Keep A Grateful Heart

During a lunch conversation with a spiritual brother of mine, we discussed the important role that gratitude plays in our lives. Thankfulness is vital to our walk as Christian believers. We readily confessed that maintaining a spirit of gratitude is critical to our sobriety. Thankfulness balances the high highs and low lows that inevitably ebb our way. By nature, addicts are a mix of pridefulness and self-pity.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21 (ESV)

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In the midst of our addiction, we are full of pride and selfishness, even though our lives may be in shambles. We convince ourselves of our invincibility and infallibility, while barely hanging on. We saw humility as something for the weak. It is only after facing our addictions and taking an extensive inventory of ourselves that we begin to see the power in humility.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (ESV)

On the flip-side, we are kings of self-pity. Our overexaggerated sensitivity distorts reality, making everything about us and our shortcomings. We clamor, “Woe is me!” Self-pity is the despondent sorrow we experience mourning over our perceived suffering and misfortune. The cure for self-pity is to focus on God’s goodness and learn to be grateful for the unwarranted grace and mercy He has extended toward us. We are unworthy of such magnificent love as He demonstrated to us through the shed blood of His son, Jesus Christ.

 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:2-3 (ESV)

 

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Humility helps us make less of ourselves. The cure for self-pity helps us make more of God.

Less of me, more of Him.

That’s the answer that guides our lives as recovering addicts, regardless of the nature of our addiction—alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, pornography and any other number of compulsions.

Gratitude pushes aside foolish pride and useless self-pity. When we are prideful, we pervert the image of God in which we are created. When we are full of self-pity, we diminish that same image of God.

Frankly, when we are filled with thankfulness, we are unable to swell with pride or moan with self-pity. Gratitude helps us recognize that God loved us so much so that while we were yet sinners, He gave His son as means of atoning for a debt we incurred. Through Christ, we can experience the full grace and abundant mercy of our loving Creator.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)

Be thankful today. Keep your heart and mind filled with a spirit of gratitude.

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Easter Offers A New Beginning

Life has been a flurry of different activity here, with things happening faster than I can think to write them down or blog about them. Such are the dynamics of modern 21st-century life in the big city. Work has picked up, with school demands increasing as the semester rolls on. Working on a Master’s degree requires a lot of reading and an immense amount of writing. It’s hard to find a niche of time for non-academic writing, but I continue to try.

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Holy Week 2017 is well underway. I have had the opportunity to reflect on what has been an active ministry year thus far. It seems to be a season heavily focused on healing, particularly praying over people as they experience the hardships so often accompanying our lives. No doubt, there is a lot of hurt in our world. I’m not sure if it is more or less than at other times, but I am certainly more aware of it these days. Holy Week serves as a good reminder that God knows our pain. Jesus knows our hurts. The Holy Spirit prays on our behalf with groans and moans.  We live in a complex world. There are things we see and things we don’t. Things we understand, and things beyond our human comprehension.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:10–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Pain hits harder when it arrives close to home. We wish we could make it go away. But it’s there. Our pain draws us closer to God or in some cases, pushes us away.  Before his work on Earth was done, Jesus experienced great suffering. His death was a horrific one, as we imagine death nailed to a cross would be. But his story did not end with his pain, nor his death. Rather, his story continued past the hurt of this world to the glories of Heaven. In Scripture, suffering almost always precedes glory.

Whatever your hurt is today, know that I am praying for you. Maybe you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one or the ache of a broken heart. If the Tin Man knew how much a heart can hurt, perhaps he’d reconsider his desire to get one. I pray your pain, whatever it is, draws you closer to the Lord and that through your pain, you recognize your dependence on Him. For without God, I could not go on. But God has showered me with His abundant love and mercy, extending me the favor of His grace. On this Easter, I am thankful that God so loved the World that He sent His only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Through Scripture, we know that Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

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