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Tag: thanksgiving

Give Thanks on Solid Ground

by Mike McKinniss

What do you believe about God today that you did not believe previously? What do you no longer believe about God that you once did?

It’s an intriguing thought. It shouldn’t take very long before we realize that there’s something we once thought of God that we no longer do. And that, at the very least, ought to make us pause the next time we dig in our heals and sharpen our claws in preparation for a red-hot theological row. But that’s for another time.

Rather, I asked myself these questions recently. One of the places my mind has changed the most regarding the Lord fell in the area of God’s will, his goodness and my role in whatever the Lord may actually do on the earth.

You see, I thought at one time that God’s desire to heal sickness and disease today was essentially his sole prerogative. He might choose to heal; he might not. Neither I nor anyone else had much to do with it. Bottom line, I didn’t get what prayer was all about or how it might influence the Lord or events in “real life.” I was thinking like a fatalist, which is no fun, neither for the fatalist nor anyone else around him.

The broader question—”What was the Lord’s will?”—is a common puzzle for a lot of believers. Personally, since I didn’t know and believed I couldn’t affect it, I’d assume generally that whatever actually happened must have been God’s will by default. It was a natural outflow of a pair of theological tenets most of us never question: God is all powerful and God is all knowing. If these are true, then the Lord’s will is what is.

This is all well and good when the question at hand is whether we’ll get the promotion we’re aiming for or whether our offer on a house will be accepted. If it doesn’t come to pass, then the Lord must have some good reason for it. Que será será.

But when darker issues arise—like personal tragedy or global conflict—this line of thinking becomes extremely problematic. The omnipotent God crashes headlong into another theological tenet: the omnibenevolent God. The result for many is some kind of divine monster who would will—let alone allow—something like the Montecito mudslides. No decent human being shrugs her shoulders and says of the Holocaust, “It must have been God’s will.”

Set with such a dilemma, it’s not hard to see that one thought or another about God has got to change if we’re to keep from closing down our faith altogether.

So here’s a token of advice, if you’ll have it. When you find yourself in an impossible theological position, find one piece of solid ground to stand on. Make it your center, and allow everything else to be refashioned around it.

Here’s one of mine: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

It’s the most repeated refrain in the Psalms—perhaps even in all of the Old Testament. These were, I believe, the last words to leave Jesus’ lips before heading to his arrest, trial and crucifixion (see Mark 14:26, which may be a reference to Psalm 118, the last of the Hallel psalms traditionally recited at Passover). You’d be hard pressed to find more solid bedrock in the scriptures than this brief, easily remembered chorus.

Whatever else may be going on in life, however stressful your circumstances, however tragic your hardship, stand on this: God is good and his faithful commitments to his people and his creation will never be overcome. It worked for Jesus.

Does this mean God is not all powerful? Does this mean the Lord is not all knowing? Not necessarily. Though the theological and philosophical arguments there are too lengthy for now, the point is simply that there may be more going on in reality than we know (always a good lesson to keep in mind), but you can at least stand on one assurance, repeated again and again in Scripture: God is eternally good.

For that it’s worth giving thanks.

You’re Invited to the Feast!

by Robin Puchala

Feast by Laura DePonte
Flickr.com_photos/lauradeonte/2055682969_CC by NC-ND 2.0

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6(NIV)

I really look forward to the holiday feasts my family and I prepare.  Turkey and stuffing, fresh green beans, various casseroles and pumpkin or apple pie are some of my favorites. What are yours? And the aromas are intoxicating, making me hungry way before dinner!

In Ancient Israel feasts were very important – wedding feasts customarily included the whole town and wealthy men invited friends to sumptuous lunches.

We know that God Himself will invite us to the marriage feast of the Lamb, His Son, Jesus, as the Church becomes His spotless bride and the greatest celebration ever held will commence.  Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks Be to God, but How?

by Mike McKinniss

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Cheers!” by melalouise used under license CC BY 2.0

I’m recently married, so you’ll have to excuse me while all I ever talk about is my wife. It wasn’t long after our engagement, which was its own remarkable story, that she exclaimed to me (she’s always exclaiming things to me), “I’m just so grateful!”

This she followed up with a question: “How do I show my gratitude to God?”

My wife was expressing something I too was feeling, and would continue to feel straight through the wedding and on to now. The Lord had been so good to us both in ways we could hardly have fathomed just a couple years ago. Simply saying, “Thanks,” hardly seemed enough.

How do you rightly express thanks to the Lord?

At first, my mind wandered toward placing a little extra in the offering plate, but that hardly seemed like saying, “Thank you.” It would have felt more like repayment, which is perhaps the greatest insult one could offer in response to a gift.

There had to be a better way to give thanks.

We turned to Scripture, and thankfully (get it?), we found a little thing called the thank offering. Leviticus 7 had us covered:

Now this is the law of the fellowship sacrifice that someone may present to the Lord: If he presents it for thanksgiving, in addition to the thanksgiving sacrifice, he is to present unleavened cakes mixed with olive oil, and well-kneaded cakes of fine flour mixed with oil. He is to present as his offering cakes of leavened bread, with his thanksgiving sacrifice of fellowship. From the cakes he must present one portion of each offering as a contribution to the Lord. It will belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the fellowship offering; it is his. The meat of his thanksgiving sacrifice of fellowship must be eaten on the day he offers it; he may not leave any of it until morning (Lev. 7:11-15, HCSB).

Essentially, for Israelites who had reason to give thanks to the Lord, a dinner party with the priest was prescribed.

Some sacrifice! You mean, we didn’t have to fast for days on end, sit atop a telephone pole, or pledge our firstborn to demonstrate our genuine, heartfelt thanks for the place God had graciously put us?

No, as far as the Lord is concerned, the best way to demonstrate gratitude is to have a little party, with plenty of meat and carbs.

Now, it is a regular quip of antinomians of all stripes that no less a God-man than Jesus performed his first miracle at a week-long wedding celebration, producing wine worthy of any sommelier’s tastevin, long after the guests were in a stumbling stupor (John 2:1-12). It’s hard to be antinomian, however, when the law itself supports a good celebration.

Regardless, my wife and I, newly engaged and completely blissed out, had the answer to our question.

How do you demonstrate your gratitude toward the Lord, from whom every good and perfect gift flows? You share a meal, you make a toast, you throw a party and let others in on your great fortune, all the while celebrating the God who loves you and never ceases to be good.

Slandering Appliances

by Wendy

Image by Jeremy Brooks 5/4/08; https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/ CC BY ND 4.0

Image by Jeremy Brooks 5/4/08; https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/
CC BY ND 4.0

“What didn’t go wrong in the last two weeks?” I snapped at my friend’s innocent “How is it going?” My litany of woes wasn’t short; the daily absurdities felt like a swarm of hungry mosquitoes, intent on making me dessert.

I reviewed the damages:

  • The refrigerator puddled water on the floor, costing hundreds of dollars to fix, just as my husband left for another unexpected business trip.
  • Our new laser printer digested my expensive cardstock and refused to perform just before our scheduled seminar.
  • A predatory virus blossomed into a raging ear infection and pounding sinuses after four flights in one weekend.
  • And finally, our faithful Honda van joined the onslaught, blinking the dashboard lights randomly on and off (and on, and off) en route home.

Barely scratching the surface of my afflictions, I wondered if now was the time to add the story about wanting to throttle a well-meaning co-worker. Perhaps not? At least I could slander appliances and viruses without fear of retribution.

My friend groaned and then laughed. “Wait, wait,” she interrupted, “tell me three things you’re thankful for!”

Great. Thankful? I wasn’t even close.

I stopped, retracing my brain’s steps and taking a breath. Slowly, pictures surfaced in my mind. Better pictures, not fantasies of kicking refrigerators or throwing printers out the window. Images of friends helping, sacrificing, coming alongside. “The leader who gave up time and rest to come to our ­­­­­meetings when he wasn’t well enough to do so,” I said, forcing myself to calm down. “And my colleague – she spent hours copying and collating notes for Board sessions the other weekend.”

I took another breath. The list was getting easier. “Oh! My friend surprised me with an invitation I didn’t expect. She made me feel so welcome and loved!” More pictures surfaced, unbidden. Like eager puppies released from a cage, appreciations tumbled out on top of one another. “The weather, the gorgeous foliage, the food and the show when we saw the performance last weekend; The lavender and rosemary bushes that survived the cold snap; our excited friends helping with next weekend’s bridal shower; and our marvelous supporters who paid for all our expenses at the seminar,” I gushed. Breathing was easy now, and fun pictures of the past weeks bubbled to the surface.

“Okay, okay, my turn!” my friend interjected. By this time we were both laughing, blessed beyond measure that in the midst of stress, Jesus was holding us and keeping us afloat. Nothing changed on the outside, but inside our worlds shifted. For the umpteenth time, God reminded us that He was bigger than our circumstances. He understood, He knew our pain, He was there to help and redirect us, and to redeem all the offending attacks.

I shook my head. “I’ll learn,” I thought. “I really will get this!” Determination rose up and joy snuck into my soul, ready to try again. After all, the refrigerator was working again, the car would probably be fixed tomorrow (and last until spring?), and the laser printer and I had called off our divorce.

The assaults were real, but God was more real, more present, and more able than I’d remembered. Appreciation opened the door, and the Holy Spirit blew in. I smiled, grateful for the break from unrelenting attack. This was a thankful I could live with.

In the midst of your stress, are there “thankful-nesses” waiting to be noticed?

Beautiful View

by Dawn Aldrich

kloniwotski

kloniwotski

by Dawn Marie Speer

The lush fullness of the Maple Tree
doesn’t compare to your lavish love
that is a banner over me.

The hot pink of the wild rose bush
does not compare to the crimson blood
of your sacrifice.

The vastness of the sky
cannot compare to your promise
of eternal life.

The wispy pure white clouds
cannot compare to the cleansing
I receive as I accept your gift.

The deep blue of the ocean
does not compare to the
depths of your character.

The warm, cozy cottage
does not compare to the
rest and refuge we find in you.

The sold rock of No Mans Island
cannot compare to the firm
foundation in Christ my Lord.

The uniqueness of each rock in the
wall that stretches from my view
cannot compare to
your many facets and your hand that
guides me.

The encompassing beauty of the view
cannot compare to the
splendor of the Lord.

Heaven’s Song

by Dawn Aldrich

children-dancing“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” Ephesians 5:18b-20

“Would you buy me a music book for Christmas so I can sing the songs?” asked my blond pipe-curled granddaughter. The one who couldn’t yet read or follow notes but always sung from somewhere deep within her soul.

The music called them both, she and her brother, in the middle of the store. They sang and twirled and clapped their hands. Uninhibited soul celebration that couldn’t be stilled. Wasn’t it Jesus who said we should be more like children?

And the song of heaven? It’s part of us, too. Heaven’s song calls soul deep in the midst of busyness and leisure, grief and joy, in want and plenty. It beckons thanksgiving in all things, for all things. And when we lift our earthly bent limbs high toward heaven, thanksgiving unfurls from our lips, our hearts, our souls… and His grace flows.

I don’t understand it, can’t explain it, but heaven’s grace-rain falls-fills to overflowing-as we offer up thanksgiving in all things. Lay anxiety aside, bring everything to heaven’s throne through prayer and thanksgiving, Paul says, and inexplicable peace will flow (Philippians 4:6-7).

Heaven’s song is thanksgiving. Always thanksgiving. Unleash it today, like a little child. Offer it up as a sacrifice of praise and let heaven’s rain overflow in an uninhibited soul celebration!

Fighting Back with Thanksgiving

by Mike McKinniss

Anthony_van_Dyck,_An_Apostle_with_Folded_HandsTaking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Luke 9:16

In some of my circles there is a fair amount of talk about spiritual warfare. We cast out this evil spirit. We unearth that bitter root. We declare victory in this struggle. And we claim promises in that battle. If you don’t keep your head, things can get a little out of hand, looking for demons under every rock.

Don’t get me wrong—spiritual warfare is very real. If anything, today’s Western church has swallowed far too much of the Enlightenment’s Kool-Aid. We can’t have our cake and still gulp it down. That is, we can’t take the Bible seriously regarding God and the Holy Spirit, while dismissing its talk of angels and demons and the devil. Sorry.

But spiritual warfare. Yes, it is real. There really are spiritual beings out there that have a very real impact on events in our world. And we human beings, especially now that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to our King (Matt. 28:18), have a real say in what happens to those spiritual beings. (By the way, if you’re interested in a very real discussion of this subject, without the cuckoo stuff, you could do no better than two volumes by Gregory A. Boyd: God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil.)

Occasionally I’m asked for techniques in spiritual warfare. How do we flank the enemy? How do we remain hidden until we’re ready to launch our sneak attack? How do we finally convince God to join the fight we’ve picked?

I have no idea. And if we think we have to convince the Creator to bring reconciliation to his whole creation, we’ve got the wrong idea to begin with.

But I am discovering this one handy little weapon: Gratitude.

One of the single most powerful forces in the universe is giving thanks for God’s character and what he has already done, especially when everything in us wants to fixate on the things that have yet to be won.

It is hard—very hard—to maintain some kind of positive demeanor when you are desperate for some kind of breakthrough, but have yet to see even an inch of progress. It is easy—almost natural—to tumble into despair when we’ve yet to glimpse a change in a situation we care about.

Your daughter has defiantly walked away from the Lord. You’ve been praying for months on her behalf. But all that’s come of it, as far as you can tell, is still more rebellion and a roll of her eyes whenever you bring it up. A new utterly secular family has moved in next door. You’ve been praying for months about the influence they might have on your son. But their elaborate and garish Halloween decorations remain littered about their front lawn.

Spiraling toward despondency is a real temptation that must be avoided, for it is the one sure way to lose that battle.

Concentrating, instead, on the things you know and have already seen props you up to maintain the effort. You must maintain your gratitude, always, that Christ has died for your daughter, whether she sees it or not. You must find godly things about your neighbors (trust me there’s something) and thank God that they exhibit that aspect of his nature, whether, again, they know it or not.

I can’t say I know how it works, exactly, but real gratitude cuts through even the thickest armor and, just as important, keeps us standing squarely on two feet.

Letting Go: a Hard Sacrifice

by Dawn Aldrich

lettinggoIn the silence I willed my aching feet up the step ladder one more time. My weary heart sank as I dunked the paint brush deep into the sunny yellow paint. One more step. One more stroke. Just. one. more.

Twenty-five years prior and five months pregnant with my daughter, I jumped up the rungs of that ladder feeling ten pounds lighter than today. You see, then I was painting God’s gift to us–the house I longed for…prayed for…every time I strolled by. It was the perfect gift where my husband and I raised our two children, entertained friends and ministered hope. It was a true desire of my heart that God wrapped up with a shiny red bow long ago.

And now? Now, God has asked me to let it go, to change course, to release it all.

With every coat of paint I rolled over sweet memories hidden inside my heart. The weight of all the sacrifice ahead grew heavier with every stroke. How could I release this perfect gift? How could I let it go and allow strangers in? Would they know how precious this house has been or would they just consider it a place to hang their hat?

But then God whispered, “I have bigger plans. There’s something more. There’s something new. Let. It. Go.”

You see, I’d been white-knuckling this house –wrapping my fists around it and hanging on with all my might as though without it I’d lose my true identity; like it was my source of blessing rather than the blessing.

So God reminded me that He was my source–is my source–and this house was but a very good gift. Now He is asking me to let it go; to sacrifice something very good for something even better.

In the midst of hard sacrifices, God calls us to worship; to refocus our attention off of ourselves and onto His goodness; to offer up our thanksgiving for His faithfulness in our past and thanksgiving for all His promises for our future.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

So, right there on that ladder, I transferred my focus from myself to God’s goodness and worshiped God with every roll of the paint, thanking Him for the life lived between these walls and the family He helped us raise. And then? My attitude changed. I realized God wasn’t asking me to give up something very good for something even less, but rather to release the hold this home has had on my heart and to prepare for change.  Something better. Something lovely and freeing and full of His hope. Because that’s how God rolls.

The paint dried and every surface reflected the Son just right. We staged the rooms in picture-perfect-excellence and manicured every corner of the yard. It was time to release the gift and let strangers in.

Have you ever been asked to make a hard sacrifice? If so, was it easy to release that something? How did God use that sacrifice for His glory?

Precious Lord, thank you for the blessings. Thank you for the years of family memories and your faithfulness in providing all our needs every single day. Now we release these treasures back to you. We freely offer your gifts as a sacrifice of praise to use as you see fit. Prepare our hearts for the next chapter, the next adventure, the next new thing. Help our eyes to stay fixed on you.  Amen.

The Widow’s Mite

by Rob Dunne

widows-mite

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:42-44

It wasn’t a feast fit for a king. Though the food tasted good, there wasn’t a lot of it. That didn’t matter. The motive behind it was pure. More than that, it was incredibly generous. After a week of vacation bible school, the parents and leaders of the local church wanted to provide us with a meal. As we said our goodbyes, the pastor explained how big a sacrifice this was for them. The families had given out of their lack rather than their abundance. Their selflessness meant going without for a few days.

This reminds me of the poor widow and her two mites. As poor as she was, she gave everything that she had to God. Why would someone do that? Why would someone so impoverished give everything that she has knowing full well that she will do without? Clearly, she understood the love of God.

Contrast that with the story of the rich young ruler. He arrogantly approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus lays out several of the laws from the Ten Commandments. The young man boasts that he has kept all of the commandments since his youth. Lovingly, Jesus responds that he lacks one thing. He tells the young ruler to sell all of his possessions, give them to the poor and follow him. Dejected, the young man walks away because he cannot perceive of giving “his” things away.

Sometimes our possessions possess us. Rather than recognizing that everything we have belongs to God, we hold on to them like grim death. What we fail to realize is our stuff is getting in the way of the abundant life that Jesus promises us.

Our value comes from an active relationship with the God of the universe. Daily He tells us how much He loves us and that He created us with a purpose and a destiny. Stuff on the other hand tarnishes and fades, causing us to seek the latest and greatest so that our value comes from our ability to keep up with the Jones’
next door.

The parents of those bible school children knew that God loved and valued them. They understood God’s love for them and that gave them the freedom to love us in the same way. The rich young ruler missed the mark. He had an opportunity to break free from the lie that our possessions define who we are. Jesus offered to show him how to live life the way that God intended, a life of selflessness where love compels us to put others before ourselves. Had he seen life through the lens of eternity, perhaps the young ruler would have allowed true love to define him and break free from the bondage of materialism.

What in your life is interfering with your ability to receive the love of God and share it with the world around you?

To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our contributor’s page.

She Helps Me Count

by Dawn Aldrich

2011-12-04 23.32.51“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Bubble-bath clean she looks up at me with her half-mooned baby blues spilling crocodile tears and my heart puddles on the bathroom floor. She pleads with pouted lips, “Grams, I’m too tired to go home. I’ve just GOT to sleep here at YOUR house, please? I’ve GOT to.”

What’s a Grams to do but say yes? For time and wisdom teaches: say yes and often –seize every memory-making day as though it is the last. Say yes! For through her, I see God’s little blessings and she helps me keep count.

Blessing 1: Snuggled together- (Grams, Pops, ‘Kota, and the two cats) – for one story, that inevitably means three.

Blessing 2: Quiet voices in prayer, the “Mr. Moon” song, distant trains and good-night kisses that she doesn’t rub off.

Blessing 3: Smiling baby blues and sweet morning whispers through the bedroom door.

Blessing 4: She draws the wind blue – because that’s how she sees it – and all God’s creatures in the red barn and yellow hay in the silo. Details far beyond her years.

Blessing 5: “Something beautiful is up there, Grams,” she notices as black crows caw high above us on our early morning walk-about.

Blessing 6: Giggles as twigs tickle her face walking past the “messy house.”

Blessing 7: Her mittened hand swallowed in mine.

Blessing 8: Sweet, red-ripened strawberries dipped in sugar.

Blessing 9: Eskimo kisses between cold pink noses.

Blessing 10: The sound of her breathing.

Through her eyes it is always thanksgiving and God is close. She slows me down and points out details I’d normally ignore – details that count blessings one-by-one.

In the hurried holiday season, won’t you take some time to count? Count the little blessings every day, little gifts God sends your way even in the midst of noise. Start now, if you’d like. What are you thankful for today?

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