Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
It’s that time of year when we start thinking of those things for which we are grateful. Social media posts spring up by the thousands saying something like “30 days of thankfulness” where the person intends to be thankful for one thing everyday. Of course all the natural things to be thankful for come easily: our families, the beautiful weather, the fall colors, our jobs (because whether we like them or not, they provide for us), our homes, etc. But where it gets tough are those hard circumstances that we really don’t like. They are annoying, frustrating, and we don’t see how they add anything to our lives; as a matter of fact, they really take from it. Are we really supposed to be grateful for them?
My 10-year old daughter has recently moved into the regular chore rotation; meaning that every other week she has to do the dishes with her 16-year old sister. Our dishwasher died a couple of months ago, and, since we haven’t replaced it yet, all the dishes are being washed by hand. The older sister is supposed to be gently teaching her how to do it, however this happens to be a character-building exercise for her as well. My teenage daughter with “leadership qualities” is still learning how to be a gentle teacher. Because of this, younger sister really doesn’t like doing it, wishes we had a working dishwasher, and has an all-around bad attitude about the chore. She doesn’t work very hard which puts more pressure on older sister. You can see the circle of destruction going on here.
I spoke with the 10-year old about her attitude concerning said chore. It doesn’t matter that she dislikes washing the dishes. We all have to do things at times that we don’t like. What mattered was her attitude. Was she glorifying God with her attitude? Nope. Was she doing “all things to the glory of God.” Nope. And she definitely was not thankful for her job. (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17) Her negative attitude was what was important.
As is typically the case whenever I am correcting one of my children’s poor attitudes, I am also preaching to myself. Ugh! I have also had a very poor attitude about something that I wish I didn’t have to do. My husband’s car has been having troubles and all our attempts to fix it have not turned out in our favor. This means that I have had to take him to work in the morning. At first, when I had to leave the house at 6 in the morning it was not too bad. It seemed I would only have to do it once or twice. But as the car continued to fail to start, and the days drew into weeks, I began to get pretty irritable about it.
I’m tired of taking him to work! …grumble grumble... I miss sitting on my couch with my coffee in one hand and Bible in the other! …grumble grumble… It’s taking the most productive time out of my day as I can’t start until 7:30 instead of 6:45 as I like. …grumble grumble...
While all those things might be true, and my day does go smoother when I get to start it the way I like, it doesn’t excuse my attitude. I am still getting to listen to the word of God in the car while I’m driving – not perfect but it works. And honestly, things could always be worse than the relatively small annoyance of having to take him to work for a month. Instead of grumbling, what is required of me is a thankful attitude. Thankfulness to my Lord who has blessed me with so many things. Thankfulness for one vehicle that works, for a job to go to, for the 15 minutes of one on one conversation time that we weren’t getting before, and so much more. When I choose to be thankful hard things become easier.
How can we be more thankful?
Read the Psalms
So what can we do to foster more of an attitude of gratitude? The best place to start is in the Word of God. I suggest reading some of the psalms of thanksgiving. Psalms 100, 103, 136, 138, and 146 are good ones to start with. Pray through them, worship through them. Ask God to give you a spirit of thanksgiving.
Many of the psalms exhort us to praise the Lord. They don’t say praise the Lord because your life is going well. No, they tell us to praise Him because He is good. Psalm 33 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord…Give thanks to the Lord…Sing to Him a new song…For the word of the Lord is upright and all His work is done in faithfulness.” Why does the psalmist tell us to praise the Lord? We are to praise Him because He is faithful and upright, not because of the circumstances of our life at the time.
Read Christian biographies
I have found that reading biographies of men and women who have struggled in the faith have increased my joy and my attitude of thankfulness. Many of them did not live easy lives, and my trials, by comparison, seem minuscule in light of theirs. Some of the accounts I have read and found meaningful include:
If I Perish– The true story of a young Korean woman named Esther Ahn Kim. She refused to bow to the Japanese idols and the oppression she endured because of it.
George Muller– The story of a man who believed God could supply all the needs of both his family and the thousands of orphans that he cared for. God did provide, all without George asking people for a single penny.
God’s Smuggler– the story of Brother Andrew, a man who risked his life to smuggle bibles into closed countries behind the iron curtain.
I am also currently reading a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss entitled “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.” She begins with our biggest reason for gratitude, and that is our salvation. We are so prone to lose the wonder and awesomeness of what God did for us. That Jesus would see fit to leave the throne room of God, to shed some of His divinity and be made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5-8). That He would dwell amongst sinful humanity and allow Himself to be mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross by the very men He created. All so that He could declare us righteous and we could dwell forever with Him in heaven. It’s an amazing thought. She goes beyond that, however, into the how’s and why’s of gratitude.
I have learned that in every circumstance that comes my way, I can choose to respond in one of two ways: I can whine or I can worship.
And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible. When we choose the pathway of worship and giving thanks, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances, there is a fragrance, a radiance, that issues forth out of our lives to bless the Lord and others.
Choosing Gratitude, Pg 23-24
Thankfulness is a command
1 Thessalonians tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Whether we like it or not, this is a command. Paul doesn’t give us an out on this; he doesn’t give us any exceptions to the rule. We are to give thanks. We do it because He created all things very good and He keeps them in His care. We do it for the glory of God and we do it for our own good.
How do you incorporate an attitude of gratitude in your life? Let me know in the comments below so that we can encourage one another in spiritual growth.
Who doesn’t dream of a household of children who don’t grumble? I know I do! I read this book in hopeful anticipation of seeing if this goal really was attainable and possibly glean a few tricks along the way. What I found was a real, everyday family with everyday struggles. The Goyer’s life isn’t Pinterest perfect, and Tricia doesn’t photoshop the details. I found that I could relate to her and her family and I connected with her as she strove for the godly goal of thankful hearts.
As a homeschool mom, Tricia decided to introduce the challenge with the beginning of the school year. She started with talking about what grumbling meant, the different ways they each grumble, and assigned a scripture memory verse. She also planned several other memory verses, bible lessons, and activities throughout the year to aid in the process. Creating this lofty goal wasn’t like pushing a magic button, however, as attitudes didn’t automatically change. A heart change, they learned, takes the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
Those things she couldn’t plan were the circumstances that God brought into their lives to help foster the heart change. “Where God really worked,” Tricia said, “was when I came to the end of myself…Grumbling was ultimately a heart issue. A heart issue only God could fix.” The lessons she and her family learned about God, faith, and attitude were better than she could have ever imagined.
I highly recommend this book. I learned a lot about the source of grumbling, not only in my home, but also in my own heart. Tricia’s story encouraged me to seek God for ways to clear the grumbling from my life as well. She helps others find the solutions for their homes by providing “reflection questions” and “your turn” ideas at the end of each chapter to help make the goal actionable. Here’s to many more homes with grumble-free years!
I received this book early in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In my last post, I explained why it is essential that we are reading the Bible daily. However, I didn’t discuss “what” we should be reading. There are so many choices out there — devotionals, fill-in-the-blank studies, and short or long reading plans — to name a few. Before I started reading “whole Bible” plans I would do Bible studies and read a chapter here and there — wherever I felt like reading. While I learned concepts from those Bible studies, this way of reading meant that I never read certain parts of the Bible. As a matter of fact, until my early 30’s I had never read the minor prophets. I knew they existed but I had no idea what they contained – they were a mystery to me. I hadn’t ever read through Jeremiah or Isaiah, rather I had simply read the popular, often quoted, portions of those books.
Why is this a problem? The whole council of God is revealed throughout scripture. We get a fuller understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him through the entirety of His word. When we don’t know what a large portion of the Bible says, because we haven’t read it for ourselves, then we don’t really know who God really is. Reading the whole Bible is imperative for Christian growth.
We read to understand
Well-known scriptures tell us that God is patient and that God is love. They teach that He forgives us our sins and will take us back when we come to Him in true repentance and humility. My understanding of those verses was shallow, at best. Reading the Old Testament, however, gave me a fuller understanding of these important doctrines. The patience, longsuffering, and deep love of God comes out in the prophetic books as He sends prophet after prophet to show Israel their sins and call them to repentance. In His compassion and mercy, He gives them warning after warning to turn from their wicked ways before it is too late.
Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.
When I read the whole of scripture, especially as I read the Old and New Testaments at the same time, I can see principles of the NT being played out in the OT. Truly the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. The parable of the prodigal son exemplifies not only God’s love for us as Christians but also His love for His People, Israel, and the message of repentance the prophets proclaimed. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3.
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
1 Peter 2:2
Long for the pure milk of the word. There are a multitude of Bible reading plans out there, you just have to choose one. But I would exhort you NOT to choose one where you just read a couple verses and then a page of some man or woman’s thoughts. Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, anyone else’s words are not. Devotionals have their place and they can be an encouragement to us, but they should not replace a diligent reading of the entire Bible on its own. We cannot truly know what scripture says unless we are reading all of it for ourselves. Here are a couple of plans I recommend:
My favorite plan is the M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan. You read four chapters a day all from different parts of the Bible, providing a full and rich immersion. You will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in the year.
If you want to read the above plan, but 4 chapters is too much for you, then I recommend the Two-Year Bible Reading Plan. It takes the M’Cheyne plan and divides it into two years so that you read the Old Testament in 2 years and the New Testament and Psalms each year of the plan. This is the plan I recommend to my younger teenage children and also to my youth group.
Another way I enjoy reading the Bible is chronologically. It gives a new dimension to how everything fits together. But I also want to be in both the OT and the NT at the same time because I need the gospel. The Solid Life “Whole Bible” Reading Plan is a chronological reading of the OT; meaning that you will read the prophets alongside the kings they prophesied to, the psalms that David wrote along with 1&2 Samuel, and the wisdom books during the reign of Solomon. You will also read the NT twice.
But I don’t understand it
Proverbs 2:1-6 tell us that as we diligently search the scriptures and pray for understanding, God will teach us. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding,” Proverbs 2:6. The first 9 chapters of Proverbs also tell us that the simple gain wisdom through the Word of God. Our brain is a like a muscle, the more we work it, the stronger it will be. In the same way, the more we exercise our brain by reading the Word of God, the more we will come to understand. As we continue to read the whole Bible we will begin to see connections we never saw before. Passages will bring to light concepts that we may have read before but didn’t quite grasp. God is faithful. As you determine to faithfully dig into the precepts in His Word, He will teach you.
Recently, I was on this diet where I fasted for 1 or 2 nonconsecutive days a week. I would stop eating after dinner and not eat again until dinner the next day. I learned real quick that on those fasting days I had to be sure to drink an abundance of water otherwise disaster would ensue. If I had not taken in much water, by 1 or 2 o’clock I would begin to feel sluggish. My head would begin to hurt, my body would feel achy, my brain would cloud over and I would feel overwhelmingly tired. Rather than the necessary bounce in my step, my feet would move as if I was trudging through sludge. I would wonder, what is wrong with me? Am I getting sick? Then I would remember that I hadn’t eaten or drank anything yet that day and my body was feeling the effects.
Some days I would decide to “break my fast” early just so that I could function. It’s amazing what just a few bites of food would do for me! My eyes would brighten, my foggy head would clear up and I would have renewed energy.
I stopped doing that diet after only a couple months. It wasn’t because I couldn’t handle not eating, that part really wasn’t too hard. It was the way it made me feel. Even if I determined to drink tons of water, by mid-afternoon I still only felt kinda okay. I wasn’t functioning at 100%, which meant I couldn’t do all the things that still needed to be done in order to properly care for my family and my businesses. Water alone, while better than nothing, still wasn’t enough to sustain me throughout my day.
This illustration holds true for our Bible intake as well. In order to function properly I need to refresh my spirit daily with the living water of the Word of God. The effects of fasting from the Word may not be as immediate or obviously detectable, but they are disastrous to our Christian walk nonetheless.
The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible is literally the very words of God — they are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:15). 2 Peter 2:20-21 says, “…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The book we hold in our hand, or on our device, was intentionally written by God to instruct us. Through it, God has revealed Himself to us as well as what He requires of us. Everything we need for life and godliness is in His book (2 Peter 1:1-3).
The Bible keeps us from sin
God has called us to be holy. In his letter to Christians who were experiencing persecution in Asia, the Apostle Peter writes, “As obedient children, do no be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.'” Throughout the epistles, this call for holiness is reiterated. Paul, Peter, and the other authors repeatedly exhorted the People of God to strive to live holy lives in keeping with the high calling as children of God.
Psalm 119:9-11 states, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” It is through the scriptures that God sanctifies us. We read God’s word so that we can know and keep His commandments. We can’t obey God if we don’t know what he requires of us.
The Bible is the Standard of truth
Every decision the US court system makes is based upon the US constitution. They cannot make any ruling that blatantly goes against the laws dictated by that document. It is the standard by which all our rules are made and tested. In much the same way, the Bible is the standard by which we, as Christians, should base all our decisions and actions. Except more so, because the Bible was written by the Most High God and not fallible men, making it the ultimate standard for life.
Beyond that, we know that the Words of God are absolute truth because God is truth and He cannot lie. It follows that the Bible itself is truth itself.
“The sum of Your word is truth” Psalm 119:160
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
In wisdom, God created the world and all the laws that sustain it. God created the plants and every living organism. He created animals and people. He knows intimately how we think and behave. His truth — which He gave us in Scripture — is the only legitimate truth because He created everything we know.
Judges and lawyers read and study the constitution so they can make appropriate laws and decisions. They will often quote codes and ordinances when making their cases. The degree to which they know and understand the law of the land blows my mind. But we have a book whose decrees are so much higher. If the Bible contains all the truth that we should live our lives by, shouldn’t we read it, study it and strive to know it?
There are a whole lot of belief systems out there, even within the realm of Christianity, how do we know which is right? How can we make right decisions regarding doctrine and practice? By basing everything we read and hear on the standard of the truth of God’s Word. How do we know what God’s word says? Do we simply believe what we hear other people say that it says? No. We act like Bereans and diligently search the scriptures to see if it is so.
The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed…
The Jews in Berea were double-checking Paul’s words. The Apostle Paul! Just because a speaker is popular and has a large following, doesn’t mean he or she can’t ever be wrong. People are not infallible; God is. Our words can be wrong; God’s cannot. Thus all things should be checked against the Word.
The Bible is our Guide through Life
Because the Bible is the standard for all truth and contains everything pertaining to life and godliness, it naturally follows that it is our guide through life.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
This truth is also exemplified in Psalm 1, Joshua 1, and countless other places in the Bible. When we follow the ordinances set forth in the scriptures and allow them to guide our decisions and actions, we will be blessed. We can have confidence in hard decisions when they are based on God’s word.
The main point
Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The real thrust of the deal is this: in order to grow in Christ, in order to bear fruit, in order to do anything good, we must be reading the Bible consistently. We cannot do anything for God in our own strength. We must be leaning on His power and His power comes through the written Word of God.
Daily Bible reading looks differently for everyone depending on the season of life you are in. When my children were young I read during naps and TV times. As they have grown and have regular sleep patterns, I read in the morning before anyone wakes. What is your routine? How do you make sure you are reading your Bible? Comment below and let me know. Then come back next week and read my post on why I recommend whole bible reading plans.
When it comes to memorizing bible verses, we don’t often see the point. It is something we did in Sunday School when we were kids, but that’s the extent of it. And when it comes to making our kids do it, it seems like more work than its worth, but I would contend that teaching your children bible memory verses actually helps your job as a parent.
In elementary math, we see the importance for kids to memorize the basic addition facts as well as the multiplication tables. While they don’t understand why they must put these numbers to memory, we know that as they advance in higher math being able to pull these facts out of their brains quickly will be a great benefit to them. We can apply the same logic to memorizing scripture. In Joshua 1:8, God tells Joshua to meditate on the Law day and night so that he will be careful to do all that is written in it and have success. Just like memorizing basic math facts helps us in Algebra, internalizing the Word of God helps us to keep His commands.
Scripture memory sets children up for victory against temptations
As parents, we strive to set our children up for success in life. We want them to go to a good school, so we look at the options and choose the one that will best prepare them for the next step. We make sure they have tutoring and/or extra help in the areas they are struggling. We take them to extra-curricular art classes, dance, sports, and a multitude of other things to prepare them for life in the best way we know how. We pay for extra ACT or SAT Prep courses to ensure they get the best possible score so they can get into the college of their choice. We want the best for our children and are willing to sacrifice ourselves if necessary to make sure they have it.
Just as we set them up for success in physical areas of life, we need to set them up for success spiritually. Temptations are a very real part of life. At this point in their lives, we are right by their side acting as their conscience helping them decide between right and wrong. But a day will come when that is not the case. They won’t always have us to help them make the right decision, but when we give them the word of God as their standard for life we set them up for victory.
Your word have I treasured in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
To give our children the tools to fight against temptation, we must be teaching them the gospel. Not only on Sunday morning, but we must be living it out in front of them; teaching them diligently and talking of it when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7) We all need to be surrounded by these truths of God’s word. When we add bible memory to this and store these truths in our hearts, the Helper will bring them to our minds when temptations arise.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
Scripture memory gives a reason for the “why”
Children ask “why” a lot. Sometimes it can be hard to continue to come up with reasons for the behavior we require. But when all of our rules are tied to the bible, we have a black and white reason for the expectations we have for them. I find it easier to answer my children’s questions when I can point them straight back to the source.
“Why do I have to have a good attitude when I do things?”
Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14
“Why does it matter if I do my work lazily or sloppily?”
Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23
“Why is it wrong for me to get angry?”
Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
“Why do I have to forgive my sister?”
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
“Why is it wrong if I lie?”
…the Lord hates…a lying a tongue…” Proverbs 6:16-17
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 (One of the Ten Commandments)
Just as these verses answer the immediate why, they also answer the long-term why. As children grow into teen-dom and young adulthood and begin considering life outside the nest, they can give a reason for the standards their parents instilled in them. These truths are like stakes for direction and support. Just as we put stakes in the ground so that our tomato plants have something to grow up on, we give our children the word of God to give them the direction to grow. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…
Scripture memory tethers them to God rather than to us
In his book, Reset: How to Keep Your Kids from Backsliding, Todd Friel makes a statement that makes complete sense, yet it completely challenged me. “Tether your child to you, and the odds are they will fly the coop. Tether your child to Christ, and he/she will submit to Him long after you and I are dead.” In other words, we must be teaching them God’s rules. Show them that they are obeying God when they obey us. And, as the psalmist says, the best way to obey is to hide His rules in our hearts. When the time comes to let them go into the world on their own (and believe me, it will come faster than you expect) we can breathe easier knowing that the word of God is with them.
When Solomon, the wisest man in the world, was giving advice to his son he said to observe and not to forsake the teachings of his mother and father. He counseled that when these words are stored in his heart they will guide his steps and guard his way. How great to know that when we are no longer there to keep them on the narrow path, that our God is with them.
Bind [my words] continually on your heart; Tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk to you.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
So where do we go from here? There are several scripture memory guides on the market — invest in one for you and your family. Memorize with your kids, show them it is important for you too. A family devotional book that we have personally used and enjoyed, Sword Fighting, has 52 bible memory verses along with applicable devotions. Another great resource that my family is a part of where scripture memory is a key aspect is AWANA. I highly recommend joining a club at a local church.
I have made a set of 16 illustrated scripture memory cards containing some key verses for children. I want to give you a set for free when you join my mailing list. Just follow this link to get them.