How Gratitude Changes Us

gratitude
John Milton said, 
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to experience everyday epiphanies.

Gratitude changes me. Thankfulness helps me remember that everything I have is from God. He gives the gifts of faith, love, and even a sunny day in November. Gratitude definitely inspires reverence.

Milton also said gratitude allows us to experience epiphanies. My dictionary gives two definitions for epiphany:

  • a moment when you suddenly see or understand something in a new way
  • an appearance or manifestation, especially of a divine being

Thankfulness enables us to see our everyday lives in a new way. We can complain about snow on the ground or we thank God for its beauty. We can gripe about the toys all over the family room or be grateful the children in our lives that put them there.

Thankfulness helps us to “see” God. Of course, God is always with us. But our busy, messy lives often crowd out our awareness of Him. A small prayer of gratitude even in the midst of a chaotic morning is enough to “manifest” His presence to our spirits.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Could it be that one way to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts is to be grateful? That as we stop to say thanks we push out a bit of discontent from our hearts and make room for peace?

This week is a national celebration of Thanksgiving. At overcrowded tables all over the country, people will stop to give thanks.

Let’s carry that attitude of thanksgiving throughout the year. As we do, we will see our lives in a new way. We will discover God in the mundane corners of our days.

Next step: This week, remember to thank God for the mundane and ordinary. Say a small prayer of gratitude and experience God’s transforming power.

howgratitudechangesus

One Selfish Reason to Praise God

RewireSoul

I woke too early. My body was still tired, but my internal clock was still on Central Time even though I was in Hawaii. We had arrived the night before, tired from travel, and flopped into bed.

But now I was wide awake. I made my way to the windows and pushed open the curtains. I gasped at the beauty of the sun just peeking out of the gray Pacific. The sky was a spectacular painting of pink, purple, and mauve.

My heart swelled in praise and I couldn’t help singing “10,000 Reasons.” The sun was coming up. A new day was dawning. It was time to praise the Creator.

Sometimes it’s easy to praise God. The beauty of creation inspires thanksgiving. God sends overflowing blessings into our lives and we are grateful. We recognize His power in our lives and we are in awe.

But sometimes praise doesn’t come easy. Life is difficult. Problems sprout like weeds. Instead of having “10,000 Reasons” to praise, we struggle to come up with one.

That’s when we need to remember to praise God for who He is and not simply for what He gives us.

Psalm 95 gives three reasons to praise God:

Because He is the God above all gods. We praise Him for His Kingship. We praise Him for His ruling power.

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)

Because everything on earth was made by Him and belongs to Him. We praise Him for His omnipotence and creative power.

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4-5)

Because He cares for us. We praise His love, His compassion, His provision, and His protection toward us.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:6-7)

SelfishReasonPraiseGod deserves praise. And that should be enough reason to shower Him with honor and adoration.

But praise also brings a side benefit to those who are doing the praising.

In the middle of verse 7 the psalmist takes an abrupt turn from praising God to remind his readers not to harden their hearts.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, (Psalm 95:7b-8)

We all need this reminder. At times we all stubbornly insist on our own way and steel our hearts against God’s gentle nudges. Or we get so busy and preoccupied with life’s little hassles that we don’t even hear His voice.

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary on this psalm, “Hardness of heart is at the bottom of all our distrusts of God and quarrels with Him.”

But maybe in looking at this psalm we can see that praise can be preventative medicine to a hard heart.

We praise God for His sake, but a wonderful side-effect happens when we do. When we extol God’s mercy and power, God rewires our souls–reminding our stubborn selfish hearts just how wonderful He is. 

When we extol God's mercy and power, He rewires our souls--reminding our selfish hearts how wonderful He is. Click To Tweet

Praise keeps our hearts soft toward God as we praise Him for His goodness.

Next step: Write out your own psalm of praise. Praise God for His Kingship, for His creative power, and for His compassionate care.

 

The Characters of Christmas: The Shepherds

TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY

Good news.

Doesn’t your heart do a happy dance when you hear that phrase?

For me, this year started out with a lot of bad news. My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. A friend of mine lost her battle with lung cancer. Life seemed to be one long string of bad news.

But in the middle of the year things started to turn around. My husband, John, responded well to chemotherapy and we rejoiced when his oncologist gave us the good news that he is officially in remission. Then my daughter shared the happy news that she and her husband are expecting baby number four. And the cherry on top was the news that my daughter and her family are taking an a sabbatical from their work in China and will be here in the U.S. for six months.

Lots of good news!

I bet the shepherds near Bethlehem on that Christmas night felt much the same way. The whole nation of Israel had been groaning under Roman rule. They were tired of seeing foreign soldiers in the streets. They were tired of obeying a ruler who lived far away. Life seemed like a long string of bad news.

So when the angel announced that he had good news for them, he immediately had the shepherds’ attention:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

THE shepherdsThe shepherds didn’t wast any time in going to see what all the good news was about. They raced to Bethlehem to see the baby and immediately told other the good news (Luke 2:17). They praised God for all they had seen and heard (Luke 2:20).

As I think about the shepherd’s response I am humbled. 

You see, the good news they received did not immediately change their financial situation. Sharing the good news probably gave the their 15 minutes of fame, but it didn’t get them wealth or power.

Still, they realized that this was the best good news and so they told others and praised God.

I, on the other hand, may not always be exuberant about spiritual good news. I can’t wait to tell everyone the happy news that my grandchildren are coming for Christmas, but I may be timid about sharing the best news of Jesus coming for Christmas. I may be brave about talking about my new book, but may be timid about talking about the new life I have in Christ.

So this Christmas I’m praying that I will be more like the shepherds–rejoicing in the best news ever!

This Christmas rejoice in the best news ever--Jesus Christ is born! Click To Tweet

Jesus Christ is born! We are rescued from sin and death! In Christ we have life and peace! We are welcomed into God’s family. 

Next step: I would love to hear your good news! Share any good news you received this year in the comments below. And think of one way you can share the best news of all this Christmas!

6 Ways to Worship When Your Worship Has Grown Stale

Psalm 29-2

The sky was bright with the setting sun.

As the sun bounced it’s rays on the clouds the sky turned gold, then pink, then purple.

I stopped watering my begonias for a minute and worshiped.

I have to admit that too often the only worshiping I do is at church on Sunday morning. And sometimes what I am doing in the sanctuary can’t even be called worship. Even though my mouth may be mumbling words of praise, my mind wanders to my grocery list, my upcoming appointments, and just where the lady in front of me got that cute dress.

But I want to learn to worship. I have an awesome God who deserves praise and adoration. So this week I am asking God to teach me to worship.

Here are some ways of worship I have already tried:

  • Praying the psalms. I knelt down at my chair and prayed through psalms of praise like Psalms 8, 19, 29, and 33. I spoke them out loud.
  • Listening to praise and worship music. I pulled up a praise and worship station on Pandora and worshiped along with the music for 15 minutes.
  • Spontaneous worship. I looked for glimpses of God in my ordinary day like the spectacular sunset or a butterfly flitting around my garden. I praised God for His beauty evident in creation.

Here are some ways I am going to try in the future:

  • A new setting. I am planning to go to a church that I do not regularly attend that has a beautiful sanctuary. I want to go when the place is quiet so I can worship in solitude.
  • Create a worship board. I want to create visual worship. Using pictures of things that remind me of God, I will create a photo collage.
  • Using hymns. Great hymns like “How Great Thou Art” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” inspire praise when we really study the words. I am planning to memorize the words to some classics hymns.

As I expand my worship experience, I hope to become a more proficient praiser of my awesome God!

Next step: Which of the worship experiences above sound interesting to you? Choose one and implement it this week. Whatever you decide to do, do it for the Almighty God.

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Side Effects of…Praising God

We praise God because He deserves praise, but even while we praise who He is, we may experience positive side effects.

My husband has been diagnosed with lymphoma and has begun the road to recovery. Recently he had his first round of chemotherapy. The effects of the drugs were amazing. Just three short days after competing the infusion of drugs, we saw a major reduction in the visible tumors! We praise God for the healing that is taking place.

Unfortunately there are also negative side-effects. He has a severe sore throat–making talking very painful. One of the drugs gives extreme exhaustion. But one of the other medicines has the maddening side effect of the inability to sleep.

In all of life we experience unexpected side effects to circumstances and choices in our lives–not all of them positive. But there is one choice we can make that promises many positive side effects–

the choice to praise God

Of course, we praise God simply because He deserves praise. Psalm 65:1 says, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.” God is holy, mighty, loving, generous, and merciful. He is the King of the universe and the Lord of our hearts and so we praise Him. In fact, there are times when our hearts nearly burst with praise for the Ruler of all–who is also the One who holds our hands.

But even while we are praising God for who He is, we may experience some side effects:

Praise lifts our souls out of despair. In Psalm 42:5 the psalmist instructs his soul to praise God, “Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (NIV) He doesn’t feel like praising the Lord in that moment, but He knows God is the source of hope. When we praise God we change our focus from our problems to the God who is bigger than any difficulty. Despair is defeated and hope is reborn.

Praise brings us to the presence of God. You may have heard the phrase, “God inhabits the praises of His people,” This is a paraphrase of Psalm 22:3, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (KJV). God, of course, is present everywhere. He inhabits every church, every home, every valley, every forest–but we don’t always notice Him. Praising the Lord of the universe reminds us He is right here with us.

Praise lets others know what God has done. Praise is an effective evangelism tool. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” People are looking for the answers to their problems. They are searching for something bigger than themselves. When we praise God for what He has done and for who He is, others see the difference God makes. They are drawn to the God of mercy and love.

So praise God. Praise Him for His power, generosity, and grace. Experience the positive side effects.

I Want to Worship

Psalm 29-2

Jill Richard is the winner of Red Hot Faith!

The sky was bright with the setting sun.

As the sun bounced it’s rays on the clouds the sky turned gold, then pink, then purple.

I stopped watering my begonias for a minute and worshiped.

I have to admit that too often the only worshiping I do is at church on Sunday morning. And sometimes what I am doing in the sanctuary can’t even be called worship. Even though my mouth may be mumbling words of praise, my mind wanders to my grocery list, my upcoming appointments, and just where the lady in front of me got that cute dress.

But I want to learn to worship. I have an awesome God who deserves praise and adoration. So this week I am asking God to teach me to worship.

Here are some ways of worship I have already tried:

  • Praying the psalms. I knelt down at my chair and prayed through psalms of praise like Psalms 8, 19, 29, and 33. I spoke them out loud.
  • Listening to praise and worship music. I pulled up a praise and worship station on Pandora and worshiped along with the music for 15 minutes.
  • Spontaneous worship. I looked for glimpses of God in my ordinary day like the spectacular sunset or a butterfly flitting around my garden. I praised God for His beauty evident in creation.

Here are some ways I am going to try in the future:

  • A new setting. I am planning to go to a church that I do not regularly attend that has a beautiful sanctuary. I want to go when the place is quiet so I can worship in solitude.
  • A new form of worship. I am also planning to attend a service at a church that has a different style of worship than my church.  “Sing a new song to the Lord!”
  • Using hymns. Great hymns like “How Great Thou Art” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” inspire praise when we really study the words. I am planning to memorize the words to some classics hymns.

As I expand my worship experience, I hope to become a more proficient praiser of my awesome God!

Question: What is your favorite way to worship?

 

 

God is a God of Celebration?

This month has been a time of celebration for my family. My son (the baby of the family) got married on August 9! My husband performed the service, I sang a song, the little grandsons were all ring bearers. At the reception we feasted, laughed, and danced until our feet ached.

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August 9th was not only my son’s wedding day, but my wedding anniversary! Here’s a picture of John and me with our wedding photo.

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This August 9 will be a time of celebration that will live long in my memory.

Did you know our God is a God of celebration?

For much of my life, that thought seemed incongruous with the Lord I knew. Growing up, God seemed to be a God of serious thought and solemn ceremonies, not a God of rejoicing and celebrating.

But looking closer in the Scriptures, I see God truly is a God of celebration. In the Old Testament Yahweh commanded His chosen people to observe seven feasts each year. For three of these feasts they were to abandon their work and travel to Jerusalem to celebrate their God (Deuteronomy 16:16). These were times of feasting and rejoicing—times to thank God for what He had done for them in the past and revel in the blessings He had bestowed on them in the present.

In the New Testament Jesus was known as a partier. The Pharisees criticized Him for eating and drinking with sinners (Matthew 9:11). People wondered why the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s followers fasted, but Jesus’ disciples went on eating and drinking (Luke 6:33). Parties were a favorite theme in Jesus’ parables. The people in His stories celebrated finding a lost lamb, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15). Jesus even compared the kingdom of God to a sumptuous banquet (Luke 14:15-24).

Too often my worship of my generous, caring, loving God is sedate, somber, and dull. But I want to learn how to celebrate!

Instead of absent-mindedly mumbling my way through worship on Sunday, I want to passionately express love to my King. Instead of looking cool, calm, and collected, I’m going to clap along with the praise songs and sing the hymns at the top of my lungs.

Maybe I’ll even dance. Some churches even use liturgical dance to celebrate our awesome God. I may not dance in church, but maybe I can do it in the privacy of my own home. Admittedly this may feel a bit risky and undignified. But I will be in good company. King David was criticized by his wife, Michal, when He worshiped without inhibitions. David was focused on praising God and not on how he looked. He told Michal, “I will celebrate before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:21 emphasis mine).

So this week celebrate our awesome God. Sing and clap and dance your worship!

Question: Give your reaction to the statement: Our God is a God of celebration.


When You Struggle to Rejoice

phil 4-4

Does that command in Philippians 4:4 make you wince?

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I certainly have days when it’s hard to be full of joy. Hard to rejoice in anything.

And what is rejoicing anyway?

I looked up the word rejoice in my Greek dictionary and found that it comes from the word chairo.

It carries the idea of being glad about something. It is the picture of a person who is euphoric over something that has happened. Other words to describe chairo would be overjoyed, elated, ecstatic, exhilarated, thrilled, jubilant, or even rapturous. (from Sparkling Gems From the Greek, p. 682)

When I read that I asked myself–when was the last time I was purely ecstatic about God? When did I feel thrilled in God’s presence?

I think it’s been too long.

But perhaps it’s because I keep looking for joy in other things. I expect to find it in success. Or friendship.

I wait for joy to happen when everything goes according to my plan.

And because that isn’t very likely, joy remains elusive.

Perhaps I should be glad that I can’t always find joy in something other than Jesus. Because then in my desperation, I’m forced to look to the only reliable Source of joy–my Savior.

God doesn’t tell us to be euphoric over success, or achievement, or even cute shoes because none of those are lasting.

God asks to be elated in Him.

Question: What has brought you joy in the last week?

 

When You Don’t Hear Any Applause and You Doubt Your Value

Psalm 627

True confession time. I love applause.

I suppose most of us want the approval of others. We want to be told we are doing a good job. We love it when people tell us we’ve made a difference in their lives.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

The trouble comes when I base all of my value on what others think of me.

Sometimes I don’t hear an “Atta girl!” for a long time. Often rejection slips pile up much higher than acceptance letters. There are long periods of time when I don’t get any applause. And then I get a little low. OK, more than a little. I can get downright depressed. I can wonder if I’m worth anything at all.

Lately God has been teaching me a lot in Psalm 62. Last post I told about my waiting lesson from Psalm 62:1.

Another verse that jumped off the page for me was verse 7:

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

God tapped my on the shoulder and said: Did you catch that? Your honor doesn’t depend on how many trophies you get. Or how loud the applause is. Your honor depends on Me. Because you are My daughter you are treasured. You are valuable in My sight.

Wow. I’m humbled. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed because I realized something. When I need applause and approval from people in order to feel good about myself, I am, in effect, saying that they are more important than God. I am making their opinion more significant than God’s.

Father in heaven, I am sorry for when I make the approval and opinions of people more important than Yours. Help me to remember that my honor depends on You–not on trophies, acceptance letters, or applause. Thank you for accepting me because of Jesus. Amen.

Question: What is your heart’s response to the fact that your honor depends on God?

 

 

How to Make God’s Day (and how to win a copy of my new book!)

I used to love going to the grocery store down the street from my house. But not for the reason you might think. Yes, I enjoyed the yeasty smell of the bakery. And I got a little thrill when picking out a new ice cream flavor.

However, the real reason I liked going to this particular grocery store was in the produce section. For among the shiny red apples and crisp green lettuce was a smiling produce manager. And whenever I walked into the store with my preteen daughter, he would say something like, “Well, if it isn’t the two sisters again!” Now I knew that he knew that I was Anna’s mother, but because he always gave this you-don’t-look-your-age-compliment with such a friendly smile, I always left that store with a little more joy in my heart to go along with the food in my grocery sacks.

Alas, that store closed and I no longer can get a compliment along with my groceries. But my experience there came to mind as I was contemplating the whole subject of praise. I was pondering why God wanted us to praise Him. After all, He already knows that He is powerful, majestic, omniscient, wise, good, and loving. Why does He want us to tell Him so?

And then I thought of how I felt after my trip to the grocery store. Those little flattering words made my day and lifted my spirits. I began to wonder if that’s what words of admiration do for God too. Maybe words of praise from His daughter gladden His heart.

Too often my prayers are simply lists of things I want. Sometimes, I also remember to thank Him for blessings I have already received. But praise values God for who He is and not only for what He can do for me. It acknowledges God as a person to be appreciated, a Sovereign Being to be worshipped and not simply a genie to do my bidding.

King David was an expert in praise. In Psalm 34:1-3 he wrote:

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

David praised God “at all times.” He not only glorified God in periods of joy; he worshiped Him in times of sadness. This particular psalm was written after he had escaped from the king of Gath without harm, but David also praised God when he was in danger. He recognized that although circumstances may change, God remained the same. The Lord was still his rock, his refuge, his redeemer.

David’s soul made “its boast in the LORD.” King David had a pretty exciting life. He could have written a best-seller bragging about his encounters with wild lions and giants, but instead he wrote a book honoring God. As humans, our pride and boasting often get in the way of our relationships with God and men. But when we boast in the Lord and praise His name, that pride dissolves.

David urges us to “magnify the Lord.” To magnify is to make something appear larger. God’s character does not change through praise; He has always been and always will be almighty, omniscient, and powerful. But when we worship God, He becomes larger in our own eyes because we recognize Him for who He is.

Make God’s day. Praise Him for who He is.

For more on boasting in God, check out my new book, Bless These Lips, here.

This week my dear friend Cindy is blogging about Bless These Lips and hosting a give away!

Head over here to her blog and leave a comment to win:

  • a signed copy of Bless These Lips
  • a pretty cosmetic bag with lip balm, lip liner, and lipstick
  • a handmade bookmark
  • a $15 Amazon gift card
  • a framed print of a quote from the book “God has given you a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.”

And don’t forget! If you buy the book during between September 24 and October 18, I have some thank you gifts for you!

Just send your receipt to my email: sharla@sharlafritz.com

(If you buy online, forward your receipt to me. If you buy it in a bookstore, scan the receipt and email it to me.)

When I get your message I will send you through email:

  • A MP3 of my song “Make Me New” which I recorded for the DVD for my first book, Divine Design
  • My brand-new ebook titled, Lip Service: 11 Simple Ways to Change the World with Your Words
  • A set of pretty cards with the memory verses for Bless These Lips for you to print and use
  • A printable of the quote: “God has given you a unique mission to speak His words of love and grace to a lost and discouraged world.”

Blessings,

Sharla