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I recently wrote a short article that was published in a community book project. It was on the subject of gratitude. The thesis of my piece was that there is always something to be thankful for even if you are going through tough stuff.  And we all go through tough stuff. 

There is a man in the Bible named Paul, and he said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

It's a recommendation with a promise. He says, "Follow my example, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul didn’t have an easy life either. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) He had been imprisoned, tortured, stoned, shipwrecked and left adrift on the open sea. He had faced all manner of danger and discomfort, and he had been struck blind. And yet, somehow, he had learned how to be content in any circumstance. (Philippians 4:11) So when he gives us the advice to focus on the positive, I’d say it’s worth a try.

If you would like to read the rest of my article and over 100 more, you can get The Community Book Project: A Gift of Gratitude on Amazon Kindle. It is free until Friday.

The link for Amazon.com is:

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Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
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Chinese student Chai Ling helped lead the massive 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that drew the world’s praise and her government’s wrath. Twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, today this Harvard MBA is a successful businesswoman who still risks persecution to bring reform to China. Her current activities might surprise you.

For weeks during spring 1989, global attention focused on massive protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Chai Ling says the protests were “for a better, freer, and more loving China. …We wanted to know the truth about our country, our lives, and our beliefs.”

Love, Hope, Dreams of Freedom
She recalls that “the whole country, and the whole world [were] touched by that energy of love, hope and…glorious dreams that we could be free. Free from hatred…violence…separation… fear.”

“Even the thieves in Beijing called a strike,” she notes, “and stopped stealing to support the movement.”

Government leaders reacted differently.

Tank Standoff
Who can forget the iconic image of that lone protestor standing down a tank? The military crackdown took lives.

“When we offered [China’s leaders] love and peace,” observes Chai Ling, “they handed us death and massacre. None of us could believe it at first. How could I believe the People’s Liberation Army would kill its own people?”

“I grew up with them. They were uncles and aunties to me. We love them and they love us. … I raised my head to the sky and asked in silence, ‘Why? Why? Why? Why do they have to kill us for wanting to have a dialogue?’”

Stealthy Escape
High on Communist leaders’ most-wanted list, Chai Ling escaped to Hong Kong in a wooden crate. Her planned eight-hour journey became four days of dark isolation. She eventually traveled to the United States.

She married, had a family, built a successful software company, and donated funds for Tiananmen victims in China. Upset with her activism, Chinese authorities threatened her and her family. Over time, telephone eavesdropping, a hacked computer and mysterious deaths of Tiananmen dissidents brought her confusion and panic.

Unexplainable Peace
Then a friend gave Chai a film based on the biblical Gospel of John. John records Jesus as saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “Each time I watched the movie,” she recalls, “and heard the words of Christ, it brought an unexplainable sense of peace and calm into my burning heart.”

At a congressional hearing about China’s forced abortion practice, a victim said finding faith in God had sustained her. That woman’s story would influence Chai Ling’s personal and professional passions.

One afternoon in 2009, Chai knelt in her office and said a simple prayer: “Dear Lord, Jesus Christ, I now accept you as my Savior and my only God. Please forgive all my sins, known or unknown, please come into my heart and guide my life.” Expecting fireworks, instead she experienced “an amazing sense of peace.”

All Girls Allowed
As her faith grew, Chai found a strong desire to present God’s love to China’s leaders and nation. She found a new revolutionary cause, rescuing victims of China’s One-Child Policy and bringing dignity and respect to China’s women. She founded a nonprofit, All Girls Allowed, to help counter cultural preferences for male children that lead to abandoned female babies and aborted female fetuses.

Emphases include “ending gendercide, educating abandoned girls, rescuing trafficked children, defending mothers,” and celebrating “the work of God in bringing life, value and dignity to girls and mothers.” Her 2011 book, A Heart for Freedom, relates her journey and mission.

Definitely a revolutionary worth watching.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

Paul spends much of Ephesians telling us how to live in a way that is pleasing to God. In Ephesians 4, he calls us to unity and holiness, and to the understanding that even though we are all different and have different purposes, we are all part of one body under Christ. Ephesians 5 continues the theme of holiness and living as children of light. In the last verses of Ephesians 5 (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the first verses of Ephesians 6, (Ephesians 6:1-9) Paul gives us advice for our family relationships, and for our work relationships. He also tells us what our attitude towards our jobs should be, including if we are the employer and not just the employee. But Paul knows that it is not as easy as all that! Paul understands very clearly that we are in a constant spiritual battle. Since creation, God has provided us with a choice, to choose Him or the world, and He has been very gentlemanly about letting us make that choice.(Revelation 3:20) Satan, on the other hand, is working very hard at winning us over to his side, and he will use any means available. (II Corinthians 11:14, I Peter 5:8) We need to realize that our struggles on this earth are not with things, or circumstances or with each other. They are all part of a battle in the spiritual realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

The good news is that we don’t have to fight this battle alone. Hallelujah! We can rely on the strength of God’s power and His armour. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Just as a Roman soldier was clothed in a suit of armour, we can be clothed with God’s spiritual armour. If we put on the full armour of God we will be able to stand against our enemy’s schemes and attacks, and to be left standing when all is said and done. What does God’s armour consist of?

1. The Belt of Truth: A Roman soldier used a belt to hold his garments together and to attach his armour. It made it easier for him to be able to move without tripping over his tunic. Wearing the belt of truth represents not only knowing and believing God’s truth, but also living a truthful life, thus allowing us easier movement without tripping over our words. Knowing and practicing the truth will give us protection against the father of lies. (John 8:44)

2. The Breastplate of Righteousness: We were declared righteous when we accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the substitution for our sins, (Romans 4:5, Romans 10:10) but again, Paul is referring here to the practical, daily actions of believers. We need to act in a way that no one can make an accusation against us, a way that protects our hearts.

3. Preparation That Comes From the Good News of Peace: You can be ready for whatever comes your way if you place your trust in the all-powerful God of peace. The Greek word translated as preparation here indicates to be on a firm footing. It refers to the stability that you get from the gospel of peace that allows you to stand steadfast in the face of battle.

4. The Shield of Faith: Roman soldiers had large shields that would interlock together so that they could advance with a wall of protection before them. They were coated in leather that was soaked in water so that flaming arrows would be extinguished. Satan is certainly attacking us with fiery arrows, and it is our faith that will protect us from them. Since we cannot know when or how these fiery arrows will come, constant faith is absolutely essential.

5. The Helmet of Salvation: The helmet of salvation is a gift from God that protects our heads and our minds. God does not require our faith to be blind. We are encouraged to question and to understand. We need to protect our minds from Satan’s schemes, by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18)

6. The Sword of the Spirit: The sword used by Roman soldiers was double-edged so that it could cut in both directions and sharp enough to pierce armour. But the Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, and able to judge the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) It is by being very familiar with the Word of God that we will be able to discern what is right and defend ourselves from Satan’s attacks. Satan also knows the Word of God, and he uses it to his advantage–not fully and out of context. (Matthew 4:5-7) If we are to defend ourselves as Jesus did, we must know the Word of God as Jesus did.

Add to all of these prayer for all the saints. If we are praying for each other, we will be alert to the needs and struggles of our fellow warriors. This is not a battle that we can fight ourselves. Remember that Paul’s words here come at the end of a passage about unity, and being one body. Working together as one body, with God’s strength, we can win the battle in the spiritual realm.

1

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
---------
Chinese student Chai Ling helped lead the massive 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that drew the world’s praise and her government’s wrath. Twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, today this Harvard MBA is a successful businesswoman who still risks persecution to bring reform to China. Her current activities might surprise you.

For weeks during spring 1989, global attention focused on massive protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Chai Ling says the protests were “for a better, freer, and more loving China. …We wanted to know the truth about our country, our lives, and our beliefs.”

Love, Hope, Dreams of Freedom
She recalls that “the whole country, and the whole world [were] touched by that energy of love, hope and…glorious dreams that we could be free. Free from hatred…violence…separation… fear.”

“Even the thieves in Beijing called a strike,” she notes, “and stopped stealing to support the movement.”

Government leaders reacted differently.

Tank Standoff
Who can forget the iconic image of that lone protestor standing down a tank? The military crackdown took lives.

“When we offered [China’s leaders] love and peace,” observes Chai Ling, “they handed us death and massacre. None of us could believe it at first. How could I believe the People’s Liberation Army would kill its own people?”

“I grew up with them. They were uncles and aunties to me. We love them and they love us. … I raised my head to the sky and asked in silence, ‘Why? Why? Why? Why do they have to kill us for wanting to have a dialogue?’”

Stealthy Escape
High on Communist leaders’ most-wanted list, Chai Ling escaped to Hong Kong in a wooden crate. Her planned eight-hour journey became four days of dark isolation. She eventually traveled to the United States.

She married, had a family, built a successful software company, and donated funds for Tiananmen victims in China. Upset with her activism, Chinese authorities threatened her and her family. Over time, telephone eavesdropping, a hacked computer and mysterious deaths of Tiananmen dissidents brought her confusion and panic.

Unexplainable Peace
Then a friend gave Chai a film based on the biblical Gospel of John. John records Jesus as saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “Each time I watched the movie,” she recalls, “and heard the words of Christ, it brought an unexplainable sense of peace and calm into my burning heart.”

At a congressional hearing about China’s forced abortion practice, a victim said finding faith in God had sustained her. That woman’s story would influence Chai Ling’s personal and professional passions.

One afternoon in 2009, Chai knelt in her office and said a simple prayer: “Dear Lord, Jesus Christ, I now accept you as my Savior and my only God. Please forgive all my sins, known or unknown, please come into my heart and guide my life.” Expecting fireworks, instead she experienced “an amazing sense of peace.”

All Girls Allowed
As her faith grew, Chai found a strong desire to present God’s love to China’s leaders and nation. She found a new revolutionary cause, rescuing victims of China’s One-Child Policy and bringing dignity and respect to China’s women. She founded a nonprofit, All Girls Allowed, to help counter cultural preferences for male children that lead to abandoned female babies and aborted female fetuses.

Emphases include “ending gendercide, educating abandoned girls, rescuing trafficked children, defending mothers,” and celebrating “the work of God in bringing life, value and dignity to girls and mothers.” Her 2011 book, A Heart for Freedom, relates her journey and mission.

Definitely a revolutionary worth watching.
---------
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

3

Paul spends much of Ephesians telling us how to live in a way that is pleasing to God. In Ephesians 4, he calls us to unity and holiness, and to the understanding that even though we are all different and have different purposes, we are all part of one body under Christ. Ephesians 5 continues the theme of holiness and living as children of light. In the last verses of Ephesians 5 (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the first verses of Ephesians 6, (Ephesians 6:1-9) Paul gives us advice for our family relationships, and for our work relationships. He also tells us what our attitude towards our jobs should be, including if we are the employer and not just the employee. But Paul knows that it is not as easy as all that! Paul understands very clearly that we are in a constant spiritual battle. Since creation, God has provided us with a choice, to choose Him or the world, and He has been very gentlemanly about letting us make that choice.(Revelation 3:20) Satan, on the other hand, is working very hard at winning us over to his side, and he will use any means available. (II Corinthians 11:14, I Peter 5:8) We need to realize that our struggles on this earth are not with things, or circumstances or with each other. They are all part of a battle in the spiritual realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

The good news is that we don’t have to fight this battle alone. Hallelujah! We can rely on the strength of God’s power and His armour. Just as a Roman soldier was clothed in a suit of armour, we can be clothed with God’s spiritual armour. If we put on the full armour of God we will be able to stand against our enemy’s schemes and attacks, and to be left standing when all is said and done. What does God’s armour consist of?

1. The Belt of Truth: A Roman soldier used a belt to hold his garments together and to attach his armour. It made it easier for him to be able to move without tripping over his tunic. Wearing the belt of truth represents not only knowing and believing God’s truth, but also living a truthful life, thus allowing us easier movement without tripping over our words. Knowing and practicing the truth will give us protection against the father of lies. (John 8:44)

2. The Breastplate of Righteousness: We were declared righteous when we accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the substitution for our sins, (Romans 4:5, Romans 10:10) but again, Paul is referring here to the practical, daily actions of believers. We need to act in a way that no one can make an accusation against us, a way that protects our hearts.

3. Preparation That Comes From the Good News of Peace: You can be ready for whatever comes your way if you place your trust in the all-powerful God of peace. The Greek word translated as preparation here indicates to be on a firm footing. It refers to the stability that you get from the gospel of peace that allows you to stand steadfast in the face of battle.

4. The Shield of Faith: Roman soldiers had large shields that would interlock together so that they could advance with a wall of protection before them. They were coated in leather that was soaked in water so that flaming arrows would be extinguished. Satan is certainly attacking us with fiery arrows, and it is our faith that will protect us from them. Since we cannot know when or how these fiery arrows will come, constant faith is absolutely essential.

5. The Helmet of Salvation: The helmet of salvation is a gift from God that protects our heads and our minds. God does not require our faith to be blind. We are encouraged to question and to understand. We need to protect our minds from Satan’s schemes, by growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18)

6. The Sword of the Spirit: The sword used by Roman soldiers was double-edged so that it could cut in both directions and sharp enough to pierce armour. But the Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, and able to judge the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) It is by being very familiar with the Word of God that we will be able to discern what is right and defend ourselves from Satan’s attacks. Satan also knows the Word of God, and he uses it to his advantage--not fully and out of context. (Matthew 4:5-7) If we are to defend ourselves as Jesus did, we must know the Word of God as Jesus did.

Add to all of these prayer for all the saints. If we are praying for each other, we will be alert to the needs and struggles of our fellow warriors. This is not a battle that we can fight ourselves. Remember that Paul’s words here come at the end of a passage about unity, and being one body. Working together as one body, with God’s strength, we can win the battle in the spiritual realm.

4

  • Before accepting Christ we lived in darkness.  Even if we did "good" things, we were unholy in God's sight.  (Ephesians 2:1-2)
  • Without Christ to intercede for us, we deserve nothing but wrath from God, but God is merciful, and He loves us SO much that He sent Christ to pay our way.  Thank you God for Your grace!  (Ephesians 2:3-5)
  • When we accept salvation through Christ's sacrifice, God gives us the same status as Christ has. (Ephesians 2:6)
  • We have not yet seen the full extent of God's grace.  (Ephesians 2:7)
  • It is only by God's grace that we are saved from His wrath.  There is nothing that we can do to earn our own salvation.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • We are God's masterpiece--a work of art.  We were created with a purpose, to do good works.  (Ephesians 2:10)
  • It is only through Christ Jesus that we can be brought near to God. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Jesus came to bring peace for all. (Ephesians 2:14)
  • It is not about legalism anymore. (Ephesians 2:15)
  • Jesus' purpose was to reconcile us to God. (Ephesians 2:16)
  • Through Christ we are now members of God's family. (Ephesians 2:19)
  • We were made to be a dwelling place for God's Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
  • Ephesians 2 starts out discussing the spirit who lives in the disobedient, and ends by saying that we were made for God's Spirit.  We have a spirit living in us one way or the other.  Both spirits want a place in our hearts, but we get to choose which one stays.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Just a week ago, we were sharing New Year’s blessings with all our friends and family.  I was wishing them happiness, peace, prosperity and good health.  “May this be your best year ever,” I would say.  “I wish you all the best.”  I was optimistic for good things to happen, but the truth of the matter is that nothing much changes just because we turn over a new page on the calendar.  We still face the same rebellious children, the health scares, the unhappy marriages, the financial difficulties, the unexpected tragedies.  It’s just that now we are facing them when we had our expectations set for something so much higher, just because the year got a new number.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being optimistic, but saying “Happy New Year” doesn’t take all our troubles away.

Many years ago, when I was in my first year of university, I learned a new song, well new to me anyway.  One of the verses said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”  This comes from the King James Version of Isaiah 26:3 which in its entirety says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”  In more contemporary English that might be, “You will give perfect peace to those who stay focused on you because they trust in you.”  What a great promise that is!

This verse doesn’t mean that we will be exempt from all trials or heartaches, for we know that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33)  The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to have trouble, (II Corinthians 11:23-27) but based on Isaiah 26:3, he wrote the very practical advice found in Philippians 4:6-7.  Pray and give thanks.  We will face situations that seem unbearable to us, but if we focus on God, bring all our cares to Him in prayer and thank Him for His many blessings to us, He will grant us a peace that defies explanation, peace that is not like the world gives (John 14:27), peace that will protect our hearts and minds.

1

Stress. There are so many circumstances in life to cause us worry or anxiety, from everyday annoyances, like getting the kids to school on time or not burning dinner, to huge tragedies. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan come to mind. So does the Chretien family. (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) Is there really a way to be stress-free? The Apostle Paul tells us how.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul echoes Jesus' words (Matthew 6:25-34) when he tells us not to be anxious about anything. Nothing. But then he tells us what to do instead: In every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. One simple sentence is the cure to all our anxiety; let’s look at it closely.

(a) In every situation. Every situation. That means the small, everyday annoyances as well as the devastating tragedies; God cares about every single detail of your life. (Luke 12:6-7) There is nothing too big or too small to bring to God, for He desires that we trust Him and rely on Him for everything. Nothing will catch Him by surprise, and He invites us to come to Him boldly with any request we have. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

(b) Through prayer and petition. Some versions translate this as “by prayer and supplication”. What are the differences between these three terms? I believe that prayer is a more general term and encompasses all of our conversations with God. As followers of Jesus, we should have an attitude of prayer, or some would say live in an atmosphere of prayer, such that we feel God’s presence with us constantly and we are always in communion with Him. When we petition or supplicate, we are asking more earnestly for our needs to be met. Supplication gives more of a sense of pleading, but both terms include the idea of humility. When we are told not to be anxious, it is not that God expects us to stop caring about the situations in our lives. What He wants is for us to bring our cares to Him, and especially to lay at His feet the responsibility of all those things that are out of our control.

(c) With thanksgiving. I think when we have a lot going on that concerns us, we sometimes forget to be thankful. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. God has given us so many blessings, and many of them we take for granted. In I Timothy 6:8, Paul said that he would be content just to have food and shelter. I’m sure that if you are reading this on a computer, you have so much more than that. We need to take time to thank God for our blessings, but we also need to thank Him for all the things we see as hardship as well. Ann Voskamp, author of one thousand gifts, has said, “If I can take everything in my life and see it as grace, a good gift from God’s hand, and give thanks for it, there is joy in this. That joy really is a function of gratitude. And gratitude is a function of perspective. Can I see the things to be grateful for? If I can see the things to be grateful for, I can find joy.”

So, can we be stress-free? Yes. In fact we are commanded to be stress-free, but it is a command with a promise. If we will take all of our cares to God, and if we will be thankful, we will have peace that is beyond our comprehension, peace that comes from knowing that God loves us and has all things in His control. A peace unlike any earthly peace. (John 14:27) This peace will protect our hearts and minds the same way that a sentinel stands on guard to protect the garrison—a way that will keep us free from anxiety.

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one thousand gifts is available from Dayspring. If you are interested click the photo, click on Book Club, then Past Bloom Selections. The link for one thousand gifts will take you to the store.