Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving With Arms Wide Open

So, it's Thanksgiving Sunday in Canada and we will all be talking about how thankful we are about God's blessings. But are we? Stop and think over for a moments the last three months, or even the last week. Perhaps we don't need to consider anything further than yesterday, or even this morning? How many times have you complained? How many negatives things came out of your mouth, born from an ungrateful heart? I think we are far more ungrateful than we really want to admit because we still make life to be about us.

We say that we have "given things up" for God, as if that is some kind of great sign of our appreciation. "Hey God, in gratitude for your kindness to me this week I am going to bless you by going to church and I may even have a few coins to put in the offering plate. I love you." Do you know what God has to say about that?

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)

Why is obedience better than sacrifice? Because God is interested in our hearts more than our words and actions. He wants our love not meaningless sacrifice. Jesus said it very simply:

 If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Our praise and thanksgiving should not be dependent on what God has done for us. "Because you have been so good to me this week I will praise you". Does this mean that if it has not been a good week according to our understanding of good that we will not praise him? That we will not love him? That we will turn from him? Just because we did not get what we wanted? I don't think that this is what God meant when he told us that his desire was for us to love him with our entire being. Again, this physical state should have no bearing on our heart for God. Jesus told us:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

I bring this up often because we have to be reminded often. If God considers our heart to be the great prize then we too should consider our heart condition to be of greater value than anything else. And complaining, seeking the negative, and allowing things of this world to disturb our peace devalues our heart.

You know, things we fill our day with that provoke worry and fear are a snap to deal with by the power of Jesus Christ in us. It is ridiculous that we would allow anything in this place to interrupt this love affair we have with God. Do you know how easy it is to be healed by a God who loves us enough to sacrifice himself on the cross for us?.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Understand, God loves us and by this love he takes great pleasure in responding to the needs of his children. He doesn't do these things to bribe us so we will love him. He does it simply because he loves us. He doesn't want great sacrifice from us as a demonstration of our love. He doesn't want us to pour out gifts on him because of what he has done for us, even though he deserves all that and more. He wants us to love him as he has loved us, without conditions.

Yes, we can be very thankful for all the things God has done for us, the physical and spiritual blessings, but make sure there is more to it than that. If that's all there is to it, the thanksgiving will fade away. Be thankful just because God is who he is. Be thankful for his love and the relationship we have with him. Be thankful because he chooses to be involved in our lives every day and because we get to spend time with him as he loves a dying world through us. Just be thankful because it is your heart response to our God who threw wide open his arms and declared to us all,  "I love you".

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