Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Not long ago I stopped at a store to pick up a few things, and when the transaction was complete, I expected the typical, “Thank you for shopping at …” or “Have a great day.” But instead, I got a life lesson. The young clerk looked me square in the eye and said, “Have a grateful day.”

The Lord knew I needed to hear that word of instruction for my heart’s sake. I think we all need to be reminded to “Have a grateful day.” Why? Because we tend to focus on negative things even when our lives have been richly blessed by God. Often, instead of gratitude, gripes and complaints spew from our lips, perhaps fueled with hearts gripped by self-pity.  

After hearing it, I remember praying, “Yes! Lord help me to have grateful days. Strengthen my resolve to have a grateful heart!”

When I think of a grateful heart, I remember the instruction of Scripture:

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5.18.

Oh give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make know His deeds among the peoples! 1 Chronicles 16.8

To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30.12

Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day, and every day for that matter, I’m going to take the advice of that person God brought across my path by a divine encounter and “Have a grateful day.” Gratitude can turn a grueling day into a great one.

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. Psalm 75.1

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

A Spirit-filled heart is a thankful heart. Paul made that very clear in his letter to the Ephesian Christ followers. “Don’t be filled with wine,” he commanded, “be filled with the Spirit” [Ephesians 5.18}. Thankfully, that was not the end of his teaching. He went on to describe what the Spirit-filled life looks like. 

Grammatically, it’s done by a series of participles. (We don’t have the same structure in English. Our participles modify nouns, but the Greek language has participles that modify verbs.) Here is the list of them from Ephesians 5.18-21:


Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs…” I call this a righteous, God-talking heart. Spirit-filled people will have God on their lips and find ways to tell of His greatness.

Singing and making melody…”  I call this a joyful heart. A Spirit-filled life is characterized by a joyful attitude. He or she finds a way to “…consider it all joy…” [James 1.2], even in the most difficult of times.

Giving thanks for everything…”  I call this a thankful heart. Back to this in a second.

Submitting to one another…” I call this a submissive heart. A Spirit-filled heart doesn’t always have to have his or her own way. 

The third evidence of the Spirit-filled life in today’s passage, is an attitude of perpetual thanksgiving directed to God. That kind of attitude is so different from the world. One of Paul’s descriptions of unregenerate man is that they are unthankful [see Romans 1.21]. But when God transforms a life by filling it with the Holy Spirit, a transformation takes place. We are changed from ingrates into profoundly grateful people.

Spirit-filled people, unlike those in the world, are content with God’s provision; thankful for everything — even the smallest of joys. It must be that we understand that we really deserve nothing from God except His wrath against sin, so we are thankful for every act of grace we receive!

I’m not saying it’s easy to be perpetually thankful. It’s very difficult at times, but not impossible. Daniel “prayed and gave thanks” [Daniel 6.10], knowing that his life was in mortal danger. Jonah cried out “with a voice of thanksgiving” [Jonah 2.9] from the inside of a fish submarine! Add to that God’s promise to work all things together for our good and His glory [Romans 8.28] — These three things alone can inspire us to be thankful in all things.

”…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5.20

Monday, November 21, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

By now, you’ve probably gotten into the habit of saying, “Thank you,” when you are given something. It may not always have been the case. How many times did you hear, “What do you say?” from your Mom or Dad after receiving a gift? If my Dad were alive, he’d probably say, “If I heard it twice, I’ve heard it once!” In my case, I’d say I heard it a million times or more!

It’s kind of like that in the Bible too. Over and over God reminded us to be thankful — “always” and “in everything.” 

There are many ways to express thankfulness. Here are a few of them:

Give thanks with your voice. Say it. Say it a lot. “THANK YOU.” Say it privately in prayers. Say it publicly. Express your gratitude vocally. If you want, you can sing your thanks too. Like Jonah who said, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord” [2.9]. 

God delights in heartfelt gratitude.

Give thanks with your life. A thankful response to God’s goodness and faithfulness is a life of obedience Here’s how the Apostle Paul said it, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” [Romans 12:1].

Give thanks through generosity. It’s easy to be ensnared in the “possessive trap.” Thankful people don’t have a vice-like grip on God’s blessings. Whether it’s money, time, or other resources, thankful people see these things as a gift from God to share with others. And they do it joyfully to boot!

It’s thanksgiving time. Think of the countless blessings in your life. Then find a variety of ways to say, “Thanks!” 

[Give] thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5.20

Friday, November 18, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I have no doubt that praise and thanksgiving make you feel good. I’ve heard many testimonies to that effect. But please hear me, praise and thanksgiving do more than give you a good feeling. They also increase your awareness and comprehension of God’s goodness. And because of that, we have a greater capacity to enjoy His presence in our lives. 

Here’s an idea to help keep praise and thanksgiving at the forefront of your thoughts. As you spend time increasing your prayer list, make, and enlarge, a praise list. Count them. Name them - one by one. When you do that, it helps you recognize God’s goodness in your life. As you recount your blessings, let it guide your thoughts. Thank Him more. Praise Him more. When you do, you’ll enjoy Him all the more. 

Remember God's goodness this Thanksgiving Day, and every day, and you will deepen your enjoyment of Him.

The old hymn said it well:

When upon life’s billow you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessing, name them one by one, 
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!
(© Public Domain - Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897)                           

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! Psalm 30.11-12

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I want to be more engaged with our national holiday, Thanksgiving. It is arguably the most underrated holiday in America. It is tucked between two highly celebrated events, Halloween and Christmas. And it seems to me that the moment we put the Jack-O-Lanterns away and finish eating all the candy, we go into a Christmas frenzy mode. 

We start watching for Holiday Specials at stores that have already decorated their aisles with snowflakes, mistletoe, reindeer, and chubby men in red suits. I wonder if they got chubby from eating all the Halloween candy! It shouldn’t come as a surprise though; the spirit of Christmas is very infectious, and let’s face it, it’s a lot harder to profit off a holiday that promotes thanksgiving.

You may be saying, “Come on, Pastor Rick, it’s not like that at all.” Well, the truth is, we are much faster at coming up with a list of the things we want for Christmas than making a list of the things we are thankful for. I would add that our prayers are often like a Christmas wish list - “God, I want…” God, please give me…” At times, it’s like we get tied up with what we want God to do for us rather than thanking Him for what He has done for us. 

Years ago I had a friend with severe emphysema. He needed a constant supply of oxygen to help his breathing. Every time I greeted him with the customary, “How are ya,” he invariably responded, “Thankful.” 

One day, I asked him about his “thankful” response. He said (tongue-in-cheek), “I’m vertical and above room temperature.” You really can’t argue with that!

With that in mind, let’s be thankful people all the time, not just merely on Thanksgiving Day. Still, amidst football, turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie (or whatever your desired “feast” is), take time to thank God for all He has done in your life. We give thanks because God is good — all the time, and, All the time —  God is good!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3.16

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Your expression of thanksgiving is one of the best ways to testify to the greatness of God. The book of Psalms is a great example, replete with confessions of thanksgiving, and encouragement to be thankful. Another example is a psalm not found in the Psalms. It’s found in 1 Chronicles 16. It’s the story about the Ark being brought to Jerusalem. David wanted everyone to join the celebration of thanksgiving and praise. 

After his encouragement to express thankfulness, he wrote a rather long and rich psalm. It sparked thanksgiving and praise for a variety of things:

God’s wonderful deeds among His people (9-10)
God’s strength (11)
God’s miracles and judgments (12)
That God remembers His covenant forever (13-18)
That God protects His people when they are vulnerable (19-22)
That God delivers His people (23)
That God is not like other gods (24-27)
That God is glorious and strong (28)
The beauty of God’s holiness (29)

At that point in the psalm, praise erupted. Everyone, praise the Lord and give Him the glory He deserves — the Earth, the heavens, the sea and everything in it, crops in the fields, trees — “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! His love endures forever” (30-34) 

David closed this psalm with a prayer, “Save us, O God of our salvation! Gather and rescue us from among the nations, so we can thank Your holy name and rejoice and praise You” (35).

If you have been rescued by God — saved, redeemed, born again, whatever you call it — say, “Thank You,” rejoice, and praise the Lord. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Psalm 107.2). Not only will it bless you, it will be a testimony to those around you of the greatness of our God!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. 1 Chronicles 16.8

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

High-Level Thankfulness is my goal. I can't say that I always achieve it, but I’m going for it with all my heart. The reason for High-Level Thankfulness is that it is an indication of the heart. It demonstrates that our lives are in balance—that our thankfulness is not just about getting a few things from God.

Maybe a little explanation is due here. I’m suggesting that there is a Low-Level Thankfulness and a High-Level Thankfulness. Unfortunately, many dwell in the lower level. That’s where we see God at work in our lives with sporadic spurts of blessing for which we say, “Thank You.” We say, “Thanks” because we received some wanted pleasurable thing. That kind of thankfulness misses the total perspective of God’s goodness. 

High-Level Thankfulness is a consistent “Thanks” in the good and the bad. It comes with the belief that God is in control, that He is doing things for our good and His glory, even when we can't see it or understand it. 

In her great testimony about survival in a German concentration camp, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom told of a time when her sister said they should be thankful for everything in their barracks. Corrie refused because there was an infestation of fleas making their lives even more miserable. Later, she found out that it was the fleas that kept the guards away from their barracks, which allowed them to have undisturbed prayer meetings. She came around and said, “Thank You, Lord, for the fleas!”

So, while you are thanking God “who satisfies your mouth with good things” [Psalm 103.5], don’t forget to thank Him for the “fleas” as well. Remember, God is in control and knows what is best. That’s because, God is good—all the time, and All the time—God is good!

Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor Him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69.30

Monday, November 14, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

One truth I’ve discovered in life is this: Thankful people are the happiest people. The inspired writers of Scripture reveal that same truth. The Bible is filled with stories, admonition, and words about thankfulness. Take the word eucharist, for example. It’s the word used in our modern language for Communion. However, it is also a Greek word for thanksgiving. One could rightfully say thanksgiving embodies the highest act of gratitude for the greatest gift given to man - the sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ.

We have so many things to be thankful for, don’t we? We can start with grateful acknowledgment of past blessings. Psalm 26.7 - That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works (NKJV).

When God has shown His loving kindness in the present, it’s hard to keep silent about it. Psalm 69.30 - I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving (NKJV).

Thanksgiving is the right attitude to enter the presence of God. Psalm 95.2 - Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms (NKJV). One modern paraphrase says, Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank Him. Worship Him (Message).

And please, never forget that thanksgiving will be part of our final hymn to God. Revelation 7.12 - Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever (NKJV).

Don’t wait until then to be thankful. Start practicing now. Joy and happiness are sure to follow!

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100.4-5

Friday, November 11, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I challenged myself about a week ago to use these eDevotions as a platform to talk about thankfulness until Thanksgiving Day. Little did I know that I would have to dig deep to fulfill that desire. Just yesterday I wrote, “Dear Christ follower, there are times when thanksgiving is a sacrifice. We say thanks through clenched teeth and chocked back tears.” And today, I’m writing about thankfulness through “choked back tears.” 

Yesterday around Noon, my dear friend, Ernie Liebman went to his eternal reward. I had been with him for about an hour, then went to get a bite to eat. I wasn’t gone that long when I received a call from the family, “Rick, can you come back?” “Sure, I’ll be right there.”

My wife and I left immediately and when we arrived, we got the news that Ernie had passed away just a few minutes before we got there. Our eyes leaked tears. There were hugs and deep-felt sorrow aplenty. 

Earlier that morning, I was sitting by his bedside and I started singing…

When I get to heaven gonna talk with Jesus
When I get to heaven gonna see His face

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace

When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun

Today, I’m thankful for heaven! I plan to join Ernie there someday. And you know what else? Everyone who lives there will never have eyes that leak tears!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) 

Thursday, November 10, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It’s easy to be thankful and consider God praise worthy when we have full stomachs, a closet full of clothes, reliable transportation, a cozy house or apartment, and a little nest egg for the future. Those are the “biggies.” But what do you do when the events in your life go south? When you’ve lost a loved one? When your marriage crumbles? When your children rebel? When you’re diagnosed with an illness? It’s much more difficult to be thankful in times like that.

Dear Christ follower, there are times when thanksgiving is a sacrifice. We say thanks through clenched teeth and chocked back tears. A sacrifice of thanksgiving demonstrates our trust in the Lord, regardless the adversity. I can tell you from personal experience that giving thanks in the midst of a storm in life brings joy to the heart.

When you are having trouble finding good in your life, be thankful anyway. Look no further than Jesus who was wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities. Despite everything you're facing, you can rejoice in Him. Remember, a sacrifice of praise honors God [Psalm 50.23].

I think Andrae Crouch said it better than anyone in his song, Through It All.

I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms
He brought me through;
For if I'd never had a problem
I wouldn't know that He could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God;
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
© 1971, Renewed 1999 Manna Music, Inc.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Hebrews 13.15

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

There are some things in the Bible that are surprising to me. For example, because Israel lacked thankfulness, demonstrated by their griping and complaining, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. If you are a parent, more than likely, you’ve sent your child to his or her room for 30 minutes for griping and complaining, but 40 years, that’s some timeout!

I’d say it’s crystal clear, God is not pleased with unthankful, grumbling hearts. That’s why I’m thinking that Thanksgiving Day is not the only day we should consider and express our thankfulness. It’s a holiday and the mood, for the most part, is festive. But what about the rest of the year when things are more ordinary, mundane, and hard?

Perhaps the attitude of the Pilgrims can help us here. Their’s were difficult days, but they would not allow their feelings to determine their gratitude and thanksgiving. They believed in the providence of God - that God is in control. The logical consequence of that was a perspective that their holy, faithful God used the challenges they faced as an opportunity for their good. Hence, their thankfulness.

I don’t think a grateful heart comes naturally. It must be developed and continually cultivated, and it is critical if you want to grow stronger in faith. In his book, A Godward Life, John Piper wrote, "If we do not believe that we are deeply dependent on God for all we have or hope to have, the very spring of gratitude and faith runs dry.”

The choice is yours to make: Eyes on yourself, or eyes on God. Reject and deny yourself the right to complain. Rather, develop a deep-seated heart of thanksgiving… in all things! Because, a thankful heart pleases God. 

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. Psalms 50.23

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

As we near Thanksgiving, pastors across the nation will be preaching about the need to be thankful people. There is a reason for that. We have the tendency to make the Holiday Season another opportunity for self-indulgence and self-focus. Let’s elevate the holidays this year by resisting the temptation to eat to the brink of explosion, shop to the brink of bankruptcy, or watch TV to the brink of insanity.

This year, instead of talking about thankfulness, let’s do something different and really be thankful. And when you make your list of My Favorite Things, don’t miss the boat on giving thanks for the people God has placed in your life. 

Imagine the emptiness and purposelessness without those relationships. Relationships are a tool to shape who we are and what we are becoming. Sure, it may be easy to thank God for the things in our life — we have so much — but we should be as equally thankful for the people in our life.

So today, instead of asking “What am I thankful for?”, ask yourself, “Who am I thankful for?” Make a list of the people who have shaped your life. Give them a call. Send them a note or eMail. Thank them for influencing your soul for life. Share that list with other friends and family members. 

Another way to show gratitude is to pray for their well-being if they are still alive, or thank God for the time you had together. Be thankful for your relationships. It can revolutionize your life.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you. Philippians 1:3

Monday, November 7, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I just recently listened to some music from the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music. The character Maria, sang from her list of My Favorite Things. She thinks about her list of favorite things when she seeks comfort.

I have a list of favorite things too. Biblical keepsakes that I cling to at all times, but especially during times of trouble and despair. They are words of comfort and hope that urge me to not be faint of heart, or to never, ever think that I am alone. I can trust them because they aren’t words from men, but the very words of God.

Here’s a short list of MY FAVORITE THINGS:

Strength and peace - Psalm 29.11, The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. 

No need to fear - Isaiah 41.13, For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” 

Rest - Matthew 11.28, Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Peace of mind and heart - John 14.27, I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Real life - John 16.33, The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Eternal life - John 3.16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

There’s much more to add to the list of My Favorite Things: mercy, grace, protection, love, forgiveness — I could go on and on!

Most likely, you have a list of favorite things too. So, “when the dog bites, and the bee stings, when you're feeling sad,” remember your favorite things, God’s very Word to you. 

We have so much to be thankful for!

All Your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalms 119.160

Friday, November 4, 2016


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

It’s November 2016, and this year, with all its varied events, is quickly coming to an end. Can you believe it! It’s my favorite time of year - Thanksgiving/Christmas. It’s a great time to reflect on the past, examine the present, and look forward to the future. And when I do that, I want to echo the oft repeated words of the Psalmist, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His love endures forever” [Psalm 106.1].

One word that comes to my mind at this time is Grace. I’m thankful for God’s grace. When I reflect on the past, I see His grace when He reached down and lifted me from the trash heap of life. It was His grace that brought a beautiful young lady into my life, Janet, who has helped me blossom in every area of my life. By His grace He made me the Dad to two amazing children and the Pops of four wonderful grandchildren (actually 5, as one is now in heaven, having died at birth). It was His grace that brought such indescribable joy to my life!

His grace abounds in the present too. By God’s grace, He allows me to be the pastor of a wonderful flock of people. Quite frankly, I’m astounded that He would use me that way. It only reminds me of the truth of His Word, that God “chooses the foolish things of the world” [1 Corinthians 1:27].

What about the future? Well, it can only get better; the best is yet to come, as they say! It will only be that way by His grace. We sing about it often in a wonderful hymn:

’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home

Oh, the amazing grace of God! May it stimulate your heart to thankfulness. And may you be filled with confidence for what God has done, and anticipation of what He will do!

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18