A Grateful Heart

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28-29 (NASB)

Do you have a grateful heart?  When was the last time you said thank you to someone and expressed your appreciation for them?  Thanksgiving reminds us to show gratitude for all that God and others have done for us and mean to us.  The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe….”  God loves a grateful heart. Gratitude demonstrates humility and allows me to recognize that it is God who has enabled me to be where I am and have what I have today.  In contrast, Paul describes the perilous times that will come in the last days and, among the laundry list of evil behaviors he describes, there is one word that seems to be out of place.  Look at it in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT):

“You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!”

Did you notice the word that seems out of place?  Among the 19 or 20 descriptions that Paul used to characterize the difficult times in the last days, he listed the word “ungrateful.”  A lack of gratitude doesn’t seem to be that heinous a crime.  So what? The truth is that ingratitude is at the root of all the other sins listed in the last days.  An ungrateful heart assumes that I am the sole explanation for all that I am and have!  This Thanksgiving season, pray for a grateful heart.  Blow your family away with kindness and gratitude.  The Bible calls it our “acceptable service….”  Make a list of those for whom you are grateful and let them know how much you appreciate them.  Express your gratitude to God.  Give thanks for all that He has done.  Be specific in your praise.  The Psalmist said that we enter the gates of Heaven with thanksgiving, but we enter God’s courts with praise!  Discover the power of praise with a grateful heart!  Show gratitude with reverence and awe as you worship this weekend at church.

 

Man of Mystery, Part 4

“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.”

1 Corinthians 3:12-14 (NIV)

To solve the mystery of men, it’s important to understand the unique needs of men.  We’ve identified three of the four basic needs from the clues found in Scripture.  They are respect, confidence, and companionship.  The fourth is what I would call a transcendent cause.  Men want their lives to matter, to make a difference, to leave a lasting mark that they were here and, as a result, made the world different and better. A man needs something bigger than himself, something that lasts.  He longs to leave a lasting legacy.  What are you doing that will outlast you?  If you desire a transcendent cause, you must choose purpose over profits.  While profits are a good thing and fuel success, purpose in life fuels significance and looks beyond our lifetime.  Real success is leaving a successor.  It is in mentoring those who will go after us and impact the next generation.  In Psalm 127, the Psalmist said, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” I am so grateful for a father who did this!  He mentored faith for us!  It’s a lasting legacy that I so desire to leave with my own children and pray that they will continue with theirs for generations to come!  As a pastor, I have been at the bedside of many dying men and not one of them has ever asked me for their Mercedes or financial portfolio.  Billy Graham used to say that he had never seen a U-Haul following a hearse to the cemetery.  Although, I did hear about one man that asked his pastor to have him buried in his 4 x 4 dually pick-up truck!  The pastor thought it was an odd request and asked the man why?  He said, “It’s simple pastor, I’ve never seen a hole yet that my 4 x 4 couldn’t get me out of!”  What is your transcendent cause?  What is it that motivates you the most?  What will outlive you that makes life worth living?  Are you living for the ones who will cry at your funeral?  What do you want them to remember most about you?  How can you begin now to leave a lasting legacy of faith in the lives of those you love the most?  Are you allowing the lure of success and profits to rob you of the significance of God’s purpose in your life?  Who are you mentoring?  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, it’s our job to aim them in the right direction and then let go.  Ask God today how you may begin mentoring the next generation for Christ.  Live in such a way that they have an example to follow.

Man of Mystery, Part 3

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

God designed us for companionship. When He created everything in the garden, He said it was all good except for one thing.  It’s interesting to me that, before man disobeyed and sin ever entered the picture, God noticed something wasn’t good.  What could possibly not be good in God’s perfect creation?  God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Many women believe that God looked at Adam and said, “I think I can do better,” so He created Eve!  But, the truth is that God knew man required a companion suited for his needs.  Both men and women share a need for companionship in their marriage.  Yet, part of the mystery in marriage is understanding what men need in contrast to what most women need.  While our motives are sincere, often conflict occurs when we don’t understand those differences.  When we try to meet our mate’s need for companionship out of our own need, we often wonder why it’s not working.  So, what’s the difference?  For most women, companionship is relational and conversational.  No offense ladies, but that really isn’t on a man’s radar when it comes to companionship.  For most men, companionship is sexual and recreational.  Verbal affirmation and nonsexual touch may meet a woman’s need for companionship, but most men feel desired and loved through physical connection and sexual fulfillment.  Is it any wonder why couples struggle to connect when it comes to meeting each other’s need for companionship?  The challenge for men is to choose love over lust.  I read a recent study that over 60% of men within the church are addicted to pornography.  Because men are visually stimulated and with the accessibility of pornography today, I’m not surprised that so many men struggle in this area!  Lust is a perversion of a legitimate need for love and companionship that God designed in men.  Men are wired to notice if they see a beautiful woman.  It has nothing to do with their love for their wives.  This is not an excuse, though, to keep looking.  Job dealt with this in his life by making a proactive commitment.  He said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” Job 31:1 (NLT)Pornography is so destructive to a marriage and disables a man from having a healthy sexual relationship with his wife.  You may need to not only make a covenant with your eyes but also get a filter for your computer and block some cable channels from your TV.  In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, the Apostle Paul challenges men, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”  Choose love over lust!  This past weekend I was so proud of the men who stood in every service at our church as they made a public commitment to be that kind of man!  Ladies, affirm that commitment in your husbands.  Encourage them in this battle.  It is every man’s battle.  Work together to meet the unique God-given need for companionship in your marriage and watch how your intimacy and unity will grow!   

Man of Mystery, Part 2

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

A man’s greatest confidence often comes from his wife.  Every man wants to feel supreme confidence.  Yet, the truth is that most men feel insecure and inadequate.  A man’s biggest fear is that he will be found out to be a fraud!  He often feels like he lives in a house of cards that, one day, will collapse around him.  Men often ask themselves, “Do I measure up?”  It’s what drives men to be workaholics.  He measures his worth based on his performance, and the more successful he is, the more insecure he feels.  Like a spy, he feels like he is playing a role on the outside but wonders when he will be found out for who is really is on the inside.  That’s why one of the greatest gifts a wife can give her husband is the gift of confidence, to let him know that she believes in him and trusts him.  Yet, only one in four men feels appreciated by his wife and kids.  Only 25% of men say they feel appreciated by the most significant people in their lives.  The most fragile thing in the world is a man’s ego.  Perhaps that’s true across the sexes but it’s especially true among men.  It must be why Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica and told them to encourage each other and build each other up.  To encourage someone is to put courage in, to give them courage, to build up, not tear down their confidence.  Still, as much as we are told to encourage one another and build each other up, there is only one true source of confidence, and that is to discover our true identity in Christ.  If you struggle with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, you must first recognize your true identity in Christ.  Your performance will rise and fall on good days and bad, but your identity in Christ will never change!  You are more than what you do!  Paul describes our identity in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 when he said, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”   What a powerful confidence booster!  In Christ, I am a brand new creation!  In Christ, old things have passed away!  In Christ, all things are becoming new!  In Christ, I am reconciled to God!  In Christ, I am completely forgiven!  In Christ, I am righteous and holy and blameless, without a single fault because Jesus took all my sin!  If you want to build up your confidence, choose your true identity over temporary performance.  We’ve got enough in life to knock us down.  Look for ways to encourage others and build them up!

Man of Mystery

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Ephesians 5:31-33 (NIV)

 Part of the mystery in marriage is trying to understand your mate!  Men and women are definitely wired differently.  I love how the Phillips translation paraphrased 1 Peter 3:7.  It tells husbands, “… you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with ….” The emphasis is on the word “try.”  It seems like Peter is conceding that it is the best a man can do!  But, what about men?  Are they as complicated for women to figure out?  When it comes to how a man thinks, one woman said, “Never let your man’s mind wander – it’s too little to be out on its own.”  The truth is men are a little more complex than we may appear on the surface.  This week, we are going to take a closer look at a man’s heart and reveal the truth that every man wishes a woman understood about him.  We’re also going to see what the Bible says about how a man can keep his way pure in an impure world!  This would be a great blog to discuss with your mate after you’ve both had time to reflect a bit on it.  I’m praying it will open a dialogue between you that will take your relationship to another level.  Let’s begin with what the Bible says is a man’s deepest need.  In Ephesians 5:33, the Bible instructs wives to respect their husbands.  While the husband is instructed to love his wife, the wife is told to respect her husband.  God knows the deepest needs in each spouse.  A man longs to be respected.  Many men try to gain that respect through the wrong channel, and it creates frustration and dissatisfaction.  Men often try to gain their respect through success.  They work hard to make their way to the top of the corporate ladder only to discover that, when they get there, it was leaning against the wrong building all along.  Solomon talked about that in Ecclesiastes.  When he reached the top and achieved it all, he said, “But when I turned to look at all that I had accomplished and all the hard work I had put into it, I saw that it was all pointless. {It was like} trying to catch the wind. I gained nothing {from any of my accomplishments} under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11 (GW) I call this death by success!  While there are some men who bottom-out, there are even more who top-out.  The respect men desire will never ultimately come from success.  As great as it is to be successful in business, real respect, self-respect, comes from significance.  A man must find his significance in who he is, not in what he does!  This is why every man needs Christ.  When Christ is our life, we discover significance and life takes on meaning and purpose for us!  We are designed to be inhabited by God.  Apart from Him, our lives are dysfunctional because we were created in His image and after His likeness.  The Bible puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:17.“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Have you been struggling to find respect through success and still feel empty inside?  Open your heart to Christ, and receive His life and forgiveness of sin.  In Christ, you will discover your significance and real purpose.  Don’t make the mistake Jesus warned about in Mark 8:36-37 (NKJV), “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Choose significance over success. Don’t lose your soul.