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The weather today in Oaxaca, Mexico, is perfect. It is a gorgeous day. Lots of blue sky and sunshine. I love it. It hasn’tgranted been like this for about three weeks. It has been cloudy and rainy. This morning I was talking to God about this beautiful day, or rather He was talking to me about it. He asked me if I liked the weather today. He asked me if I was happy. He asked me if the sunshine and blue sky made me happier than normal. I answered in the affirmative each time. He asked me if I had been taking the nice weather that we had been having in March, April and May for granted. I had to admit it. While most of the U.S. had been suffering unusually cold weather and lots of snow, we here in Oaxaca were enjoying temps in the 80’s and 90’s most everyday.

 

The point that God was making is that we have a tendency to take too many good things, too many blessings, too many gifts from the generous hand of our benevolent God, for granted. We don’t always acknowledge and thank God for simple things that make us so happy, like good health, delicious food, pure water, clean air and the ability to breath it. When, for some reason, God withholds these basic goodies, we are likely to complain and grumble. The apostle Paul admonishes believers over and over to give thanks to God, not just when we are fat and happy, but even in the lean times, for God is good all the time, and he always loves us and wants us to be happy.

 

I’m convinced that many times God withholds some blessings from us so that when they return to us we are happier than we were before. Take for example sickness. I hate being down with a cold or the flu. We all do. How thankful and full of joy we are when the sickness passes and we are feeling fine once again. Sometimes we even feel worse when a loved one is ill. My daughter’s, Sally and Kelly, had fevers and were coughing a lot last week and had to miss a few days of school. No parent likes to see their children suffer in any way, especially with an illness. After a visit to the doctor and taking some medicine they were feeling fine, and so was I. I wasn’t taking their good health and health care professionals for granted. I was thanking God for both, and was (and am) Happy for both.

 

My wife, Anita, has explained to our daughter’s about the importance of thanking God for all the food we have and eating everything on their plate, be cause there are a lot of poor children in the world who search through garbage dumps for something to eat. Our youngest daughter Kelly has taken this to heart and almost always asks to pray before meals. In her simple, four year old way of praying, she thanks God for our meal and  also that she does not have to eat trash.

 

So right now I am basking in the sunshine with a heart full of joy, praising our heavenly Father for the sunshine, and also for the eternal Sonshine that floods my soul.   I also need to ask forgiveness for all the times that I take for granted the incredible goodness that is always flowing from the hand of God. I ask God to remind me, that in those times when I feel something is lacking, that He is my Good Shepherd, and that in reality, I am never in need.

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be thankful

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I have been enjoying  Paul’s letter to the Colossians for the last month or so, and the idea of thanks, thankfulness and gratitude keeps popping up. Seven times in four chapters.  Some say Philippians is a book whose theme is joy, because the words joy and rejoice are prominent.  I think it’s safe to say Colossians is a book whose theme is thanks.  See what you think.

Colossians 1:3
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.

A Good Start

Paul starts most of his letters with a word or prayer of thanksgiving for the recipients, and the Christians in the church in Colossae were no exception. Paul had never visited that church, but they had a great reputation for their faith in Jesus and for loving God’s people. What if we started everday with a prayer of thanks for God’s people? All of God’s people – even those we don’t get along with, those who think differently than we do, those who offend us. Paul had to deal with all those types in his letter to the Corinthians, but he starts his letter to them by saying, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” A great way to start a letter and a day.

1:12
(We are) giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

Joyful Thanks

Paul is not just thankful, but for the second time in his prayer, he (and Timothy) give joyful thanks to the Father. He is full of joy as he gives thanks because he knows that these believers in Colossae, whom he has never met, are in the same boat with him with regards to being graciously chosen by God to share in the inheritance and to be brought into the kingdom of light. Certainly something to give joyful thanks about.

2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Overflowing With Thankfulness

First Paul gives thanks, then expresses joyful thanks, and this escalates to overflowing thankfulness. Considering a persons life in Christ, rooted in Christ, built up in Christ, and strengthened in the faith, it should be a natural reaction to overflow with thankfulness. I think of water being poured into a glass, and I have to ask myself, what is my level of thankfulness. Is it about 1/3, 2/3, full, or overflowing? Too many times I have to say 1/3 or 2/3. On a good day it may be full. God help me to truly realize the blessings of a life lived in Christ, and to overflow with thankfulness.

(the peace of Christ, the message of Christ, the name of Christ)

3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Thankful For the Peace

God gives a peace that passes all understanding to those who invite God to sit on the throne of their life. He gives that peace so that we can enjoy personal contentment, but more importantly, to enjoy peace with members in our communities of faith. The peace He gives is more than just the absence of conflict. It is a sense of completeness, wholeness, health, safety, tranquility, rest, prosperity, and harmony. This extends from the individual to the entire community of Christ. Psalm 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in harmony.” Truly something to be thankful for.

3:16
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Grateful Hearts
When the message of Christ dwells richly in individual hearts and corporately in the community of faith, then singing, and shouts for joy full of gratitude will be heard. A thankful heart is a happy heart.

3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do it All
Have you got something to say? Then say every word in the name of the Lord Jesus, as if He were saying it through you. Have you got something to do? Then make every action count, as if Christ were working through you. It’s amazing that God has chosen any of us to cooperate with Him in building the kingdom with our words and deeds. Thank you God for allowing us to partner with you with our lips and with with our hands in making this world a better place.

4:2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

A great Ending
Paul set the example in the first chapter. He prayed for the Colossians. He thanked God for them. Paul was ever watchful, alert for stories of Christ followers living lives of faith, hope and love. He heard about these Colossian Christians and was grateful for their lives, their words and their works. Now in the last chapter, Paul admonishes them to follow his example by being devoted to prayer, watching for good gifts from a gracious God, and being thankful.

Have you ever peeled five dozen hard boiled eggs at one time?  I hadn’t before this morning.  My wife, Anita, and I cooperatehard boiled eggs with God at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Anita is a cook.  She was preparing lunch for about 100 children and staff members.  Normally she has some help with this task, and normally I am working outside with landscape concerns.  This morning she was alone in the kitchen, and it was raining outside, so I helped her.  One item on the menu was potato salad, and my job was to peel the hard boiled eggs, all 60 of them.  At first it was kinda fun.  Then it just didn’t seem so bad.  After that it became  frustrating.  Finally, I ended up talking to the eggs.

“Hey Shelly, why can’t you be more like Eggbert?  His shell came off  lickety split, and yours is taking forever!”

“Yoko and Sheldon –  A little help here, huh?  You are definitely not part of the potato salad dream team!”

And so it went.  I noticed it had stopped raining.  Maybe I could slip out into the garden and do something interesting like dig  a drainage ditch or shovel compost, anything but peel eggs.  But I stayed and helped Anita finish the potato salad, baked chicken and pasta soup, because I  love her and want her to be happy; kinda the way God feels about us.

Struggling with the sticky egg shells, I began thinking about perspective.  I  realized there is a right and wrong perspective to have about everything, even peeling eggs.  A correct  and incorrect way of looking at things in life. Perspectives  that can make our existence happier or sadder; joy filled or filled with frustration.  That’s why God gave us His Word.  He created us and He tells us the proper way to look at situations.  Outlooks that improve outcomes.  He not only gives us His Word, but puts the Holy Spirit in us to work out His will and His way.  Paul prayed that the “heart eyes” of the Ephesians (chapter one) would be enlightened.  It is our “enlightened heart eyes”  that gives us wisdom, revelation and knowledge.  Paul is praying that the Ephesian Christians would be able to see situations the same way their Savior does.  Jesus never sinned, because He always had  perfect perspective, wisdom, revelation and knowledge about all situations that faced Him.  With His perspective guiding us, we will be a lot further down the road to glorifying God by enjoying Him and this life He has given us.

Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him

I took a theology class in college.  The professor defined theology as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”  I think that is a great definition, and  more than that, a goal of my life.  When I read and study His  Word, then I find myself thinking more “God thoughts”  and less James Schwab thoughts.  Less negative thoughts enter my head, pushed at me by the world, the flesh and the devil.  Paul says to the Corinthians,”we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).  When I think God’s thoughts after Him, I take errant thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.

Paul wrote to the Philippians that they should do “everything without grumbling or arguing” so that they could become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a crooked and warped generation (Phil. 2:14).  He says to the Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one  body, you were called to peace.  And be thankful“, “doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:15,17).

So what’s behind peeling hard boiled eggs?  What’s the inner perspective I need to have to affect my outward behavior positively?  Don’t grumble.  Don’t argue.  Let the peace of Christ rule in my heart as I  give thanks.  Give thanks for a delicious meal that I helped prepare.  Give thanks that over 100 children and staff members got a hot, nutritious lunch.  Give thanks that  it has stopped raining and back to the garden I go!

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Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Why Am I Here?

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