Here we are three quarters of the way through the first month in the New Year.
Can you feel it? The pause and quiet that we felt the first few days of the New Year are gone.
You know that sensation you have as the airplane lumbers down the runway, picking up speed, bump by bump, and all of a sudden you’re thrust firmly into your seat as the rumbling ceases and the plane lifts off the ground? I feel we’re in that part of the year where we feel the speed and that pressure of take-off.
Before the year runs away with us on our individual jet planes… and it will… let’s pause for a moment. Take a breath. And quiet our hearts.
Now that we’ve caught our breath, let’s talk about something I’ve been learning.
I’m a doing girl. If I love you, I do things for you. I don’t sit still a lot except with my laptop on my lap. Otherwise, I’m moving. This can be good and not-so-good. If I were to sit down… unless I’m engaged in a conversation with you… I don’t usually rest. What I find myself doing is looking around my room, noticing things. The lampshade doesn’t look quite right, so I adjust it. Then I grab the dusting brush and take the lampshade off the lamp and proceed to take it outside for a good dusting, then I grab a paper towel and spritz it with Windex and wipe off the light bulb, before putting the shade back on the lamp… and doing a final adjustment to make sure the shade is level. Of course it doesn’t end there. I then look at the table accessories and start evaluating those… and on and on it goes. Now I admit, if I’m super-duper tired, I can easily settle down, otherwise I’m doing. Maybe you relate.
Some of you started the year with a diet of sorts… Less food, less shopping, less or no TV, less or no social media, no sugar, no meat, and the list goes on. We are all about discipline. We want to whip ourselves into shape. We want to be better. We want to be better for God. We might even think that if we do or don’t do certain things (make a sacrifice) that we will please God and get closer to him. And we might. Certainly if we exchange TV time for quiet/Bible/prayer time we will certainly benefit. That hardly seems a sacrifice unless we can’t live without having the weather channel on 24/7.
Soon we will be “flying” into the season of lent. Ash Wednesday is less than a month away… I told you that plane was moving fast! The Lenten season is always a time when I hear and read about what people are giving up. Usually it’s Coke or chocolate or Facebook. (There’s no judging… okay?)
We should always be evaluating our choices and attempting to make better choices with our time, our health, our minds, and our spiritual well-being.
What’s most important in all of this? Our motives.
Whether it’s doing and serving or giving up stuff… the why is what’s important.
Way back in time, during the Old Testament, God’s people sacrificed animals as an offering to God. The reason for the sacrifice was so that they would have an understanding of God’s perfection and their depravity and their need for him. It was also a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ coming into the world to die on the cross and give the ultimate sacrifice for all humankind, so that we would be able to have direct access to a Holy God.
Somewhere along the way, the Israelites started to mistake the purpose of their sacrifices. They started thinking that this was something that they did for God. Forgetting that he is perfect and complete in every way, not needing a thing from them.
God actually had these words for them….
My people, I am God! Israel, I am your God.
Listen to my charges against you.
8 Although you offer sacrifices and always bring gifts,
9 I won’t accept your offerings of bulls and goats.
10 Every animal in the forest belongs to me,
and so do the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds in the mountains,
and every wild creature is in my care.
12 If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you,
because I own the world and everything in it.
13 I don’t eat the meat of bulls or drink the blood of goats.
14 I am God Most High!
The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful
and to keep your word.
15 Pray to me in time of trouble.
I will rescue you, and you will honor me.
(You can read the whole text here.)
I love how direct God is with the kind of sacrifice he wants…
The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful
and to keep your word.
I also love how God doesn’t have big long lists of things for us to obey.
He wants us to see us live successful lives. So much so that has only two commandments for us to follow:
‘People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God.
You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’
The second most important commandment says:
‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’
So… when God reiterates something, as he did in the closing verses of Psalm 50, we know God not only desires it for us… it’s good for us to do.
The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart.
Obey me, and I, your God, will show my power to save.
Let me be clear… I am not a theologian. I’m not well-studied in the scriptures. Pretty much I read God’s word under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Certainly not with a set of commentaries by my side. I believe that God’s word is living and as relevant today as it was when it was written. And I’m aware that today I’m sharing just a small bit of a deep truth. That being said… let’s get back to the verses above.
Right now my mind is camping on the concept of honoring God with a thankful heart.
If I grasp the text correctly, God doesn’t really care about all my doing. He probably rolls his eyes at most of what we “give up” for lent. Of all our actions that we might consider a sacrifice to/for God, there is one that honors him:
a thankful heart
In fact it is so important, God follows the statement of honoring him with a thankful heart by telling us/the people of Israel to obey him and he will show his power to save.
As I read this, at first I thought I’m pleasing God by writing my 10 items of gratitude each night. Yes, it is a good discipline. I’ve discovered I’ve enjoyed that practice and discovered that it is really good for me, and I encourage you to do something similar if you aren’t counting each day, already.
There is an even bigger concept here…
It’s not just the jotting down of gratitudes in a journal each day that’s important, it’s living gratefully.
Is my heart thankful 1,440 minutes of the day? Just sporadically throughout the day? Or just at the end of the day?
Do I grumble about my lack to God or do I thank him continually?
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
This attitude of thankfulness is one that requires continuous work.
Maybe you’re like me and consider yourself to be a fairly grateful person. The big question is… does gratefulness permeate our lives?
I think I have a ways to go.
As you sense the g-forces pressing in on you as your jet quickly gains altitude for the year, decide now to wear gratitude in such a way that it becomes your second skin. Live so that the joy of gratitude oozes out your pores. So that just being around you is like being in the garden where the jasmine or gardenia bloom. This fragrance of gratitude will honor God more than any of our doing.
With all the pressures around us to do… we need to make a conscious effort to choose a grateful heart for every minute of the day.
If you feel like I’ve just added one more pressure to your day… ditch that thought. Remember, whatever God has asked us to do, he will help us do it. He is our source and our strength. We need to live in his power and his might… not ours. We need to ask him to help us put on the skin of gratitude. He will.
- What do you need to do to put on the skin of gratitude?
- What thoughts or habits do you need to put to sleep?
- How do you think you’ll benefit from choosing to have a grateful heart?
Let’s honor God with a thankful heart!
Every week we gather for JoyDay! and count… just seven things we’re thankful for from the week before.
The discipline of counting the good and the not-so-good things… weekly or daily results in joy. Let’s make this the springboard for a day overflowing with gratitude and a heart filled with joy.
God, I’m so grateful for…
- hope. Knowing you, God, are at work in ways we are totally unaware.
- success in learning new things.
- my loving husband and celebrating his birthday.
- yummy homemade hot fudge.
- being selected to write a fun post.
- devotional writings that have helped me know God better.
- a dear friend’s prayers and the resulting peace.
It’s your turn to count!
Tap your list in the share your extraordinary thoughts space below… and watch your Joy meter soar!
Thank you for stopping by today.
I appreciate you and your sweet comments make my day.
May your new week overflow with gratitude and JOY!
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