30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 28 – Freedom from Sin

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In our misguided pursuit of freedom, we are rebels destined to selfish living apart from God’s kind intervention.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin.”

2 Peter 2:19

“Although these false teachers promise such people freedom, they themselves are enslaved to immorality. For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved.”

Galatians 5:1

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom has been the theme of man’s desire from day one. We don’t like to be boxed in, whether it is to an endless routine, someone’s definition of us, or someone else’s rules. In our misguided pursuit of freedom we are rebels destined to selfish living, apart from God’s kind intervention.

The inhabitants of this world long to be free, but don’t know what we really need to be free from. Freedom from authority, freedom to do whatever we want is not truly freedom at all. But freedom to abstain from sin – this is true freedom – and our loving God provides freedom within His perfect boundaries.

When my children were small I would purposely set a coveted object in front of them and tell them not to touch it. Sounds cruel, huh? But it was actually a desire to teach them self-control and to learn that we need to be able to master our desire for things that are not good for us. I still need work on this, myself, when it comes to chocolate.

Sometimes we fall short and can begin to wonder if God forgives us still. This is one of the greatest aspects of our freedom in Christ. We are free to live Holy lives by His grace, but we are also freely forgiven when we fall. This is not to be mistaken as an abuse of grace, but a humbling reminder that our freedom is not something we could ever achieve on our own and it cost our Savior His blood. What motivation to reach for His grace and to abandon sin and its empty promises!

I am grateful that Christ showed us how to live for God and die to self and gave us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when we are tempted. Christ set us completely free. Though we are in cases of clay, we can overcome and live victorious, free lives.

Lord, thank You for setting us free from the bondage of sin so we could live worthy lives for Your glory!

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 22 – Our Unchanging God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our unchanging God maintains complete control over everything.

Scriptures of the Day:

Hebrews 13:8

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Malachi 3:6

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Change is constant in this fast-paced world. It is easy to feel lost in a sea of constant transformation, but there is peace and confidence when we consider that our unchanging God maintains complete control over it all.

From day to day people’s attitude toward us can change, but God’s never does. Our financial status on earth can fade, but our eternal inheritance is steadfast, immovable. Our faith can waver, but God’s faithfulness never does.

Circumstances might wreak havoc in our lives, but there is hope even in life’s storms, because the God who made the storms is also the One Who calms them. He is always good, always consistently loving us, always with a redemptive purpose in mind.

He has known all of our tomorrows before one ever came to be. This knowledge is comforting in that God’s grace is already there at the end, as well. Nothing that comes our way is allowed in without God’s foreknowledge.

Lord, I am so very grateful that You never change. Thank You for being our very firm foundation where our hope is never disappointed.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 21 – The Patience of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Jeremiah 44:22

“The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day.”

Since the beginning of time, God has patiently been drawing us to Himself, revealing our sin that we might come to repentance and renounce our ways. The weary pattern of our stubborn sin and His merciful redemption is repeated incessantly, revealing God’s great patience. As we wind up in the mud pit again and again, darkened by our own counsel, He picks us up, dusts us off and sets His love on us again and again and again.

In His great kindness and patience, we are not consumed. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All have been offered salvation, but not all have accepted it.

Some have been in awe over the patience of Job, but it cannot even be compared with the patience of our God. Job complained of his plight, while God willingly chose His own suffering to win our hearts.

What patience of God to see our wickedness and to triumph over it with mercy. With mercy. Our flesh would not do as much. Such lavish patience is foreign, undeserved in our eyes. But then so is His amazing grace.

Patience is not permission to sin without consequence. It is not the abuse of grace or the casual acceptance of such an astonishing sacrifice on our part. Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience. It is in the suffering for our sins that our eyes can be opened to recognize our sin and our need of God. Even in our failures, God works patiently to redeem them and us with His mighty salvation.

Oh patient God, lover of our souls! Lord, You are so patient, longsuffering and kind. Thank You for opening our eyes to understand how great Your salvation is. May we never take for granted Your mercy and live lives worthy of Your great sacrifice.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 16 – Protection

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Thessalonians 3:2-3

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!”

We live in uncertain times, but perhaps every day in this world has been uncertain in the minds of men. Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Nothing is hidden from God’s view, but man does not know what the future holds. This truth keeps us humbly in dependence upon our God for His protection and guidance. Trapped in this capsule of time and surrounded by unredeemed flesh can be a scary thing if it were not for God’s promises and purposes, which are never thwarted.

I delight in how good our God is. Perfect in all His ways, nothing escaping His notice, we who are in Christ truly have nothing to fear. This does not mean that sorrows and hardships might not visit us, but it does mean that the LORD Who is over all things knew it ahead of time and supplies the grace, strength and mercy needed in each waking moment.

God protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. He surrounds us with His presence and gives us His favor. If. If we are in Him. If we are obedient and trusting in Him. His lavish protection guarding our minds, souls, our entire being – is one of the greatest benefits of being a child of God.

When I look back over the blessings and chaos in my past, I see the fingerprints of my God. Even in the most painful moments where I wondered where God’s protection was, I now see how very much He was present and guarding my heart and life. The times when I despaired because of the attack of men I now see as wasted time that I could have surrendered to God and trusted in His protection.

It has been said that we have no idea how very much God protects us on a daily basis. Near disasters avoided because of God’s protection or God orchestrating circumstances for His glory and our good – perhaps His overarching protection is undetected, but nonetheless every moment is held in God’s hands.

Lord, thank You for your constant protection and sovereignty in all of life. Our hope for safety is in vain if it is not surrendered to Your perfect will. Help us to fully trust You, for You are able and Almighty God.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 14 – The Word of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in the faithful daily reading of Scripture that a relationship with God is built.

Scripture of the Day:

Matthew 4:4

“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of God is precious to me and I am beyond grateful for the gift of Scripture, but it has not always been that way. Even as a Christian there were times in my walk where my Bible sat and gathered dust. It felt like a duty, void of relationship. Thank God that He has shown me the living treasure that His word is!

I can hardly read Scripture without being overwhelmed with the presence of God as truth washes over me. It is in the faithful daily reading of Scripture that a relationship with God is built.

This daily habit of reading God’s Word will have to be guarded and fought for tenaciously, as our flesh does not want it. When we apply God’s Word to our lives, our flesh dies. When the church lives according to God’s word, quarrels and fleshly pursuits go by the wayside.

His Word is a lamp to our feet, His precepts at the core of our salvation. He communicates His love and grace, commands and purposes to us through His Word. He gives wisdom to the simple, understanding to those who were once far off. His Word is alive and able to humble us with its piercing, loving truth. Amazingly, time and again the Holy Spirit applies our daily reading into the context of our daily lives.

Although the Bible is such an amazing gift from God, many neglect it and pursue religion instead of the relationship garnered through the study of Scripture. For the God of this world to communicate through pages carefully preserved is a miracle.

Don’t let fleshly excuses keep you from God’s Word – it is your very life. Don’t let the enemy keep you from it, as well. His Word is our daily bread – we get daily inspiration and empowerment to live for God when we bask in His Word. Who knows what God can accomplish through a people yielded to Him and abiding in His Word?

If reading the Bible is intimidating, try a reading plan. I choose from this website every year. In this relativistic world, it is so encouraging to know that God has not left us without instruction. His Word is absolute truth. This article discusses the authenticity of Scripture and how the amazing sovereignty of God worked to preserve His Word.

Oh God! I cannot thank You enough for Your precious Word! Open the eyes of all who might read this blog to see their need of consistent time in Scripture. Draw us nearer to You and may we rightly apply Your Word in our lives.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 7: God’s Law

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The One Who made the laws of God is the only One Who can keep them.

Scriptures of the Day:

Romans 3:20

“For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”

Romans 5:20

“Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more.”

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

I am a rule follower by nature and cannot comprehend why someone would willingly choose to go against rules that are in place. That said, um, I have been known to speed on occasion and break diets faster than they were begun.

Despite all of our best intentions, we all break the law, most importantly the perfect laws of God. We are flesh and in desperate need of grace. God’s law is, in fact, grace. For in the moment that we became aware of His laws, we became aware of our ability to keep even one of them. How is this grace? Why make laws that we cannot fully keep?

Every single precept and command He has given are given for our good. Sin destroys us, but abiding by God’s laws preserves us. He could have left us in our sin, ignorant of our transgressions, but He loved us too much for that. We were made for SomeOne more than just living for our flesh and this world.

The One Who made the laws of God is the only One Who can keep them. This loving God showed us His Holy standard then bore all of our consequences for breaking His righteous decrees. What a gracious God Who would not leave us without a standard, but would help us meet that standard, too.

Oh, God! Thank You for Your perfect law and for fulfilling it on our behalf! Thank You for a righteous standard for us to live by.

 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 5: Root Repair – Jealousy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

Scripture of the Day:

James 3:14-16

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 27:4

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

One more “cleaning house” principle in the caretaking of our roots before we get on to cultivating gratitude the remainder of this month. For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

If you have ever been the recipient of jealousy, you will never want to be the one guilty of it yourself. Jealousy is essentially saying that we are not content with what God has provided. It is coveting what someone else has and sometimes takes on a brutal fashion of trying to take down the other person in an effort to get what we want. Yuck.

So how does jealousy prevent thankfulness? When we are absorbed in wanting something we cannot get or focusing on our lack of having something that someone else has, there is no place for gratitude. Jealousy is the antithesis of thankfulness; it is actually thanklessness and discontent with our status or situation in life.

We root out jealousy by endeavoring to create an atmosphere of humility. God has different plans for us all and we would never want to step outside of His sovereign will to strive to get what someone else has – He won’t bless it.

Examining the attitude of our Savior Who was King over all but chose to serve humanity with the laying down of His own life inspires us to do the same. Victory comes as we lay down our agendas, pride, striving – all at the feet of Jesus – and pick up gratitude that He died for our sins, instead.

There can be no jealousy that remains when we compare our perceived lack with Christ’s chosen path of sacrifice. Whatever we hoped to gain is now all loss as we bow at the cross in utter gratitude that He gave it all for us.

 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 4: Root Repair – Forgiveness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

Scripture of the Day:

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ever feel like you have a sign on your back that says, “attack”? Sometimes it seems we can be inundated with people who are angry with us or just plain don’t like us. Any thankfulness we have quickly dissipates while we begin to become self-focused and perhaps throw a pity party or two.

If we are not careful, the actions of others can lead us down a path of a complaining self-absorbed spirit. We are human, though, and have feelings. It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

When I consider that God has forgiven me all of my transgressions, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I cannot receive such forgiveness and be unforgiving, as well. Forgiveness opens up our hearts and enables us to replace the hurt with grace, instead.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 3: Root Repair – Bitterness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

People matter more than our lives being gratified by them.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 12:15

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Our faces bare our hearts. Bitterness is one of those character traits that can be spotted in an expression quite readily. It is not very attractive, either. Just sayin’. There is something about the look of having just ingested a lemon that says “UGLY”.

Where does it come from? Sometimes we can be offended by someone’s treatment of us and pride rises up within us. Or maybe we are let down by life’s circumstances in general. When we allow bitterness to germinate and spread as we contemplate whatever it is that we resent, we are in danger of letting bitterness overtake us.

If we allow bitterness to take root, it can affect our whole personality, lives and those around us, too. Sure enough, bitterness also squashes any remote thankfulness we might have, as we are too absorbed in whatever it is that we are dissapointed by.

But there is a way of escape and it is paved by choosing to love those we have become embittered by. People matter more than our lives being gratified by them. People will let us down from time to time, but perhaps our expectations are misplaced.

Recognizing negative thoughts is half the battle. Turning those bitter thoughts into gratitude takes dying to self and choosing to replace those thoughts with God’s truth. Taking captive thoughts that do not please God and replacing them with His Word begins to transform our minds and hearts to lives characterized by thankfulness.

Lord, thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who reveals attitudes that displease You. Help us to weed out what displeases You and to cultivate hearts overflowing with gratitude.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 2: Root Repair – Ingratitude

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our perspective is altered in the presence of a Holy God.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 1:21

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Looking at these roots is a little embarrassing if you know what I mean. I am not talking about the roots from my last highlight job, either. Ingratitude pops up at the least likely times, sometimes easily provoked.

Irritants from everyday life (remember yesterday’s discussion?) threaten to snuff out a spirit of thankfulness as we focus on the immediate instead of the context of the immediate within the whole framework of life.

So how do we root out ingratitude? The motivational statement, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” might offer temporary relief, but more than mantras and pep talks, perhaps examining what created the ingratitude in the first place might lead to fostering gratitude.

An attitude of entitlement quickly crushes an attitude of gratitude. Expectations can become demands if we are not careful. This is where genuine humility is a lifesaver. We brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out. All we have is God’s. With this in mind, now what do we expect?

We need to come to God for a heart change. Our perspective is altered in the presence of a Holy God. Frustration is transformed into delight and anger is turned into sheer gratitude that God allows anything good in our lives at all.

Our great God is generous and merciful. He has provided for us, placed His love on us while we were not seeking Him at all. He has delighted in us. He is, in fact, all we need in this life and He takes care of our practical needs, too.

Oh God, how grateful we are for Your rich grace in our lives! Why should we be allowed to know You? How did we come to discover Your salvation? Please forgive us when ingratitude creeps into our hearts and help us to have hearts full of gratitude.