Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh Give Thanks to the Lord...

I love Thanksgiving.  My sweet wife was frustrated with me the other day because I never want to Christmas shop until after Thanksgiving is over and even then it may be the middle of December before she’s able to get me to the mall. She is right that she can get such better deals by shopping for Christmas early. I guess in the little box I live in it is hard for me because I feel like I’m ignoring a wonderful holiday called Thanksgiving. Part of me rebels at the constant onslaught of retailers and advertising that drives us toward Christmas and completely ignores Thanksgiving.

The Psalmist said in Psalm 106:1 “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” I was talking with a preacher friend of mine the other day who has been such a blessing to so many pastors; but He was talking about how there is a lack of gratitude even among pastors and how sad this is that they don’t take time to say thanks. Well I’m not going to be one of those guys. As I write a few days before Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share four concepts for which to be thankful that I believe summarize the blessing of Thanksgiving.

First, I am thankful for the grace of God. The most fundamental definition of grace is unmerited favor. Part of our problem in our lack of thanksgiving is we have come to believe we’re owed what we have. When you realize God owes you nothing, and yet He’s given you everything by His grace and the mercy that flows out of His grace – not giving us what we deserve; you’ll be a thankful person. Paul expressed this concept this way in Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Paul’s logic is profoundly simple, if God was willing to give sinful humans His only Son as payment for our sins, it stands to reason He’s going to be gracious in all other areas of life. Out of the grace of God flow all the blessings we normally think of, our families, our health, our homes, food, clothing and shelter. All of those things are completely undeserved and there is nothing we could ever do to earn God’s favor to deserve any of it because our sin nature makes us rotten to the core. In God’s grace we find an endless ocean of God’s capacity to forgive human rebellion and bless them in spite of their rebellion against God. Let me challenge you to reflect on God’s grace, His unmerited favor that has been showered on you; and you’ll find more stuff to be thankful for than imaginable.

Secondly, I’m thankful for the Word of God. I never cease to be amazed at how the truth of God’s word feeds my soul with exactly what I need for today. Like the manna from heaven God gave the Children of Israel every morning for breakfast as they wandered through the wilderness, God’s Word supplies exactly what I need every day. Oh sure many times it is painful to me because God’s Word tells me the truth about who I am and it challenges me and corrects me but I need it. I’m surrounded by a world of lies and a world system that seeks to destroy me and my family, I’m confronted with evil no matter where I turn, living as a citizen of the Kingdom of God in the realm of Satan and his evil forces that want to grind me up and destroy my existence. Yet in the midst of all that, God has given me the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). It truly is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path (Ps. 119:105) that guides me through the minefield of life Satan has placed in front of me. I have found as Psalm 1:1-6 affirms those who walk in delight of the law of the Lord are so blessed. I have found that God’s Word makes me like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in its season and whatever I do prospers! Oh how I am thankful for the Word of God.

Thirdly, I’m thankful for the family of God. The local church is God’s gift to us as we do life together. It is a place of encouragement, blessing support, and a place to use my gifts and talents for Jesus to be a blessing to others. It is a place to be fed the Word of God, like my physical earthly family, God’s intentions for this institution is that it be a place of joy and blessing and shelter from the challenging storms of life. Oh sure there are dysfunctional families and there are dysfunctional churches because we humans that make up these institutions are fallen and sinful creatures. But again, God’s grace overcomes all that. A body of believers who are sold out and committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, where God’s Word is correctly preached and taught, and where the love of God abides; is a happy, healthy and vibrant family that people cannot stay away from. The “one another” passages in the New Testament picture the family God intends for us to enjoy and I’m here to tell you I love the local church family of God that He has given me and I’m profoundly thankful for it. If you aren’t connected to a local church family, you are missing out!

Finally, I’m thankful for the mission of God or the purposes of God for His church and individual believers. You see God’s mission or purposes for us is an amazing and exciting adventure of faith that gives purpose and meaning to life. It answers the questions like who am I and why am I here on planet earth. When a Christian finds the calling God has placed upon their lives, they find immeasurable blessing and joy. It is what fuels your passion to get out of bed in the morning to where you can’t wait to tackle the new day. When you learn to embrace the journey of the life of faith God has for you and you pursue His purposes and mission, you’ll find immense pleasure and blessing. Be thankful that Almighty God has seen fit to use little old you in some way to further His kingdom. Satan has convinced people the key to happiness is being self absorbed and pursuing “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” but those who pursue that worldly system find heartache, pain and terrible disappointment. Is it any wonder our society needs more counseling, drugs and alcohol to somehow anesthetize our pain? How thankful I am that living within the boundaries God has set for me and pursuing His purpose for my life gives me tremendous freedom and blessing. I’m free to pursue life the way Paul expressed in Col. 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men.” He also said in Romans 11:29 “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God has graciously gifted you and called you to do something for Him and in that you’ll bring Him glory. How thankful I am for His mission/purpose He’s called me to join Him in. What an honor to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In these four broad categories, I find more to be thankful for than I can really comprehend. I will be reflecting on these blessings and giving thanks to the Lord for He is in fact good and His mercy endures forever upon a simple preacher named Ralph Green. I hope these thoughts will help you enjoy this Thanksgiving season, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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