Monday, November 18, 2013

Living with Thanksgiving

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." ~ Meister Eckhart
Once again the holiday season is upon us. The stores are filled with Christmas decorations, children are wondering what they will find under the tree, and Mom and Dad are wondering how they will pay for it. These days Thanksgiving is basically a pre-season holiday, something you do to get in shape for Christmas. We eat, we sleep, we watch football, and we don’t stop until January.

That’s a shame because the art of giving thanks is one thing that separates man from the animals. To receive a gift and say, “Thank you,” is one of the noblest things a man can do. There is nothing small or trivial about it.

To say “Thank you” is to acknowledge that we have been given something we did not earn and do not deserve. Happy is the man who understands that all of life is a gift of God and that life itself is the ultimate gift. Which is why the Bible says, “In everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18). When we can’t do anything else, we can always be grateful. As someone has said, “If you can’t be thankful for what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.”

As Americans, our hearts should continually overflow with thanksgiving. Author and Bible teacher Beth Moore, in her DVD study series on the Book of Daniel, acutely captured what it means to be "rich" when she contrasted resources and education in America with the rest of the world. She said that if a person has the resources to buy a book and the education to read it then that person is rich compared to 80 percent of the world who live in extreme poverty with no access to books or the ability to read them. That is a staggering thought as I own hundreds of books and have read thousands since I first learned how to read in first grade.

But as Christians, our thanksgiving should never cease because of the One who gave everything for us. We understand that happiness does not "consist in the substance of things possessed" ... but by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

And this really is the key to sustained happiness and thanksgiving - a relationship with the Living God. While we need to be thankful for the material things we possess and our family our friends - true thanksgiving flows from a heart knitted together with the God of the universe.

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that "while we yet sinners, Christ died for us" and that "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." This is the greatest love story ever told - the God of the heavens becoming a man, suffering and dying on the cross of Calvary to pay for men's sins and then rising on the third day. For those that put their faith in Him and His sacrifice for sin, He promises that they too will rise one day from the grave as He did.

When one begins a relationship with Jesus Christ, God takes out his stony heart and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 ). The happiness that results from this miracle of God does not fade when life takes a sharp turn and leaves us homeless, jobless, or parentless. No, this joy is rooted in a God who promises His followers "a future and a hope." A God who tenderly whispers that "He will never leave us or forsake us." And a God that comforts us with the reality that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." 

This Thanksgiving season, let's do what the psalmist says in Psalm 100 and "enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise." There is much to be thankful for and a God who awaits our presence.

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude." ~ D. Waitley 

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