Welcome to the Set4e.com blog!

"You perceive my thoughts from afar."
Psalm 139:2b

Obviously I don't need to blog for God to know what's on my mind! But I thought this format might be a good way to share my thoughts with you, for what they're worth. Which probably isn't much in the scheme of things, but perhaps you can glean something from these ramblings that will encouraging you or get you thinking about our God and our relationship with Him as worshipers.

I will warn you: no one has ever accused me of being concise, so don't expect Twitter or even Facebook-friendly updates here!

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments at lee.mayhew@yahoo.com.

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Keep the faith,


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Let Us Linger

Last weekend I was blessed to be able to attend the Linger Conference in Dallas, TX.  Linger is a conference devoted to reigniting a desire for and developing a sensitivity to God's presence, and to learning the discipline of lingering in that Presence.  In the Western Church, we're big on church attendance and service, reading our Bibles (not to mention hundreds of other books), talking the talk, and gathering in "community."  But we're not quite as good at or intentional about being still and knowing that God is God.  We're pretty good at being "Martha" and getting things done for Jesus.  We're not as good at being "Mary" and doing what is truly needful: sitting and lingering at the feet of Christ (Luke 10:38-42).  The irony here is that Jesus, Himself, has told us that it is knowing Him and being known by Him that is most vital, above and beyond merely doing things in His name (Matthew 7:22-23).  The Linger Conference is designed to reignite a passion to linger, and provide some tools and Scriptural context to help us do just that, as well as helping Christ Followers acknowledge and address areas in their lives and walks that hinder our ability to linger in -- or even enter into -- the presence of God.
We're pretty good at being "Martha" and getting things done for Jesus.  We're not as good at being "Mary" and doing what is truly needful: sitting and lingering at the feet of Christ (Luke 10:38-42). 

The heart child of Shane Bernard and Shane Everett (Shane& Shane), worship leaders/songwriter's extraordinaire, Linger is two full days of worship, teaching, and lingering in God's presence.  Assisting the Shanes in this are some of the greatest teachers and worship leaders ministering today, including Christy Nockels, Phil Wickham, Tod Wagner, Matt Chandler, Dr. Eric Mason, and others.

One of the ways the conference format helps provide and facilitate times of lingering is via the "Linger Room."  This year (the third annual) the conference was held at BentTree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, TX.  BTBF is an amazing facility with a wide variety of multi-purpose spaces.  One of these spaces called the "Family Theater" (bigger than most churches' main sanctuary/worship center) was designated the "Linger Room."  In this room, there was live acoustic worship being led non-stop throughout the conference, interspersed with Scripture readings, provided by the folks at People & Songs.

The music was soft, slow, and gentle.  The lights were dim, just enough to read by, but no brighter.  Scattered about the room were a few regular chairs, but mostly pillows, comfy couches, beanbags, and Xorbees (huge, overstuffed beanbags that can hold multiple people).  In a corner by the platform on which the musicians played and sang was amazing "live artist" Robin Oas, painting beautiful pictures in real-time as she was inspired by the songs being sung and the Scriptures being read.  Just watching the strokes of her brushes on the canvas was calming and meditative.   Scattered unobtrusively around the room were volunteers (who themselves were worshiping) that could pray with and for anyone who needed such ministration during their times in the Linger Room.   I cannot imagine an environment more conducive to attuning your heart and mind to the presence of God and then lingering in that presence.

During the conference, attendees were encouraged to respond to the Holy Spirit's leading and spend as much time in the Linger Room as was wanted or needed.  There were special times set aside for this before and after the main conference hours and during breaks, but the room was open and available even during main teaching and worship sessions.  Everyone knew it was okay to skip a session and "linger."

I was worshiping in the Linger Room after lunch on the first day of the conference, soaking in the presence of God in a way I had not done in years.  Tears flowed unchecked, and instead of singing I grew silent, letting The Spirit sing to me -- and for me -- for a change.  It was a sweet, sweet time.  But in the back of my mind was an ember of anticipation that was threatening to flare into anxiety.

Tears flowed unchecked, and instead of singing I grew silent, letting The Spirit sing to me -- and for me -- for a change. 

Ever since I was first introduced to Shane & Shane some 15 years ago, the duo have been a fixture in my ministry and my personal walk with Christ.  More than merely my favorite worship leaders and Christian songwriters, the Shanes have been used by God to deepen my own worship, give me fresh insight into God's Word, and reveal new intimacies of our relationship with Christ as His bride.  What's more, their music has empowered my own ministries of worship and discipleship.  I have friends that joke about how I can apply a Shane & Shane lyric to virtually any and every Bible study or devotional.

In the Linger Room, I pulled my focus away from God to my watch.  Shane & Shane would be taking the stage in about 45 minutes!  I would have to leave soon to go to the main worship center.  I wanted to be close to the doors at least 30 minutes before they opened so I could get a good seat.  I wanted to get close to the stage, close to the Shanes.  I wanted to have a good view, get some good pictures and video.

I was about to gather up my things when God whispered, gently: "Lee, you have not come here to meet with Shane & Shane.  Or Christy Nockels.  Or Phil Wickham.  You have come here to linger in My presence, to meet with Me, your God.  I am just as present in the back corner as I am on the center of the front row.  My Holy Spirit through My Word can bring Me into sharper focus -- closer proximity -- than the most powerful zoom lens.  So don't leave My presence now to go and get closer to your idols.  (ouch!)  Linger with Me a while longer.  And when the time comes for you to go the worship center, I promise that I will meet you there, no matter what seat you get.  You will hear Me, no matter who is singing or speaking."

So I lingered...  

I confessed and repented of my idolatry and my anxious thoughts, and I lingered in God's presence, letting Him minister to me, realign my thought processes and priorities (transform?).  I invited Him to "create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).

...it's easy to linger in the Linger Room.  Lingering in the living room or the conference room or the waiting room or the hospital room is something else entirely.

As with any mountaintop experience, the challenge once Linger is over is to take the disciplines learned and the truths revealed with us back to the valley, where people dwell and God works.  No one lives on the mountain, after all.  Let's face it, it's easy to linger in the Linger Room.  Lingering in the living room or the conference room or the waiting room or the hospital room is something else entirely.  But God is God is all of these rooms, and He meets us there.
So my prayer for myself and for you every day is this:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.


Solidarity in Celebration

This weekend we'll be celebrating my daughter's eleventh birthday by having a house full of giggly, squealing, fifth-grade girls.  All night!  There will be cake.  There will be soda.  There will be karaoke.  There will be dancing and trampolining.  There will be movies and chatter until the wee hours.  Please pray for my wife and I. :)

But seriously, I'm okay with this.  Is this my preferred way to spend my Friday night?  Well, no, not really.  But here's the deal: I love my daughter.  And while I celebrate her in little ways every day, this day -- her birthday -- is particularly special and is set apart to celebrate her in big ways.

When you love someone and want to celebrate that person, you are willing to be in the company of others who love the same person so that you can celebrate him or her together, even if those other  people might not be who you would choose to spend your free time with in other contexts.  It's all about the one you love.  It's about choosing to love others because the one you love loves them.  It's about the one being celebrated and not the celebrants.

As Christ-followers, imagine if we approached our Church gatherings with this same mindset.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Force Worth Awakening

As I reflect upon the few hours our family spent this weekend helping those impacted by the tornadoes that hit our hometown the day after Christmas, I struggle to decide which was more overwhelming: (1) the scope of the destruction, and the sadness and immense need left in its wake, or (2) the immediate  and enormous outpouring of generosity, love, and support from not only our community, but neighboring communities and even total strangers from around the country.

I met a family whose home was destroyed while their children, ages 14 and 9, were home alone.  The look in the little girl’s eyes reminded me of a startled animal.  She had lost all of her toys, but didn’t feel comfortable taking from the donated toys, not quite understanding that this was exactly what they were for.  My heart broke for this little girl who is far too young to have the illusion of safety in her own home permanently shattered.

 Another family was living out of a hotel, compliments of their insurance company, after the top half of their home was ripped away.  They were well insured, but didn’t have a lot of extra cash for unexpected needs.  You could tell they were not used to taking “handouts,” and it took some encouragement before they felt free to partake of the generosity of their neighbors.

Another family lived in a local apartment that was completely destroyed.  They lost everything.  They had no insurance, and no family in town.  The cots in the church gym would be their home for the foreseeable future.

These are just a few of the thousands of stories, many of which are far more tragic.

However, for every impacted person I met, I met 5 more who were giving of their time, energy, and resources to help.  I saw rooms filled from floor to ceiling with supplies, food, clothes, toys, and furniture donated practically overnight.  I saw scores of people volunteering their time to help with the logistics of such a relief effort.  Sure, some of these folks were friends, family, and neighbors of those directly impacted.  But many just heard that help was needed and came.

I met folks from other North Texas towns that had gone through something similar in years past and just wanted to help.  I met a team from Nechama, a Jewish disaster response team, that had flown in to help.  These were folks from New York, Iowa, and Minnesota – all young people with jobs of their own – who were called upon to go and help strangers in need, hundreds of miles away.  They gladly accepted the cot space that was offered just as gladly by a Christian church serving as a relief center.

I spoke with a youth minister who was exhausted from pulling overnight security duty at the church which stayed open 24/7 to help those in need.  He had a chance to chat with a young couple who said they had given up on “church and church folk” up until this disaster.  They went on to share how they have felt more loved in the past few days than they ever have in their life, and it made them want to give church – and God – another shot.

Another church worker shared stories of his childhood in war-torn Lebanon, and how amazed he was at the immediate response of the people, communities, and humanitarian organizations in the U.S. to these sorts of disasters.  He said that this simply was not the case where he came from.  It was every man or immediate family for themselves, and that you could be dying and your next door neighbors would not try to help you.

As I helped tear down and replace a damaged fence on the property line of a rural home that was completely destroyed, a man named Steve came up beside me and started to help.  He and I removed a good 150 yards of fence together.  I asked how he knew the homeowners, and he said he didn’t.  His wife had heard there was a need in the community (she didn’t know the homeowners either) and had suggested he help.  So he did.

When disasters like this strike, many will bow their heads in bewildered grief or lift their faces in accusation and ask the same question: why do bad things happen to good people?  There’s no easy answer to such a question.  But this weekend I began to catch a glimpse of what could be part of the answer, or at the very least, a silver lining.  Perhaps sometimes bad things happen to good people in order to awaken the good that might otherwise lay dormant within so many more.    Now that's a force that is absolutely worth awakening!

For so many of us, what we need most in life is to love others sacrificially.  But it takes a disaster -- a blatant undeniable need for such love and sacrifice -- to shock us out of our self-centered fog.  The very act of helping others to heal begins to heal what's broken inside of us.

 Perhaps sometimes bad things happen to good people in order to awaken the good that might otherwise lay dormant within so many more.

I drive around my hometown and see more destruction than I’ve ever seen before this close to home.  I also see more good being done by more people in my hometown that I have ever seen before.  Love and hope are palpable -- in the very air, it seems -- in ways I've never felt before.
May God comfort, restore, and bless all those impacted by these terrible storms, and all those who are giving of themselves to help.  And may the destructive force of a tornado awaken an even greater force of good people committed to serving others, here in my home town and beyond.

Monday, September 28, 2015

All These Things

Matthew 6:33 reads, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. " (NASB)  Most of us are familiar with this passage.  In context, the "things" Jesus is referring to are the daily needs that for many of us can be a source of anxiety.  Things like food, drink, clothing, shelter, etc.  Jesus is explaining to the crowd that has gathered to hear Him preach that such anxieties are ultimately symptoms of a lack of faith in God The Father, Who loves us more than anything else in all of Creation.  Like any loving father, our Heavenly Father wants to meet our needs, and we can trust Him to do so.

Beyond just a lack of faith, anxiety can come from a lack of understanding who God is.  If we don't know Him as "father" or "provider," or we do not understand that His very nature is love, then how can we trust Him in those ways?

Of course the Jews who were listening to Jesus preach understood what the Scriptures said about God, or at least they thought they did.  They knew the stories of God's love and provision for their ancestors.  But there were none alive who had experienced those events firsthand, and it had been 400 years since the last Prophet of God had walked among them.  Their land was occupied by a harsh, corrupt and godless enemy.  It must have been tough to have faith.  But there was evidence of God's character all around, and this is what Jesus exhorted them to see anew with fresh eyes: the birds of the air.  The lilies of the field.

A few days ago a good friend shared the following quote from Paul Washer on Facebook:
"A church ought to be seeker friendly, but the church ought to recognize there is only one Seeker. His name is God! - and if you want to be friendly to someone, if you want to accommodate someone, accommodate Him and His glory, even if it is rejected by everyone else."
After reading this, it occurred to me that the simple concept of seeking God first -- and His righteousness and His Kingdom -- while trusting Him to provide for all of the secondary needs can apply to more than just our anxieties about our daily physical needs.  It can be applied directly to our services of worship.

As church leaders, myself included, we are often so focused on and concerned about things that should be secondary, that we forget to put first things first.  So many congregations around the world, and especially in the U.S., strive to be "seeker friendly."  There are dozens if not scores of books and articles written on "seeker sensitivity" and how to build a "seeker service."  Essentially the "seeker service" makes the worship service an evangelism activity, a mission field within the walls of the church building.  The flip side of that coin is the "feed the flock" approach.  The idea here is that worship services are for church members, or at least for those who already have a relationship with God, and that evangelism -- reaching "seekers" -- should happen outside of that context.  We should always be polite and welcoming, the "feed the flock" proponent would say, but the focus is on those who already believe, teaching them and encouraging them; empowering them for the week ahead.

I respectfully submit to you that both of these approaches miss the mark.  We call our services "worship" services. Who is our worship for?  It's not for me.  It's not for you.  It's not even for someone "seeking" for God, truth, or some sort of greater meaning in life.  Our worship is for God.  Our services of worship should be for God.  Our focus should be on Him.  He alone deserves our praise, and worship.  All honor and glory are His.

Does this mean the flock goes unfed?  Of course not!  As we worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24), and we enter into His presence, how can we not be "fed?"  As we sing the very Words of Scripture, recite them together, hear them preached and expounded upon, how could we not be Spiritually nourished?  We're nourished out of the abundant overflow of our worship of our Living God!

When we focus on worshiping God, will the seeker fail to find what he's looking for?  Of course not!  He'll find exactly what his heart has been longing for all along: the palpable presence of a living God who inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3)!  He'll find love, acceptance, and fellowship in a body united in one purpose, the purpose for which we were all created: to worship the One True God.

If we focus on seekers, then God is not our primary our focus.  The flock goes unfed and God is robbed of at least a portion of the worship He is due.

If we focus on the flock, then God is not our primary focus.  The seeker feels like an alien: out of place, tolerated, but not quite welcome.  And God is robbed of at least a portion of the worship He is due.

But if we focus first on worshiping God (I would even suggest we focus only on worshiping God), God receives the full measure of worship that He is due (at least as much as we can give Him hindered by this flesh as we're spinning on this fallen globe).   And as we worship, the Spirit responds.  The flock is fed.  Seekers find what they are looking for.

When we seek Him first, all of the other "things" are added.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pretty Little, Deadly Little Lies

Our enemy is subtle.  The Bible describes him as a lion (1 Peter 5:8), and for good reason.  Lions will chase prey across an open savanna if they have to, but they prefer to use stealth, hunting at night or ambushing from the cover of tall grass.  This is why Peter admonishes us to be "alert and of sober mind."  One of the enemy's most insidious tactics is to mask his lies with the ring of truth so that they go unnoticed until they have taken root.  He takes advantage of our fallen human natures, playing on our sense of self-worth, our hunger for encouragement, our need to feel empowered.  If we're not careful, even well-meaning Believers can fall for these traps and end up boldly proclaiming lies that directly contradict the truth of God's Word, holding them up for all to see, and calling them "wisdom." 

Social media is full of such lies, often in pretty infographic format.  On the surface they can seem positive, and encouraging, but looks can be deceiving.  Remember the Turkish Delight the White Witch gave to Edward in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?  Satisfying and sweet to taste, but designed to keep Edward's mind off of his siblings and on the Witch.  And to keep him coming back for more.

Some recent examples I've seen:

1.  "You're enough.  You are so enough."  No, you're not.  But that's NOT bad news!  It's part of the Good News!  We were all created on purpose to be insufficient in ourselves, because God desires a relationship with us wherein He completes us.  God is our sufficiency.  God is more than enough (2 Cor 9), and we can do all things through Christ (the very Word of God) who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).  If we want to encourage others when they are feeling overwhelmed and insufficient, we should be pointing them to the One who is sufficient, and not back to themselves where they will eventually only find failure once again. 

We cannot underestimate how dangerous and destructive it is to tell someone that they have what they need to survive and succeed in and of themselves.  Apart from God we can do nothing! (John 15:5), and therein lies the diabolical nature of this lie.  There is no ability to do good in our flesh (Romans 7:18).  I cannot help but wonder how many suicides have been committed because a person at the end of their rope went back to the well of themselves for what they needed to go on, only to come up dry once again.  

But praise be to God that God's very name means "More Than Enough" (El Shaddai).  Let's point one another to the One who can give living water from which we can drink and never thirst again (John 4 & 7).  Let's point people not themselves, which can never be enough, but rather to El Shaddai, Who is always more than enough.

2.  "Follow your heart."  Really?  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that "the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."  Is that what we should be following?  Your heart will lie to you every time, and inevitably it will take you down a path of wickedness, because ultimately our hearts are selfish.  Our hearts, when left to their own devices, seek self-satisfaction and self-preservation.  Contrast this with God, who calls us to put others first, and risk our very lives for His sake and the sake of the Kingdom.  It is God's Spirit we need to listen to and follow.  Don't follow your heart, follow Christ!  Seek first after God, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness (Matthew 6:33). 

In fact God, Himself, is looking for people after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  Ironically, when we encourage someone to "follow their heart," it's usually because we want to help ease their sense of dissatisfaction.  But Scripture is clear that we are only truly satisfied when we seek God and His righteousness (Psalm 37:4, Psalm 16, 17, 63, Matthew 5:6, etc.). 

I could go on and on...hopefully you get the idea.  Do you see the subtlety of these lies?  Some reading this will undoubtedly say that I'm overreacting, and that these things I'm talking about are no big deal.  But they are a big deal.  Any time a lie that contradicts God's Truth is planted in a mind and points to self and away from God, it's a victory for the enemy and for humanism, and a step away from God on a path that leads to death.  God calls us to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).

I know that going forward, before I click "share" on that encouraging platitude with the pretty picture in the background, I'll ask myself: is this in line with God's Word?  Or does it "set itself up against the knowledge of God?"  And of course to be able to answer that question, I must be in God's Word daily, allowing the Holy Spirit to hide it my heart (Psalm 119:11) so that when I come across these, subtle, pretty lies I can stop and say, "Hey, now wait a minute..." :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cars, Marriage, and Hindsight

I think it's interesting how the faux pas of our youth (things we felt were pretty traumatic at the time) can become funny nostalgic tales years later, especially when extended family gather together ("...Remember that one time when you..." "...Yeah, that was hilarious!"). One of our family's favorites involves a '69 Olds Cutlass and my 19 year-old, scatterbrained self's complete lack of responsibility. I knew that the radiator cap seal was failing. I kept telling myself I needed to remember to pick up a new one (all of about $10 at Autozone back in '92). But I put it off. There was always something "better" to do with the $10. Like put gas in the tank. Or try and stretch it into a (very) cheap date.

Cut to one day in the heat of summer in Tucson, AZ, in stop & go traffic on I-10. Engine starts to overheat, and I'm about a mile from the next exit, going about 10 mph at best. I turn on the heater full blast in an effort to siphon some of the heat away from the engine. Steam is pouring from under the hood. Finally the engine dies. I manage to roll out of traffic to the shoulder. When my Dad shows up to tow me home, we find that the engine had gotten so hot that the spark plugs had melted and fused to the engine block! My beloved car was toast. I ended up taking $50 for the salvage yard to take it off my hands. :(

If I had just spent the $10 lousy dollars the first time I realized the radiator cap was failing, I could very well still have that car. Or at least driven it for a few more years and gotten more than $50 when I finally let it go. I say I loved that car. But did I really? I had (still have) affection for it when I take the time to think about that. But honestly, if I really loved the car wouldn't I have replaced the radiator cap? Wouldn't I have taken better care of it, if I really loved it? Love, after all, is proven by action, not words or even emotions. Love is a verb. It's something you do. If you do nothing, you do not love.

What's my point? Waiting until someone brings up divorce before getting marriage counseling is like waiting until your engine has caught on fire before deciding to replace a faulty radiator cap. Barring a miracle, it's too late. Do you love your spouse? Do you value your marriage? Do you love your kids enough that you do not want to fracture the fundamental core of their sense of security and well-being, namely the belief that mommy and daddy love each other and will always be there as an unbreakable unit? If so, pour into it NOW. Take action NOW, demonstrate your love for the one you said you wanted to share your life with -- become One Flesh with -- NOW, before it's melted, seized up, and only good for the junkyard.

Attend a marriage seminar or retreat NOW, while things are good or at the very earliest signs that maybe they are not as good as you thought. Pray together NOW. Seek out counseling NOW and equip yourself to be a good husband or wife NOW so you can avoid disaster. Lay aside your needs, expectations, and distractions and focus on your spouse's needs and desires without any agenda other than loving them. Are you questioning your spouse's love for you? Start showering them with reasons to love you and watch what happens!

Most importantly, enlist the help of God and the power of the Holy Spirit NOW to help you do what you cannot do on your own, which is to place your spouses needs before your own EVERY DAY with no strings attached, and trust that he or she will do the same for you.

Take action now. Because the last thing you any of us want to add to our list of youthful mistakes is "marriage."  And unlike cautionary tales of teenage car trouble, stories of divorce, betrayal, heartache, shame, and broken families aren't nearly as amusing at family gatherings.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Grace at Thanksgiving

As many of you know, our family attends Freedom Place Church in Rowlett, TX.  Pastor Kason Huddleston is in the middle of a sermon series called "ThanksLiving,"  teaching us how to live a more grateful life according to God's Word.  The image above has been the primary graphic for this series.

During the service this past Sunday I found myself examining the image while listening to the message.  As I read the words for "thanks" in the various languages, immediately the words from the Western European Romance languages with which I am most familiar jumped off of the page:  "Gracias."  "Grazie."  "Merci."  These words reminded me of "grace" and "mercy," and of course our own English synonyms for "thanks": "gratitude" and "grateful."

Suddenly an idea that I've probably understood abstractly on one level or another all my life solidified in my mind: Giving thanks -- gratitude -- is inextricably tied to the concepts of grace and mercy.

A quick etymological study (thanks, Google!) bears this out.  Our English words "grateful," "gratitude," "grace," and "gracious" all have the same Latin root: "Gratus," meaning "pleasing" or "thankful."  The Spanish and Italian words for "thank you" ("gracias" and "grazie" respectively) also have this same Latin origin.  The concept of grace in a Christian sense is the free and unmerited favor of God.  The natural response to receiving unmerited favor is, of course, gratitude.  Thanksgiving.

"Merci," the French word for "thanks," yields another interesting dimension.  Obviously this word looks much like our English word "Mercy."  This is because these two words also share a common Latin origin: "merces," which can mean both "reward" and "pity."  Again, the Christian application of the concept of "mercy" makes sense in light of this etymological origin.  God's Mercy is the granting of an undeserved reward.  He takes pity on us and shows us mercy.  The Father's sending of His only begotten Son to take the punishment for our sin is mercy of the highest order.  And as with grace, what is the natural response to such mercy?  Thanksgiving, of course!  Immeasurable gratitude.

We are the most thankful when we receive grace and mercy.  Showing gratitude to others is extending either grace or mercy.  We're expressing our appreciation of either something that was done that did not have to be done, or perhaps for withholding a consequence that we earned.   But sometimes it can be tough to remember to show gratitude to others, especially in the midst of our busy, workaday lives when we're buffeted to and fro by our own emotions.  The key is tapping a source for gratitude that does not rely upon our circumstances or our emotions.  I believe that the gratitude we give others need not be based on grace or mercy we've received from the person we are thanking, but instead it can be something we are "paying forward" in response to the grace and mercy God has shown us.

Meditating on the grace and mercy we have received from God through Christ will soften us and produce a thankful heart that overflows in the form of gratitude we extend to others. Paul put it like this: "I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:4).  Paul gave thanks for others not because of anything they themselves had done, but rather because of the grace given in Christ, a grace in which both he and the members of the Church in Corinth shared.

This Thanksgiving season I am going to be more intentional about thanking God for the grace and mercy He has shown me, meditating on it, and then letting it overflow in the form of a spirit of gratitude toward those around me.

Here's one other interesting dimension to "thanksgiving" that came up as I processed this whole idea.  As I studied the topic of "thanksgiving" in Scripture, I discovered something very interesting.  In the Old Testament the Jews were supposed to bring several types of offerings to the Tabernacle under Levitical law.  There were "Guilt Offerings" and there were "Fellowship Offerings."  The Fellowship Offerings were given primarily for (can you guess?)...Thanksgiving!  And what exactly was offered as the primary element in a Fellowship Offering of Thanksgiving?  Meat!  So later this month, as you gather in fellowship with your family to tuck in to some meat, maybe contemplate a little more what it means to truly live a life of thanksgiving, a life of gratitude extended to others not for what they have done for or given to us, but because of what God has done for and given to us all.

Our Thanksgiving holiday in America is centered largely around food.   Most of us say a prayer at the table before we eat our Thanksgiving meal, even in families that don't make a habit of prayer before meals at other times of the year.  What do most of us call this prayer?  "Grace."  Now more than ever I understand why.

God bless.