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The most valuable things in life are given to us freely and we tend to place little value on them. We take them for granted, fail to be thankful and grateful for them and often misuse them or ignore them. On top of this, we tend to spend our time and effort worrying and grumbling about what we don’t have instead and this is about things that tend to have way less value.

What do we have freely? We have life without which nothing we want would matter. We have a body that is wonderfully and intricately made enabling us to move through the world and to interact with it. For most of us, this means that we can interact through five other free gifts: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. While you are doing all of that, your amazing body is automatically breathing, circulating, moving, processing food, interacting with the world — without you having to consciously think about it. While all of that is happening, you are doing other things.

Our amazing body houses in it an even more awesome and mysterious mind. The proper use of our mind brings us everything we want in life. Unlike all other beasts that operate via instinct, we can think, explore, judge, imagine, envision, plan, synthesize, communicate, learn, feel, create, choose and direct our course through life however we see fit. Our amazing minds let us look at any moment or situation from a number of different vantage points or from all of them at the same time. Who hasn’t had a moment in which a situation seems one way then a completely different way a moment later when some new information is revealed? We’ve all experienced a paradigm shift, yet, few of us have considered that nothing really changed in the situation and we could have chosen to look it from both lenses at anytime. That’s how powerful our mind is, but there’s more. The mind also fuels mysterious things such and intuition, subconscious, and our soul and spirit.

Speaking of our soul and spirit, another free gift to us from God is his son, Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer who came to teach us what love is and who God is. But he accomplished so much more that is freely given to us. He also sacrificed himself to pay for our sins so that our life can be eternally with God in love instead of eternally without God in despair and torment. And even more than that moment of sacrifice is the mystery of Godliness which means that through the Resurrection of Christ, God made it such that our spirit and soul could also be transformed by the presence of Christ in us, the hope of glory. The is what it means to be reborn. So, besides the gift of physical life, we have a gift of rebirth to external spiritual life in God, because Christ, his son, will dwell in us making God our father just as he was to Jesus.

We have have the gift of natural parents too and while some of us may not have had good parents, still they brought you into life and somehow, through them or others, you were cared for until you could reach the age of maturity and survive on your own — all of which does not always happen, so if it has happened for you, it is free gift.

We have the free gift of our relationships — all the love, passion, camaraderie, fellowship, and partnership in the joys and difficulties of life. For most of us, this highest form of this is with a life partner and the most grateful of pursue committing to via marriage because this is a gift and not a burden. Through this gift, many of us have the extraordinary blessing of children and grandchildren forming a free gift of legacy and love flowing out to time beyond our lives. All this is free to those who recognize it for the gift it is and grab hold of it. Some of us are not blessed to obtain these gifts physically but because other don’t want it or misuse children, there are plenty of options for people to partake of this blessing by loving children who are not loved because their parents couldn’t see on of the most valuable gifts from God.

Another free gift from God is purpose. While many people think work is a curse, this is because they don’t realize they can define their own purpose and spend their time doing what they love and feel great about – work that makes them excited, proud, fulfilled and filled with joy and with relationships taking that journey with them and sharing in the adventure and joy of it.

Another gift many of us in the world have is freedom. This gift is not as guaranteed because there are places in the world where much freedom is restricted so those who have it should be aware of the great gift it is, but frequently are not. Freedom empowers us to explore other free gifts: the free gift of the world, the free gift of reading, learning, and education, the free gift of whatever we want to do with the free gift of time we all have every day. Freedom means we are free not to worry that others can direct our lives or take our lives. It is security from tyranny and enslavement. Freedom breeds another gift, Choice. Even for those whose liberties are restricted, freedom and choice still can liberate their minds in powerful ways.

All of these free gifts, in our persons, are layered on top of free gifts all around us. The world is a free gift to us and all the trillions of wonders in it. These miracles scale down to the fantastic microcosm of cells, atoms, DNA and their many divisions and parts that hold the world together and invisibly operate it and scale up to the macrocosm of the heavens complete with planets and stars within in millions of galaxy within the universe and perhaps beyond. More mysteriously and largely unknown but increasing in evident are how all this may be effected by various dimensions of space and time. But more obvious to us though also taken for granted is the air that we breath, the atmosphere that enables life, the sun and the rotation of the world that keep us warm but not burning up and creates days and seasons, the processes that replenish oxygen, cause food to grow and animals to live, the laws that hold us to the ground and govern order. The large variety of plants and animals that enable us to have diversity in food and culture and can be used for so many other purposes like medicine, work help, companionship, and beauty are all gifts – we could live in a world where there was only one thing to eat. All of this and more does not have to exist but it does and it is a necessary gift to us so that we can live and thrive.

So, all of this is free — and largely, we don’t give it much thought.

What do we think about, worry about, want? Some of these things are necessary like food, clothing and a roof over our head but most are optional, wants versus needs. Even the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter are often pursued gratuitously: better or more convenient (costly) food, designer over functional (costly) clothing, and more luxurious shelter. There is nothing wrong with wanting more – of course we should, but to the extent it is gratuitous, shouldn’t our attitude toward it be that much more grateful about all we’ve been given. Hopefully we are.

Consider this: if you don’t have the things that you want that are not free, perhaps it is largely because they are products. You might remember from elementary school math that a product is the result of multiplying factors, 2×3=6 for instance, and the non-free things we want are similarly products that are derived from other factors. They are the fruit of our labor and therefore the non-free products we possess are largely related our practical application of the free things we’ve all been given. If we use the free things properly, blessing for us are multiplied. If we use them haphazardly, then we operate two steps forward and one step back. And if we use them poorly or destructively, we can destroy our lives and the lives of others around us. A formula for success is Preparedness times Opportunity equals Success. Opportunity is there all the time so our part is to develop Preparedness. The formula for that is Positive Choice multiplied by Free Gifts equal Preparedness.

Given all this, it all comes down to Choice. If we choose to focus our time on phantom wants ignoring the immense treasure we have, we will waste that treasure. If, instead, we choose to focus on developing our free treasures and applying them properly, we will find we have everything we want and more and we will appreciate all our gifts more. As you reap, so you will sow. It’s your choice. This Thanksgiving (and every day moving forward), I hope this will help you be more grateful for all that you have which I am confident will guide you to your hearts content. Jesus says in Matthew 13:12: “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Realize what you have and invest it gratefully to abundance.

Working for a major corporation, I’ve gotten used to the need to be results-driven. It makes sense. A company needs to be concerned on ROI – return on investment. If they invest resources, they need to be confident it will increase the profitability of the company. My work involves deciding what we should invest in doing so I am always thinking about how this will help the company grow and deciding which things to not do as well.

“And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” ‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So, I have to keep in mind that Jesus, my Lord, wants to lead me and His economy is not results-driven — at least, I may not be able to calculate and operate in a results mindset. God is love and does things toward the beloved, us, that transcend the simple math of human ROI. He’s doing advanced calculus in multiple dimensions and we’re doing simple arithmetic with crayons on a big-chief tablet. Our Father loves us but we are his children and still have a limited ability to understand his ways.

I once sent a story out to a few family members about a pastor who chooses to save his son’s friend over his son when their boat capsizes. His decision was based on the fact that he knew his son was a believer and the other boy was not and he was unwilling to let the other boy live an eternity without God. A uncle of mine who was a business leader replied that he couldn’t see the business sense in the story.

I think we all have that problem sometimes until we are transformed by letting Jesus renew our minds as Romans 12:2 says. The word transformed in this verse, the Greek word metamorphoō from which we derive metamorphosis, is the same word that is used in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 where Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John and they see him in his glory.

When we think of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, we imagine a once and for all change — but we need to let God renew our minds continually. While the disciples were moved by the transfiguration, they needed to continue their walk with Jesus and we need to continue to let our relationship with him day-by-day transform us. In fact, the only other use of this Greek word is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This ability to see and operate in a God-driven economy is intrinsically linked to our willingness to turn our unveiled face toward Christ, contemplating the Lord’s glory above our own then let that guide us. It is really what faith is, but we then need to actualize our faith by doing what Jesus leads us to do, whether they hear or refuse to hear, regardless of our limited ability to calculate that the results will be favorable from our natural point of view.

After Jesus was transfigured, a voice from heaven speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

It’s always exciting when other people really notice your children in ways that you see but seem to be invisible or uncelebrated by most. Blogger Broc Edwards captured this about my son, Jeremy in this post. It is at the heart of the conversations Jeremy and I have always had about his journey and passion and it does my heart good.

Anxiety’s a focus on the visible world leaving Jesus out of the picture. Fix your eyes on the unseen-eternity; verbalize your trust for He sees you always. Find Him in the present; today’s gift. #JesusCalling
Gen16:13-14; Ro8:31; 2Co4:18

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When Adam and Eve were in the garden, they walked with God and talked with God and had direct access to him. They knew him intimately. Yet when Satan comes along to tempt them, they easily find in themselves a desire separate from God.

This creates a huge challenge for us. How can we, who have sin dwelling in our body and who have had our minds influenced by sin all of our lives ever hope to avoid sin if Adam and Eve couldn’t.  We don’t have a direct line to God like they did. Or do we?

If we know Jesus, we indeed have a direct line to God. In fact, we have something better. The Bible tells us that when we asked Jesus into our life, our lives are transformed. It says that Jesus himself becomes our very life. So, while Adam and Eve knew God intimately, it was side-by-side, walking in the garden. When we know Jesus, he becomes our very life and that is very different. 

It is different for many reasons. First, it means that his life is what God sees when he sees us. This means even when we do sin, it is canceled out by the life of Jesus in us. The Bible says that God knows that we are made of dust. So he provided a solution that overcame the sin that dwells in our body. He also knew that our minds are polluted by the world in which we live. So, having Jesus dwell in us, we actually have the mind of Christ available to us always. 

Still, we seem to regularly not take advantage of the wonderful gifts that he has given us in Christ as our life. The Bible says that God will meet all of our needs and he actually does that by giving us Jesus as our very life when we accept his grace. 

A big part of the problem for us fully accessing the gift is that we want more than what we need. Said another way, our wants and our needs frequently don’t match. Sometimes, when we feel like we need something, we really just want something, and we actually need something different. Every parent knows  what this looks like from the way in which they have had to interact with their children. God, who is our father, has the good of his children in mind when he is dealing with us. Sometimes, we can just be a little bit spoiled and throw temper tantrums when we can’t have what we want.

The question is, if God was really trying to give us our needs and we pushed to have our wants instead, what did we miss by not having our actual needs met? Substituting the best for merely the good and often times the not-so-good absolutely has a cost. Denying ourselves is very hard indeed, but it is the only way we can come to know abundant life. God, alone, has our best interest in mind. The world certainly doesn’t and, clearly, we frequently don’t either.

The Bible says the truth will set you free and we can know the truth. The truth is certainly in Jesus who says he is the way, the truth, and the life. It’s interesting that he says the truth and the life in the same verse. The truth is what we need is vastly more important than what we want and God has met our need by giving us Jesus as our very life. So, today, are we going to scream for cotton candy or have real food?

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. – Hebrews 2:10

jeremyMy older son who has served in the Army for the last four years is exiting the military and moving to Arlington next week so he will soon be much closer to me. My younger son, Jeremy, just returned to Austin after working in Houston for a year.

Though Jeremy and I did not have a broken relationship at this time, still I am ecstatic that I am watching him talk with my wife on our back patio as I write this. I can relate to the father of the prodigal son on just how wonderful it is to have your son with you. Luke 15:11-31

When we think of the mercies of God, we sometimes think of them in terms of self. But our God is relational to his very essence. The trinity contains Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together as one. God’s very glory – which he is all about exclaiming to all creation – is completely wrapped up in expanding his household with many sons and daughters.

It is a form of suffering to have children grow up, depart your home to live and find their own way. It is suffering to be apart from them but it is glorious to watch what God is doing in their lives – though it is often terrifying too. We often think God’s mercies are about providing us comfort and they do, but God’s mercy is born out of the suffering of his holiness. It cost God everything to provide mercy to us and it is far more valuable and rich than our desire for an easy life.

God is willing to forgo comfort, he is willing to pay the cost of mercy to give us his love. The father of the prodigal son gave everything to gain his son, not just the riches, but the son himself. It is heart-wrenching to let your child go to where they want – especially when you scared that it may not go well for them. I’m confident that the father is the story did not find complete comfort a single day while his son was gone.

God longs to have us in his home so much he gave up Jesus to come and gain us and waits patiently for our return. Because Jesus came, we are one with him and he is one with us. We can boldly call him brother and be assured we can call God our Father. This is a real mercy and real grace – seeing our Father and knowing he sees us fully as his children no matter where we are in this world and no matter what the world throws at us.

  • What mercies of God can you see today right in front of you?  What is less clear?
  • What sufferings have you experienced that ended in God’s mercies.  Fill free to share your experiences.

I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:25,28,32 

When I sin, the shame of it drags me down to the dust that I am made of – like Paul says to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 3:3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

But even if I sin and feel this way – the psalmist boldly asks God to preserve his life according to your word.  It is God’s decree – not our worth – that I cling to because I have no worth in myself – it all derives from Him.   Even if I am weary with the sorrow of my sin, I can say I know I can be strengthened because God has told me I am forgiven and that he will provide for all my needs.

So I can run to him, even after my sin – not because I am worthy but because despite my worth, His word says He has forgiven me.  He promised to make me whole and I can trust Him. So I do not run in the path of his commands out of fear that He will not forgive me if I don’t;  I run in this path because He has forgiven me when I wasn’t running in it even those things that I will sin against Him as I do run in the path. And this forgiveness has completely set my heart free.  I run to Him because I am free to do so and that freedom is most appealing.

Father, thank you so much for freeing me from sin based on your love rather than my worthiness.  Thank you for strengthening me.  Thank you for freeing me from the dust that makes me up and lift me to place that I can love you no matter what and no beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love me.  Glory to you, Lord.