Monday, November 25, 2019

A Perpetual State of Gratitude

You wouldn’t think thankfulness would be tricky to come by. You would assume it would be the easiest of attitudes and that a day of the year set aside to offer ‘Thanksgiving’ would be terribly redundant and wholly unnecessary because of our daily posture of gratitude.

I mean, we have so much to be thankful for. Family and friends, food and shelter, careers and hobbies, health and wealth—the list could go on and on. And as people of faith, the most resounding reason for gratitude is nothing less than the saving work of Jesus.

“…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus…All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:14-15

What better reason for gratitude could there be?! God is redeeming and resurrecting us in the same way he did Jesus, and his unending grace continues to pour into more and more people! If that doesn’t lead to thanksgiving, I’m not sure what would.

And yet we all-too-often live with unhealthy expectations and a grandiose sense of entitlement—as if the blessings we get weren’t given, but earned; or like we deserve what we have…and even more. We live in the richest country the world has ever known, yet what we have is rarely enough and we seldom pause to give praise to the one who provides it all. And even when we do pause for a day—or at least a moment at the dinner table—to give thanks for what we have and celebrate that it’s enough, many of us spend the next day shopping “Black Friday” sales for things we don’t really need.

It’s an insane way to live, when you really stop to think about it.

So, let’s spend this week being grateful for the blessings of our lives. Let’s gather with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table to remember these blessings and give thanks. But let’s commit to being a thankful people all the time, in all seasons, especially because of God’s grace working in our lives and in so many lives around the world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Strengthening Our Spiritual Sight

In a world that no longer values Sunday morning church services the way it once did, a reason often given for non-attendance is that God can be worshipped anywhere. I can worship God in my pajamas. Which is absolutely true. God can be found on the golf course or the ski hill. God can be found at the coffee shop with friends or the breakfast table with family. Without a doubt.

But, while God is most-certainly present in all those places, I’m not sure God is always recognized at those places. Because seeing God everywhere takes effort. It takes work and commitment and intentionality. It eventually happens more routinely and effortlessly, but not without stringent training. We must discipline our spiritual vision and exercise our sacred sight. We must dedicate ourselves to being aware of God’s presence in specific and intentional ways if we ever expect to casually and naturally observe God’s presence all around. It doesn’t just happen.

Which is just one of the reasons for the significance of regular, communal worship. Finding God in the obvious places of the world—in beautiful sanctuaries with devoted Jesus followers; singing songs, praying prayers, and hearing from God’s Word—trains us to be holistic worshippers in all of life. We start easy—by gathering with our faith community on a Sunday morning to recognize God’s presence and give praise for God’s goodness—and in the process, we become more adept at seeing God everywhere.

So, the point of Sunday worship gatherings isn’t that these are the only times and places where we can find God. God is not restricted by the four walls of our buildings, but is present and powerful in all places, at all times. But these gatherings are vital for molding our spiritual muscles and training our sacred sight to be able to find God in all parts of our lives. There’s power in our worship rituals, because they prepare us to be God’s people all throughout our week, with everyone we encounter, in every place our journey leads.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Saving the Season from Insanity

Now that we’ve turned the calendar from October to November, it feels like the race to Christmas is on. The next two months will be filled with a myriad of ‘Christmas’ activities, personally and as a church. Between Christmas decorating and Christmas cards, Christmas shopping and Christmas parties, Christmas Blessing and Christmas Strolling, Christmas caroling and Christmas programs, we’ll arrive at the Christmas Eve Service before we can blink.

Which, that’s not all bad. All of those events and activities are inherently good. They all have the capacity to bring joy to our lives and the lives of others. But they also have the ability to produce massive amounts of stress and anxiety. These same events and responsibilities can both make or break our holiday season.

We must figure out how to do these two months well, or they’ll get away from us and ruin what should be a beautiful and meaningful time of year.

For me, the key to surviving this busy season is intentionality. The activities and events that inevitably await can overtake us if we don’t make conscious decisions about how to best wring blessing from Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas. We must reflect, converse, and make deliberate decisions about what we will do and not do, where we will travel and not travel, and how much we can handle or not handle. We may have to say ‘no’ to good things so that we can actually thrive (and not just survive) in this potentially significant season.

So, what’s important to you and your family? How much can you handle? Can you do everything? Do you need to say ‘no’ to some things? Are there certain events you need to skip, trips you need to cancel, or rituals you need to suspend in order to stay sane and really experience the blessing of this holiday season?

And if not, that’s fine too. If you can handle it all, awesome. But let’s make conscious decisions about how we will spend this impending season.

Let’s commit to being intentional about how we spend our time, money, and energy this year. Let’s be willing to make the hard decisions that need to be made. And let’s see if this holiday season can’t be the most significant and sacred one ever.