Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ACTS, Thanksgiving: Christmas in July

This summer, we've been talking about an outline for prayer, ACTS; Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Sometimes after spending a lot of time in confession, one can start to feel a little unworthy of God's love. Sin makes you not just feel guilty, but insecure, inadequate, insignificant and inconsequential.

A great way to realize just how much God loves you is to remind yourself how much He's done for you and given you.

Ever feel anxious about finances? Feel under pressure from expectations? How about irritated or a little resentful of how others seem to succeed without scruples? Stressed-out or like you don't understand why you seem to be the only person who cares that things get done? Ever get discouraged about all the things you don't have? Feel like you're always trying to play the rules, yet you never seem to get anywhere?

Maybe you don't really need an antidepressant. Maybe you've been looking down too long and you just need to spend some time looking up for a while. Oh, I know that sounds corny or Pollyanna. But it's not as easy, or as pointless as it sounds.

I can be preoccupied about how my vehicle is rusty and doesn't have air conditioning or how much gas costs and wish I had something newer or prettier. Or I can appreciate that I have a a ride to work. I can complain about my mortgage payment and how much utilities and home repairs and maintenance cost or I can appreciate the fact that I have a safe, comfortable home where I can go to get out of the sun or the wind or rain, when so many are being foreclosed on, paying rent, or without any home at all.

John Thomas is an evangelist in the towns outside of Calcutta India. He prayed for a year for a Jeep to travel in from town to town to share the Good News about Jesus. He helps run a Christian school in his neighborhood that provides a rare opportunity for education to desperately impoverished children - not to mention much needed meals and stories of God's love to people who literally have never heard of Jesus. Their landlord has decided not to renew their lease, she'd rather make room for business tenants. John would like to raise $40K in the next year in order to buy or build their own facilities.

Thinking about John's ministry not only makes me grateful for what I have, it makes me feel guilty for complaining about not being more comfortable, secure, or affluent. It certainly motivates me to pray for John and his wife Cyndi and to try to influence my congregation to help support them. Frankly (and I know this will make Ayn Rand admirers cringe), it makes me feel pretty guilty about being an American, born into such a decadent, materialistic society where so many of us feel entitled to our blessings, instead of humbly appreciative.

So take some time in prayer to catalog your inventory of people, things, and ways in which God has blessed you. Thank Him for where He's brought you, what He's done for you, and especially for the people He's placed in your life.

If you're up all night because your mind is racing, obsessing about all you have to get done or how you're going to pay your bills- try spending some time thinking about how much you do have and how much joy your loved ones bring you. Think about the good things that have happened and just how much you do have.

Christmas may be 6 months away, but this song from Bing Crosby's popular holiday movie is an excellent reminder that the best way to battle worry, fear and anger is with thanksgiving, appreciation and an attitude of gratitude.

When I'm worried and I can't sleepI count my blessings instead of sheepAnd I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting smallI think of when I had none at allAnd I fall asleep counting my blessings 
I think about a nursery and I picture curly headsAnd one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleepJust count your blessings instead of sheepAnd you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

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