Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Read that verse again. Give thanks in all circumstances? That's definitely harder than it sounds. And say what you will about the year 2020, it certainly has given us a "variety" of circumstances! What an opportunity to practice the discipline of thankfulness.
Scripture challenges us to be thankful for the things that we have, the people we love, even the hardships we face! We are to thank God for times of joy and plenty... but even in the desert, we are still called to gratitude.
This kit is a quart-sized mason jar filled with 75 strips of colored paper:
We envision that families would keep this mason jar on the dining room table, and select one strip of paper of each color after dinner (or one at each meal) every day from November 1-25, as you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. We hope even children will enjoy the tradition, and appreciate the privilege of being the one who gets to pick out the strip of paper for the day. Each night as you pick the three strips of paper, we invite you to:
Look up the verse and ask one another: "What does this verse tell us to be thankful for?" and "How does the Bible tell us to show thankfulness?"
Read the prayer prompt aloud and then ask one person to pray for the group, or invite everyone to pray one sentence at a time.
Lastly, read a question from the red strip and allow everyone at the table to answer. Lord willing, the scripture meditation and prayer time will bleed into your conversation and you will be able to spend a sweet time of family worship as you praise God for who He is, what He has done, and the blessings He has given.
Gratitude - or thankfulness - is the perspective that acknowledges that what we have comes from God, and what God has given us is good.
Let's break that definition down piece by piece.
First of all, gratitude is a perspective or mindset. It has to do with our thoughts. Thankfulness is essentially the process of talking to ourselves and speaking the truth about what we have. Practicing gratitude is an extension of taking our thoughts and making them obey Jesus.
Second, we see that gratitude requires to recognize and meditate on who God is. He is the source of all we have, because He is our provider and sustainer. He is the source of who we are and what we are like, because He is our creator. He is the source of all our circumstances ane experiences, because He is sovereign. When we are thankful, we reminded of how glorious God really is, and how dependent we are on Him.
Lastly, gratitude invites us to change our orientation towards the things we have and the circumstances we experience. Our natural inclination is to think that we deserve the things and experiences we like (and therefore do not attribute credit to God), and if we don't like the thing or experience, it must be bad. We become angry and bitter with God, convinced that we deserve better. But gratitude challenges us to see all things as gifts from God, and to trust his purpose; even in the small things, the seemingly mundane things... even in the things we don't like.
Sometimes the project of being thankful enlightens us to the countless blessings we have been taking for granted. These are the things we like, but don't stop to thank God for. Isn't God so good to give us the good crunch of an autumn leaf, a beautiful sunset, a satisfying cup of coffee, a needed hug from a friend? When we practice gratitude, our eyes are opened to the many ways God is showing his love for us.
Gratitude also helps us recognize our trials as blessings. Can we really be thankful for a quarantine? A cancer diagnosis? A lost job?
Yes. But our gratitude for trials doesn't come from closing our eyes to reality and pretending. The reason that we can be thankful in all circumstances is because of the gospel. Gratitude is the natural output of believing the gospel applies to our life circumstances.
The gospel tells us that our sin has caused all of our creation, and our relationship to it, to be broken and marred. Because of sin, we hoarde and steal instead of share. We covet and complain instead of being content. We rail against God, shaking our fists about things we feel we "deserve". What we deserve? God created us. We rebelled against him! He does not owe us anything. In fact, the only thing we deserve is punishment.
The gospel also tells us that God has given us an amazingly gracious gift: His very son. We deserve punishment, but Jesus took that punishment for us. We didn't earn it. It was given freely to an undeserving, ungrateful, and sinful people. Those who have received this gift are thankful for it when they declare: Only God could do this, and it is a good thing!
Because of the gospel, we can look at our life with accuracy. In Christ, we are able to be content with what we have because we recognize that we don't deserve it; that all of the blessings we experience are above and beyond the already gracious gift of Jesus himself. When we experience trials, we can be thankful because understand that Jesus is more important than whatever we think we lost. If suffering brings us closer to Him, or makes us rely more on him, even it can be a good thing. Because of the gospel, we can be thankful for all things, for we understand how all things really can work together for our good.
(This file is a 7-page PDF document.)
We will be handing these kits out on Sunday, November 1. If you would like one for your family, please fill out the form below:
If I believe God has changed my heart, but I am still saying words I shouldn’t, what can I do about it?
Even more difficult: how can I parent my kids to change their words, when I know myself (from scripture and my experience) ...it’s ultimately impossible?
During this unique season of social-distancing and staying at home, there are, ironically, a lot of temptations to be distracted! We can be so obessed with the latest news that we find ourselves losing attention for the most important things.
Yes, we may have 21 days of staying at home in our future - but we also have 20 days until Easter! Let's take advantage of this mandated "rest" and focus our attention on Jesus, as we prepare our hearts for Resurrection Sunday.
To that end, we have organized two Bible reading plans that guide readers through the gospel of John.
There are two versions: For adults, we challenge you to read one chapter of John each day for the next 21 days (John has 21 chapters). For children and families, we have pulled out some shorter reading passages that cover the main events of the book.
Both reading plans will allow you to finish the book of John in the next 3 weeks.
God does not waste our time. He did not orchestrate this season of our lives for nothing. All things work together for His glory and our good. We challenge you to "not waste your quarantine." Use this time to focus on Jesus!
Fall 2019's Family Discipleship Kit was based around Pastor Steve’s Sermon Series, “Receive Grace, Extend Grace”. Pastor Steve preached eight sermons over twelve weeks that looked at ways that we receive gifts from God like Grace, Mercy, Truth, and Freedom – and how we can extend those gifts out to others.
Our congregation’s own Julie Buter has written an accompanying Bible Study for adults along these themes and our Family Discipleship Kit looks at these concepts from the perspective of a family with children. The goal of both studies is to prepare the hearts and minds of our congregation for the preaching of the Word – to wrestle personally with the concepts before we hear teaching on it.
This Family Discipleship Kit challenges families specifically to ask, “How can we extend these gifts to the family members with which we share a home?” and “How can a family work together to extend these gifts to others in our congregation, or even outside the church?”
Summer 2019’s Family Discipleship Kit guides families through a brief survey of the life of the apostle Peter. Peter was one of Jesus’s most famous disciples and was witness to many of the key events in Jesus’s ministry. In studying Peter, we see a lot of weaknesses we can identify with: speaking out of turn, misunderstanding Jesus’s teaching, failing to trust, and giving in to fear and doubts.
And yet towards the end of Peter’s life, we see him as a powerful preacher and bold witness of the gospel. How does this transformation happen? What brings forth this dramatic change in Peter’s life? Can it happen to us?
These are the questions we challenge you, as a family, to tackle through this discipleship kit.