Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Category: Gratitude (Page 1 of 2)

Counting Blessings?

You’ve probably seen this question on social media: “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

The question has two obvious purposes. First, it’s designed to help us think about the vastness of God’s blessings. We get so much from him it’s hard to enumerate. Second, it’s designed to help us thank God. If we can begin to grasp the magnitude and multitude of God’s blessings, how can we not pause and give him thanks?

Having said that, the question works only so far for two reasons. First, we’re all sinners. As sinners, even our exercises in gratitude may be tainted and limited. Because of my sins and weaknesses, I sometimes fail to see all that God’s done for me. Even when I try, I’m frustrated by my inability to enumerate and articulate his goodness toward me.

Second – and this is the most important thing – we simply CANNOT match God blessing for blessing. We CANNOT possibly keep up with all that he’s done for us. 

The most obvious reason is that God’s blessings are too numerous. A favorite hymn urges us to do the impossible anyway: “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” Not that we shouldn’t try to do it, but good luck with that! Another reason is that God often (and deliberately) blesses us in quiet ways, in ways he may not want us to fully grasp. The psalmist said, “For he gives to his beloved, even in sleep” (Psalm 127.2). In the midst of my nightly dozing, snoozing, and snoring, God is at work refilling my tank.

Behind all of this is the reality of God’s greatness. We CANNOT out-think him, outsmart him, outdo him, out-ask him. The apostle Paul said, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3.20-21).

So, when you wake up in the mornings, count your blessings. Give thanks. But don’t be surprised when your blessings always exceed your expectations and outpace your ability to recall them. God fully intends it that way.


Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thomas Ken, 1674

These lyrics are from perhaps the most ubiquitous of all English language hymns. The title is sometimes listed as its first line, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” and sometimes as “Doxology.” 

It was written in 1674 by Thomas Ken, a bishop in the Church of England. It was apparently part of his Manual of Prayers for Winchester Scholars. According to, the song has appeared in over 1200 hymnals. 

Its appeal is obvious. It’s an invitation for all sentient creatures in heaven and on earth to praise God for his innumerable blessings. This doxological hymn accomplishes this simply and effectively.

Thinking about this doxology reminded me of Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 3.20-21 (NASB95): “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Rather than discuss or analyze this text, I want to show how Paul builds upon a single idea to help us appreciate God’s resources and generosity. I’ll do this by building this doxology thought by thought. This isn’t an attempt at grammatical analysis, but rather an attempt to unfold Paul’s thinking about God’s blessings upon us.

  • He [God] is able.
  • He is able to do.
  • He is able to do what we ask.
  • He is able to do what we ask or think.
  • He is able to do all that we ask or think.
  • He is able to do beyond all that we ask or think.
  • He is able to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.
  • He is able to do more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.
  • He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory in the church.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever.
  • To him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.

We can’t out-ask God. We can’t out-think God. We can only be grateful and glorify him.


2023 ABCs of Thanksgiving

A – Assurance of salvation

B – Body of Christ

C – Coca Cola

D – Dark chocolate

E – Eutychus (sometimes preaching will put you to sleep)

F – Fall weather

G – Grands: Morgan, Carter, Rowan, Abby, Millie

H – Hope of heaven

I – Integrity (little seen, little appreciated)

J – Joy of the Lord

K – Kids & spouses: Hannah & Alex, Nate & Brittney, Esther & John

L – Lists (I live and die by them)

M – Merino wool

N – Never alone in Christ

O – Onward Christian Soldiers!

P – Prayer

Q – Quiet wooded walks with Alethea

R – Redemption’s sweet song

S – Skagen watches

T – Trinity: Father, Son & Spirit

U – Upward call of Christ

V – Vitameatavegamin

W – Word of God

X – Xtra food at Thanksgiving

Y – Yoko the cat

Z – Zaccheus (Jesus doesn’t care about or your past)

Who Helped You?

The late Thurgood Marshall, who served on the US Supreme Court for 24 years, once said, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody — a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns — bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

Much of our success — financial, career, educational, spiritual, relational — comes from the contributions of others. Think of all the ways others have helped us: A word of encouragement; money; a timely rebuke; a shortcut; a recipe; an idea; standing behind us when nobody else would; forgiveness; a hug; a place to stay; food; a recommendation; a tool; a gift; a scholarship; a freebie. We can’t begin to count all the ways in which others have helped us. 

Two responses are demanded by the kindness and generosity of others. 

First, we should be humble toward those who help us. Sometimes humility means that we allow others to help us. Some of us are too proud ever let anyone help us. There’s nothing good about that kind of pride. Sometimes humility means that we acknowledge what they’ve done for us. A simple “Thank You” is a powerful way to recognize the one who gave us the gift, and to recognize our heavenly Father for channeling his gifts through others.

The second response is that we should try to help others. If we’ve received grace, we must extend it. The apostle Paul had this in mind we he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1.3-4). If we’ve been comforted, we should offer comfort.

He enlarges upon this concept in Colossians 3.12-13 when he says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other. Whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

As modern Americans we tend toward proud self-sufficiency. As Christians, we tend toward gratitude, humility, and generosity. May God help us remember who helped us.

Robbery & Gratitude

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) was a British nonconformist minister. He was highly respected, both then and now. His six-volume commentary on the Bible written and published from 1708-1710 remains popular even today. 

One night Henry was robbed as he was out walking. Later that night in his prayer journal he wrote, “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” 

If I were robbed, I’m not so sure I’d be that gracious in my prayers. I’d more likely be quoting Psalm 58.6, where David prayed, “Break their teeth, O God!” (KJV)

Nonetheless, my first impression of Matthew Henry’s prayer of gratitude is its perspective. He acknowledged that he’d never had such an experience. He acknowledged that the crime could have been much worse. He acknowledged that his loss was minimal. Finally, he acknowledged that being robbed is fundamentally different from being a robber.

What I appreciate most about Henry’s prayer is its sense of priority. In keeping a sense of thankfulness, he also kept his priorities intact. Gratitude keeps things in perspective. Too often we complain about the silliest things, things that aren’t worth the worry, things that reveal where our hearts really are. Jesus was talking about priorities when he said, “For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6.21). 

The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.4-7). 

You may one day be robbed of your money. You may be robbed of your possessions. You may be robbed of your health, or your job, or your relationships. You may lose a little or a lot. 

But don’t let anyone or anything rob you of your joy, gratitude, and peace in Jesus Christ. That’s one thing none of us can afford to lose.

Your Happy Place

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. 
Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute 
with love, grace and gratitude.”

Denis Waitley

Waitley is a popular, long-time motivational speaker and writer. I remember attending a “Seeds of Greatness” seminar in college sponsored by his organization. If memory serves me correctly, I think his Seeds of Greatness was the first motivational book I ever bought.

His quotation is a good starting point for thinking about happiness. First, happiness isn’t a thing. It’s not something apart from us that we go and get. It’s not something to be purchased or acquired or traded. 

Second, as Waitley says, it’s a “spiritual experience”. Happiness is the melding of our experiences and our beliefs. Whatever we experience: good things or bad, success or failure, sickness or health, wealth or poverty, good relationships or bad, all of these are shaped by our belief system. Happiness is looking at our experiences in a biblical and constructive way.

Third, Waitley notes that happiness requires “love, grace and gratitude.” Biblically speaking, we are recipients of the first two, and cultivators of the last one. Regarding love and grace, the apostle Paul said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13.14). If we receive love and grace, we must learn to extend love and grace if we want to find this thing called happiness.

Regarding gratitude, Paul also said, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18). In other words, gratitude is a choice, and an action, and a frame of mind that’s cultivated by means of our relationship to God in Christ. 

We often speak of our “happy place.” Happiness isn’t so much a place as it is a way of thinking. With the right frame of mind, you can be in your “happy place” no matter where you are.


These days, hearing someone say the word “awesome” is neither newsworthy nor alarming. I routinely hear teens, young adults, and even older adults use the word. 

In our culture EVERYTHING has become awesome. New shoes are awesome. Cheesecake is awesome. Mobile phones, tablets, and TVs are awesome. Slam dunks are awesome. Actors, actresses, and athletes are awesome. Mani-pedis are awesome, as are new hair styles, tats, and piercings. A new ride, a new job, or a new purse are all awesome. 

But that’s the problem. If EVERYTHING is awesome, then NOTHING is awesome. The word becomes meaningless noise. 

The word “awesome” means to inspire awe, apprehension, or fear. “Awe” is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear, produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.

If awesomeness is about fear, reverence, power, and grandiosity, then it immediately disqualifies things like actors, athletes, TVs, phones, shoes, cheesecake, and other lesser things. They may be clever, exciting, tasty, useful, neat, or skillful, but they’re not awesome.

When our youngest daughter was nine, she was watching TV downstairs. Every few minutes or so, we’d hear her say, “Awesome!” She was watching a show about the wonders of nature. Little did she know it, but her response was precisely what “awe” is all about – a profound, overwhelming sense of reverence, admiration; a sense that one is in the presence of something far greater than self; a sense that this is truly unique and extraordinary. Only an awesome God can make an awesome world full of awesome creatures.

One song says, “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.” Moses said: “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exodus 15.11) The writer of Hebrews said, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12.28).

As you go about your affairs today, take a moment to ponder this magnificent and AWESOME world around us that was made by our AWESOME God. If that doesn’t move you, nothing will.

The End of Gratitude

No, I’m not talking about the cessation of gratitude. I’m talking about the result or outcome of being grateful.

What got me thinking about this was a quotation from motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy. He said, “Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Hermit that I am, I’d never heard of Brian Tracy before running across this quotation. Somewhere on Tracy’s website he’s described as a “Best Selling Author and Professional Speaker” — the words were capitalized, so apparently, he views this a title, or perhaps he’s German. His website is all about business success. 

In an article about the “Principles of Self-Management” he says, “Everything you are or ever will be is entirely up to you.” 

Now I agree that all of us need to be accountable for our decisions, actions, and lives. However, I’ve learned that many things in life are entirely beyond my control. I can’t control some aspects of my health. I can’t control some aspects of my relationships. I can’t control how other treat me. In fact, I’ve often been helped simply by the good graces of others. Obviously, Tracy is the classic “self-made man” and encourages others to take the same approach.

I see his quotation on gratitude in much the same way. He views gratitude as a tool for reaching his goals and achieving success. The idea that gratitude is all about “bigger and better” is a worldly view, not a Biblical view. Solomon said, “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it” (Proverbs 15.16). The apostle Paul said, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6.8).  Gratitude says that I’m happy AND I don’t need more! The Lord may see fit to bless me with more, but if he doesn’t, that won’t change my level of happiness and gratitude.

In other words, the end of gratitude is not having more, doing more, being more. The end of gratitude is contentment.

Can you be happy right where you are?

The Joy of the Lord

Then [Nehemiah] said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8.10)

When you have nothing else, you have the Lord. In this is joy.

When Nehemiah gave this admonition to the Israelites, it was after 70 years of exile. It was after generations of disobedience against the Lord. It was after their holy city had been razed, their homes destroyed, their dignity crushed, their humiliation complete. When all was taken away, they still had the Lord. This was their joy.

It was by sheer grace that the Lord allowed them to return to the land and restore their national life. Granted, there were some who were still dissatisfied. The prophet Haggai cautioned those who pined for “the good old days” (Haggai 2.3). He promised that whatever glory they thought they remembered would be eclipsed by an even greater glory from the Lord (Haggai 2.9). The text in Nehemiah showed a people overwhelmed by fresh memories of their sins. But even more they were overwhelmed by fresh compassion from the Lord.

The noun “joy” occurs about 180 times in the Bible. The verb “rejoice” occurs about 230 times in the Bible. Joy isn’t just something we have, it’s something we do. When God tells us to rejoice, it’s not a suggestion, it’s a command! This tells us that joy and rejoicing are choices we make about our lives. We choose whether or not we’ll have joy.

I might have expected Nehemiah to say that the strength of God is our joy, but he reversed that: the joy of the Lord is our strength. What Nehemiah was saying is that grace precedes strength. We draw strength as we contemplate and appreciate the good things God has done for us. 

So, if you have been blessed by God, rejoice! If God has taken care of your needs, rejoice! If God has helped you through a hard place, rejoice! If God has comforted you when nothing else could, rejoice! If God has chastened you to bring you back to him, rejoice! 

And as you rejoice, you’ll be stronger for whatever obstacles and challenges ahead of you. 

God’s people have every reason for joy every day. So, for today, do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

Silent Gratitude

G B Stern said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

While thankfulness begins in the heart, it must at some point, proceed to the mouth. The two problems that most often thwart thankfulness are thoughtlessness and silence. Thoughtlessness prevents us from properly reflecting on our abundance and its source. Silence blunts our influence by leaving the impression upon others that we simply don’t care about what we’ve been given.

Of the two problems, thoughtlessness is the most difficult to resolve. Changing your mental habits is always hard, since thoughtlessness requires that we look outward and upward. 

But silence has its own challenges. We must get into a habit of speaking up in the presence of others. We must get past our shyness or embarrassment or reluctance and tell others, “Yes, I’m blessed!”

Hebrews 13.15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Today, tell someone how thankful you are and why.

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