Thankful for Gift or Giver?

Gift or Giver

Thanksgiving Day is a welcome respite from the typical unthankful, hurried, disconnected lives most people get caught in. Even the most critical, thankless person will often find pause, even if for just a few moments at the table, to express thanks.

While thankfulness in any form is healthy, there is a significant difference between being thankful for the spread of food and being thankful for the one who provided it.

Our thankfulness can actually be quite selfish.

It goes something along the lines of: “I like to eat. I like to eat good food. I am thankful I am eating good food.” The locus of the thankfulness is easy to see: I, Me, Self. So, my thankfulness has actually become self-centered. The reason that I’m thankful, the basis of my gratitude, is the fact that I’m getting something I want.

The better alternative shifts the focus. It puts less emphasis on what I’m getting and re-focuses on the provider. We might call this “selfless thankfulness.” Yes, I may be getting something I want (a great meal), but I am primarily grateful that there is someone in my life who loves and cares for me enough to provide me with something good.

The application in our relationship with God is profound.

If I am only grateful when I’m getting the things that I want (ie. finances, relationships, etc.) then my thankfulness will ebb and flow depending on whether I believe my needs are being met. If, however, I start with the truth that there is a great and good God who never changes, my thankfulness will not only be steadfast, it will be properly directed where it should be.

What is the focus of your thankfulness? The gift or the Giver?

Are You Deceived? The critical difference between hearing and doing.

Modern day Christians have mastered the art of hearing.

We live in a time when we have more access to hearing the truth of the Bible than any other time in history. Beyond the typical Sunday sermon, we have Bible studies, small groups, conferences and seminars. Add to these online sermons, television sermons, books, blogs, podcast and smart phone apps.

Let me be clear, I am not against any of these things. To the contrary, I am a proponent. I personally utilize them and encourage others to do the same.

My concern is this, many Christians have confused the good act of hearing with the better priority of doing.

Hearing Doing donovanchristian.com

James warned us against this when he said, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

How do we deceive ourselves? At least two ways. First, by believing that hearing is the main goal… it simply is not. Second, by thinking, “Because I am engaging with the truth of Scripture, I am growing, changing, applying… living it out.”

The truth is, there is no correlation whatsoever with the amount of our hearing and the degree of our doing. Because of this, a person can be a Bible scholar, able to quote verse and reference, understand Hebrew and Greek, and bear little resemblance to Jesus in their character and lifestyle. In fact, hearing is a great disguise for doing.

Doing is the priority. Application is the key. Life transformation is the goal.

I have said this before and it’s worth repeating. If most Christians heard nothing more from Scripture and simply started doing what they already know, they as individuals, their communities, and our world would be radically transformed. However, as long as we deceive ourselves into thinking that hearing is the objective, we will be content in our own self-deception.

What have you been prioritizing in your own life? What ideas do you have to keep “doing” as your focus?

7 Questions for Campers Coming Home

This is the time of year when thousands of young men and women will head off with their church youth group to experience camp. It is well spent time that creates lasting memories and often serves as a catalyst for significant spiritual growth.

Camp Sign

When our kids return home and stumble out of the bus/van, we have the unique opportunity to take part in and continue their experience.

The first order of business… peeling the clothes off your middle school boy, incinerating them, and dragging him into the shower. After that, here are seven questions to ask your camper.

1. What did you learn about yourself?
Camp shakes things up and puts campers in environments that force self-discovery.

2. Who did you spend time with (fellow campers and adults)?
Camp relationships are both significant and telling.

3. How did it help being away from TV/computers/phones/video games?
Modern-day life is filled with distractions that keep us from hearing from God.

4. What did the speaker talk about & how can you apply it?
Good camps have a theme and the speaker will encourage practical life-application.

5. What did your counselor or youth group leader say that had an impact on you?
Adults make it a point to speak into the lives of their campers.

6. What did you learn about who God is?
God is not more present at camp, campers are just more aware of His presence.

7. What did you learn about what God wants for your life?
Many major life decisions have come as a result of a camp experience.

A few bonus tips to keep in mind:

  • Limit questions that can be answered with a “Yes” or No.”
  • Give plenty of time for answers and don’t be afraid of silence.
  • Have the conversation away from phones/TV/computer/etc.

The Key to a Lasting Marriage

Marriage anniversaries are a big deal. They represent important milestones and signify the blessing of having held true to a promise.

I’ve had the honor of knowing several couples who experienced the privilege of celebrating fifty years of marriage. When I have the opportunity, I do some investigating to see how they accomplished such an admirable feat. They all have a common theme.

Older Married Couple

I can tell you what I’ve never heard, “It was 50 years of bliss. We made it this long because it’s been so easy.”

Instead, what I have heard time and time again is, “We hit a couple of spots where it seemed like it was going to end, but we worked through it. It was hard. It was painful, but we fought for our marriage.” That is the key to making a marriage last.

Here’s an important truth we all need to remember: Many of today’s best marriages were yesterday’s worst.

Most (if not all) healthy marriages today, at one point (or several points) were on the brink of failure. They had moments of intense counseling, arguing, crying, sleeping on the couch, and painfully hard conversations about ending the relationship. But the truth of 1 Corinthians 13:7 shined through because, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

What is the key to a lasting marriage? It is not having an easy marriage. It’s two people committed to working through the hard times, knowing that the best times are yet ahead.

How have you seen this to be true in your own marriage?

The School Dance: A Metaphor

School DanceI remember my first school dance well. The awkwardness of pre-pubescent hormones combined with a complete inability to look cool to the rhythm of music. The only highlight worth remembering was hearing an epic track from a new band called U2.

The school dance serves as a fitting metaphor for the Christian life. Lots of people call themselves Christians, but their experience of following Christ varies greatly. Most will fit into one of four categories:

1. No-Show

People in this category may have prayed a prayer at some point in their life and would profess to being a Christian, but the primary focus of their life is not for Jesus. No-shows miss out on what being a follower of Christ is all about and never experience the joy and abundant life Jesus offers.

2. Wallflower

These are people who go through the motions. Wallflowers get to the dance, but they never get on the dance floor. They show up to church and occasionally pray, but there’s little engagement. They get glimpses of what life in Christ could be and should be, but they never get to take part in it. They like the idea of dancing, but they won’t move their feet.

3. Reserved

People who are reserved not only get to the dance, they also get on the floor. They know the value of following Christ and living the life He intended, but there’s always something holding them back. They move their feet, but they can’t quite go all in because something’s holding them back. This could be personal comfort, fear, insecurity, a competing idol, or a variety of factors.

4. Enthusiast

The enthusiast is all in. They show up, get on the floor and go all out. Enthusiast often aren’t good dancers, they just care more about what God thinks than what people think. It’s not that they don’t have insecurities, it’s just that they’ve found something greater than their insecurity. Christ is the center of all they do- work, family, leisure, finances, schedule, etc. The result is a full, deep, rich experience and a life filled with great joy and purpose.

Which kind of person are you? Which do you hope to be? What needs to change to make it happen?

The Cure For Critical

Are you critical? Do you often find yourself assessing other people and finding that they come up short? Do people feel like they can never measure up to your expectations or do anything right?

Critical

While there is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism, or what we might call “loving discernment,” there are those who tend to be overly critical. They expect and inspect, readily finding deficiencies, causing inevitable strain on relationships.

Fault-finding becomes a pair of pessimistic lenses through which we see the world, consequently stealing our joy.

Like many negative behaviors, a critical spirit is a symptom of an underlying disease… pride. A critic is someone who considers themselves an authority. Pride believes, “I know what’s best… I know what’s right, and because something isn’t the way I believe it should be, it must be wrong.”

So, how do we overcome a critical spirit? If pride is the disease of a critical spirit, humility is the cure.

A humble spirit willingly admits that there may be alternate views to their own and that these views are equally worth consideration. Humility recognizes value in other people and lowers the “self-superiority” of a critical spirit.

The benefits are many including a more positive outlook on life, improved relationships and being liberated from the misery of being critical.

So why not start today? Ask God to replace any pride-rooted criticism with grace-filled humility and watch what happens!

What kind of impact has an overly critical spirit had on your own life?

Don’t Feed the Beast

I was having coffee with a good friend recently when we shared a moment of accountability. “How’s the battle with lust?” It’s an honest question men will readily ask/answer who sincerely desire to live Godly lives.

His response caught me in a good way… “It’s been going well. I haven’t been feeding the beast.” I thought this was a helpful and accurate description (and even said I would be “borrowing” it.)

Wild Dog

It’s true with any sin and certainly with lust. It can either be fed or starved. We can entertain thoughts or we can guard thoughts. We can stare or we can look away. We can expose ourselves to anything and everything or we can filter what we bring into our lives.

The outcome for either choice is real.

If we choose to feed it, it will get stronger. The more we feed it… the greater its appetite becomes. If we choose to starve it, it will get weaker. Starve it long enough, and it may well eventually die.

This is why Colossians 3:5 (NLT) says, “… put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Some things need to be killed and the only way to do so is to starve it to death.

It is likely that most of us have a sin that we have been feeding for far too long. We may not even know that we have doing it. As a result, it is healthy and strong because we have given it too much power. It’s time to take away its power, even if it’s one meal at a time.

What sin have you been feeding that you need to start starving? How have you seen this to be true in your own life?

Belonging & Desire

Though brief, the Song of Solomon could be described as one of the world’s earliest romance novels. It’s detailed descriptions of affection between two lovers is enough to make even a grown man blush.

Verse 10 of chapter 7 offers a beautiful summary statement that captures the heart and essence of romance… “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”

Solomon 7:10

We find within this single sentence two essential components of romantic love: the blessing of belonging and the delight of desire.

Blessing of Belonging

Every human being longs to belong. This is all the more true in romantic relationships.

It’s why a teenage girl graffitis his name on her school folder. It’s why a young man gives up his hard-earned letterman jacket to be draped over her small shoulders. (Is this still a thing?) It’s why we change a relationship status on social media sites. It’s the underlying reason behind promise/engagement/wedding rings.

All of these say to the world, “I belong. I am accepted.”

When the woman says, “I am my beloved’s,” this is the implication. She is experiencing the blessing of belonging… the assurance and comfort of having been sought after, found and wanted. She has found the security of his love.

Delight of Desire

All desire has direction… our desires move us. They take us towards something or someone. Desire compels us toward action.

Just like belonging, every person wants to be wanted. They want to be the object of desire.

The woman tells us that her man has a desire and that “his desire is for me.” What a statement!

He wants something, he longs for something, and it is her. She is the object of his affection. She is the object for which his desire is being directed and is confident in his love for her. Life without her would be no life at all. “I am what he wants.”

Belonging and desire are beneficial to all relationships, but they are must-haves for lovers. If a person doesn’t feel accepted or wanted, you can forget about any resemblance of romance. With them, you have the makings of an epic love story.

How would you evaluate these in your own relationship? Does your partner have the security of belonging? Do they feel like the object of your desire? What can you begin doing today to improve in both of these areas?

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered and cannot be shouted, perhaps it should not be said at all.

Nothing to Prove

You've got nothing to prove and only One to please.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Thanks to Steven Furtick for this great quote!

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