Give Thanks 5

Not TV orphans, but actual Korean refugees helped by a United Nations Official.
Job 42:1-6

When the TV show “M*A*S*H” was a hit series I was a big fan. I recall one episode where the rebellious “Hawkeye” Pierce was told to help out a local Korean woman who appeared to have a great deal of money. Pierce resisted at first but eventually discovered that the woman was not as she appeared. She was very involved in sheltering and caring for orphaned children.

He had acted at first as if he knew exactly what was going on. In the end he had to concede that there were things going on he was not aware of and he had acted foolishly.

Job stands out as a man from the Bible most people are familiar with. He is a man who has endured great suffering, and because of his suffering has begun to ask questions of God. Near the end of his story (Chapter 38) God responds, a little impatiently, perhaps a bit tired of the complaining.

God asks, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4 and 6) It is then that Job concedes he is a mere mortal, nothing in comparison to God.

What confession does Job make of God? What does Job realize of himself? What growth has Job experienced (verse 5)?

It is so easy for us to become caught up in ourselves, to think too highly of ourselves, and to assume life is here simply to make us happy. We must realize that the world, the universe, and certainly God are much bigger than we can comprehend. In spite of our troubles and our suffering we must approach God with humility and acceptance. We must realize that God is so much bigger than we are and we must trust in His goodness and grace.

When we are able to acknowledge the greatness of our Lord and trust Him, and praise Him and thank Him for all that He has given, then our troubles may be easier to deal with. And, like Job, we can come to the realization that our faith will grow. We can move into a deeper relationship with God – seeing with our eyes and not just hearing with ears.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to keep your own thoughts and feelings from obscuring God’s counsel without knowledge?

Give Thanks 4

Psalm 69:30-31

Years ago when we owned a dog we took it to obedience training. To train the dog we had to give clear commands to the dog and then offer a reward for correct obedience. The easiest way to reward the dog was with an edible treat, but the instructors pointed out that verbal praise and physical contact – such as petting the dog and speaking in an approving voice – was better.
They pointed out that a dog values being praised and accepted. The dog desires physical contact and a tone of voice that conveys praise.

What does the psalmist plan to do? What comparison is made between praise and offerings?

People can be like dogs when it comes to praise. Sure, there are many people who have very materialistic desires, who value the cost of the gift. But most people are pleased with any gift because the best gift is the knowledge that the giver was thinking of the recipient. “It’s the thought that counts” is a common expression, and one that is true.

The same can be said of God.

Can we offer God something He does not already possess? Is God impressed by the monetary value of our gifts? Absolutely not.

The psalmist points out that God values our praise and thanksgiving more than sacrifices of money. God desires for us to acknowledge Him and to thank Him for all that He does, not with donations of gold and silver, but with our hearts and our mouths. We are to sing praises to God, earnestly offering an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.

We may not always be willing to give that kind of effort. We may find it easier to donate items or money in the vague hope that God will be satisfied. But what we need to offer is a genuine, heartfelt thankfulness. We should praise God and thank Him in all circumstances.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to make certain your praise and thanks to God are sincere and not superficial?

Give Thanks 3

Colossians 2:6-7

When I bought my first house there was a pathetic, little plant in the corner of the yard, so I mowed it to the ground at my first opportunity. The plant grew back and was a little stronger, but still rather unattractive, so I mowed it to the ground again. Again the plant returned, healthier and better. Seeing a healthy plant I stopped attacking it with my mower and began cutting it back with clippers.

When we sold the house five years later the plant, a yucca plant, was hearty and beautiful with six-foot tall stalks covered in vibrant, white flowers. The plant survived because it had a strong root system. It also, obviously, responded well to adversity, getting stronger and healthier each time it had to return from a setback.

Paul, in his letter to the church at Colossae, talks about being rooted in Jesus. Once we have accepted Christ, what are we to do then? What is an expression of living in Christ?

As I think of our children growing up and facing the challenges of life I draw confidence in knowing that as parents we have done all we can to instill good values in them, and we have taught them to think clearly and rationally. We have equipped them, as children, to become strong and productive adults. We have given them roots – roots deep in a Christian upbringing, roots deep in an upbringing of intelligence and good instruction.

It is true of our faith as well. Through his life, teaching and sacrifice Jesus has built an extensive root system for our faith and for our lives. By imitating Jesus, by becoming as much like him as we can and becoming as faithful of a believer as we can, we are rooting ourselves in the love and power of Christ.

We will all face hardship and pain. We are not spared these trials. But if we accept Jesus, learn his teachings and internalize them, we are given the strength of Jesus. Our faith is rooted in Christ and we draw strength from him as any plant draws nourishment through its roots.

Like a plant that comes back season after season in spite of the struggle of being cut down or battered by the weather, we too can keep coming back, keep moving forward in our life of faith. Christ can give us strength and sustenance to endure challenges. And one expression that comes from this reliance on Jesus is an attitude of thankfulness, and not just a small amount of contentedness, but a gratitude that overflows in our life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be rooted in Christ and continue to live in the Lord?

Give Thanks 2

Hebrews 12:28-29

Our latest pet peeve is the car commercial showing children in the back of a Chrysler Town and Country minivan playing “Jenga.” If you have ever played the game, which involves pulling wooden blocks from a stack without making it all topple, you know how impossible it is to play such a game without the sturdiest of foundations.

Life can sometimes feel like that game. Each day is a block we must carefully remove without having everything come crashing down around us. It can be difficult to find an attitude of thanks in such situations. It can be difficult to be content in every situation, to give thanks in all situations, when so many feel like impending calamity.

What helps is knowing the foundation on which we stand, the firm base of our faith. God provides us with a base that cannot be shaken. As the author of Hebrews puts it, “You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.” The author then concludes this image with today’s reading. God’s kingdom is a kingdom which cannot be shaken or moved. It is solid strength for our souls and our faith.

No matter what tragedy or trial we may be facing we can give our gratitude to God for being our strength, for being our rock who holds us unmovable in all situations.

And what attitude should we have with God? Verse 28 concludes that we should worship God with reverence and awe. Our thanks which we offer to God are a form of reverence. Our trust in God’s unshakable support and guidance should be offered in awe.

God is described as a consuming fire. We know and trust that God will consume all of our troubles and woes with the fire of His Spirit. And that is cause for us to give thanks.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Read Hebrews 12:22-25 and thank God for His strength.

Give Thanks 1

Philippians 4:10-13

Like most people, I guess, I spent many years when I was younger dreaming of the day when I would have all that I wanted – a big house, nice car, lots of money and influence. Years passed as I dreamed and hoped. And then I realized that I was spending my present dreaming of a future that may never be.

I discovered that money truly is not the only way to happiness. I learned to be happy with the here and now, with what I had and who I was with.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul talks about lessons he has learned. What makes Paul so happy here? Why had he not seen the Philippians’ concern before? What lesson has Paul learned? What is his conclusion?

In this time of thanksgiving, as we look at what we have, we can begin to believe that only the best of gifts and benefits lead to our happiness. We forget the words in 1 Thessalonians 5 – “Be joyful always.” “Give thanks in all situations.”

It is easy to appreciate what we consider to be good in our lives – a nice house, a good car, trinkets and treasures that bring us happiness. But we must also learn to give thanks for all that we have, even if at first we see it as troublesome.

Paul knew how to be joyful in all situations. He knew how to feel happy even when he didn’t have enough food, when he was cold and alone. He knew the secret was that God was with him. He knew that it was the Spirit of Christ who gave him the ability to do all things. And he knew that whether he had riches or not, God loved him still.

That was what gave Paul comfort and joy.

And so it should be with us as well. We should see that even though we face challenges in our lives – hardships, pain, sorrow, want – we are still loved by Christ and God is with us to help us through our darkest hour. If we can find happiness and appreciation in the good things we have AND find appreciation for the challenges, then we will truly be joyful people.

We may not recognize it at first, but the dark hours of struggle are when Christ draws us nearer to him for comfort. In that we can find joy and gratitude.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Think of a difficult situation you may be facing and thank God for His presence with you in this time.