Tomorrow will be a special day for our family…
“He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the LORD!”
Photo: Taaron Parsons
Tomorrow will be a special day for our family…
Photo: Taaron Parsons
I’ve been saving the following video to share with you since I first saw it during The Story Tour back in December. Even though I wanted to post it sooner, I knew it would be perfect to enjoy as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this weekend.
In her song “Alive,” Nichole Nordeman beautifully captures one of my favorite scenes in the Resurrection story—the moment when Mary Magdalene first sees Christ alive again outside the tomb.
Natalie Grant provides the vocals for this powerful song…
Death has lost and love has won! May God fill your heart with joy and peace as you worship our risen Savior this Resurrection Sunday.
“Alive” is featured on the album The Story.
Who but You,
Could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies
And dream of me?
What kind of Love is writing my story till the end
With Mercy’s pen?
What kind of king
Would choose to wear a crown
That bleeds and scars to win my heart?
What kind of Love
Tells me I’m the reason He can’t stay
Inside the grave?
Is it You?
Standing here before my eyes,
Every part of my heart cries
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost and Love has won
Hallelujah, Risen Lord,
The only One I fall before
I am His
because He is
Who could speak,
And send the demons back from where they came
With just one Name?
What other heart
Would let itself be broken every time
Till He healed mine?
Could turn my darkness into dawn;
Running right into Your arms
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost and Love has won
Hallelujah, Risen Lord,
The only One I fall before
I am His because He is
Emmanuel, the promised King
the baby who made angels sing
Son of Man who walked with us,
Healing, breathing in our dust
The author of all history,
The answer to all mysteries
The Lamb of God who rolled away,
The stone in front of every grave
Look what Mercy’s overcome;
Death has lost and Love has won
I am His
Because He is
Photo: M Nota
Since a Christian has no Savior but Christ, no Redeemer but Christ, and no Lord but Christ, if Christ is not raised, He is not alive, and our Christian life is lifeless. We would have nothing to justify our faith, our Bible study, our preaching or witnessing, our service for Him or our worship of Him, and nothing to justify our hope in this life or the next. We would deserve nothing but the compassion reserved for fools.
But, God did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30-31)…
Those who do not hope in Christ alone for salvation are the real fools; they are the ones who need to hear your compassionate testimony about the triumph of Christ’s resurrection. So don’t forget the resurrection; rejoice in it and glory in it, for He is risen indeed.
~John MacArthur in “Don’t Forget the Resurrection!“
Yesterday when I said that today’s post would continue on the topic of how to help those who are hurting, I had somehow forgotten that Good Friday was coming so soon. I will return to yesterday’s topic in the coming days, but today, we need to focus our attention in a special way on what Christ did to rescue us from the deepest pain imaginable—He gave His life away.
1 Corinthians 1:28
Through his insightful perspective on the Christmas narrative, Tim Keller provides a convicting reminder that salvation comes to the humble, rather than the haughty…
Have you ever noticed how women-centric the incarnation and resurrection narratives are? Do you realize that women, not men, are at the very center of these stories?
For example, in the story of the resurrection, who was the only person in the world who knew that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead? Mary Magdelene, a former mental patient, is the one Jesus tells to take this news to the world. Everyone else in the whole world learns it from her. Women are the first people to see Jesus risen from the dead.
In the incarnation, the annunciation comes to a woman. God penetrates the world through the womb of a poor, unwed, Jewish, teenage girl. The first theological reflection group trying to wrap their minds around this to figure out what this means and what is going on is Mary and Elizabeth.
We know that in those days women had a very, very low status. They were marginalized and oppressed. For example, we know that a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. Why? Because of prejudice against women.
We say to ourselves, aren’t we glad we’re past all that? Yes, but here’s what we have to realize: God is deliberately working with people the world despises. The very first witnesses to his nativity and resurrection are people whom the world says you can’t trust, people the world looks down on.
Because we don’t look down on women today, we don’t look at this part of the story and realize what we’re being told. But here’s what we’re being told: Christmas is the end of snobbishness. Christmas is the end of thinking, Oh, that kind of person.
You don’t despise women, but you despise somebody. (Oh, yes you do!) You may not be a racist, but you certainly despise racists. You may not be a bigot, but you have certain people about which you think, They’re the reason for the problems in the world…
Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. It is telling you that people who are saved are not those who have arisen through their own ability to be what God wants them to be. Salvation comes to those who are willing to admit how weak they are.
["The Gifts of Christmas," in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus]
This Christmas, may we become more like our Savior who never believed He was too good to reach out to the greatest of sinners.
Image: Henry Ossawa Tanner
1 Corinthians 13:8a
Does the stress of trying to plan perfect holidays transform you into the Grinch?
If so, then you’ll probably benefit from Sharon Jayne’s creative reminder about the most important thing we can do this Christmas…
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family—it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
With all that’s on our to-do lists this Christmas, let’s not forget—we always have time enough to love.
Image: Martine Lemmens
Should Christians celebrate Christmas?
To most of us, the very question sounds ridiculous. “What could possibly be wrong with celebrating the birth of our Savior?” we wonder.
Yet there are some who see Christmas as a pagan holiday which originally had nothing to do with Christ’s birth and should, therefore, be avoided by His followers.
If you’ve ever heard such arguments and felt confused over them, the following thoughts from John MacArthur and Grace to You should provide you with a little clarity about why the celebration of Christmas is a worthy endeavor…
Scripture doesn’t specifically command believers to celebrate Christmas—there are no prescribed “Holy Days” the church must observe. In fact, Christmas was not observed as a holiday until well after the biblical era. It wasn’t until the mid-fifth century that Christmas received any official recognition.
We believe celebrating Christmas is not a question of right or wrong since Romans 14:5-6 provides us with the liberty to decide whether or not to observe special days:
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks (Rom. 14: 5-6).
According to these verses, a Christian can rightfully set aside any day—including Christmas—as a day for the Lord. We believe Christmas affords believers with a great opportunity to exalt Jesus Christ.
First, the Christmas season reminds us of the great truths of the Incarnation. Remembering important truths about Christ and the gospel is a prevalent New Testament theme (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Peter 1:12-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:5). Truth needs repetition because we so easily forget it. So we should celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Christ and to marvel over the mystery of the Incarnation.
Christmas can also be a time for reverent worship. The shepherds glorified and praised God for the birth of Jesus the Messiah. They rejoiced when the angels proclaimed that in Bethlehem was born a Savior, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). The babe laid in the manger that day is our Savior, the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Matthew 1:21; Revelation 17:14).
Finally, people tend to be more open to the gospel during the Christmas holidays. We should take advantage of that openness to witness to them of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. Christmas is chiefly about the promised Messiah who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The holiday provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share this truth.
Although our society has muddied the message of Christmas through consumerism, myths and empty traditions, we should not let these distract us from appreciating the real meaning of Christmas. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to remember Him, worship Him and faithfully witness of Him.
And now to jump-start your worship this season, Dr. MacArthur teaches from the Scriptures on the true spirit of Christmas…
Image: Billy Alexander
For sufferers, Christmas can be an especially challenging time of year. Words like joy, peace, and other common themes of the season feel entirely out of place to hearts weighed down with sorrow over earthly circumstances.
On the night of Christ’s birth, the angels proclaimed they were bringing good news of great joy, but we can easily lose sight of how good that news is when we consider the great suffering that still exists in this world. At times, we can easily relate to Longfellow’s sentiments:
“And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’”
Pastor Ray Ortlund reminds us that our reason for rejoicing is only found when we shift our focus from earthly pain to heavenly purposes…
God will make sure that he is supremely glorified. “Glory to God in the highest” is the chorus of the angels broadcast into this world of enslavement to drugs and cynical lies and broken dreams and national disgrace. “Glory to God in the highest” proclaims that there is something higher than the height of our sin. God reigns supreme over all, and God will not allow evil to succeed here in his world. He will get himself glory out of this world. And so he should.
If God’s heart is attuned to love only what is best, then God loves his own glory above all else. He will share his glory with no one, and that is the most wonderful thing of all about God. He will not unGod himself. What if he did? Where would we be then? He steadily, faithfully guides history and our lives toward a God-glorifying conclusion.
Isn’t it interesting how in Christmas cards on public displays we often see the words, “Peace on earth, good will toward men”? But how seldom we see the prior words, “Glory to God in the highest”! But there is no peace, there is no good will, unless there is glory to God in the highest first. We forget to put God’s glory first. Fortunately, he does not. God will be glorified.
Would you or I have begun this announcement the way the angels did, with glory to God first? Obviously, the angels did not understand the importance of relevance and contextualization and meeting felt needs. They started with God, not with peace on earth! Why? Because the most relevant message to this sin-ruined world was, is, and always will be, “Glory to God in the highest.”
Our whole problem is our God-neglect. But the best news for sinners like you and me is that, whatever we might do, God is still God, God is glorious, and God’s glory is supreme over all other realities. And when his glorious kingdom is finally consummated, then there will be perfect peace on earth, good will toward men…
God has come to us in Christ to bring glory to himself in the highest as he grants us peace here in our lives. What can we do but rejoice?
[Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, pp. 101-102]
Christmas reminds us that perfect peace is coming. What a promise!
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.’”
Photo: Billy Alexander
Are you in the Christmas spirit yet?
Matt Maher’s beautiful version of Silent Night is sure to help…
Photo: Benjamin Earwicker
It’s that time of year again—time to stir things up a little bit with a post about Santa Claus!
Of course, I’m only kidding. I’m not really trying to be controversial, but I do want to pass on another interesting article by Elisabeth Elliot, this one on the topic of Old Saint Nick. And seriously, how can there be any controversy once we hear her take on the matter? I mean, it’s Elisabeth Elliot. What further evidence need we? Case closed, if you ask me. ;)
And now, from Elisabeth…
My parents never allowed us to believe that Santa Claus really came in a sleigh with reindeer. The nonsense about dropping down people’s chimneys would have meant nothing to us anyway since we had no fireplace. We hung our stockings on the bedposts and easily guessed that our parents were the ones who filled them, though we never managed to stay awake long enough to verify it.
My mother had always believed the tale of Santa Claus until she was eight years old, when a friend shattered her world by telling her it was all rubbish. She wept inconsolably, feeling she had lost a cherished friend. Her own children, she decided, would not have to suffer such disillusionment. She and my father determined to have no part in the deception parents cheerfully inculcate on children at Christmastime. They told us the simple truth—Santa Claus died more than a thousand years ago. He does not drive a sleigh full of presents form the North Pole and land on people’s roofs. “The Night Before Christmas” was a poem we loved and memorized, though we knew it was “just pretend.”
But there was a real Santa Claus. It is doubtful that He had a droll little mouth, or a belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. Nothing is known of his physical appearance, but of his godliness there is little doubt. Why not tell children the true story?
The name “Santa Claus” is derived from the way the Dutch settlers of New York pronounced Sant Niklass (St. Nicholas) a hundred and fifty years ago. He was born in the late third or early fourth century in Asia Minor of wealthy parents who had long prayed for a child. Early in his life they discerned in him great promise, and felt he should be a priest. Soon after his ordination his parents died, leaving him a great fortune. He began at once to give it all away, always contriving to remain anonymous.
He sometimes spent all night studying the Bible. He prayed and fasted and many believed that his prayers had brought them miracles. Twin brothers were said to have been raised form the dead. A nobleman who had sunk into poverty was in great distress, fearing that if he could not provide dowries for his three daughters, they could never marry. Nicholas learned of their plight and one night tossed a bag of gold through the window of their house. It fell at the feet of the eldest girl. Next night, another bag of gold—at the feet of the second sister, and on the third night, one for the youngest. On the first two nights he had slipped away without being discovered, but their father was waiting for him on the third night. He seized Nicholas’ robe and, astonished to discover who it was, fell to his knees and asked, “Why do you seek to hide yourself?”
From this incident came the St. Nicholas symbol, three bags or balls of gold which pawnshops now display to show their readiness to help the poor.
Nicholas became the bishop of Myra, a seaport city. He died somewhere around A.D. 342-345 and several hundred years later was canonized (declared a saint) by the Eastern Orthodox Church. By the Middle Ages more than four hundred churches in England were named for him. He became the patron saint of Russia, Greece, the kingdom of Naples, and of mariners, merchants, and children.
In Germany it was customary for families to exchange small presents on the Eve of St. Nicholas’ Day. Coal or switches were put in the shoes of naughty children as they slept, and trinkets such as we might put in Christmas stockings were given to good little boys and girls. Red Santa Claus suits with white ermine trim derive from the bishop’s robe. The traditional cap is similar to the bishop’s mitre.
Which character is the more worthy of a child’s emulation—the jolly man who supposedly fills stockings, or the holy man who loved God and gave away his fortune?
Her question is a good one, but I have one that’s even better—What do we have to do to bring back that coal tradition? I’m thinking parents could save themselves some serious cash this Christmas if we revived that idea.
Photo: EMIN OZKAN
Kisses from Katie, that is.
For the book lover in your life (or for yourself!), I highly recommend that you add a copy of Kisses from Katie to your Christmas gift-giving list. I recently finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Through her example, Katie Davis challenged me to love more sacrificially and encouraged me with the reminder that true joy comes from living in glad submission to Christ rather than in living for our selfish desires.
The following video contains the Kisses from Katie book promo (which I’ve posted previously) as well as a new interview with Katie Davis from Catalyst 2011. You can see the joy of Jesus Christ all over her face…
Get a copy of Kisses from Katie HERE.
During a recent M.O.M.S. group meeting at my church, a good friend of mine inspired me with her presentation on how to prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas. Cindy is a queen of hospitality and the only person I’ve ever known who is so organized that she has a “Plan A” Christmas (for holidays spent at home) and a “Plan B” Christmas (for holidays spent visiting family).
Based on Cindy’s suggestion to complete all Christmas decorating by the weekend after Thanksgiving, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the decorating process over the past few days. As I set up the Advent wreath and nativity scenes, arranged candles and poinsettias, hung garland on my front porch, and then decorated the tree with my husband, I thought about how some Christians avoid these activities because of concern over possible pagan origins. Of course, lights and trees aren’t what Christmas is all about, but is there really any good reason for Christians to avoid them in their celebration of the season?
I like how Elisabeth Elliot answers the question…
My father-in-law, Dad Elliot, was one of those mentioned in Romans 14:5 who consider every day alike. He was pretty consistent about this when it came to Christmas and Easter, but he did consider Sunday (the Lord’s Day to him), different from the other six days in the week. Since he believed that Christmas trees had a pagan origin he could see no sense in having one in a Christian home. I don’t think he actually forbade it, but certainly didn’t help decorate it.
I’ve had a few letters asking me if I “believed in” Christmas trees. Never thought about believing in them, but I do enjoy having one. Celebration and ceremony have characterized the life of the people of God since Old Testament times—even in very little ways. I always put flowers and candles on the dinner table if possible. Though there are usually just two of us, I try to make it an occasion. It’s worth observing. Less frequent occasions are marked more specially. The virgin’s veil, a measured pace, a ring—these are visible signs of the deeply solemn reality celebrated in a wedding. Pink ribbons, showers, silver cups mark a baby’s birth. My Norwegian husband’s birthday calls for a bløtkake, a layered cake soaked with all sorts of good stuff that I wouldn’t fuss with except on
I don’t think we need to rule out everything pagans do or did just because they did them. Christians have the only real reason for celebrating Christmas (or Easter). Why shouldn’t we invest an ancient custom with a Christian meaning? It’s the birthday of the King! What would you not do to make your house festive if He were coming?
Ought we not to signal the good tidings with great joy?
Preparing my home for the birthday of the King. I think I’ve found a whole new reason to enjoy Christmas decorating!
Photo: Uros Kotnik
I’ve always been a big believer in Christmas traditions. I’m not exactly sure where my penchant for sparkling lights, elaborate decorations, and annual Christmas letters originated; it’s an openly acknowledged fact within my family that this trait was not inherited biologically!
Now that my husband and I have a daughter on the way, I’ve begun thinking more seriously about the traditions I hope to see established within our little family. Traditions infuse homes with fun, contribute a sense of stability, and provide parents with excellent opportunities to keep their family’s attention centered on Christ in every season.
This Sunday, November 27, is the first day of Advent, a celebration which helps to make the Christmas season especially rich and spiritually meaningful. If you’re unfamiliar with Advent, I’d encourage you to learn more about it so you can begin observing it together with your family.
In her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper describes the significance of Advent…
We are a people of promise. For centuries God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would make a way to draw near to him.
Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December.
First Peter 1:10-12 is a clear description of what we look back to during Advent. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re reenacting, remembering the thousands of years during which God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means—”coming.” Even God’s men who foretold the grace that was to come didn’t know “what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating” (v. 11). They were waiting, but they didn’t know what God’s salvation would look like.
In fact, God revealed to them that they were not the ones who would see the sufferings and glory of God’s Christ. “They were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v. 12). They were serving us. We Christians on this side of Jesus’ birth are a God-blessed, happy people because we know God’s plan. The centuries of waiting are over. We have the greatest reason to celebrate.
And yet we are still waiting. Our spiritual redemption came to us with the baby of Bethlehem. Nonetheless, as Romans 8 says, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). There is suffering and tragedy still, even for Christians. Someone we love is dying. We may be in pain. Sometimes we have trouble believing God’s promises. In other words, our redemption is not complete. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies—waiting for Jesus’ second advent, for him to come again.
So here we stand in the middle. Advent is a season of looking back, thinking how it must have been, waiting for the promised salvation of God, not knowing what to expect. And at the same time, Advent is a season of looking ahead, preparing ourselves to meet Jesus at his Second Coming.
[Treasuring God in Our Traditions, pp. 76-77]
To learn more about Advent and to gather ideas for celebrating it with your family, check out these free online books…
Come Lord Jesus Come: A Devotional for Advent
by Nathan Sherman & Will Walker
I hope these resources will help you make your celebration of the Christmas season not only merry, but meaningful as well!
Photo: Hans Kristian Pedersen
This Christmas, you could give your friends and family members another Snuggie or Chia Pet, OR you could give them gifts that are truly worth giving. Below, you’ll find a list of gift ideas that will not only bless your loved ones, but will also help change the lives of people around the world.
Hope you enjoy!
Handmade Necklaces from Amazima Ministries
When Katie Davis began reaching out to women in Uganda, she soon discovered that many were turning to prostitution or alcohol brewing to earn income simply because they thought they had no other options. Now through Amazima Ministry’s vocational program, Katie has provided a group of Ugandan women with the opportunity to support their families by making beaded jewelry.
Watch a video of the Amazima ladies hand-crafting their jewelry HERE.
You can help keep these women employed and support the outreach of Amazima Ministries by purchasing this beautiful multi-colored Mosaic
For the little girls in your life, you might want to consider a Hearts for Hearts Girls doll. Each 18″ doll comes with a unique story about life in her country. You can choose from Lilian (Belarus), Rahel (Ethiopia), Nahji (India), Tipi (Laos), Consuelo (Mexico), and Dell (United States).
World Vision receives a portion of the proceeds from every purchase to support girls in the same country that the doll represents. I know one special little girl who already has Rahel from Ethiopia awaiting her arrival.
Hearts for Hearts Girls are available in stores like Wal-Mart, but Joseph and I found they were even less inexpensive through Amazon.
You can shop Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog online to choose from a wide array of gifts that save lives around the world. For example, with $9 you can feed a baby for a week, for $15 you can cover a child’s school tuition for one month, or for $35 you can help train and equip evangelists to reach the people of their countries.
Giving through Samaritan’s Purse each Christmas is a wonderful tradition to establish with your children to help open their eyes to the needs of the world around them.
Samaritan’s Purse has special greeting cards that you can use to inform your loved ones about the life-saving gifts you’ve given in their honor.
Shop the catalog and make your donations HERE.
Although paralyzed from the shoulders down, Joni doesn’t allow her disability to keep her from pursuing her passion for art. Using only her teeth to hold her pencils or paintbrushes, she creates lovely drawings and paintings like this…
The proceeds from the sale of Joni’s artwork support Joni and Friends, a ministry devoted to changing the lives of those with physical disabilities both in the U.S. and around the world.
Similar to Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International also produces a special Christmas catalog where you can choose from a variety of gifts that change the lives of children and their families around the world. You can notify your friends or family members of the gifts you’ve given in their honor by having a professionally printed card mailed to them, or by sending them an e-card.
How often do you have the chance to give away a pig at Christmas time?
Shop the Compassion Catalog HERE.
And while you’re thinking about Compassion, why not consider sponsoring a child as a family this year?
In Mumbai, India, Jubilee Campaign is working to free women and children from the horrors of the sex trade. Jubilee Campaign helped construct four homes where young women can live in safety, free from the danger of forced prostitution. The mothers of these young women create jewelry and leather goods to support themselves and their daughters.
100% of donations go directly to the work of Jubilee Campaign’s partner, Bombay Teen Challenge. Shop HERE.
There you have it—a few ideas for gifts that will make a significant difference in the lives of others. You’re going to give, so why not make your giving count?
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot on true thanksgiving…
Some people are substituting “Turkey Day” for Thanksgiving. I guess it must be because they are not aware that there’s anybody to thank, and they think that the most important thing about the holiday is food. Christians know there is Somebody to thank, but often when we make a list of things to thank Him for we include only things we like. A bride and groom can’t get away with that. They write a note to everybody, not only the rich uncle who gave the couple matching BMWs, but the poor aunt who gave them a crocheted toilet-paper cover. In other words, they have to express thanks for whatever they’ve received.
Wouldn’t that be a good thing for us to do with God? We are meant to give thanks “in everything” even if we’re like the little girl who said she could think of a lot of things she’d rather have than eternal life. The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source than his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul…
Thankless children we all are, more or less, comprehending but dimly the truth of God’s fathomless love for us. We do not know Him as a gracious Giver, we do not understand His most precious gifts, or the depth of His love, the wisdom with which He has planned our lives, the price He pays to bring us to glory and fulfillment. When some petty private concern or perhaps some bad news depresses or confuses me, I am in no position to be thankful. Far from it. That is the time, precisely then, that I must begin by deliberately putting my mind on some great Realities…
What do I most unshakably believe in? God the Father Almighty. Jesus Christ His only Son. The Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Not a long list, but all we need…We didn’t ask for any of them. (Imagine having nothing more than we’ve asked for!) They are given.
Take the list of whatever we’re not thankful for and measure it against the mighty foundation stones of our faith. The truth of our private lives can be understood only in relation to those Realities. Some of us know very little of suffering, but we know disappointments and betrayals and losses and bitterness. Are we really meant to thank God for such things? Let’s be clear about one thing: God does not cause all the things we don’t like. But He does permit them to happen because it is in this fallen world that we humans must learn to walk by faith.
He doesn’t leave us to ourselves, however. He shares every step. He walked this lonesome road first, He gave Himself for us, He died for us. “Can we not trust such a God to give us, with Him, everything else that we can need?” (Romans 8:32, Phillips). Those disappointments give us the chance to learn to know Him and the meaning of His gifts, and, in the midst of darkness, to receive His light. Doesn’t that transform the not-thankful list into a thankful one?
["Thanksgiving for What Is Given," Keep a Quiet Heart, pp. 122-123]
Photo: George Bosela