The Spirit of Thankfulness

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I posted this at least a year ago after a blessed pregnancy and delivery.  We should never forget how good God is!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

In a world comprised of people whose goal is to get what they can the fastest and easiest way possible, thankfulness has become a lost art. We see people demanding benefits even though they already have much at their disposal.  We hear news of people discontent with their possessions, health, and relationships, yet who ignore the many people in the world that have so little.  The demand for more and the ungratefulness for less have turned the world sour.

Unthankfulness is listed among the sins that mark the End Times before Jesus returns. We wouldn’t normally think of it as a sin, but God finds unthankfulness as repulsive as disobedience and greed.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

We as Christians could very quickly deny that we had anything to do with these sins.  We are God’s children, after all, and love Jesus.  We steadily go to church and sacrifice our time to serve the Body of Christ.  Unfortunately, good deeds don’t cancel out a heart that is ungrateful for the blessings of God.  These blessings could be as small as a good deal at the grocery store, or as great as a miracle in our health.

Let’s look at Luke 17:11-19:

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

This story is an example of Jesus’ willingness and ability to heal the sick.  It is also an example of thankfulness.  Out of the ten lepers, one man alone came back to express gratitude.  En route to share his testimony, this man suddenly realized that another Person deserved honor.  That Jesus’ miracle-working power went to work for him was more than enough to inspire a grateful heart.

From this story, we can learn some important lessons:

Remember Thanksgiving

Sadly, the other nine lepers were too engrossed in their excitement to pay Jesus a second visit.  They forgot to recognize the One who made their healing possible.  Like the Samaritan, we should never get so distracted by our blessing that we fail to acknowledge the Source.  For us, distractions may come in the form problems, a craving for more blessings, or the inability to recognize who our Source really is.   If we get distracted for a moment, we should stop and return to our Master to show our appreciation.

Remember Who We Are

The grave commentary of the other nine lepers is that they left the praise and thanksgiving to a foreigner.  The thankful leper was a Samaritan who didn’t have any right to the covenant blessings the Jews enjoyed.  Instead of rushing away, the Israeli countrymen should have set the example by acting out of their honored role as Jews.   Just as they did, we may be tempted to leave our role as thankful Christians to someone else.  We may find ourselves slipping out of our honorable positions as kings and priests by forgetting our heritage.  As Jesus-followers, however, we should be alert to never let our trademark of gratefulness disappear.  If anyone should be thankful, it should be us!

Forget the Crowd

The Samaritan could have followed his leper friends’ examples and rushed off to see the priest with no thought to the Man left behind.  He could have been more concerned about his reputation and following protocol than for what thankfulness would demand.  Instead, he abandoned the thought of “fitting in” and hurried back to the Master.  As the world wears on us, we too may be tempted to “conform” to the world.  We may be feel pressured to gripe and complain like the rest of an ungrateful world in the Last Days.  But if we are truly His disciples, our hearts will be more toward loving Him with thanksgiving than in feeling comfortable with our peers.

Make Thanksgiving Loud

Notice the Samaritan’s thanksgiving was not done casually!  With a “loud voice” he came hurrying back to Jesus.  He didn’t just stand before Jesus and shake his hand, but “fell down” at His feet as a sign of worship.  He didn’t care who saw his show of thanksgiving.  He understood that true thankfulness doesn’t care who is listening.  It expresses itself loudly!  We would do well to follow his example when expressing praise to the One who deserves it!

The most important result of thanksgiving is that it brings glory to God.  While complaining keeps our focus on ourselves and what seems wrong, thanksgiving turns our attention toward God and His goodness.  People around us will hear our testimony and will see God for who He really is.   It begins a cycle of recognizing the nature of God and His power.  The more people hear our thanksgiving and praise, the more people will put their trust in the Lord and have reason to be thankful as well (Psalm 40:3)!

Will we always feel like giving thanks for God’s goodness in our lives?  No.  That’s why God gives us this command:

. . . in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Notice that it says “in everything give thanks.”  God hasn’t asked us to give thanks for everything, but to have a thankful attitude regardless of what’s going on around us or to us.  Naturally, at times we will feel like keeping our focus on what seems wrong.  But when we make the choice to put our feelings aside and focus on what God has done for us, our feelings will change.  Our hearts will begin to overflow with gratefulness as we remember.  As we vocalize our thanksgiving, suddenly what seems wrong will pale in comparison to the blessings that we had forgotten!


Too Busy for Jesus, Part 1

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Our world addicted to busy.  We live constantly on the go, flying here and flying there to accomplish a self-imposed to-do list. In the process, unfortunately, we put attending sports games over church attendance.  We place vacation spending above tithing.  We spend our time listening to the news rather than reading our Bibles.  We give more attention to our latest hobby than serving in our church and community.  We forego our prayer time to spend more time at the office.  Even house work and parenting (my personal challenge!) can take the place of spending time with Jesus.

While “doing things” and “making money” can all produce good results, when put in the wrong order of life’s priorities, it can lead to putting Jesus second . . . or very last.   This grieves the heart of God as He has spent all His time and energy on us.

Work First

One of the most well-known examples of “too busy” is the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Hospitality is a godly character trait.  We are all called to serve others in many ways.  But Martha suffered from something our culture knows very well: over-working while leaving out what’s most important.  Jesus, however, stressed that all her scurrying about wasn’t the greatest priority, as much of a good deed serving was.  It was time with Him that held the most value.  Martha didn’t understand that the “good part” of having Jesus in her home wasn’t what she could do for Him, but what she could do with Him.

Another example of misplaced priorities is found in Luke 9:59-62:

 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Again, Jesus is not opposed to honoring our deceased family.  This potential disciple, however, wanted to fulfill his obligations before following Jesus. He hesitated, or “looked back.”  His priority was a good deed, not a relationship. He desired to put something first before Jesus.

Nothing these two people were doing was wrong.  Their error was that they were putting everything but Jesus first.  They were more concerned with the temporary needs of the present to see and act on what was the highest priority.

Things First

An example of putting possessions first is found in Matthew 19:16-22:

 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’  and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Once again, having wealth and many possessions is not wrong.  One of God’s desires is that we prosper for the sake of the Gospel (3 John 2, 2 Corinthians 9:8). However, the heart of this man’s priorities was greed.  He loved his possessions more than he loved Jesus.  Those “things” possessed him more than he possessed them.

Me First

 When we look at the priority choices in these stories, the repetitive motivation for their error was a focus on “me.”  It seemed like Martha’s priority was focused on others, when it was focused what she thought was most important at the time. The man wishing to bury his father still had his focus on his own personal concerns.  The rich young ruler was obviously focused on pleasuring himself with money.

Sometimes we prioritize based on worry because we don’t think we’ll succeed, or selfishness because we want our way first. Even worry is an indication that our priority is in the situation, not in a Person.  The focus is still on ourselves because we’re concerned about what will happen to us if something doesn’t go as it should.  We may think we’ve got the proper order of priorities, when the first Priority we have has been choked out by the “cares of life”, “deceitfulness of riches,” and the “lust for other things” (Mark 4:15-19).

To be continued…


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