Being the 10 Percent-Humble Gratitude

Living the 10 Percent Thanksgiving 2015

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14, NIV

Last week, we determined that we want to be found giving thanks like the ten percent. Only one leper out of ten returned to thank Jesus for His miraculous healing. However, this week’s account in Luke informs us that mere words of thanks are not enough; it is the heart behind the words that matters most. In this parable about the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus is teaching that humility of heart is better than good deeds accompanied by a haughty spirit.

In fact, this parable teaches that there is a wrong way to give thanks.

If we are giving thanks because we are not like other sinners; that is, not bent towards certain less favorable sins. Or, if in order to elevate our filthy rags of righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6), we thankfully condemn more noticeable targets or outright sin, then we are missing grace all together. This isn’t but for the grace of God go I mentality, this is at least I’m not doing… What a dangerous predicament to enter into.

A vacuum of humility in our lives leads to the fertile soil of hypocrisy. Consider,

Hypocrites keep up the external performances of religion only to save or gain credit. There are many whom we see every day at the temple, whom, it is to be feared, we shall not see in the great day at Christ’s right hand. 

His giving God thanks for this, though in itself a good thing, yet seems to be a mere formality. He does not say, By the grace of God I am what I am, as Paul did, but turns it off with a slight, God, I thank thee, which is intended but for a plausible introduction to a proud vainglorious ostentation of himself.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

God’s glory is to resist the proud but give grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. It was the brother who had done the work diligently and faithfully that had to flee the temptation to be angered at the wayward brother’s reward. The faithful must put off the garment of pride and assumption that God only gives mercy and grace to those who look the part or have played it the longest. It is God’s grace through Jesus Christ that brings our favor. That alone secures our salvation and no works we do on earth can equate the grace that Jesus provides. Works accompany faith, and restoration follows humble confession and repentance–be it in the early years of our life, or in the later years just before arriving Home.

Another lesson from this parable: We who have been in church and within God’s grace for anytime must resist the temptation and tendency to make God’s Kingdom on earth look like anything other than God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom will consist of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Further, it will consist of the last being the first. The crippled, handicapped, poor, and cast aside populace of the present will be the rulers of the future Kingdom to come. We must not welcome the well dressed and successful among our places of worship to the detriment of the poor, the weak, and the plagued with sin who may stumble into our congregations by the saving grace of God. (See James 2:1-13)

Not everyone in church should look just like you…or me!

If thanksgiving towards God has become a mere formality for us as it was for the pharisee in Jesus’s parable, then it is time to repent in humility and recognize the saving grace of God in our own needy lives. There is always gratitude to be given for God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

If we have neglected to welcome those within our community of believers who don’t look like us, then we must repent and consider what God’s Kingdom will look like in eternity. We should make our churches welcoming congregations for every tribe, tongue, nation, and social status.

Be the ten percent. Give thanks with a humble heart.

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If you want to further explore the thoughts from this post, might I recommend two books that I have read in the past that most likely helped shape some of the thoughts written above?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (see here)

Onward by Russell Moore (see here)

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Being the Ten Percent

Living the 10 Percent

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

(Luke 17:11-19, NIV)

Jesus performed miracles for multitudes. Yet, this story of ten men healed of leprosy warranted spotlighting in the gospel of Luke. Ten men pleaded for mercy, only one thanked Jesus for the merciful act of cleansed skin.

Often times in life we petition for acts of mercy from the Father, family, and friends to be met with the granting of our requests. How often do we return the mercy with thanksgiving once it is granted? Are we living like this leaper and being the ten percent who express gratitude? Or, are we living among the ninety percent who grab the grace and keep on going?

November provides perfect practice for thanksgiving and grateful living. As we count our blessings and practice days of gratitude may it be more than a seasonal decor, a hashtag of 31 days of gratitude captioning our social media, or a reason to gather with family. May this month remind us to be the ten percent and thank God for the blessings and grace in all circumstances.

Thanks-giving opens the door to joy-filled living. The ungrateful can quickly become the greedy. The frenzied  who don’t pause to pleasure in what is, will exhaust themselves seeking the next thing.

This month we will further explore together the topic of being the ten percent and seeking to live a life of gratitude in a culture that values gain over saying grace. After all, it is Jesus’ saving grace which ushers in our saying grace.

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G. K. Chesterton

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Same Song, Second Verse

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Over the Christmas break, Ron and I attended my sister and brother-in-law’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Family Hike

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The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Rediscovering this second verse of the beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art, is important to me for two reasons. First, this is a song–in particular a verse–which resonates with the Holy Spirit within me. This reflects the sentiments of many Christ followers; we feel closest to God when we are divulged in creation. Secondly, the memories that this verse provokes remind me of the thoughts I was thinking during each adventure. Some thoughts were pure, peaceful, and filled with worship. Others were full of discontent, complaining, or comparison.

It is clear, even in the most ideal surroundings we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

By far, the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God.

This year, we will sing many of the same verses we have sung in years past. The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. There are lessons to be learned and paths to be traveled. May we worship God in His greatness in the forests, by the brook, and in mountain grandeur.

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Gratitude Prompts a Change in Perspective

Gratitude Prompts a Change in Perspective

Have you ever found yourself in a new place in life and completely nostalgic for the comforts of familiarity?

A few short months after Ron and I were married we moved to his childhood home in Florida. Having lived solely in Alabama for the first 21 years of my life (18 of those in my small hometown boasting two red lights and a McDonald’s) I was excited about the move, but unaware of the challenges of change.

Moving to the beach intrigued me. Continuing my studies in communication disorders at a new university excited me. However, I was unaware of the differences in culture, accent, and even socioeconomic differences that awaited.

When change happens we crave the small, steady denominators that made home home.

I missed knowing the cashiers at the grocery store, seeing people in Walmart with whom I attended school, and familiar faces at church that held common memories in time and space. It took me many years to embrace my new identity as a Floridian.

I was focused on yesterday and the hopes of one day which would bring a return move home to Alabama. I had little desire to explore the greatness of the area in which God had placed me.

Unfortunately my inability to embrace the changes in my life perhaps robbed me of a portion of present joy.

Today, almost 12 years later, I love the area I live in. My family enjoys the recreational parks, habitat preserves, the beach, and the museums and sites near our home.

Within the last three years I have often wondered why I spent much time and energy trying to make my current home more like my childhood and less like the newness of life that God had placed me in. I missed opportunities to enjoy God’s creation in my own backyard because I was longing for the backyard 500 miles away in which I grew up.

Are you in a new location be it geographical, vocational, or missional? Maybe the novelty of your experience leaves you longing for the familiarity of yesterday. Take heart my friend! There is good to be gained from every new venture. Look around you today and purpose to find a good to be grateful for. Gradually your gratitude will give you a change in perspective. Your eyes will see not as a pilgrim longing to turn back, but as one set to forge ahead to the lasting pilgrimage of the celestial city. (See Pilgrim’s Progress)

*an edited repost

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A Changing Perspective

A Changing Perspective

Sitting next to Ron on the kiddie playground at the mall, Emily walks over and says,”This playground is smaller.” Ron explains that she is growing bigger, taller, and that what once seemed big looks smaller.

Her perspective is changing as she grows in wisdom and stature.

This changing perspective is a familiar friend to her mama. For instance, the high school halls that once looked so foreboding to an elementary child became navigable as a teen and now seems nearly claustrophobic to a graduate of 14 years.

The inescapable rocks in a box I was told to memorize in middle school have never been so cool to study as they are post-Grand Canyon visit.

I am learning that parenting produces an evolving perspective. Numerous adults have warned me, “These are the easy years when your children are young and you know where they are and what they are doing.”  These same parents fussed and fretted over sleep patterns, eating habits, manners, and mishaps the same as Ron and I when their children were little. However, time has changed their perspective to realize that the trusting and letting go portion of parenthood proves more trying than the building of independence and wisdom.

Noah and his family surely experienced a changing perspective as the ark they labored on day after day reached completion. He walked with the Spirit and worked until the flood. As he and his family labored I propose they thought, “This ark is huge! Certainly there will be ample space for every creature and our family.” But as the earth ripped in two and the waters overcame their boundaries, the once larger than life ark felt more like a pebble tossed into the ocean.

Time and novel circumstances change our perspective. As the changes come, do I respond in thanksgiving? Do I embrace or resent the change? Am I looking for the rainbow in the clouds?

My patterns of thinking constantly need a change in perspective. I frequently, if not daily, remind myself to be thankful for the present, for that which is in-front of me, and which I already possess. It takes a Romans 12:1-2 renewing of the mind to look at reality with a righteous gratitude and not a rotten attitude of envy or jealousy coupled with discontent and nostalgia.

What about you? Do you need a fresh perspective? Do you need a renewing of the mind’s eye? An evaluation of present gratitude?  If so, join me in praying:

Sovereign Lord,

You are the maker of heaven and earth. Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts and your ways higher than ours. You do not see as man sees; you look at the heart. Lord, give me eyes to see, ears that hear, and a faith that believes.  Please search me now and know my inner thoughts. Reveal to me the areas of my life and present circumstances that need a fresh Spirit-filled perspective. Help me to be grateful for what Your hand has allowed this day and for the fruit that my current obedience and labor has been rewarded with. Help me not to compare my lot in life with others, but to glory in Your gracious salvation and Your divine plan. Help me to be obedient and grateful with every step Lord, every step, every thought, every deed. And when I fail, for failure is certain, help me to repent and renew my strength to run again in obedience and steadfastness.

In Jesus Name I Pray,

Amen

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Gradual Gratitude

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Have you ever found yourself in a new place in life and completely nostalgic for the comforts of familiarity?

A few short months after Ron and I were married we moved to his childhood home in Florida. Having lived solely in Alabama for the first 21 years of my life (18 of those in my small hometown boasting two red lights and a McDonald’s) I was excited about the move, but unaware of the challenges of change.

Moving to the beach intrigued me. Continuing my studies in communication disorders at a new university excited me. However, I was unaware of the differences in culture, accent, and even socioeconomic differences that awaited.

When change happens we crave the small, steady denominators that made home home.

I missed knowing the cashiers at the grocery store, seeing people in Walmart with whom I attended school, and familiar faces at church that held common memories in time and space. It took me many years to embrace my new identity as a Floridian.

I was focused on yesterday and the hopes of one day which would bring a return move home to Alabama. I had little desire to explore the greatness of the area in which God had placed me.

photo (123)

Unfortunately my inability to embrace the changes in my life perhaps robbed me of a portion of present joy.

Today, almost 11 years later, I love the area I live in. My family enjoys the recreational parks, habitat preserves, the beach, and the museums and sites near our home.

Within the last year or two I have often wondered why I spent much time and energy trying to make my current home more like my childhood and less like the newness of life that God had placed me in. I missed opportunities to enjoy God’s creation in my own backyard because I was longing for the backyard 500 miles away in which I grew up.

photo (121)

Are you in a new location be it geographical, vocational, or missional? Maybe the novelty of your experience leaves you longing for the familiarity of yesterday. Take heart my friend! There is good to be gained from every new venture. Look around you today and purpose to find a good to be grateful for. Gradually your gratitude will give you a change in perspective. Your eyes will see not as a pilgrim longing to turn back, but as one set to forge ahead to the lasting pilgrimage of the celestial city. (See Pilgrim’s Progress)

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Thankful in Rememberance

For ten years our family was unable to enjoy our backyard. Unfortunately our neighbors repeatedly ignored our association rules to “pick up the poop” after their dogs. Equally unfortunate was the fact that the favored potty was our own backyard. Although we have enjoyed new, responsible, and godly neighbors for the last year it seems even longer that we have enjoyed the blessing of running worry free through the grass as we play with the children.

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The years of biting our tongue, or conversely, saying too much in anger over the mess in the front yard (that would fall on my mouth), as well as the occasions we picked poop up ourselves, have all been replaced with a clean playground for the kids.

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Time is a tool that God uses to perfect the outworking of His Spirit in us. Had our neighbors cleaned up their act upon our first request, I am sure my current level of gratitude would be significantly diminished. The persistence of pestilence made the joy of relief all the sweeter.

One day the hardships, the temptations that seem more than bearable, and the suffering that is around us will all be overcome. There will be a time in the future we can reflect in thankfulness for the gift of the present. Faithful obedience in pain, and painstaking patience amidst trials will be rewarded either in this life or the next for those who trust in Christ Jesus.

Yesterday as I followed the children through the backyard a refreshing sense of thankfulness overcame me. God made our yard beautiful in His time so that we could enjoy the days with our children. Today, I am truly tankful in remembrance of this sweet smelling gift.

What does remembrance cause you to be thankful for today? What has God delivered you from or through that you can praise Him for with a grateful heart?

I pray this weekend is filled with thankful remembrance of all that He has done in your life. However, the greatest gift that we can say thank you for is the gift that matters most: The sinless blood of Christ was shed for the sinful acts of men. Those who believe on Christ for their salvation, confess and repent of their sinful acts and prideful heart, and profess Him as their Lord will one day join Him at Home.

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P. S. One additional mention of thanksgiving is of a heart transformation toward the task of laundry. You can read about that here.

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With Gratitude

As we draw closer to Christmas, the culminating holiday (holy day) before a new year, I want to take a moment to speak to my faithful readers. Thank you so much for making even one post from this year a part of your day. This creative outlet is for me, one of my greatest joys in life. It is remarkable how the Lord pulls my inner thoughts and the outward workings of life together in weekly 500 word posts. He is so very faithful even when I am not.

Reader-friend, thank you.

 Thank you for all the Tweets, the Facebook shares, the mentions to friends and family to gather here and pursue a holy, eternity-minded life together. You have no idea how blessed I am to hear when something I have scribbled out in this corner of the Internet has impacted your life or helped to put into words inner emotions and thoughts that you experience. I am humbled that God would use my passions and His pursuits to bless you.

I will be taking a break until the New Year. (Unless the Spirit puts an irrepressible word on my heart!) I look forward with anticipation to the soul lessons of the coming year.

With deepest gratitude, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ~Colossians 3:1-4 (emphasis mine)

 

All photos courtsey of Ron.

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