Where ingratitude shows up first

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I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of the character traits Christians should have. I love that they exist, but I hate how elusive they seem to be. Take humility, for example. This is one of the defining characteristics of a Christian: to pursue humility earnestly, embracing it as Christ did, who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). But it’s one that seems to be rarely seen among Christians. Or at least in me, certainly.

But aside from humility, there’s another character trait that always seems to escape me: a thankful heart. This is one that comes and goes. There have been times where I say I’ve most definitely been characterized by gratitude. I believe it was a Tuesday.

And then there’s the rest of the time.

But it doesn’t happen all at once. Ungratefulness develops slowly. But where I first notice it is in my prayer life.

While reading Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, I was hit hard by what he shares about the purpose of praise in the life of a believer—and the reality of what a lack of praise is:

Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power.… We have a problem with thanks and praise, and yet praise is the alpha prayer—the one kind of prayer that properly motivates, energizes, and shapes the others. (196-197)

It hurts, doesn’t it?

That’s really what a lack of thankfulness is. Cosmic ingratitude is the essence of sin. It’s a lack of desire to honor the One from whom all blessings flow. And this brings me back to my prayer life and how I see ungratefulness rear its head:

All I do is ask for stuff.

It’s just petition, petition, petition: the grown-up equivalent of CanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldad?

It’s not that petitions are wrong, obviously. God wants us to ask Him for our daily bread—He wants us to bring our needs before Him—but if that’s the sum total of my prayer life, something’s broken.

What this boils down to is praise puts us in touch with reality. When we lack praise, we are living in a fantasy world. And I don’t want to live in a delusional fantasy world, one where God exists to meet my needs as though He were a cosmic butler.

Thankfully, we have a way out. And it’s simple: learn to praise Him because “praising him helps us enter the real world and enjoy him more fully” (203).

This is an area I’m slowly growing in. And it’s not fun because I have little people watching me grow in it (I’d much rather be good at it right now, y’know?). But it’s the kind of world I want to live in. The kind of prayer I want to offer. And the kind of habit I want to develop. What about you?


Photo credit: chuckp via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few to start off the week (note: this will be a big week for book deals given that Black Friday is nearly upon us):

The Tragedy of the American Dream

HT: Chris

5 Ways to Kill Anger

Jen Thorn:

The worst part about anger is that is does not bring about the righteousness of that we desire (James 1:19) Instead it hurts those who are at the receiving end of our anger, disfigures our character,  breeds hatred and distrusts,tears apart relationships, and worst of all dishonors God.

It ruins everything.

The language of grumbling

Kim Shay:

Why do we complain? We don’t like things the way they are. We feel that we deserve more. We are bitter. Bitterness is one of the worst contributors to complaining. Bitterness festers and grows so that we see everything in a haze of indignation, and we complain more. I know; I’ve been that person. I’m not proud of it, but seeing it in myself is very helpful. I don’t want to be one of those people whom others avoid because I complain so much.

Help to Increase Your Thanksgiving Appetite

Jon Bloom:

When it comes to cultivating gratitude, we need all the help we can get. As I wrote last week, thanksgiving does not come naturally to sinful people. Grumbling and disputing comes natural (Philippians 2:14). Gratitude is the heart’s response to seeing and experiencing grace. And we must intentionally look for grace. It’s all around us. But selfishness distorts the lenses of our heart-eyes. So we need Scriptural prescription lenses to see right.

But once we begin to see, oh how things change. It is then that the real meaning of Thanksgiving dawns on us. We discover that the real feast of Thanksgiving is feasting on thanksgiving. Thursday’s American food feast is not the focus but is a finger that points us to a feast for our souls: God’s abounding, all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Now, if we (Americans) rush into Thursday’s celebration having barely reflected on gratitude, we will fill our stomachs but leave our souls hungry. So here are some resources that will help increase your thanksgiving appetite.

In A Tight Place with Profanity

Mark Bauerlein:

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and sometimes it isn’t. The other night I had a flight to Atlanta and was lucky to get upgraded to business class. It was late, I was tired, and lights were low. People were reading, checking their phones, watching their tablets. I leaned back and drifted into half-slumber until a voice exclaimed, “Oh man, that’s f _ _ _ in’ awesome.”

Five things I’m thankful for

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Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. Like in America, Thanksgiving weekend is accompanied by (arguably) excessive amounts of food, lots of family get-togethers, and a post-turkey coma. The major difference, aside from our Thanksgiving being on a Monday, is that the biggest shopping day of the year doesn’t immediately follow.

This past Sunday, we drove to Orangeville, Ontario, and enjoyed the day with our extended family on my wife’s side (specifically, my in-laws and my sister-in-law’s in-laws), with lots of great food and conversation. Thinking about the festivities on the way home and into the evening after putting the kids to bed made me consider what I’m thankful for this year. Here are five things:

1. My church: yesterday was the first time I’d actually sat in our weekend services in about a month. Prior to that, I’ve been preaching at another church, teaching in our children’s ministry, and (last week) teaching our baptism class in preparation for October 24th’s event. It was nice to just be there, for a change (even if the sleepy-time lighting makes it challenging to stay awake). Every time I hear them preach, I am grateful for our pastors’ commitment to the Word and desire to see people grow in their affection for Jesus. This is such a great gift.

2. My wife: She’s been working extra hard over the last few weeks, particularly as we’ve transitioned into homeschooling. What I’m really excited about for her is seeing how she’s taking to the task (which is to say, well). She especially gets little thrills when the kids randomly bring up things she’s taught them. For example, a couple of weeks ago, while doing a geography lesson, Abigail saw the word peninsula, and said, “Hey, I know what that means—’pen,’ is ‘almost,’ and ‘insula’ is ‘island.’ So, peninsula means ‘almost an island.'” You can understand why this was encouraging for her, I’m sure.

3. My kids: So far, my kids are thriving in homeschooling (as noted above). But school aside, these kids are just plain fun. I love being able to come home and have Hudson try to beat me up (he loves rough-housing so much). Making my girls squeal at a pitch only dogs can hear is also pretty amazing. And really, how can you not enjoy this:

My little Red Lantern

4. My work: I don’t talk about my day job very much here, mostly because I don’t have much to say about it that would be relevant for you to know. But lately, we’ve been having a pretty good season in our team. One of the things I’m most grateful for is a newfound willingness to take risks. Not foolish ones, but calculated risks where we can fail and learn or succeed and celebrate. One of the risks we took recently paid off, at the very least from a creative perspective, which to me is worth celebrating. I’ll share a bit more about that once the campaign it’s tied to officially launches.

5. My news: Friday, I learned something very cool—I got into school. Look for more details to come in the near future.

These are a few of the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. What about you?


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See it. Hear Him. Thank Him. Ask for more.

Source: NASA

Source: NASA

As the earth screams through space, balanced exactly on the edge of everyone burning alive and everyone freezing solid, as we shriek through deadly obstacle courses of meteor showers and find them picturesque, as the nearest fiery star vomits eruptions hundreds of times bigger than our wee planet (giving chipper local weathermen northern lights to chatter about), as a giant reflective rock glides around us slopping the seas (and never falls down), and as we ride in our machines, darting past fools and drunks and texting teenagers, how many times do we thank God? We are always in His hands, but we often feel like we are in our own. We can’t thank Him for every breath and every heartbeat, but we can thank Him every day for not splatting us with the moon or letting us drop into the sun.…

In a bed or on the battlefield or on asphalt in shattered glass beneath a flashing light, we are God’s stories to end. How many drunks has He spared you from? Thank Him before you ask to be spared from another. How many breaths have you drawn? How many winter winds have tightened your skin? How many Christmases have you seen? How many times has the sky swirled glory above your head like a benediction?

See it. Hear Him. Thank Him. Ask for more.

Search for moments in your story for which you can be grateful.

N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 139-140

Don't Be Guilted into Giving

Last year, I was sitting in a reasonably packed conference watching the host on the screen as he made a request for an offering to let the content of the conference be sent out to nations that couldn’t afford it.

A noble effort, to be sure.

But just before the collection was taken, he looks to the audience, points a finger and declares, “If you aren’t giving your full ten percent to your local church, don’t give to this. You are in sin and you are robbing God. Get right with God and then give to this.”

I’ve heard a lot of similar type comments before. But hearing it this time… honestly, it just made me angry and I’ve never been fully able to articulate why until recently.

I wasn’t angry because I was being convicted of sin in this area. I was angry because this attitude turns financial giving—something that should be a wonderful, worshipful act—into something ugly.

Why do you give?

Do you give out of a sense of obligation?

Do you give out of a sense of guilt?

Or do you give out of a heart of gratitude for all that God given you—in response to His saving you through faith in Jesus Christ?

What was most helpful for me was recently discovering the place of the tithe in the New Covenant community.

Tithing & Taxes

My pastor recently spent the last two weeks teaching on this, so it’s all still pretty fresh and I freely admit that I’m stealing from him. But here’s the big idea:

The term “tithe” is a mathematical term, referring literally to a tenth. It’s also a term that refers to taxation. [Read more…]

A Reason to Be Thankful

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, m passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.

And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

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

Colossians 3:1-17


Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.

And to the rest of us, Happy Thursday.

Let's Do Something Different-Update: $4830 to go!

Update:

$200 $2600 dollars donated so far!

Only $4830 to go!

Please donate and help give 2000 street kids a Christmas they’ll never forget!

[Read more…]

Cultivating Thankfulness

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When reading Trusting God on my flight to England this week, something Jerry Bridges wrote caught my attention:

Because God is sovereign, wise, and good, we can trust Him…. Paul said to “give thanks in all circumstances.” [1 Thes. 5:18] We are to be thankful in bad times and good times, for adversities as well as for blessings. All circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable to our desires are to be occasions for thanksgiving.

Trusting God, pp. 221

Bridges goes on to remind readers that our problem with not cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is not tied to forgetfulness, it’s tied to our sinful nature. And therefore, we must recognize God’s sovereignty, wisdom and love as they work themselves out  through all the unexpected twists and turns of our lives. “It is,” Bridges writes, “the firm belief that God is at work in all things—all our circumstances—for our good” (p. 223).

To derive the fullest comfort and encouragement from Romans 8:28[“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”]…we must realize that God is at work in a preactive, not reactive fashion. That is, God does not just respond to an adversity in our lives to make the best of a bad situation. He knows before He initiates or permits the adversity exactly how He will use if for our good. God knew exactly what He was doing before he allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Joseph recognized this when he said to his brothers, “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God….You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 45:8, 50:20).

Trusting God, p. 223 (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that?

God doesn’t just use our bad circumstances for good—He intends them. [Read more…]

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 50

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
     for the world and its fullness are mine
— Psalm 50:12

Reading this verse reminded me of something very important that is easy to forget: God does not need us for anything. We do not provide Him with anything that He needs or wants. Truthfully, we cannot… because everything is His.

For the Christian, that includes our time, our money, all of it. It is all His.

Yet we have a strange idea that we “need” to do something for God—that we can somehow earn His favor, or pay Him back for the gift of grace we have received.

But there is one thing we can give Him. It seems like such a small thing, but it’s incredibly difficult for us to do sometimes: We can give Him thanks.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!
— Psalm 50:23

[Read more…]