The other night I was watching Jimmy Fallon, and part of an interview jumped out to me. Jimmy had Terry Crews on his show. For those of you that don’t know, Terry is an actor who first became famous because of some strangely funny Old Spice commercials and has since become a well known movie actor as well.
On the show, he’s talking to Jimmy about break dancing (which is comical in of itself because he’s a huge muscular guy) and then Jimmy asks him where he gets all his energy. His answer? Gratitude.
Terry Crews is no expert on life, just like none of us really are, but I think he’s right about this. Giving thanks unlocks something within us. It breaks down walls and unleashes life.
Just type “the effects of gratitude” into Google and you get article after article about how it improves your social, psychological, physical, and spiritual health. Over and over again, studies show that gratitude opens us up to a better life.
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul says something similar to Terry. He says, “give thanks in all circumstances.” For Paul, giving thanks was key to the way he lived life. Paul was not living some extraordinarily fine life either. He was often thrown into prison, beaten, and persecuted. So to say “give thanks in all circumstances” carries a lot of punch coming from him.
So what’s Paul giving thanks for? For him thanksgiving is grounded in the assurance of God’s love. We often call this salvation, and for Paul, salvation wasn’t just a postmortem reality but an in-this-very-present-day kind of reality. No matter the circumstance, Paul could look around and give thanks for the blessing of God’s love and purpose in his life.
I think gratitude reminds us that every day is a gift. It reminds us that we are always connected to others for various reasons - that where we are today was due in part to the help, generosity, and goodness of others and God. And when we put on this lens, everything changes.
Not only that, but when gratitude is unleashed, generosity is right on its heels. I’ve heard that gratitude is the gateway to generosity, and if Terry Crews and all those articles are right, then this too would make sense.
We are more generous with our time to others.
We are more generous with our compliments.
We are more generous with money and resources.
So if Paul, Terry Crews, and all those articles are onto something, then gratitude is an art to be developed. Paul and Terry seem to be pointing to another important thing about gratitude. It’s not just about what I feel thankful for, but what I can find to be thankful for.
If I’m just waiting for the feeling of gratitude instead of looking for reasons to give gratitude, then I’m missing it. Again, Paul’s words remind us that gratitude is something we can always be seeking out in every circumstance.
I wonder what a little gratitude every day would unlock for me? Maybe my patience in Houston traffic would increase. Maybe my generosity to strangers on the street would increase. Maybe my love for my wife when I got home would be more caring. Maybe something I never dreamed of in the morning would become a reality because gratitude unlocked a hidden potential in me that day.
What might gratitude unleash in you?
Written by Mark
This month our contributors are sharing their favorite Bible verses.
One day I was reading my Bible, and I came across a verse that sounded very familiar:
Be still, and know that I am God.
Not familiar like, oh, I have read this passage before, but familiar like I’ve heard it outside church and its community. And then I realized that I recognized it from one of my favorite songs, “Be Still” by The Fray. After that, the verse really stuck with me.
I like the verse because it gets to the point: to be still for a moment and know that God is with you. I found this verse at a point in my life when everything was chaotic and felt like it was all out of place. But with this verse, I felt like the world around me could stop for a second and I could just relax (which is all I wanted to do with my busy school schedule), knowing that God had my back.
When I started to write this blog, I researched the song because I was curious to see what the meaning of the song was. For most Christian music, the meaning of the song is typically clear, but since this was a secular song, I wanted to figure how to connect it. It was written as a lullaby for the lead vocalist’s younger brother when he couldn’t go to sleep at night. He said that when he was writing it, “it felt like [he] downloaded it from somewhere” and that the “lyrics and melody just fell into place” (Westword).
One of the many things I love about music is that it can be comprehended by different people and they can get two very different things from it. And I believe that all music, in some way, even secular, could be understood to be about God or Jesus. As for this song, I think it could be perceived as a song that God could sing to his children, like in the psalm.
Written by Sarah
This post continues part 2 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
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Yes! These kids get it!
Remember what I said about the Greek words used in the original manuscripts that we translate as love today? Well, after Jesus responds to the question of which is the greatest of the commandments, He follows it up with, “The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.”
One of the most common questions I get from people who either do not believe in Jesus or do believe but don’t know Him very well goes something like this:
“Do you follow everything Jesus says? Do you love everyone? What about ____________?”
Jesus isn’t telling us to love ____________ (pick the worst of the worst) like you love your mom, best friend, brother, wife, children – you get the picture. Jesus is instructing us to be selfless, to be ready to act on someone else’s behalf, and to sacrifice.
And let’s not forget prayer. Knowing what was going to come of Him, to His apostles and disciples Jesus says, “…pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
So can we pray for others? For those individuals and groups that we could never imagine extending a helpful hand to because of their extreme unbelief or evilness…should we pray for them? Is praying for them “agape” love? Is that what Jesus was talking about?
“…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16
And then of course there’s the tough one: when it’s revealed to us that parts of our life are sins against God, what do we do? Pray? Repent? So then, what should we do for our neighbor who’s in sin? This one is tough, but if we are to do for our neighbor as we would do for ourselves…the answer is clear.
(On a side note, if you have never considered (or studied out) prayer, give this a shot...visit www.knowing-jesus.com and click on the Bible heading, then the Topics subheading, then enter the word “prayer” into the search and spend some quality time there…powerful stuff.)
This post begins part 1 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
loving God (part 1); loving your neighbor (part 2); and loving yourself (part 3).
Which one of these things doesn’t look like the others?
Jesus teaches the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), which doesn’t seem to leave room for lots of other stuff. So love Him like a combo meal #2 with cheese and jalapeños? See the tragedy here? The Greeks got this one right. Back then, they had 6 words for what we translate today as “love,” and all 6 have different meanings.
For God so loved (agapao) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Well, not exactly. The Greek word translated as “love” here is “phileó,” not “agape.” “Phileo” is a sense of brotherhood and close friendship; it’s where the name Philadelphia comes from. In addition to showing our love for Him through action and sacrifice, He wants us to have an intimate friendship with Him. See what I mean when I say the Greeks had it right?
Still think “love” is enough to encompass these verses? Consider the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:5 for love: “aheb.” About “aheb” the Jewish Publication Society says, “the paradox of commanding a feeling is resolved with the recognition that covenantal ‘love’ does not refer to internal sentiment or to private emotion. The focus is instead upon loyalty of action toward both deity and neighbor.” Hhmmm…sounds just like “agapao.”
It seems as though the more we get to know Him the more we learn that He delights in obedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23)! Jesus says that if we love (“agapao”) Him, we would keep His commandments (John 14:15).
You could see the desperation in his eyes. He was so ashamed and embarrassed. He was seeking help as a last chance effort. So I did my best. I got him in contact with someone that could help, and together we took Rusty to the hospital.
From there, I moved on. All I knew was that he detoxed at the hospital and they got him connected with a rehab facility in Missouri. Honestly, I was just glad he made it through the night.
Not a week later I saw Rusty again. I needed to pick him up at the bus station because he was coming home to get his car that he left at the church. He’d spent maybe 5-6 days at rehab in Missouri...
Sometimes the Glory of God is overwhelming. Sometimes God shakes us to the bone. Sometimes all you can do is smile because of how great God is. Words simply do not work.
When I saw Rusty the second time, it could not have been a more opposite situation. Transformation at its best! Rusty was radiating with joy. It was contagious and amazing. He sounded like a man who had sat with God for 5-6 days.
As we drove back to the church, he described what he was going through. He talked about how God had changed him. The old had gone, and the new was beaming through! It remains the most beautiful comeback story I have personally experienced.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
But the truth is, I really am as desperate for God as Rusty. I may not realize it most days or want to admit it, but just as much as Rusty needed the power of God to work in him, so do I need God’s power to work miracles in me.
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
It’s my desire that I would be as desperate for God, as self-emptying of myself, and as renewed by God’s power as I witnessed in Rusty. And so this is my prayer: “God, less and less of me, and more and more of you.”
First was the hearing. Not just loss of hearing but a sensory issue so he couldn’t separate sounds like a voice and the closing of a cabinet, it was all just noise. He became recluse. I can’t recall which came next, the loss of muscle, the deep depression, weakness in the legs, loss of mental focus, he couldn’t read a paragraph and even labored to talk ending each sentence with a sigh.
The family doctor had nothing.
Two E.N.T.s, zero.
THE top ear specialist in Dallas, nada.
Two neurologists went in completely opposite directions; both came up empty handed.
Come on guys! Tell me what’s happening to my dad! His yard went from immaculate to weed-infested, his pool from beautifully cleaned to green and full of leaves. He was an engineer that couldn’t stop building stuff by his own designs and measurements who became a couch potato watching "Law & Order" all day. He couldn’t even handle being around his grandchildren! He had gone from being an intelligent, passionate, and opinionated man to one struggling to put sentences together. He went from despising pills to taking anything the doctors prescribed - and they were NEVER without suggestions! None of them worked by the way…
My Seekers Bible study class prayed for him regularly. My mom, sister and I prayed…Lord did we ever pray!
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
Apparently Dad was doing some praying on his own, though. When my mom was asleep he would go outside in the backyard and talk to God. Dad says he never asked God to heal him, he just wanted to know what was happening to him..."was this the end?”
Then one day he got out of bed, got his morning coffee and…went outside. He found himself bending over to pick weeds. Started organizing the garage. What was going on? Well, I’ll tell you, he was back! Still with the ailments, but my dad was back! It was as if God snapped His fingers and said, “Enough.” Dad is better than before because now he won’t shut up about Jesus! He even witnessed to his Muslim neighbor. Dad never bargained with God but has since given his word that he is going to be a warrior for Jesus Christ until his last day.
I’ll admit it: I love presents. I love opening the box and the anxious wonder before the gift is even seen. I love seeing the joy on other people’s faces when they open their gifts. And yes — I love the things inside! But there can also be gifts I take for granted. Gifts like running water, plenty of food, and a place to call home. However, my most under appreciated gift is the most important one: family.
Around Christmas time is when I realize that what I cherish most of all are my loved ones. Even if everything else were to be taken away I would still be happy with my family around.
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Gather your family around and just talk to them and share your stories. Make good memories because these people are who God gave you to live your life with.
I had all my school work, my homework, 25 pages of textbook reading every night, labs, choir music, etc. On top of that, everyone would ask me where I wanted to go to college, what I wanted to major in, and what I wanted to do with my life after college, when I had no clue myself.
So I would just stand there with a smile on my face and politely tell them that I still wasn't sure. It’s stressful not knowing what you want to do for the next 50 years of your life at 16!
I didn't know it at the time, but all I did with my life was school. I went to church youth group maybe a total of 10 times the whole school year. I never went to parties or really hung out with my friends. I put school before my relationships with my friends, my relationships with my family, and even my relationship with Christ.
A higher GPA was more important to me than going to youth group. I would rather be comfortable and do my daily little routine than take the extra time to focus on my Bible verse of the day.
Deep in the middle of the summer I was at a church camp. We were singing in worship, so studying and doing school work was the LAST thing on my mind. I was just singing along with the words on the screen when “Jesus is Better” by Austin Stone came on and this verse came up:
I broke down into sobbing tears because that lyric really spoke to me. I realized I had put my own comfort before my association with Jesus and that the singer was right: Jesus IS better.
Better than getting an A on a test that you studied so hard for.
Better than being valedictorian in your class.
Better than getting into the college of your dreams.
He is better.
It just took me a while to realize that He has a plan for me and that I have to put my trust in Him. I know that everything happens to people for a reason because that’s just a small part of his plan for them.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring enough worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34//NRSV)
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God moments sound like huge events, but usually they come in the small things of everyday life. One of my most memorable God moments came during worship one evening at camp. I had recently lost my last grandparent and was getting over the many stresses of school when I heard a song that said not to worry about anything. In that moment as I listened to what I was saying instead of just saying it, an overwhelming sense of peace instantaneously swept over me and brought me to my knees in tears.
Experiencing a God moment doesn’t have to come when you are sitting in church. Many of the God moments I have experienced have been through simple things a close friend has said or through compassionate actions someone has done for me, including noticing my demeanor and asking about my day.
What will you hear when you sit and just listen? What impact can you make on someone’s day when you ask them how they’re doing? Listen. You’ll find the answer.
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The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.
Book Of Mark
Favorite Bible Verses
Fruits Of The Spirit
Gratitude & Generosity
Love In Action
Series On Matthew 22:36 40
Walking By Faith