In Everything Give Thanks (Article + Podcast)

In everything, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

At first glance, it’s tempting to write this Scripture off as being a little over the top. Sure, we should be thankful. And yes! We should thank God for the good things. But what about the bad stuff? How are we supposed to give thanks for those things? So, full disclaimer, I don’t have the perfect answer to that question. I mean, I know the right theological things to say. And I realize that God’s ways are higher than our ways. We have to trust God is working all things together for our good. But that’s, of course, a lot easier said than done. Right? For me, to claim spiritual perfection in this area would be a lie. Even though I’ve seen the Red Sea parted and walked across on dry land many times, I still get discouraged.

Is It Cancer?

But sometimes, I get myself together and remember things that correct my attitude. For example, it doesn’t make sense to thank God when you get the word your mother has a very concerning lump on her chest. I certainly didn’t. At the time, I lived over 2,000 miles away from my parents. Mom had discovered the lump and finally made that agonizing appointment to find out if it was malignant or not. And guess what? The lump itself was not cancerous. It was just a calcium deposit! But lurking beneath that benign calcium deposit was a silent, deadly chunk of cancer. You know, the kind of cancer that doesn’t usually get noticed until it’s too late. If it hadn’t been for the scary lump of calcium, the doctors likely would not have spotted the cancer in time.

Thank God for the Lump

I don’t believe in coincidences! I think miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes miracles are even disguised as scary lumps of calcium. And so, I’ve learned to thank God for the lumps, the bumps, the disturbing reports, and unexpected, weird things that don’t make sense. Mom has beat breast cancer twice now! And there have been many miracles and stories of God’s grace in between. She’d be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy. But she’d also be the first to tell you it was miraculous.

I think miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes miracles are even disguised…

I’ve learned to thank God for the lumps, the bumps, the disturbing reports, and unexpected, weird things that don’t make sense.

When God Seems too Demanding

Has God ever asked you do to something scary or odd? It’s hard to give thanks when God calls you out to walk on the waves or pick up a serpent by the tail. Hopefully not literally, because if God asks me to pick up a snake by the tail, I’m going to need more than a mustard seed of faith. But I do recall a strange time when the Holy Ghost spoke to me while driving on a snowy interstate. I was several hours into a twelve-hour drive and just wanted to get where I was going and get some much-needed sleep.

Nowheresville

I was in the middle of Nowheresville when the Holy Ghost spoke clearly and said to pull off at the approaching exit if it could even be called an exit. There was one little broken-down gas station with boards over the windows. It looked like a haven for serial killers. I mean, it wasn’t the kind of place you’d want to hang out for a few hours. For what felt like forever, I kept asking God for permission to please get back on the road. I even had the hubris to complain and tell God this whole situation was ridiculous. Man, I really am dumb sometimes! Finally, the release came, and I eased back onto the interstate with a sigh of relief. Within minutes I was bogged down in traffic, passing a horrific thirty car pile-up! The Lord protected me from being in that collision despite my rotten attitude.

Thankfully Inconvenienced

Because of that, I’ve learned to be thankful for unexpected inconveniences, although with some hiccups. Again, I’m not claiming perfection, but the lesson has been learned. It makes me wonder what things irritate me right now that I’ll become profoundly grateful for later on down the road? Lord, help me to be thankful in every situation. You know, we’re hard on the Israelites because of their short memories with God. It’s like, really? You get heavenly manna every day, and that wasn’t good enough for you guys? You got a little thirsty and forgot God brings water from rocks? Come on, guys! Oh, but we forget too! We forget the provision, mercy, grace, favor, blessings, deliverance, and miracles God has given.

Choosing Gratitude

Every year about this time, we hear the sermons preached and read the articles about how we should be thankful all the time and not just at Thanksgiving. And we try to maintain that mindset. But we don’t always meet that standard. Unthankfulness breeds bitterness, contempt, disloyalty, disunity, pettiness, and a host of other sins. If you’ve ever been stabbed in the back by someone you’ve loved and cared for, you were experiencing the culmination of an unthankful heart. Remember how much that hurt you and refuse to be that person. Choose gratitude, and you will stand out in a world full of hardheartedness. Let’s all work together to be thankful by reminding one another of past blessings.

Choose gratitude, and you will stand out in a world full of hardheartedness. Let’s all work together to be thankful by reminding one another of past blessings.

Ep. 52 | Unusual Thanks, Completed (New Poem) & Gross-Good-Great (Special Thanksgiving Family Edition) Apostolic Voice with Ryan French

Ryan gives a unique perspective on thankfulness from the ryanafrench.com article called In Everything Give Thanks. Then unveils a short new poem called Completed in honor of Taylor's birthday. And finally, the whole French clan gathers together for a special Thanksgiving family edition of Gross-Good-Great, where they taste and rate Hershey's Hot Cocoa Kisses and Reese's Peanut Brittle Peanut Butter Cups. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/apostolicvoice/support
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Better (A Poem for JJ)

Everything meant to break us made us stronger than we were before.

Every fear meant to freeze us made us braver than we were before.

Every lie meant to ensnare made us wiser than we were before.

Every dream we thought was dead is bigger and better than it was before.

Every sad song became a worship medley in the playlist of our lives. 

I remember when we talked and you cried tears of joy and healing was in the sky.

Our hearts soared to spiritual heights as realizations of love filled our eyes.

I remember when you took my hand and asked if we would always be alright. 

I knew then that God would always be at the center of our lives. 

He took broken puzzle pieces, trampled-twisted; flipped them around, and made masterpieces with them. 

Every hurt meant to embitter made us better than we were before.

Every hit meant to bruise made us bolder than we were before.

Every strain meant to drain us made us fuller than we were before.

Every chain meant to enslave made us freer than we were before.

Every fallen tear became a bubbling brook in the landscape of our lives. 

I remember when the sun stood still and your eyes grew wide as strong winds beat against us for the very first time.

Life did what life does and pain tried to quench the light but you grabbed my hand and held on tight.

That was far from the last time but it was a beautiful beginning to a wonderful life.

Every sad song became a worship medley in the playlist of our lives.

God takes broken puzzle pieces, trampled-twisted; flips them around and makes masterpieces with them. 

What You Should Do After the Storm

Mark 4:35-41; 5:1-6

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him.

If it had not been for a storm Jonah would still be a backslider and all the people of Nineveh would be lost. If it had not been for a storm Elijah would not have known Elisha. If it had not been for a storm Peter could not have walked on the waves. If it had not been for a storm the disciples would not have witnessed the miracle of peace as Jesus spoke gently into a wild situation. If it had not been for a storm Paul could not have preached the Gospel on the island of Malta. When we come out on the other side of a storm we can say of God as Job did, “He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).” So, even though storms are frightening, and they are painful, and they are unpredictable, they are necessary for our spiritual growth.

Storms have a way of sending people to their knees in prayer. Nobody has time for prayer but when the waves start crashing people suddenly have a little room in their schedule for time with Jesus. Everyone is content to let Jesus sleep in the back of the boat until danger strikes. We’re all content with the “this” and the “that” until pain comes crashing in on us like a tidal wave and then we’re all in the back of the boat screaming, “Master, carest not thou that we perish (Mark 4:38)?

It’s been my experience that most people instinctively turn to Jesus during the storms of life, and much of what we do in church and around church is designed to help people stay strong through the storms. We sing and preach about dancing in the rain and praising in the storm. All of that is good and necessary; but what about after the storm is over?

I think sometimes we put so much emphasis on the storm itself that we forget about life after the drama. We spend so much time being afraid and reactionary that we don’t have any strength left once it’s over, and it will be over! The gospel of Mark spends five entire verses describing the storm and how the disciples were afraid and then Jesus gets up and simply says, “PEACE, BE STILL (Mark 4:39)” and the whole thing is over just like that. Storms are no big deal for Jesus. He is far more concerned about our lack of faith than he is about the storm (Hebrews 11:6).

What I find most noteworthy about this whole story is not the storm or that Jesus calmed the storm or that Jesus was angered by their lack of faith or that they marveled. It’s what did not happen that makes me sit up and take notice. These disciples who were a part Jesus’ closest inner circle did not worship Him or offer up a word of thanksgiving even after He miraculously calmed the tempest. Wow. I think that’s a big deal and I think it was a big deal to Jesus as well.

It sounds strange to say it out loud, but I’ve witnessed more people slip away from a right relationship with God in the good times then in the bad times. It’s almost as if the waves push us into the arms of Jesus but the calm lulls us into a state of complacency. We might experience fewer storms if we could remain focused on the Master in the good times.

Take King Saul, for example; God gave him a great victory over his most dangerous enemy and immediately afterwards He allowed rebellion to take root in his heart (1 Samuel 15). His downward spiral didn’t happen during the battle it happened after the danger had already passed. His worship is where the corruption first became apparent. When the process of backsliding begins it is usually first manifested externally in our worship. With that in mind, here are three things that we must do after the storm is over.

1. OFFER THANKSGIVING. After Jesus healed the ten lepers in Luke 17 He sent them off to show themselves to the priest. And then the unthinkable happened, only one of them returned to thank Jesus after realizing that he had indeed been healed. That one leper was immediately made whole by Jesus. In other words, he was not only healed of the leprosy but of the previous effects of the leprosy.

Some people will never see another miracle until they learn how to be thankful for the first miracle. Those other nine lepers made it through a storm, but they forgot that Jesus is more than the Lord of the storm, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15). Jesus wants more than our frenzied cries of desperation He demands our gratitude (Psalm 100:4).

2. BUILD AN ALTAR OF SACRIFICE. I think we can all agree that Noah endured a genuine, big time storm. After he made it through to the other side he provided an example for us all to follow; he quickly built an altar of sacrifice unto the Lord (Genesis 8:20-21). God was so moved by this gesture that He promised to never again smite the earth with a storm of that magnitude. If you want to avoid going through the same type of storm over and over again start building an altar of sacrifice unto the Lord. In this New Testament era, you should present your body as a living sacrifice unto the Lord (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15).

3. GIVE HIM WORSHIP. When the disciples got out on the other side of the storm they were immediately approached by a man who was literally possessed with not one or two but by a legion of demons (Mark 5:9). A man so tormented, so outcast, so messed up that he lived among the tombs. He terrorized the towns nearby.

They tried to bind him with ropes and chains, but he could not be bound. They tried to subdue him, but it was humanly impossible. Ironically, the world tries to fix bondage with more bondage, but He who the Son hath set free is free indeed (John 8:36)! The townspeople could hear this wild man crying in the tombs and cutting himself (that’s how unbearable his physical and spiritual agony was). This man was unwanted, he was wild, he was an embarrassment, he was demonic, he was sinful, and yet when he saw Jesus afar off he ran and worshipped him. Ironically, it took a messed up, tore up, broken up man who was possessed with a legion of demons to show those disciples what to do after the storm is over.

Psalm 107:29-31
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!