Counting God’s Blessings

A friend of mine passed along the following message to me today, and I find its words more suitable for this week than something I would try to write.  Be blessed!

~~~

November 19, 2012

Counting God’s Blessings on Thanksgiving

by Dave Boehi

So now it’s Thanksgiving week–the time we know we’re supposed to express our thankfulness to God. The Scriptures remind us often of this truth; 1 Thessalonians 5:18, for example, tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

But have you thought about why we should be thankful to God?

I’ve been a follower of Christ for close to 40 years now. As I look through these years, I realize that expressing my thanks to our Heavenly Father may be as powerful as any other discipline of the Christian life.

Being thankful compels me to fix my eyes on God rather than on myself. It humbles me. It lifts my mind off my troubles and anxieties and reminds me that God will always provide for my needs, and that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Being thankful lifts my spirit.

As you approach Thanksgiving, here’s one way to cultivate a thankful heart: Spend time listing God’s blessings in your life. And don’t stop until you’ve listed at least 10-15. The exercise will force you to think creatively about God’s care and provision–even in small things.

For the last few years I’ve received a Thanksgiving email that Carol Cunningham of Sandy, Utah, sends to family and friends. I worked with Carol and her husband, David, years ago at the publications department of Campus Crusade for Christ. In her Thanksgiving emails she lists the different ways that God has blessed their family. Here are some samples from her 2010 letter, in which she said she was thankful for:

My family and friends who make my life so rich with joy.
My husband who continues to demonstrate his love for me in innumerable acts of kindness and caring.
My mother who is going strong at 85 and still loves to swim even on a cold, foggy day.
Co-workers who know how to share a laugh even when the schedule is so tight there’s no time to breathe.
The God-given wisdom of the human soul that knows, deep down, that God is, and that He is good.
The way the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains glow in the light of a full moon.
The eternal and unchanging promises of God–that I am His and He is mine, now and forever.
That there is a sure day coming when I will know Him fully, just as I have been known, and I will see Him face to face.

This year’s Thanksgiving email from Carol is a bit more somber. She and David have faced a number of intense challenges from health and family issues. But in her words you can see the power of thanking and praising God.

In a year of startling and difficult twists and turns, it is more important than ever to stop and consider all the blessings we have experienced. I am so thankful …

That on restless nights when I cannot sleep I know that I am not abandoned or forgotten by the One who created me, who loves me perfectly and knows me perfectly.
That the clouds moving outside my window are a gift from God, sent to remind me of the vastness of the universe.
That when I don’t know how to pray (which is more often than not), God’s Spirit intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words.
That my family has pulled together in extraordinary ways to cope with Mom’s illness and her house and all the many, many details and decisions that confronted us along the way.
That Mom is 87 and doing so well in spite of cancer and surgery, enjoying her swims and her photos and her music, and making the best of all that she’s been through and the time that remains.
That is is not my job to fix the universe or my kids.
That a pine tree flooded with warm summer sunlight and smelling of the richness of the mountains can bring to mind a lifetime of wonderful memories.
That life is short and long, sweet and difficult, all at the same time.
That we are not meant to understand everything.
That God does not allow us to see the future–it would be overwhelming.
That every heartache has meaning, and no sin and no sinner is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.
That His purpose prevails.
That an early morning walk on the beach can be all I really want or need; it is enough simply because God walks with me.
That no matter how much I thank Him, I can’t thank Him enough. That no matter how much I worship Him, I cannot worship Him enough. That’s what eternity is for …
GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
FOR HE IS GOOD,
HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!

Listing God’s blessings in your life forces you to focus on Him, and in the process you catch a glimpse of His love, care, and compassion. This week you might want to take some time to do this as a couple, or as a family. I guarantee you will be encouraged.

New Pages

You may have noticed that there are a couple new tabs under the heading on this blog.  I have added these pages as links to two of my jobs: Amy Originals and Trades of Hope.

The first, Amy Originals, is a business I started a couple years ago.  I make and sell blank notecards; I take photographs, and then mount them onto colored cardstock.  These notecards are great for encouraging friends and family, for birthdays and holidays, and for anything else you might think of.  All of the notecards can be purchased online at http://www.amyoriginals.com.

The second business is Trades of Hope.  I work for Trades of Hope as a Compassion Entrepreneur (“CE”).  Please click on the tab above to learn more, or visit the website: http://www.tradesofhope.com.

The purpose of these pages is to create awareness and availability.  I do not want these pages to become the focus of the blog, nor do I want to cause readers to feel obligated to purchase anything.  They are here as helpful links and easy access in case you want them.

Hopefully I will get another post up by Thanksgiving.  If not, enjoy your Thanksgiving week and be sure to praise!

Letting Go of Idols

Idols aren’t anything we think about often.  That word, “idol”, may remind us simply of the TV show or of ancient Bible times.  But did you know that idols are still prevalent today?

Our idols may not be tangible objects.  We may not have statues or carved images, but we might have certain things in our lives that consume more time and energy than they should.  These things cause us to think of our problems, to dwell on them, to mull them over and try to come up with solutions on our own.  Maybe it’s our checkbooks – we don’t see enough money in there to cover the necessary expenses.  Maybe it’s a relationship – we want it to look a specific way, or it’s just more exciting than anything else in our lives.  Maybe it’s our body, our image – we work out frequently and make sure to diet; or maybe we don’t do anything, and we sulk in the fact that we haven’t.  Maybe it’s something totally different for you.

Idols creep in.  Look at the Israelites:  they were wholeheartedly serving the Lord, yet sometimes when they obediently went out to conquer foreign lands they would be enticed by the idols of those foreign lands.  They gave in to those temptations and ended up disobeying the Lord and worshiping the idols.  It was a downward spiral from there.

Yet every single time the Israelites went astray and disobeyed the Lord, what did He do?  He offered a way out.  And it was the same way out every single time.  “and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all of your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deuteronomy 30:2-3).  He went on to tell them of the immense blessings He wanted to give to them upon their return to Himself.  When they turned to Him and served Him only, He would bless them.  When they chose to go their own way and worship something other than Him, He would curse them; they wouldn’t receive the fullness of His blessing.

I have idols.  They creep into my heart and start to take over before I realize what’s happening.  As time has passed, however, I have gotten much better at stopping them early on.  But sometimes I allow my carnal self to take control and lead me down the wrong path.  The thing is, my idols don’t always start off bad.  They just end up bad.  As I go along I realize that the road is not completely following after God’s Word; something doesn’t completely mesh with my spirit.  Oftentimes I can’t immediately put a finger on it; but I know a specific part of it is impure and unholy.

You’d think that at that point I’d listen to the red flags, stop in my tracks, and turn around.  Sadly, I don’t do that every time.  When I do turn around, it hurts.  If I stop early, it doesn’t hurt as bad.  Ripping away from your flesh hurts.  It’s not easy.  But it is completely, 100% necessary.

When I build up an idol and have to tear it down, I build an altar.  Every aspect of that idol must go on the altar, and it must be left there to be burned up.  I draw an altar on a page of my journal and label it.  Then I write every little detail of that idol on separate lines around the altar.  I pray and I cry and I read the Word and work it out with the Lord.  Sometimes I fight Him as long as I can and try to bargain with Him, knowing that I don’t actually want to win.  Eventually I let it all go.  As I let each detail go, I draw a line connecting it to the altar.  Once that line has been drawn, there’s no turning back.

It can take a while.  And it hurts – oh, does it hurt.  But once the lines have been drawn and everything released, there is an immense peace and assurance that the Lord ushers in.  It’s wonderful.  Then His blessings flow, and it’s miraculous.  You know without a doubt that He is good.  You know that He has your best interest in mind, that He wants to bless you and prosper you.  You know that He loves you – really, truly loves you.

Our hope is in the LORD.  We rejoice in Him because He is constant and He alone is good.

Psalm 42:5  ~  Psalm 62:5  ~  Psalm 64:10  ~  Psalm 118:1  ~  Psalm 136:1

Worship

Why worship?  It seems like an insulting question, doesn’t it?

Why worship? 

You know the answer as well as I do.  All we have to do is open the pages of that old Book… there we find so. many. reasons to worship.

Like the Red Sea parting and the Israelites who habitually disobeyed but the God who was relentless and sought His people through the thick and the thin.  Or the story of Job and all of his horrific trials and temptations (because we do not fight against flesh and blood), and the God who allowed the pain to bring about precious fruit and blessings beyond comprehension.  Or the promise of the Spirit that fills us and leads us.

The fact that He never, ever, under any circumstance, leaves us or forsakes us.  (Remember that theme of love in past posts?  It never ends, you know…)

We worship for a myriad of reasons.  Your reasons might be different from my reasons and my reasons different from another’s.  But they’re legitimate and He deserves every ounce of praise we give.  We worship because He is God.

Worship does something in the body – in the soul.  It goes deep and revives; brings surreal peace and love and every good thing.  He loves it and we love it.

Why do you worship?  What things are you thankful for?  Have you lifted up your voice – out loud – in worship to Him?

 

Something To Meditate On

“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!'”        Matthew 7:11