Gratitude

SHOWING GRATITUDE FROM THE HEART

Gratitude is a positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative of what is given to us or done for us.  It is also a feeling that spontaneously emerges from within, not simply an emotional response but a choice that we make to be appreciative. Gratitude sometimes does not come easy because there are many times, we look at what we are lacking and think our prayers are not yet answered while ignoring the treasures in front of us. There are also times we think we know what is best for us, and we try to achieve it with our own strength. However, when the time is right, the miracle worker, the unchangeable changer, the “Alagbada Ina”, steps into the situation and begins to align circumstances to favor us, His children. Then we are amazed and our heart leaps with joy and suddenly we cannot stop showing gratitude or appreciating God. This is when we know we do not have what it takes to make things happen unless the Lord works through us and with us. We will become like them who dream dreams because things have started falling in pleasant places (Psalms 126:1).

Our God is good and greatly to be praised. The psalmist said: “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord as we offer onto Him the sacrifices of thanksgiving and of praise”.  Personally, when I think of the goodness of God in my life, I shake my head and wonder why the Lord is so mindful of me. Therefore, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year, until the lord tarries, I will forever be grateful for His grace, mercy and love over me and my family.

How do we show our gratitude to the almighty? By being grateful every second of our life, by not bickering, murmuring, or complaining, by appreciating each new day as it comes.  Thanksgiving is also a way to show gratitude, because when we thank God about His goodness in our lives, it shows that we cherish or appreciate what we have received from the Lord.  Telling people of what the Lord has done in the form of testimonies is another way of showing our gratitude to God. Listing so many things we are grateful for, like counting our blessings and naming them one by one and seeing what the Lord has done, helps us keep focus and keep things in perspective.

Serving one another and lending a helping hand is another way of showing gratitude. At a toll booth in West Virginia, there is a slogan “Paying it forward”. There are times the car in front of you will pay your toll fee and when it is your turn to pay, the attendant lets you know your fee has been paid by the person who was in front of you. Even though it is a small token, it still gladdens the heart knowing a stranger who does not know you can pay your toll.  I have also tried to emulate that stranger occasionally when I go through the toll booth and pay for the car coming behind me. We are all called one way or the other to serve one another; the stranger did his part, and moved on and I believe the Lord who is a rewarder of good, blessed that person. Sometimes we should try to look for ways to alleviate others’ burden if possible. Everybody can do a little of something. We are called to love one another and share each other’s burden.  Every time we do this, it shows that we also appreciate the good deeds that have been directed at us. In Philippians 2:17, the Bible lets us know that “our faithful service is an offering unto the Lord”. Christ himself said “the son of man has come not to be served but to serve” – Matthew 20:28. 

There was a woman in the Bible named Dorcas. The Bible tells us that she was so faithful. Helping the poor, serving wherever the need may be, to the point that when she died the people called unto Peter, interceding for the dead woman, telling Peter what good she had done while she was alive, and the Lord brought her back to life through Peter. I will say her works spoke for her.  Brethren, what can people say about you today? We need to serve wherever we find ourselves. While at work, let us serve as unto the Lord. At home, let us serve as unto the Lord. At Church let us serve as unto the Lord. Serving people is serving God, and we serve God because of His mercies towards us.  It is a form of gratitude. So, my brothers and sisters, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9. God bless you all.

BUILDING CHARACTER WHEN OUR FAITH IS TESTED

BUILDING CHARACTER WHEN OUR FAITH IS TESTED

The Webster dictionary defines character as one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.  It also calls character moral excellence and firmness.  So, in a lot of ways character can be a choice. It is also something that develops in ways that transcend education, training, or position. You cannot acquire character by reading a book.  As a matter of fact, it is built rather than acquired.  Character is many times used in place of integrity and moral uprightness. People of character are admired because they consistently do the right things for the right reasons.  We can learn what it means to have good character but that does not necessarily translate into having good character.  We know character is built and not learned; but how do we build character?  In Romans 5:3-4 the Bible tells us that we glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  This seems to be telling us that our character is built through adversities. These two verses reveal that the building of your character begins with God’s instruction to rejoice in our sufferings. God is definitely not telling us to be happy because we are suffering, instead, He is telling us to rejoice in the assurance of His grace and provision in the midst of our sufferings.

James 1:2 says we should consider it pure joy whenever we face different kinds of trials.  It added in verses 3 and 4 that this is because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance which is a precursor to becoming mature and complete.  I have personally learned that the way I respond to trials can have a great effect on whether they become roadblocks in my life or opportunities to learn and grow. When I agonize over difficulties, the experiences only serve to weigh me down, but when I remember that these trials are part of the great plan of God for me to build my character then I can actually see them as opportunities to grow and learn.  This is a guarantee that God has given us, that our God-trusting perseverance will ultimately build our character.

Just as victory requires fighting a battle, the development of character requires persevering through our trials. God is the author of our character and the object of our hope and He does not disappoint. Trials give us opportunities to show the Lord and ourselves that we will be faithful. So, we can choose to feel sorry for ourselves and ask, “Why me?” or we can grow from our trials and increase our faith in the Lord.  We can let adversity break us down and make us bitter, or we can let it refine us and make us stronger. We can allow adversity to lead us to drift away from the things that matter most, or we can use it as a stepping-stone to grow closer to things that have eternal worth.  Often, Spiritual growth happens because we have been through some trials, whereas comfort and peace tend to lead us into self-reliance and wrong attribution of power and ability.  We must learn to bear whatever comes our way knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for us and “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – 2 Corinthians 4:17.  So, how can we pull through when adversities come knocking?

First rely on Christ.  In fact, one of the purposes of trials is to help us come to know Christ, understand His teachings in our minds, feel them in our hearts, and live them in our lives.  I believe that the challenges I have faced in my life were very instrumental in learning the lessons I needed to learn. I believe I am whatever I am today because of the trials I have experienced, not in spite of them. Also, when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, be patient because as we patiently endure in righteousness, He may reveal to us greater understanding about our trials and the purpose of them in our lives. Finally, always keep an eternal perspective.  Always think, this is happening now as part of God’s eternal plan. In our circumstances, let us always look forward with hope and not at our circumstances with despair.  That is the plan of God for us.  May His plans be perfected in our lives.

the-christian-journey

THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY

From birth to death there is a journey in between and one we all cannot avoid though some walk it longer than others. I will start off on this topic by defining and explaining some basic but very essential steps that will serve as the bedrock to the subject.

IT IS FAITH-BASED

The Christian journey is not just another trip in life, it is a “faith-based” journey and therefore primarily designed for those whose are referred to as “Christians”; but who really is a Christian and how can one become a Christian? In general terms, a Christian is someone who on their own volition (freewill), decides to believe and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior from their sins. (Romans 10: 9-10). In other words, a Christian is one who responds to God’s calling into His (God’s) family (John 1:12), repents of their sins, (and in most cases), willingly gets baptized, receive God’s Holy Spirit, and decides to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 5: 13-16).

Darrell W. Robinson in his statement wrote that a Christian is a “slave” …. (Greek “ianos”), an adherent and a committed follower of Christ. Three times in the New Testament (NT), the “Believers” were referred to as “Christians”. In Antioch, (Acts 11:26), by Agrippa, (Romans 26:28), and by Paul in 1 Peter 4:16. Robinson concluded that a Christian is one who becomes an adherent of Christ, and whose daily life and behavior facing adversity is like Christ. In short, you must whole heartedly adopt this faith to be part of this journey.

YOU MUST BE BORN INTO THE FAMILY – (John1:12, 3:3-8)

The only way to become part of God’s family… (The Christian /Church Family), is by birth into that family. In a similar way we must be physically born into our earthly family before we can belong to that family. The miracle of a spiritual birth is the only way we can enter the Heavenly family. Jesus said ‘…you must be born again…” (John 3:3-8). This birth only takes place through personal faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:3, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9).

CALLED OUT AND SEPARATED

Below are a few definitions for the term “Called Out” according to Merriam Webster:

  • An act, or an instance of calling out.
  • To summon into action (e.g. Troops into action)
  • To challenge to a duel
  • To order on a strike
  • To be separated, set apart, identify self.

(1 Peter 2:9-10), (NKJV) Also read: Romans 8:28-30

Below are instances of God calling people:

  • Genesis 6: 5-end – Noah was called out to start a new generation.
  • Genesis 12: 1-8 – Abraham was called out from his home country to an unknown land.
  • Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, all were called out at different times for different missions.

Do you Know your calling? Are you faithfully fulfilling that calling? Something to ponder on.

THE CHURCH ON A JOURNEY – (Read John 15:16)

Here are few familiar quotes about the journey of life:

  • “The journey, not the destination matters” – (T.S.  Elliott)
  • “I made up my mind not to care so much about the destination, and simply enjoy the journey” – (David Archuleta)

As stated earlier, from birth to death, there is a journey in between and the Church likewise has been called out and set on a journey to teach, preach and heal, a journey to be the salt and light of the world. From personal experience here are few lessons and “take-aways” from this journey; these are our survival steps:

  1. You are part of a family, not an island, therefore stay in the family – (Heb.10:25, Matt. 18:20)
  2. The Journey can be very dangerous and treacherous – (Acts 27)
  3. No guarantees that we can make it alive; many have fallen asleep, that started with us.
  4. Enjoy the journey and keep on keeping on – (1Thessalonians 5:24, 1 Cor. 15:58)
  5. Stay focused, committed and humble; the battle is the Lords – (2 Chron. 20:15)

We are the Lord’s Church moving on triumphantly and we are not serving in vain.

FAITHFULNESS IN SERVICE

FAITHFULNESS IN SERVICE

The call to serve, as we have seen in Romans 12:1, is also a call to faithfulness. To give our acceptable and reasonable service, faithfulness is required. Faithfulness is total trust and loyalty to God. It means complete surrender and unwavering faith in God as we know that He so loves us that everything He does or allows in our lives will ultimately work out for His glory and for our good. A faithful servant is ready to take any step in obeying his Master for he knows that his Master has no other motive but love for him.  In 1 Corinth 4:2, we read, “Moreover, it is required in stewardship that a man be found faithful.”

It is important to know that faithfulness is not something we can just decide to have by our own might. Faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22, we see faithfulness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  One cannot develop in faithfulness except he or she has a deep personal relationship with the Holy Spirit and consistently meditates on the Word of God. The Spirit is the one that enables us to have a deep commitment and unflinching loyalty to God no matter what comes our way, and we’ll need to continue to ask for His help to grow in faithfulness to God.

Faithfulness is required in our service to the Lord. It is needful because there will be times on this Christian journey when we will go through trials, and fiery trials sometimes, and the only thing that will sustain us in His service at such times is faithfulness.  Job said “though He slays me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Job resolved in his heart that God is good and that there is no unrighteousness in Him. Job knew God’s goodness and love which enabled him to trust Him even when calamity struck. There will be times when obeying the Lord will be very hard and risky. Sometimes, our bodies may be tired, but our Master can ask us to do work that may not be easy. The only thing that will keep us in such moments is our faithfulness to the Lord.

We can see in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 that to please the Master, the servants who received the talents had to take some risks in doing business till the Master returned. This means taking the step of faith required to obey the master. He commanded the servants to “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).  The two servants went and did that. Their steps of faith were rewarded with success as they made 100 percent profit when they obeyed their Master. The one servant was afraid and did not obey. “He played it safe,” and did not use the talent he was given. So while the other servants heard “Well done, good and faithful servant,” he was rebuked and was cast out into outer darkness. His problem was in his heart. He was not faithful to his Master—he had doubts in his heart about his Master’s character and intentions.

Faithfulness is a quality that should be in the life of every follower of Christ. Apostle Paul urged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 2 to commit the teachings he had received from Paul to faithful men who will be able to teach others. When we are faithful, the Lord will make us able. In the Kingdom of God, faithfulness is esteemed above competence.  God is looking for faithful men and women and I pray that He will find us faithful in all His house!