Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Part 5


God commands us to offer perpetual gratitude - "In everything give thanks." (I Thessalonians 5:17).  However, as with every mandate of Scripture, we must view such responsibility more as privilege than mere servile duty.   

Moreover, such privilege begins and forever flows from the same blessed Fount as do all spiritual graces, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ.  "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).

I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8).

      The Psalmist who wrote these words did not possess the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit as do all who trust in the finished work of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:17).  On the other side of the cross, as it were, we now exist as the very temples of God wherein the Spirit of Christ lives and walks in us (II Corinthians 6:16).  Thus, the devotion of the Lord Jesus to His Father works in us so that His thankful heart motivates and empowers our thankful hearts.  Indeed, in ten references in the New Testament, the writers depict the Savior expressing gratitude to His Father.  As He now dwells in us, we can thus expect His moving upon us to "walk, even as He walked" in the attitude and expression of gratitude (I John 2:6).  A thankful Christ fosters thankful Christians.  "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6). 

    Such sublime truth greatly enhances the giving of thanks.  What if our remembrance to express gratitude actually originates with the grateful heart of the Lord Jesus to the Father whom He so dearly loves?  A full and careful reading of the New Testament verifies such truth.  "Without Me, ye can do nothing... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (John 15:5; Philippians 4:13).  The gratitude so pleasing to God and so necessary to our hearts must therefore proceed from the Son whose presence in our hearts constitutes believers as sons and daughters.  His thankfulness becomes our thankfulness, causing true gratitude to exist in us as the Christ-exalting and revealing reality that graces every work of God in our hearts.  Yes, the Christ for whom we most give thanks is the Christ who also moves upon us and within us by the Holy Spirit to live in perpetual gratitude.  Thanksgiving thus becomes something far more than we often consider, and far more wondrous an experience of the giving, receiving, and thanking that has forever existed in the triune God, and which now resides in the trusting hearts of sons and daughters united to the Son...

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one... O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
(John 17:20-21; 25-26)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Part 4

Thanksgiving Day

      I am glad that America still sets aside one day a year for the offering of gratitude to God.  Many nations have such an observance, but only the United States and Canada commemorate the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

    Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ view the day as one of an entire year of  thanksgiving, and even more, of a lifetime and eternity wherein we live with grateful hearts.  We believe in thanksliving, as it were, even as the Apostle Paul commanded, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I  Thessalonians 5:17).  One day could never be enough, as we could consciously offer gratitude to our Lord in every moment without adequately expressing our eternal indebtedness to Him.  

    I hope that the observance of Thanksgiving in America still speaks to our collective and individual conscience with a message of how abundantly God has blessed us, rather than it being merely a day of feasting, family gathering, and most disturbingly, preparation for shopping.  I'm sure it does, and may the Spirit of God in this day grace our nation with remembrances of the One who "giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25).  And may the people of God rejoice that this is merely one day among a year of gracious provisions descending from Above, and grateful thanksgivings ascending to the Throne of grace.

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever."
(Psalm 30:11-12)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Part 3

    God does not require our thanksgiving for the fulfillment of any need in His heart or emotional sensibilities.  He exists as a perfectly self-contained being, as it were, completely and forever fulfilled within His own triune personhood of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Acts 17:24-25).  

    Our Lord rather desires our gratitude and finds great pleasure in it because it originates in the faith whereby we rightly relate to Him.  Thanksgiving meets a need in us rather than in God.  "The just shall live by faith" declared both the prophet of the Old Testament, and the Apostle of the New (Habbakuk 2:4; Romans 1:17).  Thus, we are only truly alive when we trust God, a major component of which involves the thankful heart that reveals we are aware and appreciative of God's faithful heart.  This pleases Him because He so greatly desires our well being and best interests.  "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9).

    We affirm appreciation to God for the purpose of honoring Him.  "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me" (Psalm 50:23).  We also bless His heart with our offerings of gratitude.  "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  Such attention directed toward our Lord and away from ourselves also graces our own heart with the thanksgiving that, as A.W. Tozer wrote, "sweetens the soul."  Gratitude thereby comprises mutual blessing of both the Divine and the human.  We do well to keep this much in heart and mind as "out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again," and out of grateful hearts, we thank and thank and thank again.

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, o Most High."
(Psalm 92:1)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Part 2

Everything costs something, including God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

"Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:18-19.)

   That which is free to us cost God the life and lifeblood of His dearest and best. Somebody had to pay for grace, someone other than ourselves. We possessed no incorruptible tender or barter whereby we could have transacted our salvation to us as the freest gift ever given, to be received by grace, through faith (Romans 5:18; Ephesians 2:8-9).

We can give nothing for grace, with the exception of gratitude for having freely received it.

 “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Sincere, heartfelt thanksgiving reveals our understanding that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  

Remembering the price God paid to make such beneficence possible warms our hearts with appreciation, and fosters in us the loving gratitude whereby we bless our Heavenly Father with participation in the relationship with Him for which the Lord Jesus died.  

“The Lord taketh pleasure in His people. He will beautify the meek with salvation” (Psalm 149:4).  

Yes, gratitude is the “gift” we give in response to the Gift He gave.  Thereby we rejoice in grace so freely provided, but not without solemn remembrance of the most expensive price ever remitted.

“We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7).

"Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name."
(I Chronicle 29:13)

Monday, November 25, 2013


- Introduction -

Thanksgiving involves every aspect of our being, beginning in the depths of our spiritual nature where the Holy Spirit indwells born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gratitude He fosters in our heart proceeds into our minds, expresses itself through our words, and even involves the actions of our physical bodies.  Indeed, the Apostle Paul offered his prayer for a complete sanctification of our "spirit and soul and body" in the context and atmosphere of "in everything give thanks" (I Thessalonians 5:18; 23).

    We will consider in this series of messages the vital involvement and impact of gratitude to God in the hearts of those who trust the Lord Jesus.  No spiritual grace more establishes the attitude in which our Lord's presence becomes the chief influence of the entirety of our life and being.  The grateful Christian is, by definition, the trusting Christian, which furthermore results in the devoted and obedient Christian.  Thereby we honor the One whom James declares to be the Giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17).  Our Father merits a lifetime and an eternity of our thanksgiving, and the mutual blessedness of His heart and our own ensues when we join the Psalmist in his holy determination of appreciation...

    "O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever!" (Psalm 30:12).



    Thanksgiving exists because there is someone - Someone - to thank.  "He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). 

    What if this were not true?  What if the naturalist is correct that all things proceed simply as the result of chemical and physical processes, randomly played out in time and space with no conscious governing influence?  What if there was no one to thank?

    The thought first occurred to me several years ago when my wife and I looked out upon a sparkling lake on a sunny day in early autumn.  The sublime scene mesmerized us to the degree we could barely pull ourselves away from the beauty that blessed our eyes and our hearts.  "What if there was no one to thank for this amazing moment and experience?"  I will never forget the wave of horror that the mere notion of such a prospect fostered in my mind.  To this day, I shudder to imagine that millions of people live as enshrouded by so grave a darkness and deception.  Indeed, consider what life would be like apart from the realization of God's gracious generosity, and our accompanying response of appreciation?  Such is actually not "life" at all, is it?    "To live is Christ" declared the Apostle, and a primary aspect of such vitality involves the recognition of the Lord Jesus as the source and supply of God's giving (Philippians 1:21).

    There is someone to thank.  Wonderful is the fact of the matter.  And wonderful also is the faith of the matter as the Holy Spirit reminds us of "every good gift and every perfect gift," and then empowers the grateful acknowledgement that blesses both God's heart and our own.  Yes, thanksgiving exists because of God's giving, and because the light of life in Christ enables us to see.

"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:19)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Fallen Leaves"

     My mother's tree is shedding its leaves just now, beautifully, as always.

    She was with us when we planted the ornamental maple in 1993.  The thought occurred to me at the time that the moment would one day be very special in our memories and hearts.  It is.  My mother went to be with the Lord little more than two years later.  I never view the tree without thinking of her, and giving thanks for her.  In autumn, however, when the red, orange, and yellow leaves fall so gracefully, carpeting the ground with a singular loveliness, I think and give thanks even more.

    The hues of autumn result from death.  Less light and cooler temperatures halt the process of photosynthesis in leaves, causing them to die and lose the greenness that hides their truest color.  Those reds, oranges, and yellows would never appear to us if the leaves did not die, and a sublime glory would never manifest itself to our eyes and hearts.  Strangely, therefore, the death that is actually an aberration in God's creation resulting from sin nevertheless bestows upon us illuminations of beauty impossible to be known without it.

    Scripture declares the Lord Jesus to be "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).   In His infinite understanding, God has eternally known His Son would be required to suffer and die in time because of humanity's sin.  He did not determine our waywardness that began in Adam, but He knew it would take place.  Moreover, He also knew that only the Lord Jesus could save us by giving His life for us.  Far more mystery than light presents itself to us in this solemn truth.  However, brilliant illuminations do shine forth in beauty beyond comprehension and description.  Grace shines forth.  Mercy glimmers.  Love illuminates in open display the very heart of God.  Indeed, the suffering and death of our Savior on the cross of Calvary tells us perhaps the most important truth about God we can know.  It tells human beings that we hold a place in our Lord's heart that none else can occupy.  It tells us how much we matter to Him, and that He is deeply and emotionally involved in who and what we are.  It tells us that He loves and cherishes us.  And it tells us that even a long forever will not suffice for the redeemed to fully plumb the depths of wonder that exist in our wondrous God.

    The falling and beautiful leaves of my mother's tree cause me to think of her, and to give thanks for her.  They also remind me a fallen and beautiful Savior whose death reveals Divine glories that never could have been known in any other way.  I think of Him, and give thanks for Him.  And, I look forward to seeing them both some day in another Place where "there shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4).  Therein, another Tree awaits, with beauties yet unseen and unknown, but forever to be enjoyed in the rapturous love of God...

And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
(Revelation 22:1-2)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor."
(Ephesians 5:1)


Friday, November 22, 2013

On the Horizon

     Whether bright sunlight glimmers on the horizon or storm clouds loom, the greatest reality always involves the One who awaits us in every possibility and contingency.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand" (Psalm 121:3-5).

    Our Lord has promised to be everything we will ever need, in every type of circumstance or condition we will ever face.  Even worst case scenarios glimmer with the light of God for those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures promise His keeping and overcoming presence in every "What if?"  No prospect is excluded from the assurance, and no tempest or wave will ever swamp our ship as we remember the One of whom the disciples marveled, "Even the winds and the sea obey Him!" (Matthew 8:27).  They are His winds and sea, and we are His children to whom He promises complete devotion, attention, and safekeeping.  "Stormy wind fulfilling His Word" (Psalm 148:8)

    In days of blessedness, our Lord graces our joys with the realization of His boundless generosity and favor. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).   In days of buffeting, He draws especially near in heart and promised assurance.  "
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof" (Psalm 46:1-3).  Whatever the horizon promises or portends, we shall find our Lord awaiting us when we arrive.  We often quote King David's confidence in such matters regarding days of brightness and darkness to come, and this seems another opportunity to rejoice in the Psalmist's confidence...

"My expectation is from Him."
(Psalm 62:5)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Family Prayers"

     A dear friend of mine told me today, "Glen, I pray for you every morning" (thanks, Bill!).  This gentlemen is not at all given to exaggeration or saying things he doesn't mean, so his assurance of daily intercession on my behalf immeasurably blessed and encouraged me.  Indeed, it is a wonderful thing to know that somebody cares so much about us that they mention us to the One who cares the most about us. 

    I also wonder how God must feel when His children pray for each other.  I know how much I love hearing my children speak well of each other, and particularly this time of year, when they discuss what their siblings might like for Christmas.  How much more must our Heavenly Father rejoice when, like my friend, we seek His blessing for our brothers and sisters.  "
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth" (II Thessalonians 1:3).

    May I suggest that we keep in mind the fact that believers pray for each other as brothers and sisters of a Father.  This is an obvious Biblical truth, of course, but a bit of pondering and consideration infuses the matter with the warmth that family realities always foster.  Our Lord doubtless loves to see us approach the throne of grace with fellow believers on our hearts, and their names on our lips.  Even more, He responds to our family prayers in far greater measure than we realize.  The Apostle Paul realized this blessedness, and we close with his joyous supplication for the Philippian believers that we do well to emulate in prayers for our brothers and sisters...

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy."
(Philippians 1:4)

Weekly Memory Verse
     Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor."
(Ephesians 5:1)