Tag Archives: Jesus

The Power of Gratitude

 

11-23-16-the-power-of-gratitude2

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It is a day of gratitude!

Want some history on Thanksgiving? Go here.

Abraham Lincoln, 153 years ago, established the national holiday of Thanksgiving. His statement is powerful, as it addresses the difficulties of the time while recognizing the need to give thanks. You can read that here.

I would like to pull a few excerpts from his proclamation in order to provide some perspective about the power of gratitude in our lives.

1. GRATITUDE GIVES US FOCUS

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity”

There is never a bad time to give thanks. Many people in our country are stressed, worried, or fearful about our countries future. Might we agree that being in the middle of a civil war (1861-1865)  would be much worse than where we are at now? If gratitude was necessary in the middle of war, then it is equally as necessary now.

Right after making that comment, Lincoln goes on to describe the good things that were happening in the country…population growth, the growth of wealth and strength in extracting needed mineral resources for the country. If he had only focused on war, he would have missed the positive things.

Things are never all bad or even all good. Life is usually filled with a combination of both.

Might it be better for our hearts and souls to focus on that which is good?

2. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO JESUS

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God”

When we choose to live a life of gratitude, it always leads us to the One who has given us those things which we are thankful for. Blessed families, economic security, food at the table, great friends, and many other things that we experience don’t happen by accident. They happen because God has made them available to us.

When we exercise gratitude, we realize that there is a purpose behind all the good that we experience. Gratitude leads us to Jesus.

3. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO ASK FOR GOD’S INTERVENTION

“…commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidable engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

If we truly believe that God is the one who is responsible for our blessings, then it is also to God that we direct our requests for intervention in the difficulties we face.

Gratitude was the foundation of requesting God’s intervention in the chaos that existed.

Understand this, thanking God for the good things does not mean ignoring the difficult things that we face…whether personally or as a country. On the contrary…thanking God for that which is good sets us up to pray with faith and hope, believing that our God will intervene to bring even more of his blessings in the areas of difficulty that exist.

4. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO GENEROSITY OF HEART AND ACTION

I don’t have a quote from Abraham Lincoln on this one, but it is something I believe to be true. When we live a life of gratitude, we become others-centered rather than me-centered. In fact, gratitude is the antidote to selfishness and entitlement.

Gratitude sends us on a trajectory of living a healthy life as we focus on that which is positive and as we focus on how we can give, rather than receive.

Gratitude gives us focus.

Gratitude shows us Jesus.

Gratitude allows us to plead our cause to God.

And gratitude leads us to a lifestyle of generosity.

That is the power of gratitude.

How will you be grateful on this Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

Poverty of Heart

Poverty of Heart
Darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the craziness going on in our world.  Bear with me on this post, as it’s a little bit longer than normal!

We’re in the middle of an election season where many view the race as a choice between the two least bad candidates.

We’re experiencing tragic shootings, regardless of fault, that seem to be ripping our country apart.

We have the scourge of terrorism affecting us here in the United States and in many countries around the world. Over 100 incidents have occurred in the month of September.

I tend to pay quite a bit of attention to what’s going on in the world, whether it be politics, international news, or other things. With that comes a healthy dose of people’s opinions about why all of these things are happening.

One of the most used arguments for the way things are in the world has to do with what I call poverty of circumstance. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed terrorism on poverty, calling it the “root cause”.

The argument basically goes like this: Because “x” person grew up in “y” circumstances, it led them to take “z” action.

Now, this may be partially true. There has always been the “nature vs. nurture” argument for why people do what they do. People’s external influences play a large role in determining who a person becomes.

While all of that may be true, it ignores the most basic truth: Every human being is born with poverty of heart

No matter whether someone is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, from North America or Asia, black or white, or any other defining characteristic, we are ALL born with poverty of heart.

Psalm 51:5 says, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”

Romans 3:23 states, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

Now, track with me here. In today’s world, there is much debate between cause and correlation.

Cause simply means that one thing causes another to happen. Correlation simply means that two things happen (together), but one is not necessarily the cause of the other.

So, in most arguments, people believe that poverty of circumstance CAUSES all sorts of evil in the world. Others would argue that there is a correlation between the two, meaning that we tend to see poverty of circumstance in the same places (or people) where evil is perpetrated.

I would differ with both of those viewpoints and add a third. I will call this one context.

I believe that it’s important to understand the context in which someone becomes the person they are, without making that circumstance out to be the cause or a direct correlation.

Let’s use terrorism as an example. If someone can be rich or poor and become a terrorist, it would be hard to say that terrorism is caused by poverty. Also, we would have a hard time making a correlation between the two, because rich and poor are distinctly different, while leading to the same result (terrorism).

But, what is worth taking a look at is context. What is the person’s context (their influences, beliefs, circumstances, etc.) that contribute to making the person who they are? And, most importantly, how does that context play into the poverty of heart that already exists inside of that person?

I believe the main cause for all of the evil in the world, no matter where it’s found or who commits it, is poverty of heart. There is no greater cause than a heart that is desirous of doing wrong. Now, the context for each person’s evil actions is different and may have some amount of influence on that particular person. But, it is not the primary influence.

Understanding the context is important, but it should never replace the simple belief that evil actions are produced from an evil heart. There is no greater cause of evil in the world than the evil that already exists inside a person’s heart.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

While we must work in society to have justice, we must never forget that no government or private institution has the power to change the human heart – only God can do that. While we try to alleviate poverty, we must not blame poverty for violence…we must do the hard work leading people with love to a changed heart.

For this reason, our hope must never be placed in political figures, business leaders, government directors, celebrities, or any other person or group.

Our hope must always be placed in Jesus!

In fact, I think part of the reason our political system has produced the two principal candidates we have is because for too long people on both the right and the left have looked to their political leaders as their saviors or America’s saviors.

Let me be clear: America doesn’t need a savior. America, while a great nation, does not need one political representative to somehow change the course of our nation. When we place our hope in one person to change whatever it is we want changed, we are already doomed.

The only thing that changes America is changed hearts of those who live in this country.

And, the only thing that changes people’s hearts is Jesus.

This is why the church is so important. There is no greater tool in Jesus’ toolbox than his church. While Jesus is the Instigator of change, he causes that change through the church.

So, what am I trying to say with this post? I’m probably saying quite a few things, but most of all, it’s this: The biggest problems we face in the world today are caused by poverty of heart. The greatest solution to poverty of heart is spreading the light and love of Jesus.

I encourage you to be as big a Jesus person as you can be in the world today. That is what people need. That is what our country needs. And, that is what this world is desperately longing for.

This Week In The News: Shootings, Shootings, And More Shootings

The last couple of days I’ve been extremely busy…meetings, email, event preparation. It’s all been a bit crazy.

As I was checking my Facebook news feed I noticed friends of mine posting about some shootings that had happened. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since I was so occupied in my work.

Not until earlier yesterday did I get a chance to actually read about the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the police shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota.

Then, while in the midst of other meetings in the evening, I noticed a news article about the shootings of multiple police officers in Dallas, Texas, which has led to five deaths. As I write this early Friday morning, the police are still in a standoff with one other suspect.

We have no idea if the Dallas police officer shootings are related to the protests in Dallas about the deaths of the two African-American men mentioned above, or if they are related to Islamic terrorism, or if they are some type of homegrown terrorism. I’m sure those answers will come out in due time.

The following are a few thoughts:

  1. We must be willing to empathize with anyone who suffers. Regardless of the evidence and reasons for certain shootings, all who suffer need to experience our empathy and sympathy. I’ve never been personally big into hashtag campaigns like #blacklivesmatter -or- #alllivesmatter -or- #bluelivesmatter (or any others). What I definitely am into is the fact that Jesus suffers when humans suffer. We must suffer along with our brothers and sisters in the human race. This is a week of suffering for all of us.
  2. Evil is real. And no, I’m not trying to call the snipers evil who took out the police officers, or the police officers evil who killed Alton or Philando. There is an evil one, Satan himself, who desires nothing less than the destruction of God’s most valuable creation – humanity. He loves war, hate, disunity, bitterness, racism, and anything else that can come between God’s most favored creation. How do we combat this? With the love of God.
  3. Prayer is powerful. Is prayer our only tool? No! Must justice be served? Absolutely! While prayer does not eliminate the need for human action, human action does not eliminate the need for prayer! Human action can lead to justice. Prayer can lead to changed hearts. While we desire justice, we desire EVEN MORE the changing of people’s hearts. This is done through prayer.
  4. Justice is needed. Remember this: true justice ALWAYS focuses on the victim of the crime, not the perpetrator of the crime. What is just is determined by what the victim deserves. So whether it’s justice for Alton, or Philando, or any of the police officers who lost their lives, they all deserve justice. Will it look the same in every case? I imagine not. Every case is unique with its own circumstances. Regardless, justice must prevail.
  5. Wait for the evidence. It was so interesting to watch on the news tonight (on various channels) as commentators attempted to explain their own beliefs about what happened in Dallas. I guess that’s what they’re paid to do. Regardless, I found it less than helpful. They were proclaiming opinions/judgments before any facts or evidence of the case were known. While we must empathize quickly, we must be slow to judge. Most people do the reverse…they judge quickly and empathize slowly (if even at all). This should not be the case, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christ followers. Let’s empathize quickly, but let’s be slow to judge until we have more evidence.
  6. We need Jesus. You might be a reader of my blog and have no particular faith, or you have a faith that is different than my own. No problem! But, I cannot shy away from the fact that I believe Jesus is the hope of this world and that he is the answer to all that is sick in our society and on our planet. I encourage you to invite Jesus to become real in your life. If you need help with this, send me an email at connect@jefftolle.org.

Those are the main things I’m thinking about right now. Did I catch every possible thought about these occurrences? Absolutely not. If you’ve got more to add, feel free to reply in the comments section.

Peace to you!