Sunday in his sermon on prayer Gary shared the acronym A.C.T.S., which stands for “Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication.” While discussing the confession portion of the message Gary addressed the very real issue of our being overly vague in our confession. Often we don’t find freedom through confession because we use some general confession along the lines of “Forgive me of all my many sins.” but we never really name what those sins are.
As Gary shared this I wanted to cheer; I also immediately connected the thought to thanksgiving and joy. I suspect that a large reason that we often fail to live the joyful lives we are called to live is because we fail to be specific in our prayers of thanksgiving. Much like confession, when praying prayers of thanksgiving we can have a tendency to pray things like “Thank You God for all Your many blessings.”
A while back I was challenged by something I read in Hidden in Christ, by James Bryan Smith. He discussed being at a speaking engagement and ending up in a small group with a woman who described having a “Gratitude Journal.” Smith explains that a few weeks later he decided to begin this spiritual practice as well. At the end of the chapter Smith issues this challenge:
“Today, or this week, begin keeping a gratitude journal. Try to write down five things that happened to you each day that were a blessing to you. Do not feel a need to make everything ‘spiritual’; if you enjoyed a delicious slice of pizza or a funny movie, simply write it down. The cumulative effect of these small moments of pleasure will, over time, amount to a large amount of gratitude and thanksgiving.” (Page 165)
I can tell you from my experience this has been helpful, though I have struggled to be consistent in practicing it. You see, I too fall into the habit of thanking God for “His many blessings” even thanking Him for “His grace and love.” While both statements are true they don’t really cultivate an attitude of thankfulness and joy. In my gratitude journal I will write things like, “Thanks for kids who show the love and grace of God in their willingness to forgive me for being short with them.” Or even God’s grace for that specific sin. The specificity does something in the heart and mind to intensify the joy and thankfulness.
As I flip back through my gratitude journal I am reminded that this journal fueled my intercessory prayer, as I thanked God for those answered prayers, it would fuel more prayer.
Here is my encouragement/challenge: begin your own gratitude journal. Strive everyday to think of five things for which you are thankful, whether big and “spiritual” or as “worldly” as a nice cup of coffee. Try this for a month and see if it hasn’t increased your joy.
May we be ever faithful to the command to, “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 3:15-17
While listening to Tim Hawkins, one of the funniest guys I have ever heard, he started talking about words or phrases we use around our kids to make them hurry up. For example…hurry up, right now, this instant, and pronto. He explains that pronto is one of the only Spanish words many of us know and or understand. Why? Because we like to hurry. Just about everybody we talk to or are friends with seem to be in a hurry or are trying to rush to get something done. Now I understand that there are times when hurrying is necessary. There are emergencies that require us to get there and get it done.
In John 11 Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus was very sick. Even though he was encouraged to go and heal him, Jesus stayed where he was for 2 more days. Jesus had the perfect opportunity to panic and rush to save his friend, but he didn’t. The point Jesus was making was that God doesn’t respond immediately to what we perceive as an urgent need. The foot note in my Bible says, “His delay had a specific purpose. God’s timing, especially his delays, my make us think he is not answering or is not answering the way we want. But he will meet all our needs according to his perfect schedule and purpose (Philippians 4:19). Patiently await his timing.”
The Lord’s timing is seldom, if ever, our timing. We are such a “microwave” society that we want what we want and we want it right now. God isn’t like Burger King where we can get it our way. God has a plan for us, and our ability to be patient and walk with him depends on how much we are walking with him prior to anything that would cause us or make us hurry. One of the best things we can do is to just take a breath and listen to Psalm 46:10…“Be still, and know that I am God…” Spending as much time with God in His Word is the best medicine for us to understand and know what God may be doing. When in tune with the Spirit, we have a better feel for where God may be working.
So if you are in a time of life right now where things are moving extremely fast. Try spending more time in God’s word and see what that does…Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Recently I have been reading Who Moved My Pulpit, by Thom Rainer. I have been chewing on the following excerpt for a while now.
It's a true story. A first-time guest came to the church at the request of the pastor. She was to observe carefully, then write a brief report.
Wow! "I would not come back." I can't help but wonder how many people have visited Sterling, a place that reminds us to Love People, and walked away feeling out of place and alone.
How many visitors did you greet Sunday?
May we go out of our way to make people know that we love them before they walk back out our doors. May we be a place that is welcoming.
Blog posts from the Sterling staff, and maybe even the occasional guest blogger.