Thinking Out Loud

January 1, 2019

The Bible Verse of the Year for 2018

Clarke Dixon is a Canadian pastor, friend, and — compared with everyone else I interact with online — we’re practically next door neighbors. His writings appear every Thursday at our sister blog, Christianity 201, but this seemed like a great choice to start the new year. I figured he gave us permission for one part of our blogging network, so that included Thinking Out Loud as well, right? His writing appears at clarkedixon.wordpress.com or if you prefer, you can read his writing at C201.

by Clarke Dixon

What was the most popular Bible verse of 2018? According to the popular Bible app YouVersion, the verse of the year was not John 3:16 or Romans 8:28 as you might expect. It was Isaiah 41:10.

Unfortunately, this verse is an indicator of what was on the hearts and minds of people around the world in 2018; fear and discouragement. We had many reasons for fear in 2018, such as changes in society and changes in our world with movements toward nationalism and various kinds of fundamentalism. We saw changes in relationships between nations, thinking especially of renewed trade wars. Most of us saw changes in ourselves. I am one year closer to the big five-O. Perhaps you are one year further away from it. Aging can be a great cause for fear. Then there are the things that stay the same; wars and rumours of wars, continuing oppression, natural disasters. There were reasons for fear in Isaiah’s day as well. Israel was a small nation surround by strong nations. That can be cause for fear in any age, but certainly back in the days when empires were eaten up by bigger empires.

What do we humans do when we are afraid? Isaiah tells us:

The lands beyond the sea watch in fear.
Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war.
The idol makers encourage one another,
saying to each other, “Be strong!”
The carver encourages the goldsmith,
and the molder helps at the anvil.
“Good,” they say. “It’s coming along fine.”
Carefully they join the parts together,
then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over. – Isaiah 41:5-7

The New Living Translation makes clear what most other translations don’t. The artisans and goldsmiths are making idols. We have a tendency of turning to idolatry in the midst of fear. In Isaiah’s time people thought idols could control the future. Are we any different today? What do we think controls the future in our day? In answering this we tend to either run toward superstition, or away from it so far that we run from the supernatural altogether.

It amazes me when I check the news headlines using the Internet on my tablet as to how often the daily horoscope shows up among the headline news. Here we are as very sophisticated people with great technology in our hands, and yet people are still looking to the stars for their future.

Superstition can sneak into Christianity very easily. I have often used an app on my phone called IFTTT which means “if this, then that.” I program this app so that when I do the right “trigger,” it will automatically do the right action. So, for example, I can say “time to eat,” and text messages are sent to our boys that dinner is ready. People often treat God that way. If I do this, then God must do that. I can control the future by doing a certain “trigger” which will force God to do the right action. Problem is, God is not an app or a phone that he must operate according to our scripts. God is sovereign. I am reminded of a prominent Christian couple who walked away from Christianity in 2018. God had not responded to them as they thought He should have. People do not tend to walk away from Jesus. They do, however, walk away from superstitious expressions of Christianity. Unfortunately, people tend to walk towards superstitious expressions of Christianity in times of fear.

While some, in thinking of the future, rush headlong into superstition, others will go the opposite extreme and become anti-supernatural. Nothing controls the future, it just all unfolds according to mechanistic processes. Even the process of thinking is said to be just a matter of one thing causing another, like a line of dominoes falling. Anti-supernaturalism can be found in certain expression of Christianity where people appreciate the benefits of religion such as structure, morality, and community. However, they don’t really believe in a transcendent and immanent sovereign God. The world is what it is and the future will be what it will be.

According to Isaiah, neither superstition, nor anti-supernaturalism speaks to our future. Who really holds the future? We find out in Isaiah 41:8-10

“But as for you, Israel my servant,
Jacob my chosen one,
descended from Abraham my friend,
I have called you back from the ends of the earth,
saying, ‘You are my servant.’
For I have chosen you
and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:8-10

God holds the future. Notice how Isaiah points to the past, present, and future. God’s people could look back and see a long standing relationship with God, “I have chosen you.” They have been his people for a long time. They can look to the present “I am with you, don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.” They can look to the future, “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Nothing could provide hope and help in times of fear like God Himself. In thinking of the future we do well to leave behind our superstitions and our anti-supernaturalism and turn to God. He holds the future as surely as He has held the past and now holds the present.

The theme of “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you” will sound familiar to the Christian. We can think of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds:

They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  – Luke 2:9-11

That God had become present through Jesus was good news, and so “do not be afraid”! We are also reminded of the last words of Jesus to the disciples in the Gospel of Matthew:

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:20

Like the people of Isaiah’s day, we can look to the past to see the relationship God has been pursuing with us. We can look to Christmas, we can look to Easter and the reconciliation that He has offered at the cross. We can also look to God’s presence in our lives now. We can look forward to God keeping His promises in the future.

2018 may have been a year marked by fear and discouragement for you. Perhaps Isaiah 41:10 is a verse you want to memorize for 2019.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

May your New Year be blessed and happy!


Scripture references are taken from the NLT

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December 31, 2017

My Year in Review

Redeem the time - Stewardship of timeThis is certainly the year in review time for many writers. But what about my year or your year? I’m definitely not a KJV guy, but there’s a phrase in it I’ve always particularly liked.

Col 4: 5 KJV Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Eph 5:16 KJV Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

The KJV uses the term “redeeming the time” in these two verses.   The second verse appears in the NASB as,

making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

and in the Voice as

make the most of every moment and every encounter

The other verse appears in the NASB as

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.

Again, The Voice has

Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times

The question I ask myself is this:  Did I make the most of my time and my opportunities in 2017?   And then:  Will I endeavor to make the most of my time and my opportunities in 2018?

While some writers emphasize the importance of rest — including it among the spiritual disciplines — others talk about the “stewardship of our time.”   Time management is considered enough in scripture that it is not a stretch to say that scripture introduces a “doctrine of time usage.”

But like everything else in scripture, there is a place for balance in doctrine.   Think of a pendulum swinging back and forth.   Only when it stops swinging does it find the place of balance in the middle.

There is a time for action — The one who knows to do something right and doesn’t do it; that’s a sin.   But there’s a time for rest — Be still and know that He is God.

Time management by Biblical standards involves more than a simple “resting” or “action” theory.   It requires skill and wisdom to find the balance.

So more questions:   Did I learn to rest in God in 2017?   Will I learn more about resting in God in 2018?

How is your year in review?

Nobody said this was easy…

…To my Thinking Out Loud online community, I wish you God’s best in the New Year.

December 1, 2017

Short Takes (5): As It Is In Heaven

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 am

We’ve prayed it many times:

Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

But how is God’s will done in heaven?

I see two things, but perhaps you can think of others:

(1) There is constant worship. The KJV of Rev. 4:8 says “they rest not.”  The NLT reads:

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty — the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

So if you want to see a bit of the will of God done here on earth, while it may not be non-stop, there’s going to be an element of worship.

(2) There is instant compliance. God simply speaks the word and it happens.   “And God said…” is the constant theme of the creation narrative, giving new meaning to the old phrase “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Except the missing middle part wouldn’t be “I believe it;” but something closer to “I’m obeying it.”

Unlike at creation, God cannot always simply make things happen unless we’re willing to be used as partners with him; he has chosen in this time and place to work through willing people.


Go deeper with this topic at Christianity 201

October 5, 2017

What You Don’t See Just By Looking at the Amish

I don’t know offhand if the Amish permit what’s called here “Agritourism” — in other words farm tours — but I have something that would be of greater interest than seeing the hay lofts or furniture making workshop. I’d like to sit down with an Amish elder and discuss the underlying faith, specifically their faith and how it informs their customers. It beats driving around Lancaster, PA and going, “Over there! It’s another one!” and then snapping camera-phone pictures of these precious people simply trying to live their lives in peace.

This week, I got a bit of an insight into the type of information I’m seeking. I work two days a week at a Christian bookstore that my wife and I coincidentally happen to own. When an audio book came in missing the shrink-wrap usually found on audio products1 I considered the idea of listening to a few minutes of it as, despite the various podcasts and sermons I listen to constantly, I have no personal experience with audio books.

Then I discovered the book was voiced by none other than Christian Taylor, one of the regulars at The Phil Vischer Podcast.2 I decided to see (or hear) what her vocational labor produced.

The audio was for the book Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Susanne Woods Fisher.3 Interspersing Amish proverbs with anecdotal stores would make this a fun read, but it was probably a bit of a challenge voicing a reading of the book.

Putting it as simply as I can, there is a world here which, while it may seem strikingly different to observe as a tourist, is actually more different than you think in terms of the underlying principles which guide everyday life in an Amish family and an Amish community.  They live out an ethic which is certainly rooted in the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus, but in many respects almost goes beyond that high standard in terms of everyday life.4

Even if I could embed myself in an Amish family for a week, I don’t know that I could ever expect to fully get it without having spent a lifetime being educated and shaped by their community values, passed on from generation to generation. They live in a world without electronic media and yet possess a wisdom many of the rest of us cannot imagine. Their formal education ends at Grade 8, yet they have better literacy rates than in other neighboring rural areas. Their children are given responsibilities that would boggle the minds of parents who bubble-wrap their kids in the cities, such as driving a team of mules to plow a field.5 And their pace of life means they see things which the rest of miss while driving Interstate freeways at 70 mph.

I enjoyed the (audio) book, but I find myself wanting more; more than I can get from simply packing up the car and heading off to Amish country or Mennonite country to simply look at them.6

I want to take a month and be them.7


1To my readers in other countries: For years records, tapes and CDs in North America have come plastic-wrapped, as we don’t want to get to get germs, at least that’s what a record vendor in England told me years ago.

2As in “…We’ll talk to Skye and Christian, too, but we’ve got no guest this week for you…” (Show theme song.) Christian is a voice actor. christiantaylorvo.com

3Oops! Fisher wrote Amish Peace in 2009. In an earlier version of this blog post, I identified the book as The Heart of the Amish which she wrote in 2015. This appears to be a different book, not a title update. My bad.

4The stories about forgiveness will break you.

5Full disclosure: The book admits this freedom results in a much higher rate of Emergency Room visits due to injuries compared to other children in rural areas.

6Pennsylvania or Ohio or Western Ontario would be the destinations of choice for such an excursion. The book notes the Ohio Amish have a lower percentage of people living in farm communities.

7I would probably not be able to give up my phone or internet connection. Today, several houses share an outdoor phone booth of sorts which is for making calls, not receiving them. That would be somewhat insufficient.


Christian responds:

Related: A 2010 article I wrote about the Amish and the concept of being separated from the world.

Photos: Daily Encouragement by Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.

June 18, 2017

The Rainy Season

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

Whenever I would visit Southern California, even though the weather was somewhat consistent for twelve months, there was still a sense of the succession of the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. When we were in Cuba, in speaking with the locals, there was clearly no such differentiation. There is the dry season, and there is the rainy season.

Here in the Great Lakes region we’ve experienced a rainy season. As I type this, the day started out bright and Sunny, but as of 9:00 AM, the clouds had totally obscured Ol’ Sol.  I started thinking about the Biblical phrase, “He sends the rains.” The passage is from Job 5:10 and in the ISV it reads, “He sends rain on the surface of the earth, and waters the surface of the open country.” Most other translations have a different shade of meaning to this, “He gives rain…”

Sometimes someone will say that in scripture, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. But Jesus, in Matthew 5:45b is clearly using it in the more common sense, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Rain is seen here as the opposite to “his sun;” a sunny day versus a day you are stuck inside and can’t work your fields.

Again, while rain is a blessing to people living in agrarian times, it’s also shown in Zechariah 10:1 in purely practical terms, “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.” It makes the crops grow.

But the idea of the rain of God’s blessings (a phrase that some may be intending while others may be saying ‘the reign‘ of God’s blessing) is indicated in Hosea 6:3,  “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

In my younger days we would sing a chorus, “It’s Beginning to Rain.”

It’s beginning to rain, rain, rain hear the voice of the Father
Saying “Whosoever will come drink of my water.
As Joel prophesied ‘My Spirit will pour on your sons and your daughters.’
If you’re thirsty and dry
Look up to the sky
It’s beginning to rain.”

We should probably adopt the mindset that each time we think of the first type of rain, we’ll consider the second.  Not ‘rain down blessings,’ but ‘rain down Himself,’ or ‘rain down His Spirit.’ Here’s another more recent song song which expresses this:

 

May 13, 2017

Weekend Link List

Every once in awhile I have to work a weekend shift, but at least it’s not as busy.

Welcome to the Weekend: A bonus feature for the faithful committed readers who don’t just turn up on Wednesdays. Drew Dyck didn’t say where he found this baby baptism pic, but the comments (click to read) were as much fun as the photo.


And now, to complete our weekly public service requirement, we bring you The Cycle of Fear:

April 11, 2017

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial – Part Two

Peter and Judas as painted by DaVinci

A few weeks ago we were reading Luke 22:

NLT Luke 22:21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me…”

and it occurred to me while we generally accept this as applying to Judas, there is a sense in which this could apply to Peter as well. We looked at this topic yesterday, but today we return with some words from Philip Yancey:

Judas was not the first or the last person to betray Jesus, merely the most famous.

To [the Japanese Christian novelist Shusaku Endo], the most powerful message of Jesus was his unquenchable love even for — especially for — people who betrayed him. When Judas led a lynch mob into the garden, Jesus addressed him as “Friend.” The other disciples deserted him but still he loved them. His nation had him executed; yet while stretched out naked in the posture of ultimate disgrace, Jesus roused himself for the cry, “Father, forgive them.”

I know of no more poignant contrast between two human destinies than that of Peter and Judas. Both assumed leadership within the group of Jesus’ disciples. Both saw and heard wondrous things. Both went through the same dithery cycle of hope, fear, and disillusionment. As the stakes increased, both denied their Master. There, the similarity breaks off

Judas, remorseful but apparently unrepentant, accepted the logical consequences of his deed, took his own life, and went down as the greatest traitor in history. He died unwilling to receive what Jesus had come to offer him. Peter, humiliated but still open to Jesus’ message of grace and forgiveness, went on to lead a revival in Jerusalem and did not stop until he had reached Rome.

~ Excerpt from the book Grace Notes as quoted at Zondervan blog.

At Redeeming God, Jeremy Myers has an excellent article on this subject. This is a very small excerpt:

…Maybe you remember that before Judas betrayed Christ, Satan entered into him (Lk. 22:3). And we think, “That’s why Judas was so evil.” But did you know that Jesus called Peter Satan? Once, as Jesus was walking along with his disciples, he was telling them what would happen to him in Jerusalem. He said that he would be put to death. Peter didn’t like to hear this, so he took Jesus aside, and rebuked him by saying, “Never Lord! Don’t say such things. This shall never happen to you.” How did Jesus respond? He looked right at Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt 16:21-23; John 6:70-71).

So in other words, both Judas and Peter were influenced in one way or another by Satan. We can also be certain that both wanted Jesus to be someone he was not: a political, military, kingly ruler. Both wanted Jesus to rule and to reign and to judge. Both wanted him to overthrow the Romans, and set himself up as king, and return Israel to the glory they once had, and which is prophesied they will have again. Both wanted a type of Messiah that Jesus had not come to be. Again, all of us remember Judas for his betrayal, his treachery. But did you know that Peter betrayed Christ as well? Both turned their backs on Jesus. Judas sold Christ to those who wanted to kill him for 30 pieces of silver, which was the price of a slave.

…start at the beginning of that article here

Finally, a Roman Catholic website, Our Sunday Visitor, also offers was is an excellent study by Robert King on these two disciples:

…Contrary to how modern movies about Jesus often portray Peter, he was actually a religious man even before Jesus came into his life. He once responded to Christ with the statement, “I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14), showing that he lived his life attempting to obey the laws and ordinances of God.

Unlike the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, Peter was also very aware of his own sinful state, declaring to Jesus, “depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). Peter was so open to the inspiration of God that he was able to understand that Jesus was the Son of God (Mt 16:16-17).

We can also learn a lot from the way Jesus viewed Peter. It is quite clear from Scripture that Jesus saw within Peter something very special, an inner strength and a sincerity of purpose in following Him and in serving God…

…When we examine Judas’s character and lifestyle, we find quite a different story. Judas was the treasurer of the group, the one who held the money. When the woman poured the bottle of expensive ointment over Jesus’ feet, it was Judas who complained, declaring that the money could have been used for the poor (Jn 12:6-8).

Yet, we are told in this same passage Judas’s objection was because he was a thief who was stealing from the group’s money, and not because he really cared for the poor. Even in this incident, we see no real love or concern about Jesus, and only a false piety about the poor. Judas was more concerned about money than he was about Jesus. We can almost assume that there was absolutely no genuine concern about Jesus whatsoever.

According to the Scriptures, though Jesus often spoke encouraging words to Peter, He never spoke anything positive or encouraging to Judas. Jesus himself said that Judas was “a devil” (Jn 6:70-71). He also said that it would have been better if Judas had not even been born (Mt 26:24). Unlike the love Jesus had for Peter, there is no such evidence of any like emotion for Judas. This is because Jesus knew that Judas’s heart was full of self-interest and ulterior motives…

…start at the beginning of that article at this link

I hope you’ll consider delving into one of the last two items quoted here.

 

April 10, 2017

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial – Part One

Judas.

Peter.

Who screwed up most?

Does it matter?

Several years ago I was reading a classic, The First Easter, by Peter Marshall. It’s written in a style that actually reminds me so much of Rob Bell’s writing. I’ve read it out loud as part of our family Bible study, divided into seven sections of about twenty pages each. Last night was the middle part, which seemed to portray clearly great remorse on Judas’ part.

I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood… Jesus of Nazareth. He had done nothing amiss.

In a 2011 piece at the CNN Belief blog, Craig Gross discussed this topic in great detail. He describes asking his Facebook network if they believe Judas is in heaven or hell today? The first response was dogmatic.

Judas is in hell today. He’s been there for 2,000 years and he’ll be there forever.

Craig was not impressed. He notes how convinced everyone is that their view is correct. As if it matters. I know there have been times in my life where I denied the Savior. Maybe not as overtly as Peter. And I’m sure if I look there have been times where, by some mis-step, some mis-statement, some inflection or even laughter, I have betrayed the cause of Christ. Perhaps not with the same historical significance, but then, who is to say? Craig reminds me:

It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.

I guess my greater concern is how all of this puts the focus on the wrong person. Judas or Peter are not what this coming weekend is all about. It’s all about Jesus. It always has been. It’s a time to gaze deep into the eyes of the suffering Christ and through His pain, see Him reflecting back lavish amounts of love. To me. To you.

Allow nothing to take the focus off where it belongs. It was our sin — just as bad or worse than Peter’s or Judas’ — that put Jesus on the cross, but He willingly allowed this to give us a future and a hope.

Allow the love of Jesus Christ to overwhelm you in the next several days as we remember His death, and His triumph over death.

December 4, 2016

For the Honor of God’s Name

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:14 pm

sheep in green pasturePsalm 23 is one of the best known passages of scripture. It is familiar to both believers and the unchurched, and has brought comfort to millions over the years. In this Psalm the Lord is described as a shepherd who does these things:

  • He makes me lie down in meadows of fresh grass
  • He leads me beside calm waters
  • He restores my soul
  • He leads me along the paths of righteousness

At this point the form address changes from He to You:

  • You are with me
  • Your shepherd’s staff brings comfort (security)
  • You prepare a banquet for me as my enemies watch
  • You anoint my head with oil

The results of all this are:

  • I have everything I need (lack nothing)
  • My cup is full to overflowing
  • I have the expectation of His goodness and mercy with me daily
  • I have a certain hope that His house is my home for my whole life (or forever)

(Wording above is an amalgam of various translations.)

That covers the entire Psalm except for two phrases. One of course, concerns walking through the deep, sunless valley of death. The other is our focus today:

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (v. 3b, NIV)

Other translations have:

  • You are true to your name (CEV) or your Word (Message)
  • for the ·good [sake] of his ·name [reputation] (Expanded Bible)
  • for the sake of his reputation (NET)
  • bringing honor to his name (NLT)
  • truth and righteousness echo His name (The Voice)

Elliott’s Bible Commentary says: “God’s providential dealings are recognized as in accordance with His character for great graciousness.” In other words, his provision in this Psalm is simply a natural consequence of nature in general and his compassion specifically. It’s who he is, which should remind us of the popular worship song, Good, Good Father (see below).

The Benson Commentary states the phrase means, “Not for any merit in me, but merely for the demonstration and glory of his mercy, faithfulness, and goodness.” As Max Lucado reminds us in a book of the same name, “It’s not about me.” Matthew Poole reiterates this: “not for any worth in me, but merely for the demonstration and glory of his justice, and faithfulness, and goodness.”

Barnes Notes extend this thought:

For His own sake; or, that His name may be honored. It is not primarily on their account; it is not solely that they may be saved. It is that He may be honored:

(a) in their being saved at all;

(b) in the manner in which it is done;

(c) in the influence of their whole life, under His guidance, as making known His own character and perfections.

Finally, Matthew Henry would argue that the previous verse is key to understanding the whole Psalm, namely that this is the testimony of a dying saint who would say,

Having had such experience of God’s goodness to me all my days, in six troubles and in seven, I will never distrust him, no, not in the last extremity; the rather because all he has done for me hitherto was not for any merit or desert of mine, but purely for his name’s sake, in pursuance of his word, in performance of his promise, and for the glory of his own attributes and relations to his people. That name therefore shall still be my strong tower, and shall assure me that he who has led me, and fed me, all my life long, will not leave me at last.

So many times we pray and our prayers may not be entirely unselfish, but their us-focused instead of God-focused. The full accomplishment of God working in our lives should be that His name is honored and glorified.

“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise with carved idols.
Isaiah 42:8 NLT

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus
Col. 3:17a NASB


We’ve looked at Psalm 23 before:


For Psalm 23 in all English translations at Bible Gateway, click this link to get to verse 1, and then change the very last character in the URL in your browser to move to the multiple translations of verse 2, etc.

The classic commentaries on verse 3, with the exception of Matthew Henry were sourced at BibleHub.

October 10, 2016

The Thanksgiving Spirit

This is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. Russell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201, our sister site featuring daily devotionals released each day at 5:30 EST. This is his first time at Thinking Out Loud.

by Russell Young

Thanksgiving is often celebrated as a harvest festival, a time of bringing in the riches of all that the land has provided the labors of man from the season just past. It is a time of rejoicing for God’s provision. In norther climates where leaved trees grace the land, thanksgiving is also a time of exceptional beauty. Autumn leaves reveal their varied colours and brilliance as green leaves are changed into many oranges, browns, reds, and yellows.

The idea and even command to thank God goes back to the beginning of the Bible. The Lord told his people how they were to present thank offerings. However, King David’s prayer of thanksgiving gives some idea of his heart. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him tell of his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice…” (1 Chr 16:7-10…NIV)

David’s thanksgiving was for and all-sufficient and merciful God. It was not for the bounty of a season but for the character of God and his faithfulness…for his “wonderful acts.” He recognized God’s everlasting covenant promise, for protection against enemy nations, for the splendor of his holiness and for his majesty. David’s praise of thanks was, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

The God of creation is preparing an eternal place in his presence for those who love and obey him. His people should think of this. Is there not more to be celebrated than a bountiful harvest? Is He not more to be celebrated than temporal riches or good times?

It is easy to let discouragement destroy our joy and our hope when the world seems to have turned against us. Many lose their faith when trials come. They expect to live in the blessings that they imagine God should supply them. All people go through difficult times. God did not promise to relieve us of all our challenges and to satisfy our wants. In fact, his Word says that his children will suffer persecution and trials and that he disciplines and punishes those he loves. The challenges of life are to prepare us for the real hope of a place in his coming kingdom and they are to be considered blessings. Paul taught: “[G]ive thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” (1 Thes 5:18 NIV)

In spite of challenges, many people can celebrate that they live in the presence of peace and safety. They don’t have to seek shelter from blazing guns or falling bombs as believers must in Iraq or Syria. They are not wantonly tortured as they are in many African countries. Not many have to fear suicide bombers. Many will have something to eat tonight. Their children are not starving and have access to adequate healthcare.

give-thanks-to-the-lord King David remembered who God was. He proclaimed, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Ps 107:1 NIV) His love and mercy extends to all who are contrite in heart and who will humble themselves before him. The prophet Isaiah revealed God’s words: “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2 NIV)

King David had taken another man’s wife and even had him killed. His penance brought redemption and forgiveness. God was truly merciful to him. All of the redeemed can appreciate the sins that cost the life of God’s one and only begotten Son? David did not just thank God for a bountiful harvest and a full stomach. He thanked God for his awesomeness and mercy.

God is not only near the righteous but he lives within them as Holy Spirit. Without him victory over the world, the evil one or the sin loving flesh could not be gained. Temptations would command the believer’s attention and as Paul has reported, the weakness of the flesh would result in defeat and death. He called the flesh, “the body of death.” (Rom 7:24 NIV)

God placed Adam and Eve in an ideal setting, the Garden of Eden, and yet they sinned. He started the human race again with righteous Noah following the Great Flood, and they sinned. He chose a special people, Israel, and offered them many promises of blessings for obedience, and they rebelled. He redeemed them from Egypt and led them in the wilderness; even then they continued to sin. He gave them the law and the prophets and the tabernacle system of worship. He made his requirements clear and recorded them on stone…and his people sinned. Finally, he gave the life of his Son as a payment for sin, and the Spirit of Christ, his Son, to live in the repentant. Just as Christ had lived a sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, he has made provision for victory for all who live under his lordship through obedience. This is the believer’s great hope and the ultimate expression of God’s love for a helpless sinner. Christ in you.

What are you giving thanks for? Is it a meal? A comfortable bed, close friends? Or, is it for the faithfulness of a loving and all-sufficient God and creator. What is your celebration about? Be thankful for God and his mercy. Celebrate his love and the hope he offers. Celebrate him, not just what he has done.

Like King David be prepared to say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

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