One Thousand Gifts | Week 5

Our Bible Cafe™ study about gratitude is complete. Congratulations on finishing the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I hope you enjoyed this online Bible study as much as I did. I enjoyed the story of transformation.

How do you feel about being “a flame to light other flames?” For the time I was a young girl I have felt called to be a flame lighting flames. It’s a natural instinct, not a learned trait. And it comes from loving and living in the Presence of God.

Ann Voskamp counted her gifts over months and years. In our study, we have been counting just five weeks. I find the gratitude journal a form of self-care, something I often resist or delay until I am too tired. So ongoing self-care and gratitude are beautiful gifts. A reflection of God working in my life.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:18-19 NLT

I like how Ann Voskamp was reminding us chapter by chapter about her struggle with anger and patience (sinful nature). Scripture says:  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway (paraphrase). The first step is to recognize when the sinful nature (anger, lack of patience, resentment, unforgiveness) is spewing from my heart. The second step is to take this to the prayer room and confess, then correct me.

Bible study tip: Using BlueLetterBible.org look up the original meaning of the word “wrong” so you have a CLEAR understanding

Write that down (Strong’s G2556): of a bad nature; not such as it ought to be; of a mode of thinking, feeling, acting; base, wrong, wicked: troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful.

So now you have a MAP of what is wrong or evil. And then a remedy and application will follow. I want to encourage you to research KEYWORDS in Bible verses/ Make sure you understand the original language and meaning… not your own /modern interpretation of the word.

Those who are dominated by sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. Romans 8:5 

 If the original meaning of “wrong” is “unjust, dishonest, immoral” then what are the opposite words? This is HOW you know you are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

We can surrender to these things: good or evil.

We can surrender to integrity or dishonesty.

We can surrender to lies or Truth.

Jesus taught us to surrender to the Holy Spirit, not to the religious spirit, political spirit, or fleshly spirit.

So we can see how we are all sinful by nature and yet also agrees we can change our sinful nature WITH CHRIST. Study the writing of Paul in your Bible, as an eyewitness of change.

As we conclude the study Ann Voskamp writes, “Serving Christ becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.” How are you serving Christ or how do you hope to serve Him soon? We serve Christ when we STOP being self-serving. We serve Christ when we STOP living as entitled people. We serve Christ when we tithe two coins WITHOUT complaint.

Mark 12:42 New International Version (NIV) But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Some of us are serving our gods and idols. We use our two coins for our selfish things. Or we hold tight to our two coins because we are afraid God does not have ENOUGH to replace them for us (poverty mindsets). The Bible says we cannot serve both money and God. Holding our two coins is serving the “money god” and not the God of hope, peace, love, and faith.

Luke 16:13 New International Version (NIV) “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Read Hebrews 13:6. Knowing the Lord is your helper, what is something you can accomplish?

(NLT) So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

(MSG) Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

With the Lord as my Helper, I can accomplish what He desires for my life. I can disciple others, convict others, lead others to Jesus, and walk this side of eternity as a Friend of Jesus. Have you ever tested your ability to trust God and overcome fear?

Let Jesus lead you.

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

 

One Thousand Gifts | Week 4

Welcome back to the Bible Cafe™ for a gratitude study. We’re continuing to read the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Since starting this online Bible study, we have seen a beautiful transformation in the book. The author is demonstrating her exceptional writing skills and her “voice” has moved from dark to Light.  This is similar to how the Book of Psalms is written. It is both poetic and beautiful.

In Luke 21:14 (NLT) Jesus instructs “Don’t worry in advance…” In Luke 12:25 (NIV) Jesus says, “Worry cannot add a single hour to your life.” In Matthew 6:34 (NIV) Jesus says, “Why worry about tomorrow.” Ann Voskamp conquers worry by giving thanks.

I like how Ann Voskamp puts a name on this: “the affliction of worry.” Because worry can become so comfortable, we do not realize we are projecting this in our words and actions.

Worry becomes an identity of the flesh (worldview). Not the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Worry travels wherever we go. We bring worry to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the vacation, and the holiday meal. We wear the worry affliction like a wound. By reading our Bible and by taking our EYES off worry- we become more like Christ and less like the world.

Every day from the time we open our eyes to the time we fall asleep- we battle our mindset! Use Scripture for your battles, not your past or present experiences. Some of us were raised to be worriers. We learned this from parents or grandparents so it “feels normal” As we transform through Bible study we look less and less like the generation before us. And more like Christ in us.

Through Bible Cafe™ studies, I learned to adhere to God and to remember I am called, chosen, beloved, and blessed. And so I am walking in His truth and love. Guarding my mind. Staying out of the lion’s den where I may be tempted towards a pity party. Keeping a pure heart as I feed myself on Good News.

Open your Bible to Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) and Acts 4:31 (MSG).

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11:1 NIV)

While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence. (Acts 4:31 MSG)

Fearless confidence is anchored in Christ. It’s not a people-pleasing confidence. It’s not competitive confidence. And it’s certainly not perfectionist confidence. Break free my friends, Break free!!!

In the pandemic…God has shown me NOT to be confident in so many things! The news, the government, the politicians, and even some of the church leaders and authors. My confidence is rooted 100% in Christ.

Can you speak Grace when your politician wins (or does not win)?

Can you speak to Grace when your hair salon is closed (or open during a pandemic)?

Can you speak to Grace when your church modifies the Christmas service (or does not)?

Can you speak Grace when someone is frightened by covid (or not)?

Too many people are speaking without grace. So the atmosphere is saturated with an uncomfortable “stench” this year.

To speak with grace is to speak in LOVE

My friend, this is your year of speaking Grace (or not). Did you pass the test? There’s still time to grow and learn.

My gratitude journal is the antidote to everything! When I pick up the Thanksgiving heart… I release the attitude of worry!  Bigger things lead us into the comparison trap. Smaller things help us see our individuality.

Ann Voskamp writes, “I can’t be receptive to God unless I receive what He gives.” During the year pandemic, there were many things I was not “receptive” to receiving. Yet they came along, and so we modified our family activities and continued to seek God. As misery lingers… so does grace.

Maybe this strengthens my faith and gives me hope.

As we anchor to Christ in the storm(s) of life, we magnify Christ.

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

 

One Thousand Gifts | Week 3

Our Bible Cafe™ study about gratitude is very popular! We’re using the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp for this online Bible study. For this online Bible study, we are practicing gratitude and counting blessings- our daily gifts!

Sometimes our gratitude journal is buried under a mess and nothing is counted today. What are some ideas to help overcome resistance to counting gifts? I like that Ann Voskamp writes about the resistance in a positive way! If we do not bring this to the surface, we might fall into a comparison trap or a sense of “I failed gratitude.” It helps to understand this is a learned habit, and there are challenges and resistance to it.

What has helped me is DATING the journal. Not just numbers, actual dates. So I can look at the journal and ask myself “Was I grateful TODAY?” I keep the journal on a table beside me so I can use it often. Some dates have five things, and some might just have one. I am fine with this…as long as I remind myself to PICK IT UP daily. Don’t hide my journal.

Gratitude journals are witness journals! We come to witness the goodness of God. In my human nature (worldview), I wanted to witness my loss. I did not see my family for Thanksgiving during the pandemic. Instead of witnessing loss, I relied on the Holy Spirit to witness a new holiday. Different for me, and new.

In my human nature (worldview) I wanted to witness resentment for others who were able to celebrate at the table. Instead, through the Holy Spirit, I witnessed the new holiday. Different for me, and new.

As we learned in reading the two chapters of the book this week…. sometimes we need to STRETCH ourselves to see those gifts! beyond the human vision and into the Holy Spirit’s vision.

Ann Voskamp writes, “Every moment I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down to something else.” What if, for every hour of television you gave an equal amount of time to God? Listen to a sermon for an hour, watch a teaching video from a Christian author, etc.

YOU BECOME THE IMAGE OF THE THING YOU SPEND THE MOST TIME WITH.

There is something called “executive presence” in business terms. It’s a behavior and attitude developed from spending time with other big thinkers and executives. So, friends, you become more like the characters you watch on TV, The books you read, and the music you hear. If you want a “Godly presence,” spend time with GOD.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 NIV)

The Living God… that is where I saturate myself each day.

Do I live in the house of the Lord,…or the house of Facebook?

Do I live in the house of the Lord…or the house of Netflix?

Do I live in the house of the Lord…or the house of CNN, FOX, and news houses?

Friends… stop living in the house of the enemy of GOD!

We need to stop living a worldview that says “This show is okay, it’s popular and my friends approve of it.” Does GOD approve of that show? Meditate on His values.

To live a REVIVAL life, we need to stop living like the world. We need to have eyes open to SEE through the heart of the Holy Spirit “in me.” There is no shame in this… You will get there. You will gradually adopt a lifestyle that magnifies Christ in you. The character of Christ in you. Meditate on the Word of God, as you are doing. His Word is transforming.

Open your Bible and look at Genesis 21:19 (NLT) Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.

Like Hagar, we can have eyes on bitterness, resentment, fear, or anger. But having eyes on the blessings of God… is a small yet powerful transformation we can each practice daily! When Hagar SAW….she QUICKLY filled up with her spiritual water! It takes FAITH to see.

In Genesis 32:24-26 Jacob wrestles with a man, is injured by God, and asks for a blessing after the match. In Job 42:10, the Lord blesses Job with more than he had before his match. The blessing is a reminder of God’s victory over darkness! MY blessing is MY reminder of God’s victory over MY darkness!

You will go through battles. You can go alone (worldview) or go through them with Jesus (Biblical view). We are not entitled to a blessing but it sure feels GREAT when we receive them!!! Our blessings should never motivate us to do good work. Our LOVE is what motivates us to obey.

Let’s obey God today!

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

 

One Thousand Gifts | Week 2

We’re on week three of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. As we practice gratitude for this online Bible study, let me thank each of you for your continued participation. Be blessed! In this online Bible study, we are growing in wisdom and friendship.

During the week I was feeling frustrated. Instead of putting eyes on my disappointment, I pulled up my gratitude journal and started intentionally looking for good things. It was a great experience! My frustration turned into a blessing.

Ann Voskamp writes, “Life is so urgent that it necessitates living slow.” During the pandemic, many of us adapted to being sheltered at home. We did not get on busy freeways and wrestled to get to our jobs on time. There were no rushing kids to events and activities. For me, it seemed my turtle shell pace seems felt “normal” as I started living slowly.

Ingratitude and gratitude are opposites. So when I am ungrateful, I am busy making excuses for my misery. When I am thankful, I am observing the stillness of God and I experience a Psalm 23 peace. Yes, I can feel peace in a pandemic and a storm. But only when Christ is with me.

Ingratitude demands “notice me and my needs.” The transformed woman with Christ in me says “Notice God and walk with Jesus”

This week I learned to slow down. I started enjoying the sunlight of my garden, taking walks to the beach, and playing UNO with my husband and kids. Blissfully, I am playing Christian instrumental music and journaling.

Ann Voskamp writes, “I only notice because I am looking for this…I am a hunter of beauty.” If we are not looking for God’s gifts, what are we looking for instead? Sometimes people are hunting for the offense. They walk through life seeking reasons to be mad. It is a sad worldview.

As we study the Biblical view we learn to persevere, learn, and transform. The spiritual weapons of Satan are deceit, distraction, discouragement, and disappointment. Do you ever wonder how much free time you had “before facebook? Do you ever wonder how much free time you had “before the smartphone?” These are modern distractions.

You can be intentional to limit distractions. Take Facebook off your phone. Make it harder to access…. so you have to sit at the desk, on a computer. Otherwise, you are traveling through the social network… ALL THE TIME.

In my Zoom groups for the Bible Cafe, some of the women have shared the good things from the pandemic. This helped me see what I was not seeing… the daughter home from college, the neighbors making scones, the laughter as we bond together over TP shortages… these are the memories I want to treasure most.

It is easier to see the ugliness of the pandemic- the worldview lens. The Bible tells me to look for that narrow needle… not the easy view.

Matthew 19:24 New International Version (NIV) “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

In times of difficulty writing out Bible verses on a card is helpful. I would like to see a stack of Bible verse cards… “How I Survived a Pandemic and Shutdown” with verses of strength, hope, unity, and peace.

There are benefits and disadvantages to the Biblical lens. A benefit is seeing through the heart of God. A disadvantage is people misunderstanding or judging what you see and say. When the lens is cloudy, you start to live in a worldview. You adjust your lens to be LIKED or APPROVED by the world, the narratives, and the winning teams. And you miss the heart of God. The cloudy lens says you are entitled, you deserve, and you are a victim of life. So you make decisions based on this worldview.

How do we clean the lens of the heart?

Confession, repenting, giving thanks, and prayer. DAILY.

Not just crisis-only Christianity.

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.

 

One Thousand Gifts | Week 1

Join us at the Bible Cafe™ for a study about gratitude. We’re using the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp for this online Bible study. For this online Bible study, read two easy chapters and join a small group.

What is the meaning of your name? Do you feel you are living up to that meaning? My last name means ‘friend of God” and yes, I do feel that has been something I treasure today. Years ago as a prodigal, I was not living up to my name.

There are many stories in Scripture where God changes a name to reflect a new identity or calling. I find this fascinating! Original names may not be intended meanings.

Do not obsess over your name meaning, do not compare name meanings. The point is to realize we “identify” with something. We identify by our names. Not our troubles and miseries.

Reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp we learned how the death of Ann’s sister triggered a season of unbelief. Perhaps now you can look back on your own life and see how the enemy of God attacks or derails us. A strong faith can resist these attacks. We strengthen our faith through regular Bible study.

When we are not learning from our Bible, we are forced to learn from the world views. And a popular worldview today is the acceptance of resenting others. The worldview says I am entitled to be angry. The worldview says I am entitled to be resentful. The worldview says I am entitled to be offended. Yet friends…do I want to live as an offended religious Pharisee with a worldview mindset? Or do I want the character of Christ!!!

Offense, anger, fear, and resentment are CHOICES.

Living in the fullness of Christ- with gratitude and JOY- is a CHOICE.

I can pick up my pen of offense. I can pick up my heart of the offense. I can pick up my mindset of fear. BUT I CHOOSE NOT TO. I deny myself these worldviews. Just as Christ does at the cross.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Why is it difficult to be thankful when we are going through hard times?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)

Being thankful OPENS MY EYES!!!

Psalm 119:18 NIV says “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Worldview: Walk around with eyes open to see____? News, lies, offense, anger, hate, division.

Biblical view: Walk around with eyes open to see____? Truth, peace, love, kindness, unity, hope, faith, and joy.

Your biggest challenge, your assignment, is to see the world with the EYES OF CHRIST. Stop seeing what the world around you sees.

Your “narrative” should be the narrative of Scripture. Nothing else.

Your Truth should be the Truth of Scripture. Jesus says many times. I tell you the Truth!! Even the religious leaders (Pharisees) were telling lies.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp started as a dare, the beginning of a list season. It started on the backside of scrap paper. Could you write down one thousand things you love? I am fascinated by the “dare.” Do I love a thousand things? Probably. Do I remember them daily? No. So writing them down- pen to paper- puts treasures into a journal.

Since we started last week, I find it helpful to keep my journal on the table beside me. Not hidden under a project list. Not sitting near my work. For me, it needs to be a “gift” and not a chore.

After counting one thousand gifts, Ann Voskamp transformed from “ungrateful and entitled” to “grateful and blessed.” This reminds me of God’s purpose and will. Who am I…to edit HIS script??? Contentment is in the daily. Not in the past, and not in the future.

Martin Luther writes, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen.” Ann Voskamp testifies, “Picking up a pen isn’t painful, and ink can be cheap medicine.”

Do you believe you can make a difference in your life by writing down gratitudes? During the pandemic, I was tempted to see the emptiness of the year, the frustrations, the sadness of it all. Picking up the pen kept my heart on the good things of God! I am not walking through a field of daisies, head in the clouds, and ignorant of the struggles. Rather, when I walk in my “field” I make sure Jesus walks beside me so I can get to the other side.

Let’s continue our journey of gratitude.

Christine Abraham writes for the Bible Cafe™ community. Learn about living by the Fruit of the Spirit as you enjoy her online Bible studies. Join Christine at the Bible Cafe™ University for weekly Bible teaching.