Telling thankful people just who to thank
Acts 14: We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this.
Paul and Barnabas arrive in Lystra and open their ministry there by performing a miracle, healing a lame man. The town goes wild and before they know it Barnabas and Paul are identified as the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes. In the mythology of the day Hermes is the spokesman of the gods and since Paul does most of the talking they identify him as Hermes. Barnabas, though, gets the highest title. Maybe there’s a lesson here that if we keep our mouths shut people will think more of us than they would otherwise! Anyway, it takes some doing to calm the crowd down so that Paul can preach the Good News of the gospel to them. Since the theme of the day is already set, Paul focuses in on the true God and his good will toward all people. That good will, he says, is evident in the blessings that surround each of us. Here’s evangelism fueled by Creation. Even a person who’s secular to the core looks at the majesty of the Grand Canyon or some other natural wonder and feels a sense of gratitude. A good place to start a conversation about the Lord is to tell them who it is that we thank for it all.
Take Away: One of the ways the Lord has revealed himself to us is through his Creation.
Isaiah 63: I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings.
The old gospel song says, “Count your blessings – name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” I don’t know that hymn writer Johnson Oatman was inspired by this passage but it certainly fits. Isaiah says he’s going to make a list of the things “God has done that need praising” and then work his way through that list. Like many Christians I have a prayer list that’s filled with concerns and needs. I think it’s a good idea; after all, there are many genuine needs and the Lord welcomes us to share our heart’s concerns. However, I need to balance that out by having, in addition to a prayer list, a “praise list” as well. Otherwise, I’m in danger of behaving like the nine lepers who are healed by Jesus. They rush on into their new lives without a backward glance while only one returns to say “thanks” to our Lord. I need to purposely make the effort to spend time each day rejoicing in all the Lord has done for me.
Take Away: Our “need filled” prayers should be balanced by strong component of “praise filled” prayers.
The positive, encouraged people of God
Isaiah 41: I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
Some folks apparently think that spiritual talk is the language of need and complaint. To them, an evidence of their belief in God is constant requests for prayer: “Pray for me, life is so hard that I sometimes don’t think I’ll make it another day.” Now, I say this carefully, because challenging difficulties and temptations do come into life and sometimes, that kind of desperate prayer request is, indeed, an evidence of belief in God. However, that isn’t the everyday language of the follower of God. This awesome God satisfies his people. Even when life isn’t perfect, they’ve found a Source that provides a foundation for their life. The native language for the one who trusts the Lord is the language of satisfaction: “In my distress I sought the Lord and he was there for me.” Personally, that means I must major on the goodness of God and not on the difficulties of life. It also may mean that I have a responsibility to help other believers remember that God is there for them and help them learn this language of praise and thanksgiving.
Take Away: The native language of the people of the Lord is the language of satisfaction.
I did it God’s way
Proverbs 10: God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we can do can improve on God.
The greater part of the book of Proverbs is made up of wise “one-liners.” Well, they’re actually “two-liners” that follow the format “This does this, but that does that.” One of the many wonderful strengths of “The Message” is how beautifully Peterson handles the parables, giving them new life for his readers. Today, I’m reminded that all the good things in life come from the Lord. He’s the “Blesser” giving us so much to enjoy. One of the lies of the Garden of Eden is that people can pull themselves up to God’s level and thus “bless themselves” in doing things their own way. The truth is that nothing I do on my own to create a satisfied, happy life equals what God can do for me. Getting my own way won’t give me a rich life. Instead, I’ll have spent my assets on a bag of worthless rocks. It’s only when I realize that God is the only One who can make my life worth living and that he desires to do just that that I have a hope of living the “rich life.” Sometimes, I have to simply accept God’s blessings in a sincere spirit of thanksgiving and not try to do it my own way.
Take Away: When the Lord blesses me the proper response is to say “thank you” and then go about enjoying the blessing.
A song of praise
Psalm 138: Thank you! Everything in me says, “Thank you!”
In this psalm David immerses himself in thanksgiving. God is good to him and he’s filled to overflowing with thanks. He imagines the angels of heaven stepping aside and stilling their voices to hear his song of thanks. That grateful spirit drives his worship and gives him strength. If David, without the story of Good Friday, who lives hundreds of years before some unknown person dreams up doing the horror of doing executions on a cross; if David can be overwhelmed with thanksgiving then I ought to at least be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in this song of praise. So today, David’s song of thanks becomes mine. Thank you, Lord — thank you from the depth of my being — thank you with all my strength. Angels step back. Listen as I call out to God my song of thanks.
Take Away: Praise the Lord – he’s worthy!
Blown away by God’s grace
2 Samuel 7: You’ve done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are.
The promise God makes to David through the prophet Nathan is an enormous one. His offspring will rule Israel forever. When I see how Saul’s sad story plays out then compare it to this promise of “forever” made to David I find it to be breathtaking. All this blows David away too. He goes into the presence of the Lord to express his thanks. Along with that is a real sense of unworthiness on his part. While David’s done a lot of the right things, this isn’t God responding to David’s deeds. Instead, this is God acting out of his goodness and David responding as he ought to respond. It’s true of me too. Oh how blessed I am! God is good to me in wonderful ways. He’s blessed me, not because I’m more spiritual, or more obedient than others. He’s blessed me because of his goodness. Like David, I’m blown away by all the Lord has done and is doing for me. And, like him, I want to express my thanksgiving to the Lord.
Take Away: How can I say thanks for all the good things the Lord has done for me?
Deliverance, protection, provision
Deuteronomy 8: If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. All by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!” — well, think again.
The topic is God’s past blessings and his promise of future faithfulness. Their history is memorable: deliverance, protection, provisions. God has been good and that should be clear to them. After all, bread literally fell from heaven every day. But that may be the problem. Many of his listeners had not even been born when the bread started falling. A person in his audience can be 40 years old and every day (except on Saturdays) of his or her life they have gone out to collect manna to eat. These blessed people have never seen it any other way. Had you met one and asked them about their clothing: “Say, how long does a shirt last before it has to be replaced?” The response would have been one of confusion: “What do you mean, ‘last’ — I don’t understand the question.” Why? Because their clothing never needed to be replaced — ever! Is it possible that God can be so good to me that I forget that he’s the Source of the blessing in the first place? Once I forget the Source, the next step is for me to start thinking that I somehow deserve credit for it. Moses says that if I start thinking like that — well, I’d better think again.
Take Away: It’s okay to enjoy the blessing as long as I remember the Source of the blessing.