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Learning, Again and Again, to Be Content

     I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13 NLT

     But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Tim. 6:8 NIV

Jesus, when I begin to indulge a spirit of discontent and complaining, comparison and envy, I’d love to blame it on the barrage of ads, seizing screen-time through the internet; alluring billboards lining the highways; and sensual commercials trying to sell me stuff I didn’t know I need. But the problem isn’t “out there,” it’s in here—in my heart.

So I’m back in school, Jesus—the school of gratitude, contentment, and waiting. I can do all things through you, for you promise all the strength we need to do anything you commend and command.

Therefore, give me strength, Jesus, to accept the body you made for me, the story you’re writing for me, and the things you entrusted to me. Help me to compare less, and rest more; stress less, and rejoice more; grasp less, and enjoy more.

Jesus, help me spend less time wondering why you haven’t answered certain prayers the way I want you to; help me spend less time pondering why you haven’t taken my counsel, when I make so much sense (wink, wink); and help …

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Good Gifts from Our Uber-Good Father

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he createdJames 1:17-18

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Col. 2:6-7

     Heavenly Father, I awoke today a grateful man, keenly aware of the number and variety of good gifts you have poured into my life. Life isn’t easy, painless, or simple, but I have multiple reasons to overflow with thanksgiving.

     First and foremost, I praise you for the immeasurable, inexhaustible riches you lavish on us in Jesus. Forgive me when I think I need more than the gospel, and never let me settle for less. I’m rooted in your love and standing in your grace; forgiven, righteous, and hidden in Christ; sealed, indwelt, and being changed by your Spirit. Why would I ever whine, fret, or pout?

     Father, I’m also thankful for these things today: My wife’s spontaneous, room-filling laugh and my grandsons’ spunk, kindness and creativity; the peace I have knowing you are sovereign over my tears and wounds, joys and longings; Beach Music, and the 60’s and 70’s soundtrack I listen to while I bike.

     The assurance you will finish making me like Jesus one …

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Multiple Good Gifts from God

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Cor. 4:7

Dear heavenly Father, I take way too much for granted, still indulge an occasional bout with an attitude of entitlement, live with an assumed right to things the poor of the world would consider luxuries, and live at a pace of life which makes it easy to keep on going without saying, “Thank You”.

I repent, this morning, and want to express heart-felt gratitude for a wide array of things I would never have if you weren’t so generous. I praise you for giving me a wide array of gifts—each of which you intend for me to greatly enjoy and freely share.

Father, I praise you for a full and complete salvation in Jesus. By your sovereign goodness, you revealed the depth of my need, and then lavished the riches of your grace on me. I’m forgiven of everything and have been declared righteous in your sight. I’m an object of your constant affection and a subject in your unshakeable kingdom.

I’m a beloved child of yours and a called servant in your story. I a roof over my head and the new heaven and new earth as my permanent home. These things, alone, mock any whining and pining I can muster on any given day. But there’s more, much

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Resting in the God-ness of God

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. 1 Chron. 29:11-12 (NLT)

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning from ancient times, what is still to come I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isa. 46:9-10 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, forgive me. There are days when I, the clay, try to instruct you, the Potter; when I the subject, presume to direct you, my loving and sovereign King; why I, the child, complain about you—the most wonderful and wise Father ever.

As these Scripture sink into my heart, all I can say is I’m SO thankful that you are God, and that I am not. I am SO thankful that you are the Alpha and the Omega, and everything other Greek letter in between. I am SO thankful you know the beginning and the ending, and every other moment as well. I am SO thankful that you don’t answer all my prayers with a resounding “Yes!” I am SO thankful that you don’t cater to …

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Freshly Fueled Gratitude

     One of them (one of the lepers), when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:15-15 (NLT)

Dear Lord Jesus, I want to be more like the healed Samaritan leper that came back to you shouting, “Praise God!” Indeed, I want my whole being to yell “Thank you!” for all the blessings and benefits I have in you.

As my Creator and Sustainer, Jesus, I bless you for every good thing you’ve given (and give) me: Food and clothing, shelter and a bed; lungs and breath, a vocation and vacations; medical care and money to spend, a family to love and friends galore; fish to catch and bread to share… and the list goes on and on.

As my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus, I adore you for living in my place and dying in my place; for sins forgiven and righteousness given; for victory over death and grace for life; for your steadfast love and daily mercies; for citizenship in heaven and a place in your kingdom; for the hope of glory and the glory of the gospel… just to name a few!

As my Lord and King, Jesus, I worship you working in all things all the time for my good. You have my hairs numbered and …

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We Always Have Ample Reasons to Be Grateful

      [The older brother] was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  Luke 15:28-31

Dear heavenly Father, though I’d never boast about my “many years of serving you,” nor am I tempted to trust in my works for your favor, nevertheless, there are times when my ingratitude matches that of the older brother, recorded in these verses.

But I do my best repenting, not by beating myself up and groveling, but by preaching the gospel to my own heart, so here goes.

Father, you are constantly running to me in the gospel—inviting me, imploring me, pleading with me to get on the dance floor of your grace—to enjoy the music of reconciliation, to sing the songs of redemption, to make merry to the glory of God.

You are constantly saying to my grumbling, complaining, discontented, self-righteous face, “My son, you’re always with me because I’m always with you. Nothing will ever separate you from the everlasting love I have for you, and all my children. I greatly delight in you. I rejoice over you with singing. Everything I have is yours.”

All your sins …

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Rejoicing in the Main Thing

     The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 (ESV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, I’d do well to read this Scripture every day. You’ve given us so many reasons to be a people of gratitude and joy—even in those seasons of life when brokenness seems more apparent than beauty. Here are a few things for which I give thanks as this day begins.

     You’ve blessed us with many creature comforts—things we either take for granted, or assume we have them because we deserve them or earned them. Things like our jobs and homes, clothing and food, the wonders of creation and the privilege of vacations. Thank you for your persistent and pervasive generosity.

     And like your first disciples, you give us the joy of being used in your service—no small thing, indeed. Thank you for the privilege of sharing the gospel, serving in your church, laboring in your kingdom. Thank you for the honor of loving our neighbors, working for justice, and caring for the poor. Every one of us has been given a place in your story of redemption and restoration.

     But as this Scripture reminds us, …

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Contentment Trumping Whining

     I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Phil. 4:11-12 (ESV)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5 (ESV)

Do all things without grumblingPhil. 2:14 (ESV)

Dear heavenly Father, there are some aspects of this life of grace for which I seem to need constant refreshment courses. Contentment is one of them. I know the gospel doesn’t call us to kill desire, demonize ambition, or decry enjoyment. And yet at the same time, I totally “get” your warnings about complaining, ingratitude, and discontent. Left unchecked, these deadly toxins infect hearts and homes, friendships and the work place.

So I come to you, Father, once again, acknowledging a need you alone can meet. Grant me the grace of contentment. Whether I have a little or a lot; am well known or forgotten; live in a palace or a garage apartment; feast on filet mignon or yesterday’s mac and cheese. Whether I feel included or left out; celebrated or underappreciated; have discretionary funds for splurging, or financial pressures a many.

Whether my relationships are “rocking” or rocky; whether I have great health or chronic maladies; job security or vocational uncertainty. Father, I want to be content—not passive, not in denial, but truly grateful—not immune to …

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A Prayer for the Riches of the Gospel to Stun Us, Yet Again

     But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Gal. 4:4-7 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, though the immediate circumstances surrounding your birthing experience were less than ideal, everything happened just as you, our Father, and the Holy Spirit planned. “Doing all things well” didn’t just start happening after your resurrection.

     “When the time had fully come” you came—not day early and not a day late. As humbling as it was to be born under the ceiling of a stable, being born under the weight of the law was an incomparably greater burden. Yet that’s exactly why you came into the world—to fulfill every demand of the law for us, by your life of perfect obedience; and to exhaust it’s judgment against us, by your death for us upon the cross. You are our substitute to trust long before you are our model to follow. Hallelujah, so many times over!

      Because you lived and died in our place, we’re no longer slaves, but beloved daughters and sons of the living and loving God. We’ve been completely forgiven and are now robed in your righteousness; we’ve been sealed with …

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A Prayer for Remembering Things for Which We Are Grateful

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you1 Thess. 5:18

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. Psalm 50:23

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20

Dear heavenly Father, before we have a chance to whine today, we want to worship you; before we start counting our disappointments, we want to declare our encouragements; before we fall into fretting and blaming, we cho0se to rejoice and give thanks. You have given us ample reasons to do so.

First and foremost, we bless you, Father, for your steadfast, unwavering, and enduring love. Most of our gripes can be traced back to not believing you love us as much as you say you do. We look to people and stuff, circumstances and storylines to fill the agape-shaped hole in our hearts. It never works, and we only end up making ourselves and other people miserable. By your Holy Spirit, renew and supersize our core conviction of the utter sufficiency, and immeasurable wonder of your love for us in Jesus. Hallelujah, the gospel is true!

And Father, we also thank you (by faith) for circumstances we can’t control, people we can’t change, and regrets we can’t undo. For these things drive us to Jesus in ways we, otherwise, wouldn’t choose for ourselves. Though we’d rather be self-sufficient, you …

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