Three Books to Read to Spark Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is a holiday built around gratitude. It has been a national holiday since 1941 and it was an annual tradition for a longtime before that. We should be thankful all year long, but the holiday helps to remind us of our God-given blessings. Here are three books that will spark your gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have by James Autry

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James Autry is a former Fortune 500 executive turned author, poet and business coach.  In this book, Autry writes about finding gratitude for the simple things of life like family, friends, spiritual matters, those who serve, and even the pain of life. He doesn’t necessarily come from an evangelical Christian direction, but his writing is humorous, warm, and inspiring. His original poetry is a breath of fresh air too. This book is great for someone who is looking for new inspiration this holiday season.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

81k6cZbsAYLCranberry Thanksgiving is a classic children’s tale about sharing with others and mistaken impressions. In the Devlin’s tale, Grandmother and her granddaughter Maggie invite someone poor and lonely over for Thanksgiving dinner. When one of their guests steals the receipt to Grandmother’s famous cranberry bread their meal takes a surprising turn. Share this book with your children or grandchildren as you prepare for your own Thanksgiving feast.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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In this book, DeMoss challenges and equips readers to live intentionally based on the freedom that is found in Christ Jesus. My favorite quote in this book is, “Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle. This is a guide for readers who want to push back against the bitterness and resentment that exists all around us and who want to choose joy. Gratitude and joy exist together in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with any one that you know who wants to grow their gratitude.

Seven Ways to Prepare for Worship This Weekend

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I have the privilege worshiping with my church family every Sunday at Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky. I may be a pastor, but I’m a worshipper at heart. My primary responsibility in life is to glorify God and worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Worship is one of the spiritual activities (a.k.a spiritual disciplines) that gives focus and provides growth spiritual for those who want to live as Christians. I enjoy worshipping God on my own, but I also enjoy worshipping God with my church family as part of our formal church gatherings.

I rediscovered a fantastic book recently on the spiritual disciplines: Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. In it, Foster outlines the path to spiritual growth through thirteen different spiritual disciplines. Personal and public worship are one of those activities. I was so encouraged by his seven ways to prepare for worship (he calls them “Steps  into Worship”) that I wanted to share them with you here.

1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily (1 Thess. 5:17). Public worship is really just an extension of private worship. Try to cultivate a sense of appreciation and awe throughout the week. When you get to church on Sunday you will eager to share your worship with others.

2. Have many different experiences in worship. Foster suggests worshipping with others in smaller settings throughout the week in addition to worshipping on your own. These sessions can provide the encouragement and accountably you need to express your praise to God.

3. Find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship. Sundays can be busy days. Sometimes we are grateful just to make it to our pew on time. You can improve your experience in the worship service, however, by getting adequate rest the night before or by reviewing the songs or Scripture passages that will be used in the service that day.

4. Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord. Foster suggests that the language of gathered fellowship (worship) is not “I,” but “we.” We should be more concerned with God’s presence and work in the church as a whole than if our own individual needs have been met.

5. Cultivate holy dependency. The danger of “preparing” for worship is that we think that worship depends on us. God is the one who took the initiative in revealing Himself and His Word to us. Our worship is really just a response to Him and His gracious work.

6. Absorb distractions with gratitude. Distractions are unavoidable in public worship. Foster suggests thanking God for the life and energy of a little children who may be making noice rather than being annoyed by them.

7. Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. Worship is rarely convenient. It takes time, energy, and other resources to praise God like He deserves. It takes commitment to gather with God’s people every week to worship God. When we learn to see these “difficulties” as a sacrifice in themselves, we will be more inclined to overcome them.

In the end, we are all worshippers at heart. We can either worship the One True and Living God revealed to us in the Scriptures, or we can worship something or someone less than God. If you are drawn to worship God, then I hope this helps you prepare well for worship with your church family this weekend.

 

10 Things I’m Thankful For Today

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Yesterday we talked about the danger of spiritual pride from 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.  In my message I said that gratitude is the only way to defeat spiritual pride in your life.  Then, I challenged everyone to find time to count their spiritual blessings.  Since I issued the challenge, I thought I would share my list with everyone today.

  1. I am thankful that my sins are not counted against me.  I’m forgiven.
  2. I am thankful God chose to love me before I love Him.  He took the initiative.
  3. I am thankful God has called me to be one of His “saints,” and to be a pastor.
  4. I am thankful to be counted with and connected to Jesus Christ. He’s not just an abstract concept or a historical, He’s my friend.
  5. I am thankful the members of my  family are also growing in their relationship s with Jesus Christ.
  6. I am thankful that God has declared me holy and is helping me become holier day by day (some days more than others).
  7. I am thankful I can talk with God anytime through prayer.  Even though I don’t take advantage of this access like I should, I am grateful for it.
  8. I am thankful that I know where I am going when I die.  I will be in heaven with Jesus Christ for eternity.
  9. I am thankful God is building His church right here in Ashland and that I get a front row seat to what He is doing.
  10. I am thankful God is faithful and He will complete the work that He has started in my life (Philippians 1:6).

What spiritual blessings are you thankful for today?  You can add your list as a comment at the end of this post.  You can also read an introduction to my sermon series on 1 Corinthians here.  Hope to see you again next Sunday!

Here Is My List for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-PhotosThanksgiving is not just a cultural or historical holiday, it is a biblical mandate.  Here are just a few verses that encourage us to give thanks:

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (1 Chronicles 16:33, NASB)<

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 106:1, NASB)<

“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, NASB)

Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a list of things that I am thankful for this year.

I am thankful for the salvation I have in Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for my amazing wife and our four healthy, growing kids.

I am thankful for my friends and extended family who have loved and supported us through the ups and downs of the last few years.

I am thankful for our new church family – Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky.

I am thankful for our new home and newly adopted dog, Roger.

I am thankful for my an opportunity to do what I love and what God has called me to do: preach, lead, and shepherd.

I am thankful for my health.

I am thankful for the freedoms and prosperity that we enjoy in America, compared to the rest of the world.

I am thankful for hope and a future because no matter what happens, I know that everything is in God’s hands.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?