Gratitude

Week of January 21

Living Different

Gratitude

Day 1:  Unexpressed gratitude can be difficult to see in the mirror. Read that sentence again slowly. Do you believe that? We can feel grateful. As I write to you, I feel more grateful than not. However, there is a difference between feeling grateful and expressing gratitude. Northpoint Community Church Pastor Andy Stanley said it this way, “Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.” Read Luke 17: 11-19. In this story, what stands out to you? Is it the one or the nine? Write out what impressed you or what you believe to be true from this story. Share this story at dinner tonight with your family or with a friend. Ask what stands out to them?  

 

Day 2: As we think about living different in 2018, may we apply this motto, “If you think it, say it.” Our words of gratitude and encouragement don’t mean much if they remain in our own head. They can bounce around in our mind, but if we don’t express to others what we feel about them, then the kind thoughts don’t do others much good. Read Ephesians 4:29. Is this verse stated as a question, suggestion or a command? We’re given clear direction on how to talk. Every time you think of something helpful to say to someone, say it. Don’t assume the other person knows. If you feel a prompting to verbally build another up, follow it. Some may find this difficult because they don’t routinely express affirmation. In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains five ways we give and receive love. Using words is one of them. So you may not be naturally wired to speak out encouraging words, yet we can all practice. Try this. Put five coins in your pocket. When you have spoken encouragement to another, take out a coin. Repeat until you have emptied your pocket.   

 

Day 3: Read Colossians 3:15-17. As we speak goodness, kindness, beauty and gratitude to others, it creates an attitude of grace, mercy, and gratitude in us. Speaking kindness or affirming words during the course of a day benefits both the speaker and the receiver. Remember, giving is better than getting. Think about a time recently you complimented someone (whether a family, friend, or stranger.) How did they respond to your affirming words or compliment? How did you feel afterward? Expressing gratitude is a habit that will develop us into a more caring, loving, and hopeful person. Is there a challenging relationship in your life right now? What would happen if you remained in a perspective of gratitude when you speak with them? Whether thinking about a specific relationship or in general, practice noticing the good today and recount as much as you can tonight before you go to bed.  

 

Day 4: Maybe you are struggling with the devotional this week. You don’t have a lot of gratitude to share because you don’t have gratitude inside of you. Does that sentence resonate with you in some way? Have you experienced deep pain, hurt, frustration or grief? The idea of gratitude may be just difficult right now. Don’t move past this too quickly. Can you identify the source of your pain? Is it a recent event or conversation? Is it a relationship? Or maybe is it a self-destructive habit or thought? Read Psalm 139:1-14. Now read it again as a prayer to God. Ask Him for help and comfort in your struggle today. Is there a specific step you need to take to help you heal from your pain? 

 

 Day 5: Read I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 27, and Romans 11:36. Allow God to use these scriptures to fill your heart with gratitude and reflect on His goodness to you. Take time to express your gratitude to God before moving on to the next sentence. Now turn your attention to the people in your lives. To whom are you grateful? Who has lived their life in such a way that it has positively affected your life? What in their life changed your character or attitude? Or did their actions or words meet some deep need in you? Was it love, respect, or belief in you? Have you shared it with them recently? Have you expressed it in a way to convey the significance it has made on your life? If it has been a while, consider how you can find some uninterrupted time with them to share your gratitude.  

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Week of January 14

Living Different

generosity: The Secret To Happiness

Day 1: Stingy and closed-fisted; open-handed and generous. We each know people who tend to live more one way or the other. Which way of living do you find yourself more admiring of, drawn to or liking? Which way of life seems more alive, full, happy or blessed? Of the two groups, who seems to be living more like Jesus? Reflect on the qualities of a generous person. Does this draw your admiration? What attracts you to a person full of generosity? Is your admiration limited to their giving nature or does it inspire you to pursue generosity in your own life?  

 

Day 2: Reread the last questions from yesterday. How did you answer them? What did thinking through those questions reveal to you? A generous life is one of the clearest indicators that discipleship (or growing to be more like Jesus) is taking place – particularly financial generosity in our materialistic, security-through-strength-and-money Western culture. Generosity is about living differently with the finances given to us because we are being formed more into the likeness of Jesus. Generosity forms us in the same ways that prayer and Bible study do. It speaks to whether our prayers and time in Bible study are changing our hearts and being incorporated into how we actually live! Take some time to reflect on these statements and following questions: I am forgiven. Am I becoming more forgiving? I am loved. Am I becoming more loving? I have been given much. Am I becoming more giving?  

 

Day 3. On Sunday Cory asked the question, “Do you consider yourself to be generous”? Take some time today to sit with that question and reflect. What do you look to in order to answer that question? What do the patterns, decisions, and choices you make reveal about what you genuinely value? Do they speak to movement and growth with an increasing trajectory toward generosity, care and well-being of others? Do you find you want to cling to a handful of times when you acted generously or do you see consistent evidence of a lifestyle of generosity and openhandedness? Do you see continuing growth in your generosity? Perhaps in the past you took some meaningful steps. Have you become stuck or plateaued in living a generous life? What are some of the obstacles to becoming more generous? What is a next step you can take to address what hinders you from becoming more generous? Would you ask God to show you the obstacles and steps you need to overcome or take?  

   

Day 4: Worry, fear, anxiety, envy, self-protection, lack of contentment, seeking safety/security through money, contempt for others. Why would Jesus say so much about these things? What do these things do to our hearts and our minds? What impact do they have on our hope, faith, and our ability and willingness to love and trust? Jesus is showing us a way to live different - a way to live more full and abundant lives! These things consume our thoughts, erode our souls, lessen our trust in God and form our hearts in such a way that we end up living small, self-absorbed lives. It’s not mere sentiment or ideology when Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than receive” and for us to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Who doesn’t want to be dealt with generously, forgiven freely, loved fully? Reflect on where and when you are most likely to make choices that are small, inward, fearful. Notice what is going on when this happens and particular times when you are at risk of defaulting to one of these life stealing behaviors, attitudes, or mindsets. Does this show a lack of trust in a generous God? How does this affect your generous living? 

 

Day 5: I often feel like being generous, but I don’t always act on it. I even like to give myself partial credit for wanting to be generous. It’s one of the silly mind games I play that doesn’t lead me to an actual demonstration of becoming more generous or more like Jesus! We reflected in Day 3 about obstacles to generosity in our lives. As we did, some of us would have identified financial strain as an obstacle. Strains from unforeseen disasters and hardship, others self-inflicted by how we live. Either way, both are very real. One available step is to get into the next Financial Peace University group that starts Wednesday, January 24. You can sign up on the website (www.fpu.com/1056532) or at ConnectU next weekend. This group can help you dig out of a mess or simply find a way to live different financially so that you have financial margin to act on the desires and promptings to become more generous.   

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