When you wake up on Thanksgiving morning, do you feel any more grateful for all that you have in your life than you do on any other day? Is there a greater awareness about you of all you have been blessed with, or is it about the same as any other day? There are many reminders and opportunities for us to give thanks during the pre-meal prayer, or as you talk with friends and family you may not have seen in some time. Is this thankfulness our reluctant attitude on just a few days when we are reminded, or is this now a lifestyle that we live out each and every day?
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
What is the opposite of thankfulness? Greed or Self-sufficiency, pride, thanklessness? We don’t usually have to look too far to see this in our own lives and in those around us. What we often observe the evening of Thanksgiving or the morning after during the rush to acquire more things during the Black Friday shopping frenzy is a testament to that.
There is nothing that rubs me the wrong way as much as when you go out of your way for someone and instead of being thankful, they don’t care or even criticize what you have done for them. I almost makes one want to say forget it altogether and just revert back to selfishness. I see this to the extreme in many parent –child relationships where parents can bend over backward to make a child happy, but it is never enough. Images of the spoiled, ungrateful child come to mind. Thankfully, this is not the norm in most families I know. I’m sure this was each one of us at different times in our lives. How many of us threatened or even did leave home for a time because, well you know, parents just don’t understand.
The same can be said of adults, though we tend to hide it better. Some may argue about what food the pilgrims had to eat during the first Thanksgiving, while some are still arguing with family about what they want during this Thanksgiving. One family of four I talked with this past week had requests for 3 different things: Turkey, Ham and Chicken for thanksgiving dinner. You can’t always please everyone! If you get enough family members together during any holiday, there is sure to be some griping and complaining.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18
As Christians, what part should thankfulness play in our day to day lives? What percentage of your day is spent in thankfulness verse complaining? Is fifty percent the norm? If you took an inventory of your attitude throughout the day with all the complaining, frustration with others, sincere appreciation for the kindness and rudeness of others, where would it all play out in our hearts, words and actions? I fear most of us would fall in the negative category. There are a small handful of people I know who almost never complain outwardly and is a unique example in an often negative world.
What do we have to be thankful for? In no particular order, for God reaching out to us in the gift of salvation through Christ. For God’s Word and Spirit to guide us. For the big and small blessings we see each day, most of which we don’t deserve. For the trials we face, which help us grow and mature. For forgiveness and second chances after we mess things up. For the fellowship of believers to which we belong, most of whom we will never meet in this life. For these and so many more things.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
One sign of true Christian maturity is when you can find things to appreciate even when you face trials and challenges in life. I was talking to a Christian woman earlier today who almost always has a positive outlook on life and has encouraging words for others despite losing three close people in her life this past year, including her husband and a granddaughter. It is only though the gift of salvation in Christ that we can be thankful in all situations, even in the face of death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
Finally, find ways to serve. Regardless of how you serve others, it helps keep your heart humble and helps us to appreciate all that we have been given just a little more easily. Volunteering regularly through ministry and other opportunities is a good practice, as well as occasional events like the Vital Men’s Black Friday service trip that works to help counteract our selfish nature. Christ modeled this servant nature in how he served those around him and gave his own life for us.
So, as the sun rises and sets on yet another day we have been given to make our way in this world, take a few moments to make a note of what you often take for granted. Consider what good has also come from the trials in your life. Ask God to continue to reveal the truth in all these things to you as give Him thanks for your life and His presence in it.
Thanks be to God!
It is holiday season once again, and for some of us this brings great joy and excitement to spend time with family. For many more of us, going to spend time with family feels a lot like choosing to walk into the lions den. Lions are known for eating their pray while it is still alive. That is what it can feel like going into the holidays. Lots of pain and a slow death! Often times here we feel helpless.
Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den not of his choosing. He was ridiculed for being righteous. He was facing the real reality of a slow and painful death. and here is what happened…
Daniel 6:19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”
21Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”
23The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.
24Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.
25Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:
“Peace and prosperity to you!
26“I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God,
and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and his rule will never end.
27He rescues and saves his people;
he performs miraculous signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
28So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
God moved mightily through Daniel. God allowed Daniel to go into the lions’ den so he could do a great work through him. Daniel didn’t want the lions’ den, he would have changed his circumstances, he would have changed the men that held the position to throw him in the lions’ den. God did not want to change his circumstances, He wanted to change Daniel. He wanted to change Persia through these circumstances.
Many of you are praying God changes your circumstances, and God may not want to change your circumstances. He may want to change you! He may want to bring real healing to your family through you. Daniel could have been mad at the king and had a terrible attitude. I would not have blamed him. He chose a God fearing attitude. He did not try to get even. His first comment to the king that sealed him in his death and made who he was illegal was “long live the king”. He spoke blessing. He spoke life and not more death.
In the end, God received the glory. That is Jesus’ purpose in you. To show His glory through you. So this holiday season, if you are walking into the lions’ den, know God wants to show His glory through you! What you can do is choose your attitude and speak blessing and not death. It is your choice… Be a Vital man
Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus
We find ourselves in a lot of situations where we don’t know what to do. We also find ourselves in good places, confidently striding forward. In both scenarios, we often forget to praise the Lord.
It’s hard to think that in the lowest of times, we can praise the Lord. My low times have been filled with tears and loud cries, struggling with what the Lord is allowing or what has come against me. To muster a praise to God has seemed impossible in those moments.
I think of Job, the ultimate struggler. He lost all his possessions and his family, and everyone taunted him to curse God, and yet he still found a way to praise him: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
Even King David, a fellow struggler, would tie in praises to God within Psalms that were speckled with pain and anguish. The apostle Paul reveled in pain and suffering, and other martyrs in the Bible did, too.
So what overcomes us in times of sorrow that we sometimes can’t put forth a praise? Perhaps it’s ignorance or selfishness.
Both of those tie into the good times as well. Even though it can be hard to praise God when the going is tough, it is seemingly as hard when the going is good. We tend to fall into a routine that expects good results each day, and within that expectation we unknowingly forget to praise God for all that he has given us.
We usually cover the big things– thank you God for good health, a job, food. But we often overlook the small things that are worthy of praise. I have a friend who has had 4 knee surgeries and since she can remember, hasn’t been able to walk without pain. She is only 21–has the knees of a 50 year old and arthritis with it. She’s tried every surgery possible, most of which have put her on bed rest, in a wheel chair, or on crutches for a time span of 2 out of her last 4 years. Imagine that–spending 2 of your past 4 years unable to walk.
She inspires me by finding praise for the little things. When the going is good–what little things do you find praiseworthy? I’m captivated by how snow falls, smiles on my students’ faces, the bounce of a basketball, the heat of coffee, the comfort of a chair–I praise God for those.
No matter what season of life you’re in, he is worthy of praise–so praise the Lord with every chance you have.
Praise the Lord when the world is on your shoulders.
Praise the Lord when you’re free from all captivity.
Praise the Lord when you’re full of grace.
Praise the Lord when you feel condemned.
Praise the Lord for the simple things.
Praise the Lord for things you don’t understand.
Praise the Lord when there are tears in your eyes.
Praise the Lord when a smile crowds your face.
Praise the Lord when you don’t know what else to do.
Praise the Lord when you know you’re on the right path.
Praise the Lord when it’s easy.
Praise the Lord when it’s hard.
So Praise the Lord,
Ephesians 3:9-10, “My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among angels!”
God has not only created us for his mission, but he has also created us for adventure. In the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” you find a man who works for Life Magazine and places pictures of adventure on every cover. He fantasizes over these pictures in his own life. He yearns for the adventure of those extraordinary places, seeing unique animals, and different people.
Even though he longs for the adventure, he has one thing that blocks him from taking those adventures, fear. In his early childhood, his father gives him a backpack and an adventure book to write down all the places and things he would see. It’s still in a cardboard box. It’s never been taken out. He always has an excuse of why he can’t take the adventure. Yet inside him is the man who wants the adventure.
As Christian men, we fall into the fear that being a man of God will nullify our adventurous spirit. That it has to die. That we will be placed in a box. I believe the enemy uses that to his advantage to keep men from coming to know God and giving their lives to our Lord. The disciples were not soft men. They were rugged – fishermen, a tax collector, and even a thief. Men who were willing to take the adventure, so they lived it. Went through storms, walked from town to town, saw miracles, even one walked on water. These were real adventurous men.
Look at the life of Paul. It’s said in Scripture that he was in his mid-30’s to 40’s when he took on four missionary journeys. He toured Asia Minor, Europe, and eventually ended up in Rome, Italy. This man wrote 14 of the 27 books in the New Testament. He was a church planter, tent maker, a man of adventure. When Jesus got a hold of his life, this man was driven with passion for the adventure of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.
So, this brings us back today with this question, “What is your secret adventure?” What is the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart today? Anyone can sit behind a desk, hide behind a hammer, lose their life in a cubicle. What is the adventure in that?
Men, we were created for adventure. Like it says in the Star Trek movie, “To go boldly where no one has gone before.” That’s exciting and exhilarating. This should move us as men!
For some of us who live in this region of Iowa we have our Black Friday event. We will be remodeling a Thrift Store, helping the Salvation Army, going to the Homeless Shelter in Des Moines. Maybe there is that mission trip you’ve always wanted to go on. Maybe it’s that trip for you and your son or daughter that you’ve always wanted to take. The bottom line is to not be afraid of the adventure, to step into it. Within all of these adventures comes opportunity to be the men of God in that adventure.
It’s when we meet people that we get opportunities to share and be our faith. It’s that man who works beside you every day that you get the opportunity to say, “Hey, we have this project of helping out someone or building something, or go on this trip” – that we can ask them to go. Many men have come to know Christ through the adventures of doing things together.
The Disciples and Paul risked everything for the adventure and for the purpose of following Christ. These men were driven with adventure. We can do the same thing today. Real Men follow Christ and live the adventure. It’s not for the weak-kneed men. Men who will go boldly where most men fear to go with other men in living a Vital Life. Stay the course my good friends, because being men of God is an adventure.
Strength and Courage,
The gear’s been stored away in the equipment room. The playbooks have all been turned in. Players have signed up postseason meetings with their respective coaches. Another fall sports season has come to a close. For some, it couldn’t have come soon enough, falling short of preseason aspirations of an undefeated season or playoff berth. For others, it comes to a close with one shining moment, hoisting hardware adorned with the medallions for the championship earned.
There were 344 football playing schools in the state of Iowa this past season. Only six ‘won it all’. Of those, just two were able to do so in undefeated fashion. On the opposite end of the spectrum, fewer than two dozen (20 total) schools finished their year not winning a single game. This left 322 programs finishing less than perfect and better than completely defeated.
There may be a few of us who look back on our week, our month, our fall, or even our year and associate ourselves with those 22 schools on either end of the 300+. Those that presently feel perfect, flawless, like they’ve conquered it all, ready to take on the world. Others still who feel like things couldn’t get much worse, never catching a break, continually experiencing the lowest of lows. The majority of us though find ourselves somewhere among the rest. Not completely defeated nor on top of the world.
“Champions are always Champions.”
On signs in our football locker room, in our playbook, and adorned on t-shirts of years past there’s been this recurring slogan. Initially some may think that this simple statement states the obvious. The best will always be the best. And this is true, although not in the original form one may think. Champions will conduct themselves as champions no matter their current circumstance. Without hardware or an undefeated record, a champion will find a way to overcome the odds, fighting to rise above their given adversities. Appearing to be infallible, a champion will continue to dissect their current state to discover their weaknesses, finding ways to continually improve.
1 Corinthians 9:24 [NLT]
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
A true champion is able to recognize that their current situation whether it is full accolades or lack-there-of, is simply just their current state-of-being. It’s not what their situation was or what it will be guaranteed to be in the future. Being a true champion means demonstrating that champion-esque model in all aspects of life whether it is in their jobs, with their families, or in their daily social interactions.
1 Corinthians 9:26 [NLT]
26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
Men, wherever we find ourselves on the spectrum of success in handling the challenges of daily life, let us adopt the mindset of champions. Avoid the complacency of triumph. Avoid the complacency of defeat. Avoid the complacency of mediocrity. Let us challenge ourselves to live the lives we’re all capable of living. Because championships aren’t just handed out to those willing to accept them, they’re earned.
Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,