Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Growing A Thankful Spirit

In preparation for this post, I searched the word "thanksgiving" on Biblegateway.com. I noticed some interesting things as I read through the verses. First, the early church was characterized by the giving of thanks. They gave thanks for the food they ate, for the souls that were saved, for the generosity of people who met other's needs, for the joy of knowing other believers, for the people who had impacted others through their service, for spiritual growth, and for the love believers were developing for one another.

Secondly, there were times that the believers were encouraged to develop a lifestyle or a spirit of thankfulness. In Ephesians 5:4, Paul told the Ephesians their speech should no longer be characterized by foolish talk and crude joking, but should be characterized by the giving of thanks. In both Philippians and Colossians, Paul told believers not to be anxious, but to pray continuously,  making their needs known to God as they give thanks.

Thirdly, Colossians 2:7 indicates that those who are rooted and built up in their faith would have lives characterized by thankful hearts. That makes perfect sense. For the more rooted and grounded we are in God's word, the more we will know God and the more aware we become of His activity in my life and the more we can lean into Him, fully trusting His love, His character, and His faithfulness.

Lastly, I found thanksgiving isn't just for the here and now, it will continue in heaven.  Revelation 7:11-17 describes a scene taking place around the throne of God. There are angels circling the elders and four living creatures who are crying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!" (ESV) I love these words but they are even more powerful in their context. One of the elders explains there is a group of people near the throne who are the people who were killed during the great tribulation. Their robes were washed in the blood of the Lamb and they were given the privilege of serving night and day before the throne where they are forever sheltered by His presence, never again to hunger, to thirst, or to feel the scorching heat of the sun. And the One they serve is The Lamb who will be their Shepherd, guiding them to springs of living water as He wipes away their tears.  

As I read that, I am convicted of my tendency to be focused on the here and now. With that focus,  I display a spirit of entitlement can be pretty ugly. Instead of giving thanks for my warm, comfortable home I desire a newer, bigger home. Instead of giving thanks for my husband and his steadfastness in providing for me, I begin to complain about his cluttered office and am irritated by his unique quirks. Instead of giving thanks for our church leaders, I criticize the decisions they make and don't feel connected to the body. Instead of giving thanks for life and breath for each new day, I get frustrated with pain I feel in this body and speak words of complaint. I can go on and on...but the more important thing is that when I live in unlovely discontent, entitlement kills  my joy, love, compassion, and graciousness, allowing depression and frustration to permeate my soul. I become a self-absorbed mess, hiding the image of the loving compassionate God that was imprinted on my soul when He knit me in the womb.

The scene in Revelation 7, reminds me that I have a choice in how I view life. I can view it  through the hear and now, or I can view the here and now through an eternal lens. When I view life through an eternal lens, the home I have is more than adequate because my eyes are drawn to heaven where I will dwell in the presence of Christ who is more beautiful than my human mind can fathom. When I look at my husband through a heavenly perspective, I praise God for his salvation, his growth, the love he has for me, and I realize his irritating quirks that make him an unique individual are in part a result of the scars he bears from the story he's lived--a story God is still redeeming. When I look at my church from a heavenly perspective, I realize it is Christ's church, not mine, and I become more aware of Jesus and His activity and church feels a lot more like a loving family. When I look at the pain I bear through a heavenly perspective, I realize a few years of pain pales in light of eternally  living in a glorified body, making me aware that His grace allows me to live kindly rather than grumpily on my painful days.

When I choose to look at life through an eternal lens, I see Jesus and my heart fills with overflowing love. In love, I can view others through humility and compassion. In love, I can become grace-driven which makes forgiving a whole lot easier. In love, my frustration can melt into patience and forbearance. In love, depression can give way to uncontainable joy. And in love, I find myself longing for others to see the image of God in me and be drawn to the soul-saving, grace-giving, forever-faithful, lavishly-loving Lamb--the Lamb who is the Good Shepherd forever guiding His people to springs of living water and the words on our lips will no longer be words of complaint. They will be words full of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. They will be words of blessing.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!