It is time for the Thanksgiving post. People have been posting what they are thankful for on Facebook for weeks but I just figured I would wait for this. It looks as though many have a lot to be thankful for on Facebook and for that I am grateful. I do as well.
I want to encourage people to be careful not to forget the things that they are grateful for as Black Friday approaches. Some do not like Black Friday because it has crept earlier and earlier into Thanksgiving Thursday. I must agree that the greed and commercialism is getting old. It is stealing and corrupting the original purpose of both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then of course there is the nasty, high-stress, impatient attitudes of the shoppers themselves. That part was always there on some level but it has been amplified several times over with the hysteria that can be Black Friday.
So, I just wanted to say that while I am thankful for the ridiculous deals you can get courtesy of Black Friday, part of me wishes it did not exist because of the negatives involved. Never the less, my wife and I try to make a point of showing love and patient understanding to those around us while striving to get the deal we hope for as well. Gratefully, we have not felt the need to compromise time with family in order to get the deals and I hope we never do. As Christians we are responsible to live a life worthy of the gospel, even during holiday shopping. So I would encourage you, whether you participate in Black Friday or not to pray before going out to shop at anytime during the holiday season. Be ready "in season and out of season" so to speak.
Why should we be thankful? What makes gratitude so important?
The world has their own answers for these questions, some of which stem from scripture even though they may not be aware of it. I simply want to let scripture speak for itself. There are many scriptures that could be used. I am partial to Philippians 4:4-7. It states, "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to all, the Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious for anything but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Much could be said of this passage but I simply want to point out the centrality of thanksgiving in this passage. If you develop a habit of praying, thinking, and acting from an attitude of gratitude rather than griping and complaining then you will find yourself rejoicing in supernatural peace, no matter the circumstances. This is a stature that will bring much glory to God.
Now, besides the benefits of Black Friday, what am I grateful for?
I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That may seem obvious since this is a ministry blog but that is kind of the point. He saved me from the wretched life of dead works, hateful actions, and selfish indulgences that I was living. He made me alive and enables me every day, by His grace, to do righteous works that are motivated by a desire for His glory to be made evident in my life. Thanks be to God.
I am thankful for my family. First and foremost for my wife and children. They are a blessing to me daily. They remind me how loved I am, even when I don't deserve it. They also keep me humble as I continually recognize areas that I can improve as both a husband and father. I am truly blessed beyond belief to have a beautiful wife who is talented, caring, and dedicated to being the best mother and wife that she can be. I am blessed to have two handsome boys that are also very intelligent, talented, and have their mothers big heart.
I am thankful for my extended family. On my side I was blessed to grow up as a preachers son. This exposed me to the good and the bad of church life and helped me to develop the tough skin I have today that guards my heart from bitterness against the ugliness that can be found in the church. As we were never well off, it also taught me how to appreciate having my needs met and yet be ok with not getting everything I wanted. This is a principle many need to learn in this day. Even more importantly, as we have all grown up, myself, my two brothers and my sister and their spouses, along with Mom and Dad, are able to challenge and encourage each other in the Lord and grow in our faith walk courtesy of these experiences. No matter how much we may disagree on a subject, at the end of the day, we are able to let love rule. That is a blessing. They love my kids, are as generous as they can be, and always strive to be available if I need them. As the family expands I get to return the favor as much as I can and enjoy nieces and nephews from my side of the family. I am very blessed.
On my wife's side, much of the same is true. There is much love and generosity to be experienced from all of my in-laws. This last year our family had the amazing opportunity to go on a Disney cruise. It was a dream come true and it was courtesy of all of my in-laws generous desires to see my wife and kids, especially my youngest, Alex, experience meeting Mickey live and in living color on the boat. That is just one example of the ways in which they are loving and giving. I will be forever grateful, to my mother and father-in-law for birthing and raising the wonderful woman that I get to call my best friend and wife. I am also blessed to have a very loving and thoughtful brother and sister-in-law. They have two wonderful children whom I have been blessed to call niece and nephew for many years now.
The list could go on but you guys don't want to hear all of that and I could not possibly do justice here, to everything that I am grateful for. I will however, say how blessed and thankful I am to be a musician, choir director and worship leader. It is my greatest joy to have the fellowship of a wonderful worship ministry with whom I get to lead the congregation into worship.
While I am blessed with a stable secular job that provides much to our family, church related ministry is my heart. Everyday personal ministry is the responsibility of every christian however, there is nothing else that I would rather be doing than glorifying God through vocational ministry. I have been blessed to do it for many years on a part time basis through music. For the last year and a half or so I have been blessed to share the gospel in written word through this blog. Prayerfully I will have many opportunities to preach God's word not only through written word but also through the spoken word. This is the desire God has placed in my heart. The desire to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ through the redemptive history of the whole word of God. I look forward to following God on this journey, whatever it may look like. and wherever it may take me.
I believe that the Lord will not always keep me at my current church. God loves to push people out of their comfort zone in order for them to grow. I know this day is coming for me. Until it does I will faithfully strive to glorify God in the service of the church that has been so kind to allow me to grow up spiritually, emotionally, and musically there for the last nineteen years. I am indebted to them for the grace-filled support and opportunities that I have had there.
4.) Grateful for Common Grace
Left to our own devices we would most certainly destroy ourselves and any potential for happiness that is available. That is obvious in the individuals from which God withholds His common grace the most. In those individuals we can watch the corruption and destruction of sin have it's full effect as their lives disintegrate into a mass of jail time, drug ridden bodies, horrible behaviors and wasted lives. Lives that will ultimately end in an eternity of pain, suffering, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. The hell they lived on earth will pale in comparison to the hell they will experience for eternity.
For those to whom God's common grace has allowed them a measure of happiness and self-satisfaction, there are still concerns. Many of them will live lives that look successful and maybe even selfless in many ways. They may have wonderful families, fantastic careers, and great health. I fear that for many, it will all be in vain. Because, if they have never experienced the saving grace that only comes through the cross of Christ then everything they have done will be for nothing. It will have been motivated by a self-exalting and self-satisfying drive. A drive that seeks it's own glory rather than the glory of God. Their lives will still end in eternal misery and never-ending destruction. Everything that they earned and built in this life will whither away and burn up. They will be no better off than the one who wasted the whole of this life.
Saving Grace and Future Glory
Why such a bleak picture of unredeemed lives at the end of a blog about Thanksgiving? Because, at the end of the day I know that the many blessings for which I am so
very grateful have nothing to do with my own worth, talent, or anything
else that I have to offer. It was the blood-bought, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, amazing grace of the Holy Trinity that regenerated me, changing my heart and enabling me to have the faith to believe unto salvation to begin with. It is that same grace that enables my efforts toward sanctification as I become more and more like Jesus. Because of the price paid at Calvary I get to experience the best that God has planned for me in this life. Not only that, but I get to look forward to that great gettin up morning when I see Jesus face to face and I will sin no more. That future glory in which no sin, pain, sorrow, or suffering will ever exist.
The many struggles that this life has to offer, that even the strongest of believers is allowed to experience by our Heavenly Father, will exist no more. This future glory provides an eternal hope that carries us through the most difficult of times. Those moments when we feel we can't go on we remember the whole of 2 Corinthians 4 that ends with verses 16-18 which says, "so we do not loose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
An eternal perspective brings an eternal gratitude!
Thanks be to God and glory to His name for the many trials and blessings that He bestows on us for our eternal benefit!