And be thankful…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:16)

From time to time I’ve seen posts on Facebook entitled “30 Days of Gratitude” or something similar, and each day the person posts something they’re thankful for.

I was reminded of that as I remembered the verse above. “And be thankful,” the apostle Paul says. Why? Why should we be thankful? Why do people post on Facebook something they are grateful for each day?

In his devotional book, Hidden In Christ, James Bryan Smith gives a couple of reasons why we should and some reasons why some folks believe they should.

For instance, are you among those who believe that God is mad at you if you aren’t thankful? Smith gives the example of how we raise our children. When our children receive something, we say to them, “What do you say?” At times, we transfer that thinking to our God, believing that He is looking down at heaven screaming at us, “What do you say?!?” As Smith points out, God is complete in Himself. He doesn’t need anything. He loves us genuinely and with pureness of heart. He requires nothing in return. After all, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Secondly, Smith says, sometimes we mistakenly believe that thankfulness is the “secret ingredient” to prayer, which sways God to answer. We are told to “enter His gates with thanksgiving…” (Psalm 100:4) and “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) However, if we think we can manipulate God, we are missing the point.

No, as the folks who post on Facebook would probably tell you, when you count your blessings, when you find things to be thankful to God for, and when you look at life closely and discover little (and big) things to be grateful about, life begins to come alive, so to speak. Your attitude changes. You begin to savor every day, not taking anything for granted, as you and I sometimes do.

As we see every day through the news and elsewhere, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Life can change in the blink of an eye. Our loved ones here today can be gone tomorrow.

Savor this day. And be thankful.

Nothing More You Need To Do

There is nothing more you need to do to be a Christian.

That should get your attention. Not only is it an attention-getter, it’s true, too.

“Wait,” you cry. “What about obedience? What about living for God?” I’ll get to that, but, first, let me explain the first sentence of this post.

All that you need to do to be a Christian is believe and receive. Believe that Jesus paid the price of your sins and my sins, once and for all, on the Cross. Believe that He was raised from the dead, defeated death, again – once and for all, and is now seated at the right hand of God. Believe that He lives to intercede for us. Believe. But now comes the crucial part.

Receive. Receive this seemingly unbelievable gift of God’s overwhelming love.

Maybe I have it backwards. Maybe it should be Receive and Believe.

Receive the amazing show of God’s enduring love and then believe. But not only believe what I’ve already mentioned, but so much more.

Because of the love of God in Jesus, you are now accepted as you are right now. Believe that. There’s nothing more you need to do. Jesus Himself said, “It is finished.” It’s already been done. Rest. Take a deep breath. Believe that. Relax and receive. Oops. There it is again. Receive. Believe. Receive. Believe…

Now, about obedience…

Obedience comes from a thankful heart. A grateful heart obeys God’s commands because the grateful heart knows all about God’s love. God’s love has already paid the price. God’s love is always looking out for my best interests. Because of God’s love, I want to obey. He knows best.

I am free of all the requirements. I am free of all the checklists. I am free of trying to prove myself worthy of His love or His sacrifice. I am free of trying to pay Him back. The work’s already been done. He’s done the heavy-lifting. I am free. Because of the overwhelming love of God and the freedom that it brings, I am compelled to live my life for Him.

As Tullian Tchividjian says:

“Legalism says, ‘Obey, so God is pleased with you.’
The Gospel says, ‘Obey, BECAUSE God is pleased with you.'”

This is the Gospel. It was… and IS radical. It is good news not only to those who first believe and receive (or receive and believe). But it is also good news to those who’ve already believed and received.

There is nothing more you NEED to do.


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In The Message, it reads:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

It’s a journey…

So I’m up in New Jersey celebrating our granddaughter Kennedy’s high school graduation. To think that Kennedy is this old, nevermind graduating, is almost unthinkable. Wasn’t my wife holding her in her arms just yesterday? Didn’t we just play “tea party” last week? How did this happen?

Kennedy is ready to move on. She can’t wait to start her “new” life learning all about make-up in cosmetology school. She wants to do make-up professionally. Before she graduated, you’d hear her say something like, “I can’t wait until I graduate! Then I’ll _____________” or “I can’t wait until I’m 18; then I’ll ___________.” You fill in the blanks. It’s not uncommon to hear that from a teenager. Now it’s on to the next big thing. Now she’s saying, “I can’t wait til I move out; then I’ll _______.” Again, pretty common for someone Kennedy’s age.

We all do it. We look longingly at the future we imagine or expect and can’t wait until we get there. Once there, we do it all over again. The problem is that we miss the journey. We miss the golden moments with those we love. We fail to notice those that are supporting us or helping us along the way. We fail to be grateful. We miss the lessons God is trying to show us in the process. We’re in such a hurry. One day we wake up and we’ve missed it.

Enjoy the journey. It’s the only one this side of heaven you and I get.

Laws of Nature

Did you see that sunset last night? It was so beautiful that when I was driving from Waynesboro heading west, I was distracted by it, and nearly ran off the road in my neighborhood. This morning’s sunrise was the same way. I found myself wanting to watch it rather than do any reading (or imagewriting, for that matter).

G. K. Chesterton writes that creation is God’s gift to us. We all delight in different things. I love geese and enjoy the sound of them calling out to each other as they fly overhead in formation. I enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass and the smell of the woods in autumn. I love to feel sand between my toes and hear the sound of crashing waves at the beach. I even like the silence after a fresh snowfall. I’d bet that you love some of those things, too. They are gifts from God to us.

Chesterton writes that although the sun probably will rise tomorrow, it doesn’t have to. Perhaps God says, “Arise! Go forth!” each day. He goes on to say that grass didn’t have to be green. God could have made it purple if he wished. There are no real “laws” of nature, without God putting everything in motion and holding it all together as Colossians 1:16-17 says. God can do whatever he wants. He makes frogs jump and birds fly and water runs downhill not because of laws, Chesterton writes, but because God wishes them to do so. He says, “It is not a necessity, though we can count on it practically, we have no right to says that it always must happen.”

As you walk outside today, wherever you are, take notice of the fabulous gift God has given you today. Smile and give thanks.