I’m Thankful For God’s Grace


Because I want to focus more on God this Thanksgiving, I considered which of His innumerable traits I could feature the day before the actually holiday. I settled on His grace and found an appropriate post in the archives which says a good deal about this quality.

I’ve edited and revised the article a bit. After all, this is an old one I wrote in the early days of this blog. I also added song lyrics and a video, which include God’s grace.

– – – –

In fiction, I think Christians often depict God as a God of grace, too often at the expense of His other attributes.

However, one Sunday, I realized that grace itself is not a “simple” trait, any more than God is a simple person. And certainly God’s display of grace is as deep as He is.

The sermon that Sunday was from John 21 (the story of the resurrected Christ cooking breakfast for His disciples while they fished) and highlighted some ways that God extended grace to Jesus’s disciples, especial to Peter.

First, God extended grace to them by humbling them. The account begins with a miracle—implied rather than stated—of closing the disciples’ nets to fish.

The context is this: after seeing the resurrected Christ and waiting around for a week or more, Peter had declared he was going back to work. As if that was something he didn’t need God for. As if that was what would give him purpose. Instead, these professional fishermen worked all night in a place of abundant fish and came up empty. By humbling them, God showed them their need.

God’s grace also sought Peter out—Jesus first went to the bank of the sea where the disciples were fishing, and later He pulled him aside for a private talk. Peter, much like Adam in the Garden after he sinned, seemed to be in “stealth mode.” After all, the last exchange before Jesus went to the cross was a look shared between them, right after Peter swore he didn’t know the Man. How much Peter needed to talk to Jesus! But he went fishing—went back to His pre-Christ life, back to making a living using a skill he was good at.

Having put the disciples in a situation to face their need, God’s grace guided them. It helped them with what they were trying to accomplish. Jesus told there where to let down their nets, and the result was a catch of large fish. Not just a few, not some large and some small. Large fish so numerous their nets started to break. This is the aspect of grace we see most often, but clearly not the only facet of it.

Jesus nwxt extended Himself to the disciples as a friend, as a servant. He cooked breakfast for them. So like Him—the Master who was willing to wash His men’s feet, the Messiah who sacrificed His life, Incarnate God who dressed Himself in the form of Man.

God’s grace then called Peter beyond earthly success to eternal significance. No more catching fish for Peter. His new job was to feed God’s sheep.

I’ve often wondered what happened to that incredible catch. They ate some for breakfast, but what about the rest? Did they leave them for the poor? Give them to the guys in the next boat? Stop by Peter’s house and tell cousin Daniel their were all his if he but cleaned them and hauled them away? Or did the fish stay on the bank and rot or become bird feed? Today’s fictionalized account would probably have Jesus release the unused fish back in the water. Whaterver.

The point is, the fish no longer mattered. Jesus was giving Peter something much more important to do. His grace lead Peter beyond “having it all.”

Once again, I find myself challenged to show God’s character—not merely by increasing the angles from which I look at Him, but by peering through the magnifying glass of Biblical study so that I can see more than the surface of His traits. His grace, like His love, is greater far than tongue or pen can tell.

1
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
2
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
3
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

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A Caution At Thanksgiving Time


When I was in school, our teacher would inevitable give us an assignment as Thanksgiving approached that required us to write down all the things for which we were thankful. From what I remember, I put the big things on my list: my parents, God, my home, my brother and sister, our cats and dog, my friends, school and teachers (OK, maybe I didn’t put those on the list. 😉 )

The point is, I was thinking of all the good things I had, in particular the ones I took for granted, but when I paused, I really was glad I had each one.

Never once did I think that Thanksgiving could be a day for digging deeper. In fact, this “count your blessings, name them one by one” approach to Thanksgiving trained me to think of the good things I was thankful for as the tangible evidence that God cared.

I didn’t stop to think that He might also care just as much for a little Christian girl in an orphanage in India who had no parents or home, and sometimes went to bed hungry.

I also didn’t realize that many, many of the people recorded in Scripture who started well, who said they would obey God, turned from Him on the heels of receiving His blessings.

King David comes to mind. He’d survived Saul’s attempts to kill him, ascended to the throne, and led his people to victory after victory. Then, as he enjoyed the fruit of his labor, he decided to stay home while his commander led his army into battle. And that’s when David saw Bathsheba, ignored the fact that she was married, and committed adultery with her.

David repented, but others never turned it around. King Asa, for example, ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah, walked with God and experienced great success against the enemies because he turned to God for help:

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”

God answered that prayer, and for thirty-eight years Asa ruled as a man dependent upon God. But there came a day when he decided to buy his way out of trouble instead of pray his way out.

His scheme worked, but here’s what God told him:

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (2 Chron. 16:7-9)

Asa could have repented too, but instead he threw Hanani into prison and he oppressed some of the people. He ended up sick, alone, and bitter. He had the blessing of answered prayer and God’s protection and power, and he turned his back on the Giver of all those good gifts.

I could go on and on. Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Uzziah, Miriam, Nadab and Abihu, Jonah, Gehazi, and many more.

It seems as if the good things either became an idol that moved in front of God as the most loved, or the individual took credit for the good things and moved himself in front of God as the most loved.

When the people of Israel were in want, they turned to God. When they experienced His abundance, they turned from Him.

So it seems to me, having a thanksgiving day in which we simply tick off the good things we have is a way to set ourselves up for failure. Not that we should deny the good things, but it seems to me the true approach to Thanksgiving should be an enumeration, not of our stuff, but of God’s attributes–the things He’s revealed about Himself that give us a look into His character. And not just an enumeration, but an all out face plant at His feet, thanking Him for who He is and what He’s done.

After all, who God is lies behind what He’s given us and why. Who God is will outlast any of the stuff we enjoy today. Who God is, is a treasure that outshines any other.

It’s certainly not wrong for anyone to celebrate a national Thanksgiving Day as we are here in the US this coming Thursday, or for anyone to have a personal day of giving thanks. For myself, though, I want to change my focus. I don’t want this to be about the good things our God gives but about our good God Himself.

I wish I was clever enough to make a video that would go viral or savvy enough to get this trending on Twitter. What I’d like to see is believers unite to say, I’m thankful because God is merciful. I’m thankful because God is just. I’m thankful because God is generous. I’m thankful because God is my salvation. I’m thankful because ___ Your turn! 😀

This article originally appeared here November 2013.

Published in: on November 21, 2017 at 5:31 pm  Comments (4)  
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Thoughts On Prayer


woman-praying-840879-mMy mom prayed. Among others, I know she prayed for me. Every day. When she passed away, it dawned on me that I no longer had someone praying for me on a daily basis. It was a sobering thought. I felt a little as if someone had removed my safety net.

As time passed, I realized I wanted to be more like my mom in a number of ways. She was a good correspondent, writing notes to people she knew decades earlier and consistently sending birthday cards to family members. She was disciplined—had regular eating and sleeping habits, kept her home neat and clean and her checkbook balanced. And she prayed.

I’m not my mom, so the discipline and the correspondence, when I think about them, are dreams, at best, but prayer … now that’s a different story.

Prayer is something God asks of all Christians, not just the disciplined ones or those who are particularly good at staying in touch.

So prayer is something I need to work at.

Interestingly, among the things of my mom’s that I kept was a prayer journal. Not one she used. In fact, it might actually have been my dad’s, but at any rate, I acquired this volume that neither of them had written in.

It wasn’t revolutionary in its content. In the introductory section, those who put the journal together (Peter Lord originally, and with Daniel Henderson in the current version) gave Biblical instruction about praise and thanksgiving, confession, intercession, including how to pray for the unsaved, and petition.

And then the journal. Above all, it provides a way for me to think about who I should pray for.

There are pages to record requests for national and state leaders, judges and civic leaders, school board members and principals and teachers.

Another page is reserved for recording requests for enemies. Another for friends.

Several pages focus my thoughts on missionaries. One page lists Biblical needs to pray about for persecuted Christians around the world.

There is a “heart burdens” page (this is were I pray for Christian fantasy writers and the success of the genre). There’s a page for praying for my pastor and for other pastors and church leaders.

You get the idea. The journal focuses my attention on the people God says we are to be praying for and the things Scripture says we are to be praying about.

Yes, there’s also a page for “my stuff,” so I am still praying about the things that used to dominate my prayer time—the very things that made prayer feel redundant and boring, even to me. But now, I see them as part of a greater whole. My perspective is different and my stuff doesn’t seem as urgent as it once did.

The biggest difference is the praise and thanksgiving time the journal has led me to include consistently. By focusing first on God, I realize that He is bigger than my prayer concerns, that His concern for these same issues is greater than my own, that He who has shown Himself to be faithful in times past, is still faithful and true and trustworthy.

One last thing. The journal editors encourage recording answers to prayers by giving God the glory—praise Your holy name, or PYHN for short. It’s a great short-hand way to look back and see what God has done in answer to prayer.

Sound mechanical? I suppose so, but I needed structure. My prayer life was … nothing like my mom’s, and I wanted that to change.

This post is a re-print of one that first appeared here in May 2010—because I needed to re-read this one too.

Published in: on January 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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Holidays and Heritage


lincoln_on_5_usd_billSome years ago I had to take care of making my traditional contribution to our family dinner on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, which first required me to dash to the store for some of the ingredients. Not only did I need to go to the grocery store, I also needed gas since I would be traveling to the other side of LA.

Happily, I had passed a station posting gas at $3.15 a gallon, a dime cheaper than my regular station and about 7 miles closer! So off I went, first to get gas, then to pick up items for my Thanksgiving dish.

Imagine my surprise when I passed the shopping area (they still call them malls, though there is nothing resembling a true mall in most SoCal shopping centers any more), and found the parking lots brimming with cars. On Thanksgiving Day?

This was duplicated at the grocery store. In fact, I haven’t seen that store so busy … ever. On Thanksgiving Day?

Add to this fact, the night before one news broadcast reported shoppers setting up tents in order to be near the front of the line for store openings on “Black Friday.” Rather than being at home for the traditional “family time,” which is what Thanksgiving has become, these shoppers preferred to increase their chance of finding a bargain.

What’s it all mean? Holidays, which nationally stopped being Holy days a long time ago, are even losing their secondary meanings—a break from the normal work day, time with family, opportunity to express thanks or give tokens of love and appreciation. More and more, these “set apart” days are becoming excuses for buying more stuff.

As if the stuff is what we need.

There used to be a phrase used for the older, affluent businessman, the gift for the man who has everything. Thing is, now that term can be adapted to say the gift for the child who has everything, and it describes the kids in most middle class families.

I realized something just recently. On our money here in the US, we have inscribed the words In God We Trust. Whoever made that decision was insightful—and probably informed by Scripture, because the Bible declares no one can serve God and riches both. (Matthew 6:24) You see, what I realized wasn’t that we had the phrase on our coins and bills but rather WHY we have it there, and not on public buildings or statues or even in churches. It is that when we have abundance, often seen in the form of cash, we can so easily trust in the abundance and not in God.

To think, several hundreds of years ago, people setting up our government foresaw the danger of trusting wealth instead of trusting God! What a remarkable heritage! For that I am truly thankful. For what we have become as a nation of users, not so much.

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in November 2007.

Published in: on November 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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The First Thanksgiving Day


old_testament012

I’ve not verified this with anyone, but I think the first recorded Thanksgiving Day occurred under King David’s rule and is found in 1 Chronicles 16. The day was a community-wide, or more accurately, a national occasion, with worship and feasting and music of every kind, including songs. One is recorded for us, so we know the focus of this thanksgiving was God.

Here are the key parts of the passage (I’m leaving the verse numbers in place so you can see what I’ve included):

old_testament0241 And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD. 3 He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.

4 He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the LORD God of Israel

7 Then on that day David first assigned Asaph [who wrote some of the psalms recorded in Scripture] and his relatives to give thanks to the LORD.

8 Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
9 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
10 Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
11 Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
12 Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments from His mouth,
13 O seed of Israel His servant,
Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
14 He is the LORD our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,

23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
24 Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
30 Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”
32 Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
33 Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
34 O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
35 Then say, “Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise.”
36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
Then all the people said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD.

Now that’s Thanksgiving!

Published in: on November 24, 2016 at 9:47 am  Comments Off on The First Thanksgiving Day  
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‘Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving


Sunset on Fields near CityThanksgiving Eve, someone called it. And here we are: the guest list is complete, the house clean, the laundry out of the dryer and neatly folded. The grocery shopping is finally complete and the menu finalized. Everything’s ready for The Dinner. Now on to plans for Black Friday!!

So it seems to go in many households. Of course for those visiting, they have travel plans to take care of—last minute packing if it’s an overnight stay, food to prepare if it’s local. And then there’s calculating the drive time and the best route. Aren’t smart phones great for this kind of thing!?!

Amid the hustle and hurry, Thanksgiving waits.

A time set aside for us to . . . do what? Thank who?

Millions of people this week will be thanks-givers, without slowing to ponder the identity of the Thanks-Receiver. We are temporarily thankful for the turkey on Thursday that will fuel our shopping sprees on Friday. We will buy more things at the suggestion of a consumer culture that tells us we actually do not have enough. We have thus commercialized the antithesis of the meaning of the holiday and distracted ourselves from asking the big questions of life that derive from being thankful. (“A Prelude to Joy: A Thanksgiving Meditation”)

The big questions like, Who do we thank?

A number of years ago, my friend Mike Duran wrote a blog post about atheists and Thanksgiving” “Can Atheists Really Give Thanks?” He concluded by saying, “Perhaps it’s an advantage we believers have: Not only can we praise the hands that made the meal, we can praise the Hands that made the chef.”

Mike has a point. Thanksgiving is rooted in the idea that Someone has provided us with something we cannot provide for ourselves. As a child, I had no problem with Thanksgiving. I didn’t work for the food I enjoyed, so giving thanks seemed natural. But as an adult, do I still understand that I have been provided good things that I myself have not and cannot provide?

Like the air I breathe? Or the sun that warms me. My family heritage. My race.

It seems to me so much of our angst, even our racial angst, would disappear if we saw all that we have as gifts from the hand of a good and loving Father. Yes, even an inherited disease or a birth defect or learning disability.

God has the big picture in mind for each of us, not the short term. We can trust Him to do good, even if our school of hard knocks seems harder than what others are going through. David addressed our tendency to look at what others are getting, particularly others who do not love God and do not live in a way that aligns with God’s desires for us. Here’s one passage he wrote:

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. [Psa 37:1-8 NASB]

Envy, fretting, anger—these seem to be the antithesis of Thanksgiving whereas trusting, delighting in the Lord, committing our way to Him seem to be action points that stem from a heart of thanksgiving.

I mean, is it realistic to wait for someone who has failed you in the past, who let you down repeatedly? No! We wait for He Who has proved Himself faithful, Who provides what we need, Who deserves our praise for what He’s done and for what He has promised to do.

If we grumble and complain about what we have now and where we are in life at this moment, how can we stop on the fourth Thursday of November and say we are giving God thanks? Unless, of course, Thanksgiving Day turns us right-side around and reminds us that God has given us good things to enjoy. He is the Creator and Sustainer of our world, of our lives.

Perhaps the best thing we can do, on the night before Thanksgiving, is to prepare our hearts to give thanks to the One who truly deserves our thanks.

Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 6:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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Thankfulness In The Argument Culture


Broncos linebackerI’m a dye-in-the-wool Denver Broncos fan, a political conservative, a Christian. Occasionally I visit some Broncos fan blogs and interact with others who are passionate about the Broncos. Inevitably, though, someone will say something that reminds me, not all these people who love the Broncos like I do, love God the way I do or even like Him. And probably a lot aren’t political conservatives.

Yet if we were in the stands at a Broncos game, we’d be cheering them on as loud as we could. Together. And when the opposing quarterback fails to complete a pass, we’d yell in unison with the rest of the fans, In-com-plete. That’s what you do when your team has the No Fly Zone as your secondary.

The point here is this: football fans lay aside their differences when they come together to cheer for their favorite team. The only differences that count at that moment are between those in orange and anyone wearing the opponent’s jersey.

My guess is, football fans don’t let religion or politics divide them because they don’t discuss the topics. But in the argument culture, our opinions have begun to divide us.

Things are becoming extreme in a land built on the right of free speech and freedom of religious expression. Now when people speak publicly, someone is bound to be offended and to call for a free zone.

The common approach is for someone to express their view. A commenter then tells them how stupid their ideas are. Then a third party will call the commenter a name and the commenter will cuss out both the original writer and the third party. It could go on from there, but it likely will end up with someone unfriending someone else.

Because in all likelihood, people who read blog posts or Facebook updates are doing so at sites they mostly agree with. When someone of a different viewpoint projects a new idea, it rarely sparks meaningful dialogue. Rather, the ensuing discussion is apt to be filled with vitriol and a repetition of talking points which originated somewhere else. Things like, Donald Trump is not my president. Or Hillary (her critics hardly ever use her last name and certainly not her appropriate title) is a liar. And, Black lives matter. Or, All lives matter.

Welcome to the argument culture we have created. What is substantive in the slogans we throw at each other?

Even “reputable” news outlets seem more interested in headlines that will get readers to click over to their site than they are in fairly representing the story or the people in it. Click bait. We’ve apparently proven we’re vulnerable to certain emotive words that will prompt us to action, so the “news” sites use those words with gusto.

First_Thanksgiving_in_AmericaThen along comes Thanksgiving Day.

Suddenly we’re suppose to pause, to relax, to hang out with family, to think about the things we’re thankful for.

In truth Thanksgiving calls Christians to do what we should be doing all year long. Even in an argument culture, we are called to be different. This is what Paul told the Roman Christians:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Rom 12:14-21 NASB]

These were believers who weren’t simply at odds with others because of how they voted. No, they were living in fear for their lives. They weren’t simply being unfriended on Facebook. They were being hauled off to be part of Caesar’s massacre.

Yet Paul says, weep with those who weep. Don’t celebrate the downfall of your enemy. If he’s hungry, thirsty, serve him. Don’t take justice into your own hands. Make a difference by doing all you can to be at peace with the very people who hate you. Don’t stoop to their tactics, but conquer their vitriol with God’s gentleness.

Are these the features that mark the Church? Is this what the world knows about us?

It should be. We are new creatures in Christ, so we ought not live like everyone else.

One of the ways I want to put this passage into practice is by being thankful. You see, despite the fractured nature of our culture, we still have a great deal to thank God for.

I lost a friend this year—a woman nearly ten years my junior, so her death seems especially wrong. But I am genuinely thankful that I will see her again. It might seem cliché to some, but I can look each of my Christian friends in the eye and say, See you later, knowing that I will, either here or in life after this life in the presence of our Lord and Savior. I am so grateful for that assurance. So thankful that Jesus Christ made it possible.

Politics and hurt feelings and misunderstanding might make relationships hard at times. But death is the ultimate divider. If we think our culture is fractured, that’s nothing compared to the last line, when people stand for or against God. Now that’s a division.

The fact that I can shake hands with the man at church who has terminal cancer and say, see you later, indicates that God through Christ has conquered the divide. He is the great uniter.

Sacrifices Of Thanksgiving


NOT the drive thru I was at

NOT the drive thru I was at

On another site I’ve had a discussion with an atheist about the context of Scripture—for instance, how God gave the Mosaic Law to the Jews because they lived in a theocracy. These same laws, then, are not intended for Christians to slavishly obey. In fact, the Law shows us we cannot please God by trying to do good and obey, primarily because . . . sin.

Then what’s the point of the Mosaic Law? Why are those chapters describing the sin offering and the guilt offering and the peace offering and the thank offering in the Bible?

Undoubtedly there are many reasons, but one certainly is that an understanding of the system of sacrifices gives us a picture of offering up to God that which pleases Him.

Always the requirement of sin has been shed blood. Adam and Eve sinned, and God covered their nakedness with the skin of an animal—an animal that had to die. From that point on, men offered sacrifices to God. Spilling the blood of an animal was part of worship. Noah, Abram, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and on, the people of God built altars and made sacrifice to God.

And then Christ.

Jesus died once for all, the just for the unjust. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. As a result, we’re free from the need to offer sacrifices over and over so that we may be in right relationship with God. Because of His grace and forgiveness, Jesus became the final sacrifice. His blood is sufficient to save, and no other sacrifice is necessary.

Then what are these sacrifices of praise and thanks? I wrote a post on this topic back in March entitled “Praise Is More Than Positive Thinking” but I think the topic is worth revisiting.

Scripture makes a case for the fact that God is delighted by our sacrifices. Paul equates the monetary donations he received from the church in Philippi with “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice.” Not to him. Their giving to Paul was a form of worshiping God.

The writer of Psalm 107 said

Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
And tell of His works with joyful singing. (v 22)

Because he coupled “sacrifices of thanksgiving” with telling of His works through song, I suspect the former isn’t referring to the animal sacrifices but actual verbal expressions of thanks.

The writer to the Hebrews clearly was referring to words:

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. (13:15)

Paul identified thanking God as something consistent with His will:

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18)

Amazing, isn’t it, to think that we can be sure we’re praying according to God’s will if we’re thanking Him. I mean, how many times do we think, if only I knew what God wanted me to do. Well, there it is. God’s will is for us to thank Him.

I was feeling a little peevish this morning. I was on my way to the grocery store and stopped for some breakfast at a fast food place. I decided to treat myself to a combo! But the attendent was trying to over charge me and couldn’t seem to understand what I was ordering. I got a little brusque with her and even said I’d leave if they didn’t have the combo I requested at the posted price.

When I reached the window I was starting to wonder if she might not be new to the job. She kindly asked me how many creams and sugars I wanted for my coffee, but when she brought them, I had to request a stirrer. She came back with one and apologized, “All I could find was a straw.” Well, the stirrers at that restaurant do have straw-like properties, but now I was sure she was new. So my peevishness turned into guilt. And as I was eating, I wondered why I hadn’t at least apologized for being short with her.

What a bad morning!

Except, not really. I started thinking about events that had happened before I reached the fast food place, and I began thanking God for them. And as I type, I can thank God for His forgiveness for my shortness with that fast food server. How kind of Him to not treat me the way I treated her.

Sacrifices of thanksgiving?

One more point. I posted on Facebook just this week how much I appreciate people who share my posts. If I feel that way, why wouldn’t God? When we praise Him or thank Him, we are recognizing who He is and what He’s done.

Without question, what we do can please God:

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (1 Thess. 4!)

So too, our words, our praise, our thanks can be pleasing to God—a fragrant aroma, an act of worship, a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 6:07 pm  Comments (3)  
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If We’re Thankful, Why Aren’t We Content?


pumpkin-patch-3-1367968-mNext week those of us in the US will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It’s a little harder to get in the holiday spirit this year, what with Starbucks red cups and terrorist attacks in Paris!

Still, it is Thanksgiving. It seems quite common to hold a genuine feast on Thanksgiving Day, even pause to pray and thank God for the bountiful blessings, then scurry out the next day and shop to the dropping point.

So how thankful can we actually be if we must always buy more? Granted, I realize much of the after-Thanksgiving shopping is connected with Christmas, but the American way of life has become that of the consumer. Once, not so long ago, we made things. Now we consume things.

And what’s more, that’s considered the good life. During the Great Recession, the powers that be seemed to believe the solution to righting the ship was to get America away from saving and back into spending.

While I’m not saying that spending is “bad” or that our spirituality should be measured by how much we save, I do think there’s a point where we should evaluate our attitude to see if we care more about living the life of abundance rather than living the abundant life.

Not long ago I read the Biblical account of the exodus—God’s people leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. On their journey God provided their food—manna:

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey.
– Ex 16:31

Wafers with honey. Yet a bunch of people who enjoyed this gracious provision as they traveled across the wilderness found fault with it.

The sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
– Num 11:4b-6

For the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt—they were tired of the same diet meal after meal, day after day. But look what they were doing—remembering what they’d enjoyed in Egypt. Never mind that Egypt had just experienced devastating plagues that had wiped out virtually all vegetation. Between the plague of hail and the plague of locust, were there any cucumbers and melons and leeks and onions and garlic for them to go back to?

The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again. For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt.
– Exodus 10:14- 15

Granted, the hail did not fall in Goshen where the people of Israel lived. Let’s say for the moment that the locusts didn’t go there either, though the text doesn’t specify this. How was it that Israel had the food they remembered so fondly when the rest of Egypt was decimated? Obviously the answer was, God.

What they had in Egypt, then, came from the hand of God, and what they had in the wilderness came from the hand of God. Consequently, when they cried discontentedly against the manna they were “forced” to eat, they essentially were telling God He wasn’t doing a good job of caring for them.

In other words, discontent is actually an accusation against God.

Yet our entire existence seems to be made up of striving and struggling and trying and working. Oh, wait. Wasn’t that what God told Adam life would be like outside the Garden?

So the striving and all isn’t the problem per se. That’s the condition into which we’ve been born. But responding with discontent seems to me to be a choice—one that clashes with a genuine spirit of thankfulness.

Minus a few changes, this post first appeared here in November 2010.

Published in: on November 18, 2015 at 5:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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History In The Hands Of The Ignorant


The_First_Thanksgiving_Jean_Louis_Gerome_FerrisI saw a news item some years ago. Supposedly a Hollywood star came out saying she hates the US holiday of Thanksgiving (the Los Angeles Times published a rebuttal article calling into question Fox’s motivation and journalism for drawing their information from popeater.com, though the Times failed to mention that sites like the Huffington Post also carried the story).

The “news event,” generated by second-hand reports, explained that this star was boycotting Thanksgiving because she didn’t want to be a part of rewriting history or commemorating “what the white settlers did to the native Indians.”

I’d like to rail a little against this one ignorant woman, except I saw something eerily similar from someone in my Facebook network.

YIKES! 😮 How gullible are we? Because some actress supposedly says this horrible thing about Thanksgiving, we rush out and start parroting the sentiments ascribed to her?

Never mind that there are primary historical documents—journals by the pilgrims who actually celebrated that holiday, such as Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford and Mourt’s Relation by Edward Winslow and others—that make it clear Thanksgiving has nothing to do with any of the activity that forced the native Americans off their land.

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans.
Wikipedia

In what way would a gathering that included on average two Indians for every pilgrim settler be reprehensible? Especially when the settlers were thanking God for His provision—not merely for the food, but for the Indians who taught them how to survive.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest. To thank God for their deliverance and the help they had received from the Indians, Bradford held a three-day Thanksgiving feast inviting the Indians to join them in their celebration.
“Strangers, Saints and Indians” by John A. Murray, Wall Street Journal

For the next fifty years, the pilgrims and the neighboring native people groups lived in harmony. And Thanksgiving feasts took place in response to the blessings they enjoyed. Not every year, but with more and more frequency.

So who actually is “rewriting history”?

Certainly not the people who are reading the original source material. And not those of us who celebrate God’s goodness, as the pilgrims did—recognizing that God’s hand preserves and protects and provides.

Think about it. What were the odds that a native American, fluent in English, would “happen” upon this colony of pilgrims so in need of help?

But I’m getting sidetracked.

This well-documented story certainly can be interpreted from a number of angles (for example, by focusing on the English speaking native Americans, by looking at the political developments within the colony, by exploring the relationships of the various native people groups with each other), but it cannot be painted as the beginning of hostilities, pilgrims with Indians.

At least as long as we’re not rewriting history.

And as long as ordinary people don’t start parroting the ideas of the rich and famous who have not done any actual scholarship.

The whole thing is made more ludicrous by the idea that the news article quoting unknown friends of the said Famous Actress might not be factual. So someone repeats the idea that Thanksgiving is celebrating murder because an online news source printed the story that this Star Actress said she’s boycotting Thanksgiving for a reason without any basis in fact.

Are we so ignorant that in this Age of Communication, people will believe something so easy to debunk? The sad part is that believing it turns into repeating it, which soon hardens into rewritten history.

Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 8:17 pm  Comments (8)  
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