James: 1, 2-5 (again, another blog post subject!)

Anyway, back to our discussion on gratitude: It is helpful for us to explore the things that we have and experience in our lives that we can give God thanks for . . . in nature . . . in our relationships . . . in our work.  It really helps us to tie things back to Him . . . Our Creator.

For me, I find that gratitude or thankfulness is a muscle all in and of itself.  Like any muscle in our body, if we go long enough periods of time without using them they will atrophy . . . lose their tone and not function as well.  When I go through times when I am not actively exploring and searching out the things I have to be thankful to God for . . . my attitude starts to go downhill . . . and pretty soon negativity starts to creep in and that is not a healthy track for any of us.

This discussion could go on forever and I would welcome any of you reading this to keep it going by way of posting your comments to this blog.

For now, I want to close with this: Several years ago when Kris and I were so busy in our lives that we could scarcely see ourselves coming or going,  I ran across a book which made a radical change in my prayer life:  “Too Busy NOT to Pray” by Bill Hybels.  This is a great book in many aspects but the thing that got my attention and continues to influence my prayer life was Bill sharing the A.C.T.S. model for prayer.  Here is an excerpt of Bill’s book and his discussion on A.C.T.S..  Hopefully it will have a nugget or two that you can hold on to:

Excerpt from His Book: “Too Busy NOT to Pray” by Bill Hybels
A.C.T.S. Model for Prayer

I. A doration.

In adoration we focus on our God who has dreams for us rather than beginning by focusing on our problems. It is good for us to be reminded that God is bigger than our problems and difficulties.

What is meant by adore? Webster defines adore as “regard with utmost love, esteem, or respect, to worship as divine.” We usually call Sunday morning services in our churches at R-S, worship services. Just calling a service worship, does not necessarily mean that worship takes place. Adoration, in private prayer or in a gathering of Christians, requires our involvement.

Have you ever thought about how you adore God? You might think about the many attributes or qualities of God or focus on a particular attribute of God you are especially aware of at that time. To help me do this I may use a Psalm of praise or another scripture which tells of the qualities of God. I may sing a great hymn of praise or a praise chorus. You may notice that I often plan our Sunday morning services to spend some time in adoration of God, frequently having us join together in hymns or praise choruses. We have already sung our theme song. (8:30) Let’s adore our Lord with some more songs of praise. (10:30) Our choir is going to sing an anthem of praise and then we ask you to join in singing a couple of hymns of praise.

II. C onfession.

Confession may be a neglected area of public and personal prayer. We become aware of our sin and confess it to Jesus Christ as we are born into life with Christ. Jesus died to forgive us for our sins and when we confess our sin and ask for His forgiveness, He does indeed forgive us and cleanse us.

If you have made this vitally important step in your life, let me ask? Have you sinned since then? Have you confessed that sin to God? Notice I said, “That sin, not all your sins.” We certainly should confess them all, but naming specific sins privately to God is a much more effective means of confession than lumping them together and saying, “Lord, Please forgive me for all these ways I have failed to please You.” Be honest with God. He knows the truth about you and me anyway. Our conversation with God is so much better when are open and honest with our Lord. Think about honesty in other relationships, too. If I am trying to hide something I have done against you, what kind of relationship can we really have?

Some people, including some church attenders don’t like to think about sin. Pastor Bill Hybels tells this story.

Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man-I’ll call him Harry-who regularly attended my church. I had given a message on our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. Harry came to my office and said, “All this talk about sin is making me feel really bad. I for one don’t consider myself a sinner.”

Harry was a guy I could shoot straight with, so I said, “Well, maybe you’re not. Let me ask you a few questions. You’ve been married twenty-five years. Have you been absolutely one hundred per cent faithful to your wife the whole time?”

He chuckled and said, “Well, you know I’m in sales. I travel a lot…” We both knew what he was admitting to.

“Okay,” I said, ‘when you fill out our expense account, do you ever add something that wasn’t strictly business?”

“Everybody does that.” he relied.

“And when you are out there selling your product, do you ever exaggerate-say it will do something it won’t, or promise to ship it tomorrow when you know it won’t go out until next Tuesday?”

“That’s the industry standard.” he said.

I looked straight at him and said, “You have just told me that you are an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar. Repeat those words after me-I am an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar.”

He looked as if his eyes were going to pop out. “Don’t use those awful words!” he said. “I only said that there was a little something on the side, a little this and a little that…”

“No,” I said. “Just say it like it is. You’re an adulterer, a cheater, and a liar. To me that means you’re a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.”

Your sin may be different from Harry’s, but are you willing to call it what it is before God and ask for His forgiveness? That’s what confession really is, saying the same thing about sin as God says. Don’t try to rationalize it because others do. Let’s take a few moments right now to privately confess our sin to God, after we confess together using 890.

III. T hanksgiving.

Repeatedly the scriptures call us to thanksgiving, not merely a holiday we observe once a year. In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica he wrote (5:18), “in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Pray thanking God for who He is, for what He has done for us through Christ, for how we can find Him actively at work among us each day.

Some of us as parents know how wonderful it makes us feel to have a daughter or son freely thank us for something we have done for them! That really blesses me when Rachael or Jonathan says, “Dad, Thanks for taking me to the ball game or the playground!” Don’t you think God, our heavenly Father is also deeply moved when we express our gratitude to Him?

Let’s take a few moments to thank God now, maybe share some God hunts, but please don’t share prayer concerns yet. Then we will share communion, thanking God for the wonderful gift of His Son to give us salvation.

IV. S upplication.

Supplications, that’s the aspect of praying that most of us do better than the previous three. After we have adored Him, confessed our sin to Him, and thanked Him for the delightful things He has done for us, then it is time for supplication, for telling God what we need, for making our requests to the source of all our blessings. We’ll do this now.

As always thank you for reading.  I pray that this posting has ministered to you in some way.

Please feel free to comment or open up discussions on this or any other subject you are interested in.

Blessings,

Pat

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