The Importance of Gratitude

What difference does it make to give thanks? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I always had a problem with this when I was growing up. My grandmother was one of those people big into manners. Whenever I got a gift, she would tell me to say thank you in a voice I look back on as patronizing. Being the kind of kid I was, it left me instead wanting to not say that to people.

That has “thankfully” changed.

Last night, I was doing some reading in a book called Time and Despondency. It’s a book on dealing with what we would call depression from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, but if you’re Protestant or Catholic, you’ll still get a lot out of it. The author talked about hearing a message from a Catholic who struggled all his life with major depression. He was asked once what a sign is that he would be entering depression again. His response was surprising.

Lack of gratitude.

The author then goes on to talk about how the Bible doesn’t really say to be thankful as much as it does to give thanks. It tells us to do the action. “But I don’t feel thankful right now.” So what? If you act only when you feel like it, that doesn’t merit you anything. The reality is you have to act contrary to your feelings.

I can attest to this in my own personal life. When I am depressed over something, I am not really grateful for anything. I look out the window and see the sky and the trees and the birds and people going about their lives and cats and dogs in our apartment complex and think “Who cares?” When something happens that changes my attitude, I look at those items differently. Has anything in the world itself changed? No. I have changed. That is the difference.

Many of you know that my wife Allie is in a facility now receiving in-depth therapy and medical treatment for BPD. It is my hopes she comes out of this a whole new woman. If you want to contribute to her ongoing fundraising to cover this, please do so here.

Today, she posted a picture of herself on Facebook with something she wrote about how she really is beautiful just as she is. I commented telling her I have been telling her that for years. I hope now she is starting to believe it. She replied with a personal thanks and a little smiling emoji.

You might think that’s cute.

I can tell you that that has easily been the highlight of my week if not my month so far.

With that comment, a cloud that had been hanging over my head really just vanished. Once again, nothing in the external world really changed. What changed was my attitude. It was easier to be pleasant around people and I was less bothered about things and I was genuinely happy about my life. Thus far, that hasn’t gone away.

By the way ladies, unless your husband is being needlessly crude, if he compliments you on your appearance, always say thank you at least. If a husband compliments his wife on her beauty and she argues against him, that cuts deeper than you know. The message you give him when you do that is “You’re a liar” or “You’re deluded.” Either way, you are insulting him. Just tell him thank you and that will make his day. If you want to make it more past that, that’s up to you, but thank you goes a long way.

It’s also interesting that the more you get thankful for someone in your life, the more you will really care about that person and genuinely love them. If you tell yourself that someone is a pain, well lo and behold, you will have a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may not be able to change other people directly, but you can sure change how you treat them.

Ultimately, this comes back to God. Did I give thanks to Him when I saw this message? Yep. Sure did. I intend to keep doing that. Hopefully, I will also learn to give thanks even when things aren’t going good in my life. It’s a command. God doesn’t say “Give thanks except when you don’t feel like it.” He says to give thanks regardless.

I encourage you then if you need encouragement, give thanks. If you don’t need it now, maybe that person you’re giving thanks to does need it. You don’t even have to know them. It could be the random person just doing their job. Give them gratitude and if you can, a little bit more. Not only will it make their day possibly, but you could get better service. (I remember working near a pizzeria once and I would go there on my lunch break. I noticed I had no problem getting service after I left a $5 tip one time.)

Remember, something could be little to you, but it could be huge for someone else. You could lift someone out of depression or even stop someone who is pondering suicide just by an act of kindness. Show love to that person, regardless of your mood. Everyone will be better for it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

What Makes Grace So Amazing?

Why do we call it amazing grace? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We really don’t understand grace. For many of us, there has to be a catch. No one can be like that. It gets to be a real problem when we talk about whether grace is deserved.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article on this kind of topic. Many of us I think fear being taken advantage of. We fear being in someone else’s debt. We fear having the floor pulled out from under us when we dare give someone else our trust.

In a thread discussing the article I wrote earlier, someone talked about God giving more grace than we deserve. That’s actually a contradiction. If you deserved any of it, it would not be grace. Go to work and do your job and if your employer pays you, you don’t consider that an example of unmerited favor. You gave of yourself, He gives back to you.

Grace is never deserved. Grace is never earned. That’s a contradiction in terms. We really don’t get this today. When it comes to love, we often put so many conditions on it. The wife and husband can say “I love you” but often thought to be secretly implied in that is “Provided you keep doing XYZ or you avoid doing XYZ.” They way the love is expressed can change, but the love should still be there. (This is of course, excepting serious cases like infidelity and abuse. With the former, love can still be there for restoration and with the latter, that is still true, but one must have serious work done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.)

What I have found as a secret to doing this in my own personal walk is to remember the love that I have been shown. God has forgiven me and anything I have done to Him is far worse than anything my fellow man could ever do to me or, dare I say it, anything I could ever do to them. Should I not give that same kind of love and forgiveness? If I do not, am I not being just like the unmerciful servant in the parable of Jesus? If I really believe I have been forgiven of divine treason against God, essentially wishing He was dead so I could sit on the throne, then should I not show forgiveness towards everything else which is petty by comparison?

And yes, all sin is divine treason. When we sin, we deny either or all of the following about God:

His omnipotence because He doesn’t have the power to judge.

His omniscience because He either won’t know about it or doesn’t see how He’s clearly against me and doesn’t have my best interests at heart and doesn’t know what He’s talking about with this sin deal.

His omnipresence because He’s not present to notice the event.

His justice because He either won’t enforce it or He is misusing it.

His love because we have to go against Him to get what is really good.

His eternality because the sin will eventually go away on its own.

I could go on and on. The last one comes to me as well since Lewis said once we have this idea that time will erase wrongs. It won’t. Sometimes I’ll remember things I did wrong even back in Elementary School and it could be tempting to just say “I was young and stupid then,” and that could be true, but I ask forgiveness. There is no expiration date.

Just now, my wife brought in our cat to see me. As I held him, I thought that we’re a lot like him sometimes. Our cat doesn’t really like to be held and is quick to whine when it happens. We can picture him sometimes saying he wishes we would love him less.

We might have to ask if we want God to love us less.

Some of you might wonder why we would want a thing like that.

Because when God loves us, He doesn’t just come and forgive us. That’s a big matter, but it’s just part of it. He comes and does a work on us because He loves us that roots out the very nature that led us to give in to temptation. He does divine surgery, and most of us don’t delight in surgery.

When I was nearly 16, I had scoliosis surgery done or else in a decade, I would be walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Today, I walk and even run and jump just fine, but back for about a year after the event, I was not like that. I was not lying on a couch thinking it was so awesome that I was given surgery to recover. I was in excruciating pain constantly.

Sometime after that, I went through a time of deep depression. That lasted longer and I consider it far worse. Still, that time was essential for my growth. It made me into the person I am today.

We always have to remember God has a purpose for any suffering that comes into our lives. It will help others, but it’s not just for them. That suffering is for us. If we deny that, we are making a statement to God about how we see Him. This is why we often want Him to love us less really. We’d like to just get forgiveness without the change that comes with it, or if we have the change, please make it an American change that happens pretty much instantly like popcorn fixed in two minutes in the microwave or a problem on a sitcom that is resolved in half an hour.

That’s also because of our fixation with happiness. God will give us happiness in the long run, but the goal at the moment is holiness. It’s God’s love that we must relish in and long for all the more. We must make that love and that desire central. That comes over any family love, any sexual love, any romantic love, and friend love, any love of any kind.

But to get back to grace, it is always unearned. It is always a gift. It is foolish of us to reject the gift because we don’t deserve it. Of course, we don’t! If we did, it wouldn’t be grace. Wouldn’t it be the height of arrogance to go to God and say that He owes us a blessing or forgiveness because of the good that we have done? (And most of us, myself included, have done that.)

This I also find something to keep in mind in suffering. I look at all the good I do have in my life. How much of it do I deserve? The sun comes up and shines on our city every morning. How do I express my thanks? I sit here at the desk in my office looking out the window at a world of vibrant colors and life everywhere outside and a world bigger than any video game or comic book world that I could imagine knowing even more is coming someday than I could ever fathom. What thanks do I give? Do I treat this as if it was a given and expect more? It’s not and I don’t deserve more.

This is why thankfulness is so important to us all. If we could think about the good things we have, I think most of us would have a better mood. There can still be sorrow and sadness, and that’s okay, but could it be we’d have far more joy if we had more thankfulness?

Perhaps we could.

And maybe one of the first things to be thankful for is amazing grace. If you are a Christian, every sin that you have committed is not held against you. You are clear before the throne of God. Think about that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thankfulness

What does it mean to be thankful? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Thankfulness. What is it? Is it really that big of a deal? We live in an age today where we don’t really take the time to think about all the good things that we have. Our ancestors would be amazed that rather than go out and hunt for a meal or work for hours in a garden, we can just go the store and pick up something. Heck. We even have something called “fast food.” You can go and place an order at a restaurant and you can have a meal within a minute. (Although I do contend that sometimes fast food is a relative term.) Many of us today in our society are not struggling with not having food. Many of our pets even eat better than our ancestors did.

We also live in houses or apartments or some place that has a roof over our head. We sleep in beds and we have pillows. Earlier this year we did have a snowstorm where I live and not once in all of that were we fearing for our lives. Oh sure we were inconvenienced, but that’s about it. I could say I feared for my personal safety going down the steps at our house, but it was never a question of us asking “Are we going to survive this winter?”

If my wife and I decided to have a child together, there would no doubt be pain involved in childbirth, but there would not be great fear on Allie’s part that she would die in child labor. Why? Because you can go and receive constant medical treatment. You can even receive treatment for the pain of childbirth so it can be made as painless as possible. I happen to have a steel rod on my spine. It was painful, but imagine the wonder that we can do an operation like that today and today, I do function quite well for someone with a steel rod. How much medicine has advanced in our culture.

Travel is something else as well. While in Biblical times, Paul would spend months trying to traverse the Roman Empire, we could go through the whole of it in about a week if we really wanted to. If you wanted to just cover the distance, you could fly over it. Paul’s voyage in the Mediterranean years ago would never have happened in our society where boating is much easier. Sure there are still accidents at times, but these make the news because they are so exceptional.

Knowledge is also incredibly abundant for us. We can go to a library easily and get books and most all of us take our ability to read for granted. We ask about the ancient world “Why didn’t anyone write this stuff down?” because we so take it for granted that writing is the best way to get a message across. If we want a quick answer, we pop open our phones or tablets and just google our questions. Unfortunately, this can also lead to great ignorance as we don’t often know how to evaluate the information, but the possibility is there.

What about our personal relationships? Today, many of us in the West marry for love. That’s actually a recent innovation. Most in the past would have been interested in survival. That we can marry and marry for love is something amazing. Many people can make it through life just fine without having to get married. This is again something that we have taken for granted.

We can also interact with our friends so much easier who are far away. Thanks to technology like Facebook, I could instantly connect with and speak with high school friends of mine if I wanted to. I can use a phone and talk to most anyone all over the world. I do a show regularly through the medium of Skype and I can communicate with a known scholar practically immediately. What an age.

And even down to our entertainment, we have far more. We can go and watch a movie on a huge screen. We don’t have to wait on actors to show up in a play, although we can do that. We can watch a television show and we can have it recorded so that we can watch it again and again and again. We even have video games so we can play our games on a screen and have characters move in response to what we do. How amazing is all of this?!

And you know what?

We probably live in one of the least grateful times of all.

This is especially the case for we who are Christians. Right now, we live in a time of great freedom. Yes. We think that time of freedom could be nearing an end, but you know what? We lived with it for so long that we took it for granted. Many of us have not studied our Bibles because we do not consider the wonder that we have one. Go to a civilization where Christians are persecuted and imagine what some of them would do if they had just a page of Scripture. While many people the world over would love to have a Bible, we have many versions and translations all around us and many of them are collecting dust.

As someone with my own ministry that relies on donations, I remember my first thought was to go to the churches and see if they’d be willing to support. I was told not to. Why? Because the churches do not give. They will not support an apologetics ministry. I’ve found this to be the case quite often unfortunately. Churches have no real interest most of the time in an apologetics ministry. For many of us with ministries, we like to reap the harvest that has been planted, but we don’t want to take part in tilling in the garden at all. No doubt, there are many generous people out there, but it looks like many of us are not.

So how serious is thankfulness Biblically? Romans 1 is one of the hardest hitting passages on the wickedness of humanity. What does verse 21 say?

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Part of the darkening was not giving thanks to God.

So what are we to give thanks for?

Every single thing.

Give thanks for the big things and the small things. Sometimes we speak of parking lot theology where God specifically answers a prayer for you to get a parking space close to the door of where you’re shopping. It’s laughable to think God is micromanaging the universe, but if you really need that and you get one, give thanks. If you don’t get one, give thanks that you can walk and build up some exercise. If any good thing comes to you, give thanks for it. But you know what? Scripture goes further.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Did you hear that? Give thanks for suffering! That does not mean you view the suffering as a good thing in itself. Of course not. But if you’re a Christian, you are to know that God is using that suffering for your good. The question is are you going to resist it or not? Lately for instance, I’m trying to catch myself when I find myself worrying about something. Worry is a sin after all and I try to think “You know what? Worrying about this problem is not making it go away. It is not helping it. All it is doing is changing me for the worse.” Why worry then?

But why give thanks for the suffering? James tells us that God uses it to mature us and make us wise. How about Hebrews 12:7-11?

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Look at the end of verse 10. “In order that we may share in His holiness.” God does this so you can be like Him. That is why you are disciplined. Isn’t that something good to go through in the long run then?

1 Peter 1:6-7.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Why suffering? So your faith may be proven genuine.

Romans 5:3-5.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Our suffering will lead to hope. We will learn to rely on God all the more in suffering. It’s quite sad to think that many of us who live in an affluent society like America and have so much are so depressed, when I am told that poor Christians all over the world who live in poverty often have much more joy than we do and celebrate the goodness of God much more than we do.

That should embarrass us.

Romans 8:28-30.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

This is quite likely one of the greatest ones of them all if not the greatest. If you can believe the first verse, you can live everything in your life differently. God tells you that EVERYTHING will work for your good. Not some things. All things. This does not mean all things are good. Of course not. It does mean that all things come through the hand of God first. Christians aren’t to even mourn the same way as the lost do when their loved ones die. As Paul says, we mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We can even have hope in the face of death that we will be resurrected.

Are we really thankful?

We do not have what we have because we are so special a lot of times. We have it because of the generosity of God. If you can take a look at your life and stop and realize that at least one thing you have is good, that is enough. I have seen this dramatic change in my own life. For instance, my wife and I are cat owners. Meet our little Shiro. (His name is the Japanese word for white.)

Shiropose

Shiro

I remember one night in the sorrows of depression watching little Shiro come into the living room where I was. I was for some reason I don’t remember feeling sorry for myself. I just watched him and saw him start to play with something and thought about how good that is. It just hit me then. There are truly many things that are good and I had just taken them for granted. Shiro didn’t have to be a part of my life, but he is. This thankfulness causes me to appreciate things more than normal. I can even think of the water bottle I have next to me. Thankfulness makes me realize that having such easy access to water is something my ancestors would have celebrated. It really makes me appreciate the taste of my water all the more.

There was a time a couple of years ago when I had a fundraiser held for Deeper Waters with Premier Jewelry. We had advertised it well and were hoping to get a lot of customers come by. You could count the number we had come by on one hand honestly. That part was disappointing, but they still bought some jewelry. We bought enough that I could get basic equipment for my computer. The equipment was enough for me to get the podcast started which I think has been a great part of my ministry. I gave thanks. God didn’t owe me a single penny that night. He is not in any debt to me. I am in great debt to Him. Still, despite Him having the right to demand everything of me, He instead gives me so much.

When we are not thankful, we take things for granted. We act like it all came about through our own power and means. We are not properly honoring God. One of the highest compliments I get from people is when they praise the way I treat my wife. Now I love getting compliments on intellectual ability being an apologist, but many people can do that. Only one person on this world gets to have the privilege of being a husband to my wife. That is one job I never want to fail at. When someone compliments me on that, it is the greatest honor. Yet my devotion I think could also stem from the old joke about the way nerds are with their women. We’re so convinced that we can never get a wife that when we find one, we treasure her all the more because we look at her and say “Well it sure isn’t because of anything really special in me that she’s with me today.” (Seriously. I’m a 120 pound or so weakling and I have no access to huge amounts of money. My wife did not marry me for looks or money definitely.)

My great joy from this blog post would be to see you think about the good things in your own life. Give thanks for them. Celebrate them. They did not have to be there. Every great thing you have is a blessing of God. Treat it that way. Perhaps one reason God does not do things for us we would like Him to do is we have failed to appreciate the good things that He’s already done for us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

%d bloggers like this: