What’s Your Perspective on Thanks-living?

When reading a fiction or non-fiction book, readers see and experience the events and feelings about the characters through a certain point of view, which is called a perspective. A perspective is a literary tool, which serves as a lens through which readers observe other characters, events, and happenings.

Years ago my wife posted a sign next to the front door of our home that reads “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.” It’s a great conversation starter for visitors to the house, but if I asked you if you believe that to be true, what would your answer be? May I suggest your answer to that question may very well depend on your perspective—or, in other words, through the lens you are viewing the characters, events, and happenings in your life.

As Christians, the lens of Scripture should always be what we use to view every single thing that happens in our lives. And in Scripture, the greatest story ever told is the story of redemption. In literature, the mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers “hear,” “see,” and “feel” what takes place in a story is called point of view. God Himself has narrated the great story of redemption, so as redeemed people we should “hear” the great news of salvation (Luke 1:9; Romans 10:8-9), we should “see” with eyes of faith the future He has set for us (1 Corinthians 2:9; Jeremiah 29:11), and we should “feel” the love He has showered on us in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). If we are viewing the whole of our lives through those lenses and with that perspective, how can we not live with a thanks-living attitude every day!

We do not have to wait, as the world does, for one month out of the year to starting thinking about what we have to be thankful for. For the redeemed, our perspective is gained from God’s Word. There really is always, always, always something to be thankful for…the Lord’s lovingkindness never ceases and His compassions never fail. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22).

Thank God Without Ceasing

Last year, I wrote a blog post on gratitude. In it, I confessed that I often bemoaned the lack of genuine gratitude in my young, unsaved boys, while I unfortunately modeled this same attitude. While I would be lying if I said that I have demonstrated perfect repentance and lived this year in a constant state of gratitude and contentment, I think the Holy Spirit has convicted me of this sin and driven my heart to the cross when complaints creep into my heart and, sometimes, into my speech and body language. I thank God for His infinite patience with me as I seek to live a life in light of receiving eternal life and unmerited favor at the cost of His Son’s life.

This year, my desire is to be more intentional about speaking aloud my gratitude. While I seem to be pretty adept at speaking aloud my complaints, my thoughts about the greatness of God’s mercy do not pass through my lips nearly as often as they should, and I need to share them more—including with my family. I do not want to model a “one and done” attitude towards thanking God for the specific ways in which He is gracious to me. For instance, there are times when we pray as a family when the boys thank God for the same thing repeatedly, and I have found myself thinking “Can you think of something else? We’ve already thanked God for safety at sports five days in a row now.” While I don’t think I have said that aloud, shame on me for thinking it. Because I thanked God for safety yesterday, does that mean I’m covered in that area and can move onto thanking Him for something else? That sounds ridiculous as I write it, but sometimes I act that way—as if I am saying, “I thanked God for my health last week, check, I’ll thank God for our missionaries this week, check, I’ll thank God for my family next week, and then in another month or so, I can go back and start over.” God, forgive me for any time when I feel like I have thanked You enough for anything.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. We should thank God without ceasing, and while we will not worship and thank Him perfectly until we are glorified, we can grow in our gratitude. I can do this by pausing as I look around throughout the day. I’m typing on a laptop. Thank you God for work that pays the bills for the electricity and for providing the means to buy this machine I so often complain about. I am looking at pictures of my husband and boys. Thank you Lord for providing me with a husband that loves You and loves me and our kids. Thank you for my boys and for allowing me to raise them and love them. I see a beautiful morning sky through the slats of our blinds. Thank you, Lord, for creating this Earth and sovereignly orchestrating everything that occurs on it. I see canned food piled in the boys’ room. Thank you, Lord, for providing for our physical needs and providing the means for us and others to help people who need food. There is no lack of reminders of God’s graciousness to me. I just need to look around and take the time to thank Him.

Gracious Father, I do not want to grieve your Spirit when He reminds me of specific ways in which You have been immeasurably good to me and my family. ­­Assist me to look to You and see with the spiritual eyes You have given me, that I might humbly bow my heart to You in gratitude for Your grace and mercy, Your protection and provision, Your compassion and patience, Your forbearance and discipline. Help me to speak of Your greatness to others and to model this more consistently in my home.

Thanksgiving and Finances

There are many things we can thank God for: Salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection, first, of course. Family. Country. But money? Should we thank God for the money we have? Isn’t that worldly?

If God told Israel that they should remember, or call to mind in an active way, that He was the one who gave them the ability or power to gain wealth (Deut.8.18), then how could or should we do less?

We must put things in their proper place. Otherwise we will be as foolish as the false teacher who once tweeted, “Jesus bled and died for us so that we can lay claim to the promise of financial prosperity. #ProsperityInChrist #WealthyLiving #AbundantLife.”

That has to be as far away from the truth as one can get regarding salvation and finances.

It is true that James reminds the rich to thank God for their humiliation and their short lives; yet, we should remember He who gave us all the dollars we have in our accounts. Upon remembering His hand in our lives, thanksgiving should not be far behind. Thanking Him for the amount I have in the bank makes it hard to complain. This also makes it hard to be greedy. Greediness is a national favorite sin.

When Nicole and I are able to remember and thank God, we are helped in our attitudes and thoughts. We remember when we didn’t have as much as we do now (not that what we have now is busting any seams). The fact that He has allowed us to have more helps us to hold a lot more loosely to those more abundant dollars.

Remembering God’s financial grace upon us makes us more willing to return some of the money to Him by giving through the church or giving directly to those in need.

How to Avoid the Sin of Ingratitude

“While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’”—Luke 17:11-19

This account suggests that of those who are blessed by God, only one in ten will stop to give God praise for it. Here we discover that:

  • Not all who truly believe sincerely praise
  • Not all who diligently pray praise equally
  • Not all who readily obey always praise

Like these nine lepers, we are content to enjoy the gift, but are prone to forget the Giver. We are quick to pray, but slow to praise.

The Cause of Ingratitude

Why did the nine refuse to return to give glory to God? Perhaps the reason was:

  • Callousness―underestimating the benefit of thanksgiving
  • Pride―perhaps thinking they were only getting what they deserved, seeing leprosy as an injustice and good health as their right
  • Selfishness―having received new life from Jesus, perhaps fearing He might demand their loyalty
  • Thoughtlessness―not reflecting on the gift, only enjoying the benefit
  • Cowardice―wondering if a grateful response would involve a deeper discipleship
  • Calculation―willing only to do it if others will, but not otherwise
  • Procrastination―putting it off until later, although sometimes until it is too late
  • Worldliness―forgetting Christ for the sake of other loves

The Penalty of Ingratitude

To refuse to be thankful or to nurse an attitude of ingratitude is a sign of a weak moral and spiritual condition (Rom.1:21). The penalty for ingratitude is that it closes the door to deeper blessings in life.

What is the blessing of a grateful heart? A greater blessing (Luke 17:19)! Every child of God should cultivate the grace of gratitude. Why? It opens the heart for greater blessings and it glorifies God.

Bishop Thorold once said, “He who forgets to be thankful, may one day find himself with nothing to be thankful for.”

Luke 17:17-18 shows us that the Son of God values gratitude and misses it when it is not expressed.

Dealing With Doubt

The people who are perplexed and wrestle with doubt, in my opinion, are the most intellectually honest people in the world. They are men and women who cannot rest on unthoughtful traditions or flattering words; they must get to the bottom of things. Even a light survey of the Gospels reveals that Christ was fond of these kinds of people.

How did Jesus deal with doubters?

Jesus never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt says, “I can’t see it.” Unbelief says, “I won’t see it.”

  • Doubt is honest; unbelief is obstinacy.
  • Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.

Christ attacked the unbelief of the Pharisees and scribes, but He was generous and tolerant of the doubters like Peter (Matt.14:28-33), Thomas (John 14:5-6; 20:19-28), Philip (John 14:8-9), and even the Pharisee, Nicodemus (John 3:1-16).

How did Jesus deal with their doubts?

The church said, “Burn him” or “Brand him,” but Christ says, “I’ll teach him.” When Thomas doubted His resurrection, Jesus did not give him a tongue lashing―He gave him facts! Jesus said, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). The great lesson of the New Testament way of looking at doubt is not to brand people, but to lovingly and wisely teach them. Faith is never opposed to facts or reason, it is opposed to sight.

How are we to deal with doubt in those to whom we minister?

  • First, we must make all the concessions to them that we can.
  • Second, we must challenge them to set aside, by an act of will, all unsolved problems. Problems like evil, the Trinity, and the relationship between human will and predestination. These are questions that the biggest brains in the world have wrestled with and have never solved completely.
  • Third, remember that talking about difficult or unresolved theological issues only aggravates the doubter.
  • Fourth—and this is a very important point—turn away as soon as you can from the reasoning and the feelings and go to the man’s moral life. By this I mean leave the great perplexing issues and deal with whether he is doing any good or is wasting his life. Shift him from thinking about things to doing things. In other words, what is he doing with his life? Is he making any difference? Any good that has happened in the world came from doing and not just thinking. At this point you are in a perfect position to show him Christ and point him to what He has done.

How are we to deal with doubt in ourselves?

  1. Ask God and believe that He is not reluctant to give you wisdom. (James 1:2-5)

  2. Intend to obey His will before He reveals it. (John 7:17)

  3. Don’t lean on your own common sense, but acknowledge His right to rule in your life and bow your reason to His majesty. (Prov.3:5-6)

  4. Look to the facts of the Word of God to show you how to live each day. (Ps.119:105)

  5. Always doubt your doubts, never doubt you faith. (2 Tim.1:12)


What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Do you have that one safe friend?

I have lots of friends, good friends, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t have one particular person who was committed to the role of being that one safe friend. Why? FEAR. The fear that I wouldn’t measure up, fear of not fitting in, fear that I would disappoint…and biggest of all, fear of being hurt.

Fear pushes us around.

That period of my life feels like a lifetime ago and yet I still need to remain alert to fear attempting to shake my faith and push me towards isolating myself from others. Can you relate? I’ve come to the conclusion that I need, we need—no matter our status in life—someone whom we can trust enough to be transparent, authentic, and vulnerable. Someone who will reach out to us consistently, who will encourage us, comfort us, laugh with us, and weep with us (Rom.12:10, Eph.4:32, 1 Thess.5:11).

It’s not that there won’t be several people who could do this for you, but without someone specific to take on that responsibility, you may find yourself in a crowded room, with no one. Being that one safe friend doesn’t take an unusual skill set, nor is it someone who has all the answers. It does need to be someone who is a good listener, someone who is caring and empathetic, and someone who understands you and understands the core challenges of life, regardless of the setting (2 Cor.1:4). It’s not an unusual skill set, but neither is it common to everyone.

Love leads gently on.

Don’t assume that people will come knocking at your door to be that one special friend…maybe because they doubt your need or their ability to fill that role. So if you’re looking, what should you look for? What should you expect from that friend? Here are some suggestions:

  1. That one safe friend will be safe (obvious, huh?) and contact you regularly. You will be able to tell your friend the candid, unfiltered truth. This happens through consistent contact, not in a passing Sunday morning “How are you?’” Your friend will not share with others your private conversations without your permission, unless there are special circumstances that involve danger to yourself or others. Choose someone who you know is good at keeping confidences.
  1. That friend will ask questions, lots of questions, starting with “How are you?” and going much further and deeper. The questions will be based on a firm understanding of who you are. Of course your relationship will go both ways, and you will invest in your friend’s life as well.
  1. That friend will pray for you and with you…OFTEN…and consistently direct you to God’s Word. Your friend will know your heart and seek to not give you his or her opinion, but point you to the Word to experience God’s power, promises, and provisions. Your friend will make it a habit to carry you to God in prayer, voicing your needs and concerns.

There are many examples of “that special friend” in the Bible: Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy, to name a few. However, the only perfect and greatest friend of believers, who promises to never leave or forsake us, is Jesus Christ. What a friend we have in Jesus!

At Least She’s Not Dead

Maybe you’ve heard the definition of fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. Recently in our home, there’s been a small undercurrent of fear running through me personally. It started about two weeks ago when my wife developed flu-like symptoms. No big deal, right? Now fast-forward two weeks later after a trip to Urgent Care, another to a family doctor, a host of prescribed antibiotics/probiotics, cough syrup with codeine, followed by some X-rays that reveal she now has pneumonia and you can begin to understand my concern.

Let me provide a little more family context. My wife and I have two small, energetic boys. One is five and the other is three. I work full-time, while my wife splits her time working from home and caring for our children. Her illness has been debilitating for her and has crippled our family these last two weeks. However, that’s not the part that has caused fear to swirl around like a deep eddy in the recesses of my mind. It was two comments made on separate occasions by my 5-year-old and my wife.

Referring to my wife’s condition, my son, who was attempting to comfort me, bluntly said, “At least she’s not dead.”

On another occasion, while seeing me near exasperation, my wife asked plainly, “What if I were chronically ill?”

These two statements sat with me for a while. I pondered them. What if either one of them came true at this point in our lives? False Evidence Appearing Real.

My first reaction was to think that there’s no way I could do it. There would be no way for me to carry on without my wife, the mother of my children; she is the glue that holds our home together. However, that’s the flesh talking. God calls us to walk by faith (2 Cor.5:7). We’ve heard it preached that the will of God will not lead you where the grace of God cannot sustain you. That sounds good, but it’s not in the Bible. Is there a biblical text supporting this idea? Sure there is.

1 Corinthians 10:13“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

There are a few truths I need to remind myself of from this verse:

  • My temptations (trials) are ordinary, my family is not suffering extraordinarily; every family suffers some illness at times.
  • God is faithful!
  • He will not allow the temptation to overwhelm me. He is sovereign over everything—the trial itself and the degree to which it extends. He knows what my family and I can handle.
  • He promises grace to endure the trial (the way of escape); His grace will sustain me wherever He leads.

Fear crushed by the truth of God’s Word.

Fear in Finances

Have you ever been afraid to obey God? One mark of being a Christian is that we fear God (in that we deeply respect, awe, and know that God is not to be taken lightly or played with). But I am wondering if you have ever been afraid to follow God’s commands to obey Him.

I remember a line from a movie as a youngster: “Humans fear what they do not understand.” So as a young kid, I made up in my mind to always understand everything—therefore I would never be afraid again. Although it helped me somewhat, I am sorry to report that “understanding” alone was not sufficient. I am still afraid of rodents, snakes, spiders, the ocean, roller-coasters, and various other things.

I have heard it said that the only unlearned fear we have as humans is the fear of falling. That is the sense of falling out of the sky and no one to catch you. Every other fear we exhibit as humans is learned behavior, according to some scientist. I can see some validity in this statement. I have witnessed parents laughing with a toddler to teach a toddler not to be afraid of a person or movie. I have witnessed children running away as they follow their parents running away from a “dog.”

Fear, terror, scariness, and being afraid are powerful emotions we face as humans. If we are honest, these emotions dominate our lives more than we are willing to admit. So are you willing to briefly think with me about how fear can dominate the way we handle money?

Because of fear relating to our finances:

  1. We either horde and fill our barns (Luke 12:13-20) or we spend like there’s no tomorrow (Is.56:11-12).
  2. We value riches over wisdom. (1 Kin.3:11-14).
  3. We make plans to gain dishonestly rather than prayer and wisdom-filled planning (Prov.13:11).
  4. We acquiring fiat currency as if it should be the number one priority instead of first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt.6:33).
  5. We completely miss true life (1 Tim.6:17-19).
  6. We ignore that God is ruler of rich and poor (Prov.22:2).
  7. We separate giving money to the Lord and living righteously before the Lord (Matt.23:23).

I am sure we could list more, which would be a beneficial exercise. And as we list the ways fear leads us to sin concerning our finances, may we began to bring every thought obedient to Christ, so that the fear of the Lord— and not worldly fear—will regulate how we handle finances.

There is a practical wisdom in dieting that says “all types of food, in moderation, are okay.” Perhaps there is a practical wisdom of planning we can apply to our finances; giving to the Lord, savings for retirement and emergencies, paying taxes, and living—being content and having fun with the remainder. Planning out our finances can be frustrating, but I’ll end with words of a radio talk show host: “There’s ultimately only one way to Financial Peace, and that’s to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus!”


Abounding in the Work of the Lord

1 Corinthians 15:58“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Paul places three principles before us to consider in the work of the Lord:

The first principle is that our labor must be steadfast. The two words “steadfast” (firmly seated) and “immovable” (unshaken) combine to urge us to “let nothing move you.” Two things are desirable in every good soldier: steadiness under fire and enthusiasm during a charge. The Holy Spirit is very specific in His counsel and never wastes words, so He uses both words. In essence, He tells us to be firmly faithful. Instead of being thermometers that register temperature, we are to be thermostats that regulate it!

The second principle is that our labor must be wholehearted. The statement “…always abounding in the work of the Lord” is Paul’s way of saying, “always give yourselves fully” to the work of God. Under the first principle, the charge was to be firmly faithful, but here we are called to be abundantly fruitful. The word “abound” pictures something flowing over the edges on all sides. We should not do as little as we can for Christ, but as much as we can. He abounded in work for us; we should abound in work for Him. Most of us find it difficult to abound in our works for the Lord, but we have no problem abounding in our efforts to make money or to satisfy our dreams and desires. Why should the work of God suffer? We must turn from half-hearted token expressions of service to Christ! Superficial service is wasted service. The diligent servant is the one most ready to meet his Lord.

The third principle is that we must do our labor in an expectant manner—“…knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” This statement is in the present tense rather than the future tense, and by putting it this way, Paul teaches us that the reality of the future shapes and motivates how we live in the present. We do not labor for a dead Savior, but a living Lord who shall remember the work you have done in His name. It would be vain if Christ had not risen, but because of the resurrection, your labor is not empty. I admire the man who labors when nobody praises him, who presses on although fruit is lacking but the promise is clear.


I Forgot About God

Yesterday, I nearly forgot about God. To make it worse, yesterday was a Sunday.

It seems unlikely that, on the Lord’s Day of all days, I would forget
about the Lord as I prepared to serve Him and worship Him. But here’s
how it nearly happened.

I had prepared my Bible study lesson earlier in the week like I
usually do. On Sunday morning, I arrived at the church early enough to
print out the lesson for class. That’s when the warfare hit. The
website that hosts all of my online documents was down, and so I
couldn’t access my notes for teaching, nor the note sheets for the

Immediately, my mind engaged its Tech Support Troubleshooting
procedures. I ran through all the protocols for “fixing the Internet”
that I’ve learned from working two decades in the tech industry. All
of my efforts led to nothing. The screen just showed an error,
suggesting that I try again later. The computer was calm, but I had
become a sweating, panicking mess.

I decided to take the computer’s advice. I left the office and went to
practice the worship songs with the Praise Team. Before we began, we
were prompted to mention anything on our hearts that we felt needed to
be voiced in prayer. That’s when the conviction hit me square in the

“Brent,” I said ashamedly to my own soul, “you forgot about God.”

I mentioned the technical struggles I was having to the rest of the
group. As we prayed, I admitted to God that I was striving within my
own wisdom, without even asking Him to be a part of this service I was
offering to Him. I confessed that when I ran into a trial, a bit of
warfare, He wasn’t even on my troubleshooting list, when He should
have been step number one.

But God is good, all the time. After that prayer, we offered some
sweet worship to Him in that brief rehearsal time. And afterwards, my
Internet issues had been resolved. I printed my notes and my handouts
and headed to the classroom just in time.

Yesterday, I nearly forgot about God.

But thankfully He is faithful and never forgets about me. Yesterday,
my Great Shepherd led me into a time of prayer and a time of
reflection upon His faithful character. As the psalmist put it:

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the
nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
―Psalm 46:10