In Everything 5

Luke 17:11-19

I can’t stand ingratitude. I can’t stand it when people forget to say “thank you” for what they have received. It is something we have worked on with our children over the years. It is something that I came to realize more than thirty years ago. Everything is a gift. No one “owes” you anything – not the world, not life, not God, not anyone.

Unfortunately it is so very easy to forget the gratitude we need to have when things are going well. And nothing illustrates it better than the story of the ten lepers.

How is this healing story different from many others (dead girl brought to life, the widow’s son raised, the blind who receive sight)? Where were they when they were healed? What does Jesus mean by his last statement?

I feel this story is a little different from many other healing stories in that Jesus doesn’t lay his hands on the lepers. He doesn’t spit into mud and apply it to them. He doesn’t say “be healed” to make them clean.

Instead they are on their way to see the priests when they were healed. We must assume that they expected the healing or the trip to the priests would be pointless. And we might excuse those nine for not returning because perhaps they were a long way off from Jesus.

Mostly, however, I think they were simply so excited that the miracle happened that they forgot to say “thank you.”

And yet, how much like them are we? We can get so caught up in happiness that we forget to thank God. And when I mention happiness it may not be the giddy, laughing, giggling happiness of a new bicycle. Instead it is the common, day-to-day contentment of knowing that things are fine. That is a form of happiness, and that form of happiness lulls us into such a sleep of complacency that we forget what we need to thank God for.

He may not have healed us of a deadly disease. He may not have rescued us from financial ruin. He may not have spared us from some tragic accident.

But his blessings are just as great in the day-to-day miracles of life, of being healthy, of being able to see and hear and touch and taste the bounty of God’s love in the world around us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Be like the one and not like the nine. Go to God in gratitude.

In Everything 4

Philippians 4:18-19

As the days get shorter and cooler I begin to think of the coming winter. When I hear Christmas music (Yes, they’re playing it already in stores!) I think of the various Christmas music CDs we own and I can see the snowy fields pictured on the covers. And I found myself not looking forward to winter at all. But, like Paul, I have some hope.

As Paul is concluding his letter to the church at Philippi he begins to speak specifically about support the church has given him (see Philippians 4:10). Logic tells us this is a financial gift from the church to help this traveling evangelist do God’s work (look also at Philippians 4:14-17). How does Paul feel about the gifts? Who obviously brought them to him? How does Paul describe these gifts? How will God respond?

Two things strike me in this passage. The first is that Paul is “amply supplied.” The words make me think of myself as the coming winter approaches. I have come to dislike the cold of winter, and I realized it was because I do not want to go outside in the cold. It’s uncomfortable.

But I also realized that I don’t have to dread the winter as I am amply supplied. We have all the comforts we need to make it through to spring. We have ample food. We have ample warm clothes. We have ample things to occupy our time indoors.

The second thing that strikes me is that the gifts Paul received were described as fragrant offerings to God. These gifts were expressions of thankfulness and love. These ample supplies were like pleasant scents to both Paul and God.

We all must be mindful of the fact that God gives us ample supplies. He gives us what we need to make it through good times and bad, through challenges and ordinary days. In response we should offer thanks to God.

The Philippians offered support to Paul out of gratitude, both to him and to God. These expressions of gratitude gave God’s kingdom what it needed to move forward. These thank offerings were fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices and pleasing to God.

When we thank God for what He has done our thanks are gifts, offerings to God. Whether it is through financial gifts to ministries or words of thanks to God, we all need to offer ample gratitude to God – fragrant offerings of appreciation.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What form can your fragrant offerings take?

In Everything 3

Psalm 33:1-5

At our charge conference I was able to see a contrast in worship attitudes. The event started with some praise songs – the first being a song about singing, clapping, dancing and jumping in celebration of God. The concluding ceremony was a somber, silent parade of pastors bringing their statistical reports forward. I suppose we all celebrated God in all that we did, but I prefer the jumping and dancing.

What type of attitude is presented in Psalm 33? What instruments are listed? What attitude and approach is suggested? What reasons are given?

Five simple verses sum up our approach to appreciating God. We are called to praise God. We are called to give thanks. And why is this? Because it is fitting for the faithful to do so. The word of the Lord is right and true. In other words, God can be trusted to give us good things, so we should thank Him for His generosity.

Our praise and gratitude should not be a narrow, limited thing, but something that encompasses all things. We should praise with harp and lyre. We should shout our praises. And, I find it interesting, we should “play skillfully.” God deserves our heartfelt and intentional praise, praise that requires a little effort on our part.

So many give thanks to God on a limited scale – only when reminded or when the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays roll around. But our praise should not be something we forget, neglect or overlook. It should be heartfelt and constant. It should be something we invest ourselves in.

We should be joyful in our gratitude, not grudging. We should be skilled in our praise, and not second-rate. We have so much to thank God for that we should never forget all of His blessings. After all “he is faithful in all he does,” and “the earth is full of his unfailing love.”

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you praise and thank God “skillfully?”

In Everything 2

Colossians 3:15-17

When I traveled to Europe in the 70s there was a joke with the German family we visited about the Austrians. The Austrians are so polite that they say Dankeshon (Thank you) and Btiteschon (You’re welcome) with every encounter. (When said quickly –dankeshon-bitteshon – it sounds like a train.)

We found it to be true and, aware of this, noticed how funny visits to restaurants became because of all the “thank-yous” and “you’re welcomes” involved in being seated, receiving the menu, the silverware, the napkins, the drinks, the food, the bill, etc. It may be amusing, but it is a charming part of the culture. Showing appreciation is an automatic and almost constant thing.

Paul, in this reading from his letter to the church at Colossae, seems to present a similar attitude. Look at how often he says to be thankful. The people (and us too) are called to be thankful because they are members of the body of Christ. And we are to be thankful that we are called to peace through that body.

Their worship, and our worship, should be filled with gratitude. In conclusion, Paul sums up that all we do should be done in the name of the Lord and should involve giving thanks.

It may not be part of our culture or our personal nature to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” every time we are given something. It might make society function a bit smoother if we did.

But we are called as children of God and as followers of Jesus Christ to give thanks to God in all we do, and to be aware of – and therefore, thankful – of what it means to be saved by Christ. When we gather to worship – to sing songs of praise, to sing hymns, to pray, to be taught and to teach – we should do it all with gratitude.

Our thanks to God should not be reserved to one day a year, one season of the year, or one day a week. Our thankfulness for all that we are and all that we have should be a constant outpouring from us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How often on average do you thank God in one day? Find a way to increase that number.

In Everything 1

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This has been a very trying year. There have been so many things that want to tear us down. The death of a child and the death of a friend. The loss of loved ones, the end of marriages, the lack of rain, and then a flood. On television we saw a bridge collapse and wildfires ravage California.

Sometimes it seems like the world is coming to an end and we can't imagine going on. Yet, here, at the end of Paul's letter to the church at Thessaloniki, the oldest writings in the New Testament, are these simple little instructions. Be joyful. Pray continually. In everything give thanks.

We know, from the previous chapter, that they had lost many of their brothers and sisters to death. Paul mentions it starting in verse 13. So it wasn't as though they were untouched by grief and pain themselves.

But still, he urges these early Greeks to find joy--to pray continually--and to give thanks in all situations.

There is an important distinction to be made here. Every moment of our lives are not filled with joy. But we must remain joyful in every situation because our joy does not come from what surrounds us, but from what God has done for us. It is through continual prayer... constantly seeking the face and will of God, that we are able to have HIS joy in all situations, even those that are far from joyful.

And it's the same with thankfulness. We may not be thankful for every situation. But we must be thankful IN every situation. Not for what is happening in the world around us--no one is thankful for death and destruction. But we must remember to be thankful to God for His goodness in EVERYTHING, for this is His will.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Since today's passage is so short, I am asking that you read it again, but from the Amplified Version:

16Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);
17Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];
18Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].