What Do I Owe to God?

From the ground up, we have been made by God. He created us, spiritually and physically; He designed everything about us. He knows us and knew us while we were being created in our mother’s body (Psalm 139).

After our creation, we entered the world as a squalling mess of bodily fluids with nothing but our God-given instincts to survive on. Unable to live on our own, we depend on everyone around us to live and grow, whether born into a loving family or a mess called a family. The first years of growth and development led us to finally be able to talk, dress ourselves, and eat by ourselves, for the most part.

Mastering our body, connecting with our mind, and learning the process of interacting with others takes up most of our childhood years. Teenage years come, and we start to branch out and find out who we are and how we are going to live our own life – a life away from the environment that has been our support, good or bad, until then. Young adult years find us building a life with others, finding purpose and working to add value to the world.

Somewhere in these teenage, or young adult years, we begin to truly believe that we are the ones building this life – that we have scratched out our own way and this world created is ours. While it’s true that some people have worked harder than others, we all would have died in the first few hours of life without other people.

It is good to build a solid life, and it is good to work hard at work you enjoy. The trouble begins when we give ourselves credit for our life, our circumstances, and, most often, our successes. We did not choose our circumstances, whether they are good or bad. We did not choose our families, again, whether they are good or bad.

We also did not choose our talents and abilities. Part of life is discovering what you are good at, or at least what you enjoy. These are not abilities that you gave yourself; they are abilities that were innate in you when you were created, and you are now discovering them.

All of these things are from God: our lives, our bodies, and our talents. Everything we have is from God and given to us to build a life that connects with others He’s placed in our lives. It is important to keep before us that we are living as caretakers over a life that was given to us out of His plan.

Whether we like our life or not, whether we’re happy in our circumstances or not, God is the author of our days and our ways. He planned our good works  in advance (Ephesians 2:10); He is faithful to finish a good work in our lives (Philippians 1:6).

Trust, honor, and walk with Him, and come to know Him as the author of your story.

Grateful in all Things - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tainted Gratitude

And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” – Esther 5:11-13 ESV

In the story of Esther, the villain is a man named Haman. His selfishness and ambition have him fighting against anyone he doesn’t like; his ultimate nemesis being Queen Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. After Mordecai doesn’t bow or defer to him in anyway, Haman goes home to pout to his friends and his wife.

Haman starts listing all the great things in his life: money, large family, and promotions in the royal court. If the story stopped there, it would almost sound like Haman is doing a wonderful job of practicing gratitude. Isn’t that what we’re told to do when we’re struggling with a problem or perspective issue? We’re supposed to stop and count our blessings and keep things in perspective. Haman, however, is a very evil man. All this focus on his blessings only leads him to hate Mordecai more and agree to his wife’s awful plan to kill him. Why does him listing blessing foreshadow murder when we’re told it’s helpful for us?

Gratitude isn’t about focusing on what you have, purely for the sake of recognizing how awesome you have it. It’s not about listing what you’ve accomplished or how the world sees you. All those things still keep you at the center of your own attention. It is easy to use our view of our blessings, even the ones we fully give God credit for, and then to use that to be about us. We make it about what we’ve accomplished, or how hard we worked, or what we did for those people, or how much we’ve earned what we have.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Gratitude is supposed to be about a perspective shift to focusing less on yourself and more on God. It should be about seeing God in all our circumstances and blessing him for who He is. 1 Chronicles 16:34 says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Give thanks why? Because God is good. Not because I accomplished good things, and not because I’m comfortable and not because I have more blessings that most of the world.

Haman’s listing of his accomplishments was to add fuel to the fire that he deserved the homage he wanted from Mordecai. He wasn’t being grateful, he was puffing up his own ego. His own sense of self had poisoned his perspective to the point that he didn’t even have a shred of real gratitude left in him.

Most of us, of course, aren’t that depraved or selfish. We don’t use our blessings to bloat our sense of self-worth. However, just because we aren’t as extreme as Haman doesn’t mean that we always have pure motivations in pondering our blessings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I live in a wonderful home with hot, running water and live only minutes from several well-stocked groceries stores. I’m thankful for His abundance, but I don’t want my comfort to be the ultimate source of my gratitude. I want my knowledge of God to prompt awe and love and gratefulness because I know Him and who He is brings me to my knees with heart overflowing with gratitude. Then all the blessings in the world will become more and more beautiful and my heart will become more and more aligned with Him.


Celebrate Salvation - Luke 10:20

Celebrate Salvation

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” – Luke 17:7-10 ESV


In Luke 17 Jesus gives an example of what it means to have a heart for obeying the Lord. He is addressing the assumption that when we obey the Lord we’ve somehow done something amazing or something worthy of note. Instead Jesus says that when we obey we’re supposed to simply acknowledge that we did what we were supposed to do, not seek reward and attention for it.

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

Earlier in Luke Jesus is talking to the seventy-two that He sent out ahead of Him to help with the harvest, teaching and healing. When they came back, they were amazed at the miracles they were able to do in Jesus’s name. Jesus’s response? Yeah, it’s cool, but you’re getting excited about the wrong thing.

Jesus reminds them that He saw Satan fall from heaven and that they were given authority over all the power of the enemy. That seems like something to be excited about! Having the ability to thwart the plans of the devil with a word would seem like something to celebrate. Jesus, always wanting our hearts focused on the eternal, stops them. He specifically says don’t rejoice in this. Instead, rejoice because we’ve been saved.

What is your motivation in seeking miracles? Why do want to obey and serve Him? What are you seeking from Him as you walk with Him? Is it a quid pro quo kind of thing? If you’re honest about what’s in your heart, what do you see yourself receiving from God: attention and miracles? Or are you a humble servant who views obedience as nothing but your job and celebrates the salvation of God over the blessings of God?

God Knows You - Psalm 139:3

Grateful for What You Were Made For

Of David. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. – Psalm 144:1-2 ESV

Psalm 144 opens with David talking about preparing for war. I struggle with this analogy because there is nothing in my life that involves fighting or anything like that. (Thank you to all the servicemen and women who do have in their lives! I’m grateful for you!) So how do I relate to this awesome psalm of praise?

To help understand some of what David writes, we have to understand who David was and what God had called him to be. David fought under King Saul, then he was appointed king and he had to run for his life from Saul and that often meant fighting. After he finally did become king, he had to fight again to protect his people against the Philistines. David was a fighting man, and, we can see in the opening of Psalm 144, we see that David considers his talents and skills with fighting to have come from the Lord.

I’m not a fighter, but there are many gifts and talents I have to return to the Lord. I write and I raise my family and I love to create and make, especially with fabric and yarn. I can turn my hands to those things and praise God for who He has made me to be.

My gifts may seem insignificant, especially since we’re talking about King David who was one of the greatest kings of Israel. But that’s not the perspective that this psalm shows me. This psalm isn’t King David bragging about how much better he is than other fighters. Instead, it’s David acknowledging the gifts that he does have and glorifying God for the blessings that go along with walking in the way God created for David to walk.

I’d like to write my own psalm, if you will extend me the grace for it. I’m going to use King David’s as inspiration to help me to remember to celebrate my gifting and walk with the Lord in that way.

Blessed by the Lord, my source for creativity, who makes my hand ready to serve my family and my fingers ready to sew and create. He is my steadfast love in a fickle and false world. He is my protection from the darts and slings of the evil one. I choose to put myself under His protection so He can lead me and guide me in all my ways and choices.

What are your giftings? How can you offer thanks for the ways that God has made you? Believe in His plan for you and accept the way He’s made you; it wasn’t by accident.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 139:16 ESV

Blessed Is Hope In God - Pslam 146:5

What I’m Most Grateful For

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. – Psalm 146:1-7 ESV

I have so many things to be grateful for; I could spend several blog posts on how much I love my life! However, I won’t (as interesting as I find my life, it’s never that interesting to anyone else… 😀 ). instead, I’m going to focus on gratitude for the only thing that matters: my relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’m so grateful that He came to this earth and died for me (John 3:16) that I might know Him and spend forever with Him (John 17:3). I’m learning more about Him all the time and I can say that my relationship with Him is deeper than I used to know was possible and it’s getting better all the time. By the way, it’s that way because of Him, not because of me (Psalm 145:18). I’m a low-down selfish sinner. Excuse me, I WAS a low-down selfish sinner. Now, I’m a child of God (1 John 3:1), joint-heir with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17), and I reflect His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

For this, I have not earned it, but I have been gifted this grace. Only by Christ’s sacrifice have I been offered this amazing relationship (Ephesians 2:8).

Have you accepted this relationship and are you living with Him daily? It’s worth it, believe me.

The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 146:8-10 ESV

Making Moments Matter

We All Seek Happiness

Happiness is something we all seek. Psychologists study it and scientists look for products or life changes that can improve it. Long before today’s scientific method and late-night “info-mercials” selling happiness came around, one of the wisest men alive spent his life searching for the same answer.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by “the Preacher” tradition, and tradition says that it was King Solomon who wrote it. The fact that he says he was the son of David, king in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1) and that he had collected “have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me” (1:16) lends credence to this tradition, and most scholars agree with it.

According to the book, the Preacher decides to learn about wisdom and madness and folly (1:17) and spends his life chasing after things that are supposed to give us happiness and purpose. His overall result in all things, however, is that they are all pointless and don’t give us any security in life. (9:12) The only things that really make life worth living, according to him, are to enjoy the life you’ve been given.

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

He also talks about knowing God and living in fear and respect of who He is. That, combined with finding joy in everything you do, is “the whole of the matter”.

13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Choosing Happiness

Today, psychology is beginning to come to the same conclusion as the Preacher. Happiness itself is fleeting and not able to be maintained by any outside influence or material goods. Lottery winners are not happier than the average population and accident victims are not unhappier.[1]

Hedonic adaptation is the process of us returning to a medium level of happiness. It’s what happens after the high of a vacation comes down. After the raise/promotion levels out and we’re back to the grind at work. It’s our mind’s ability to return to a “normal” feeling.[2]

According to an article by Sonja Lyubomirsky in an article for Psychology Today, we can affect the process of adaptation by how we look at what has happened to us. When a positive experience happens, just enjoy it! Thinking about it or analyzing it brings it down quicker than just accepting the good feelings and experiences. When a negative experience happens, think about. Write about it, more specifically. By analyzing and journaling and expressing what we’re dealing with and going through, we can more quickly move through the bad feelings and get back to our normal happiness level. [3]

One group of psychologists says that the process of becoming happier takes 5 pathways: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, drawing on character strengths. [4] Paralleling what the Preacher learned, we can pull from this daily habits to help increase our happiness.

Positive Emotion (savoring the moment): Eat and enjoy life

Positive emotion isn’t about trying to always feel good. It’s about choosing gratitude in each moment and finding ways to focus on the positive. It’s about choosing to praise God in all circumstances. Enjoying life is easy when everything’s going well and the sun’s been shining every day. When the clouds come, we can still choose to find the good and celebrate what brings joy.

Gratitude journals can be a wonderful aide in helping us keep our focus on what’s truly important. One study even showed that gratitude increases your wellbeing by 10%.[5] The effects of gratitude go through your whole life and help you find balance and joy in every day and every situation.

Ecclesiastes talks about this concept in as “Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart” (9:7). It doesn’t mean put your head in the sand and pretend that nothings happening; it’s just another way of saying enjoy the moment and celebrate what you have.

Engagement : Do Your Work Well

Engagement is the act of being connected with whatever you’re doing at the moment. When you are not engaged, you may be going through the motions of something, but you’re not giving your best or contributing to your fullest potential. Happiness is negatively affected by feeling disconnected from your everyday routine.

If you’re in a situation that you’re struggling with, it can be easy to try to change the circumstances. Sometimes, that’s the only solution. More times, however, you are better of learning to find engagement in a situation you don’t like in order to practice a beneficial mentality. While a change in circumstance might be a quick fix, almost all circumstances get old and boring and challenging. A well-developed habit of engagement no matter what brings longer lasting contentment than the short term fix of running away.

Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. – Jim Elliot

Ecclesiastes’ version of this idea is “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”(9:10) There’s no do-overs in life. This is our one time of doing things and we should take advantage of that by doing it to our fullest.

Meaning : Know that You’re Working for God

We all need to know our purpose and to know that we’re engaged in working in that purpose. It doesn’t have to be a great and noble purpose that brings great worldly accolades or attention. It can be a simple purpose that only you know. But knowing what that is and being able to smile about even the most mundane tasks and feel connected with God in serving that purpose can bring a huge bump to your overall happiness.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are here to work for God and to know God, “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” (12:13) Fearing God, knowing who He is and who we should be in Him (the root of obedience) is vital to finding meaning, happiness and purpose.

Positive Relationships : Enjoy the Wife God Gave You

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. – Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Husbands and wives are one relationship that is vital to happiness, but all relationship are important to our overall well-being. Who surround ourselves with can make or break our day and can bring us up, make us better people, or drag us down and make us feel worse. Sometimes, we can even surround ourselves with people who enable our problems because it’s easier than facing what we need to face. Good friends, friends worth having are the ones that support us and love us, but also challenge us to not stop in the middle of the race. They bring us up and help us become the fullest version of us that God has planned for us.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. ― Jim Rohn

Ecclesiastes says “Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.” As true as this is for marital relationships, it’s even true for friendships as well. Having friends and people we can turn to in the good times and the bad is an absolute joy.

Drawing on Character Strengths : Fear of God and His Judgement

We live in a world that lacks moral absolutes. We are told that it’s OK to believe what you’ve been taught, but not to expect others to believe it. It’s no longer about finding the truth that exists outside ourselves (as those of us who believe in a God with standards think), but instead it’s about finding the truth inside yourself and no one can tell you you’re wrong in what you find.

This is not helpful when learning to live a moral life. Christian morality has a dependence on knowing who God is and changing our behavior to reflect His likeness. We don’t think that we can define good; our theology says that we are all fallen and sinful and only God is good.

To operate and find happiness when we are denying ourselves what the world says is fun and entertainment, we must fully be convinced of the importance of our moral compass and draw from that when we make decisions. If we are feeling like we are just doing a duty or following an archaic list of rules, we won’t have the conviction to follow through when it matters. And it does matter.

Ecclesiastes, in all its admonitions to enjoy life, always reminds the reader that God is the judge and we are to fear Him (in reverence adore Him) and honor the commandments and teachings knowing we will stand before Him on judgement day. “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (12:14)

As the Preacher says in his conclusion on the matter, it’s about knowing God and remember who He is. In this life of instability and change and ambiguity, we know we can rely on Him and that He is there for eternity. Getting to know Him and getting to enjoy being in His presence both now and in eternity is the whole reason and purpose for us.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. – John 17:3 (NKJV)

[1] Adams, Susan. “Why Winning Powerball Won’t Make You Happy”. Forbes. Com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/11/28/why-winning-powerball-wont-make-you-happy/. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[2] Amin, Amit. “The Hedonic Treadmill”. http://happierhuman.com/hedonic-treadmill/. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[3] Lyubomirsky, Sonja. “Hedonic Adaptation to Positive and Negative Experiences”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/496/hedonic-adaptation-positive-experiences.pdf. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[4] Zone Positive. “Five Pathways to Happiness”. http://zonepositive.com/good-life-survey-learn-more/.

[5] Amin, Amit. “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Even Know About”. http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/. Retrieved May 3, 2015.