Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Thanksgiving Meditation

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psa 106:1)

The Hebrew word most often translated “Give thanks” in the Old Testament (hodah) does not exactly mean the same thing as our English word “thanks”. First of all, the word is never directed towards a man or any other creature, only to God. And second, the primary meaning of the word is “to confess.”

In the Bible, to give thanks to the LORD is to confess his attributes. Take, for example, Psalm 106 above. To give thanks unto the LORD is to confess that he is good, and that his covenant faithfulness is forever. It is not simply muttering a few words before you begin to eat, nor is it really “counting your blessings”. Although there is certainly biblical warrant for recounting the ways that God has blessed us, we must not lose sight of the what it truly means to thank the LORD.

Can someone who has unrelenting pain, hunger, persecution and want give thanks to the LORD? What if you look around the circumstances of your life and see very little material evidence of God’s blessing? Paul wrote,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (Phi 4:6 NKJ)

Paul was in a Roman prison at the time without any material blessings. He depended upon the gifts of others to even eat from day to day. And yet he learned the true meaning of thanksgiving.

Give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever! What a beautiful thought.

If God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, and nothing happens outside of his will –

and if God is good –

and if God has entered into a covenant with us by the blood of Jesus which can never fail –

then whether we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, lonely or surrounded with family and friends, strong or weak, we know for certain, based upon God’s character, that our circumstances are not accidents, but from his fatherly hand.

And if that is true, then we have much to be thankful for. Earth is not our home, we are strangers and pilgrims destined by God’s grace to a place at the table of the marriage supper of the Lamb – in fact, we are more than honored guests, we are the bride of the Lamb who loves us and will not rest until his bride is at his side.

And every circumstance of our lives is decreed by the wisdom and goodness of God to prepare for us a place.

When we confess this to ourselves and to one another and to the world, our whole outlook on life changes. Nothing can take us from God’s hand. Nothing can drive us from our Father in heaven. God promised disaster to Israel, and yet Habakkuk gave thanks to God’s name by singing,

17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:1
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. (Hab 3:17-19 KJV)

To give thanks unto the LORD means to confess his goodness, his mercy, his holiness, his justice, his beauty and wisdom, his eternal immutability, his unchangeable will. This is what it means to give thanks unto the Lord. And this we do regardless of the circumstances of our lives. God is still good, even when he chastens his children. God is still good even when he doesn’t give us the petty, idolatrous wants of our sinful hearts. God is still good, even in trials. In fact, it is in the valley of the shadow of death that one learns to stay very close to the faithful shepherd, who will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Otherwise, it’s a rather silly holiday. There’s only so many ways you can take objects and make pictures of turkeys from them. There’s really only so many ways to cook a turkey. The story of pilgrims and native Americans gets old really quick. But the story of God’s never ending faithfulness will be sung for eternity!

And besides, God has blessed us all so much that with most of us we can go out a buy a turkey any day of the year if we want to. We have so much food around us all the time that everyday is a grand feast day according to the standards of most of the world since the beginning of time.

But it can remind us to truly give thanks unto the LORD. Confess his attributes, his name. Confess his goodness and lovingkindness. This is not just a vague muttering at a nameless deity, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us, took away our sins and is preparing us a home!

Give thanks indeed to his marvelous name!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why the filtered Facebook picture?

Of course, a filtered profile picture by itself does nothing whatsoever. The same thing could be said about wars and politics and education and all of the efforts of men. The wrath of men will never produce righteousness – not even the righteous indignation of men can produce peace. Only God himself and the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring the peace that we all long for.
However, God created all of mankind of one blood (Acts 17:26). We are not a world of isolated individuals; one man’s death diminishes me; how much more does the death of hundreds.
We could also say the same thing about the deaths of millions of babies by abortion; the holocaust of Germany; the slaughter of men, women and children all over the world by thugs.
Having been through injustice, hatred, pain, senseless acts of violence myself, I know that sometimes just one voice coming along side and saying, “I hear you” may not end the pain, and may not bring an end to violence – in fact, I know it doesn’t – but it DOES reinforce in our hearts that men and women are created in the image of God, we are created to fellowship with one another, we are created to speak and to hear and to listen. We are created for something better than this.
And the day will come when we will ALL sit together at the marriage supper of the lamb – that is, all who have fled to Christ for refuge – and our hearts will be united in praise to our savior, fulfilling what we were called to do in the first place.
Until then, we join our voices together, and even when we all know that our voices are small and most don’t hear, we can throw the gauntlet down to the devil who seeks to divide, destroy, alienate and isolate, and say, “Not today. Not me. Not now.”
And so I add my little wee voice – not even a forum, just a symbol. But in it there is hope for a better world to come when Christ comes again and casts the devil and his followers into the lake of fire and gathers us all together into one fold.
Of course we proclaim the gospel. Of course we fight injustice where we can. Of course we do much, much more with whatever God has given us.
But we can also be fully human, because that is why Christ died for us, to restore to us the image of God that the devil so wishes to destroy. And being fully human means we live in this fallen world along side of every one else. And sometimes we express that the only way that we can. I’m with you. I’m listening. I add my voice to yours saying that this must end.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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You can’t tell my heart, and other nonsense.

So I’m reading Graeme Goldsworthy’s classic, Gospel and Wisdom. He has a paragraph or two about docetism. Docetism was an ancient heresy denying that Jesus took an actual body. He just seemed to be fully human. Docetism arose in a climate of Greek religion that taught that spirit is good and matter is evil. This religion crept into the church and was called gnosticism.

Anyway, Goldsworthy makes the observation that although we don’t find very many professing docetists, the docetic assumptions are still with us. Look, for example, at how many professing Christians describe their faith. They’ve asked Jesus (a spirit) into their hearts (a spirit) and felt very spiritual about the whole thing.

As I was reading, I had to put the book down and think some things through. Goldsworthy is exactly right. I see it over and over as I counsel. “You can’t judge my heart!” Every pastor has heard the same thing. “I repented. I’ve asked Jesus into my heart. I have a good relationship with God.”

But the body doesn’t follow suit. The body continues to engage in fornication, drunkenness, reviling, pornography, strife, etc. The mouth pours out obscenity and blasphemy. The feet are quick to shed blood.

And as I thought, I wondered if perhaps we are too much taken with the Greek idea of a complete disconnect between the body and the soul.

God created man by forming him of the dust of the ground and breathing into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life and man became a living being. Only one being, both body and soul. The scripture doesn’t teach this disconnect. When the heart is corrupt you can tell because the body does corrupt things.

Look at all of these passages:

13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.1 (Rom 6:13 KJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1 KJV)

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 7:21 KJV)

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psa 14:1 KJV)

How does one praise God’s name without the tongue and the lips? How does one give a glass of water to a thirsty man without eyes and hands and feet?

How can we show our love for God and for our neighbor without using the body that he has given us.

I’m tired of words. I’m tired of those who live in debauchery and ruin pretending that they have a close personal relationship with Jesus. As James wrote, “Show me your faith by your works” (James 2:18).

If we are Christians we are imitators of Jesus. We are being conformed to the image of God’s son. If we are truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (which is what being a Christian is), then this same Holy Spirit is conforming us to be more and more like Christ. Jesus, the true Image of God, is conforming us to Himself by His word and Spirit.

So if He truly came in the flesh, being transformed to His Image includes our whole being – body and soul. For this reason, it is impossible for those who continue to live in sin to actually be Christians. If they say that they are, they are liars. The Holy Spirit does not allow a Christian to live in sin that “grace may abound.”

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10 KJV)

Of course we still struggle with our sinful nature. Of course we will never overcome sin in this life. But that isn’t the topic. As Christians we STRUGGLE against sin, knowing that it is an abomination before God.

A true Christian can never say, “I’ve accepted Jesus into my heart, so it doesn’t matter how I live.”

If Jesus truly came in the flesh, then to belong to Him means that we belong to Him both in body and in soul. Let’s offer our bodies to him as living sacrifices of thanksgiving and quit making excuses. We must quit living like practical docetists. Jesus came in the flesh that he might redeem us, both body and soul, from sin and the power of the devil. It DOES matter what we do with the body.

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