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ThanksGivers

November 1st for many is the start of a new season. Some might call it the holiday season, some the Month of Thankfulness, some the beginning of two and a half months of Christmas. And now that Thanksgiving is upon us, this holiday that may get lost in the hustle and bustle of being busy gives us an opportunity to reflect on things that we are thankful for.  The tradition of gathering with family and friends around a meal, taking a moment and stating aloud what we are grateful for  is an awesome practice, and we know that the Church is called to be the best ThanksGivers around. What do I mean by this?

When we look at the Pauline letters, we see that the New Testament is full of exhortations to be thankful.

Colossians 2:6-7 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:4-7  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but this last set of verses contains something that I think most people are very concerned with: what is God’s will for me?  I would argue one piece of the puzzle is to be a ThanksGiver.  Paul here gives three points to consider what that looks like.

First, we should be a rejoicing people. The Greek word here for rejoice comes from the same root that is used for grace. Our understanding of God’s will starts with recognizing that it was His will to save us from our sinful state, and this perspective should transform our outlook on all parts of life. And it’s not just rejoice sometimes, but always! Sometimes we forget about the circumstances of the original writer or the receivers of these letters, but their lives were full of struggles and hardships and celebrations and amazement, just like our own lives. This timeless approach from God’s Word applies to us in the same way it applied to them.

Second, we should be a praying people.  Remember that prayer is a continual, intimate conversation with God that is grounded in knowing who he is and that what He has said from HIs Word is true. This word “continual” may be better translated as “incessant” or “uninterrupted”. The idea here is that we recognize God is always available and that His Spirit is with us, and so we have a companion with whom to share our lives with every moment of the day. It’s not saying that we shouldn’t take time to get away and have uninterrupted prayer (Jesus did this constantly), but if that is the only time we involve God in the daily inner talk of our lives, we are missing out on a piece of God’s will for us.

Finally, we should be a thankful people. I love the phrase that comes along with this command to give thanks- in ALL circumstances. This can be tough because we know life is messy and broken. But if we choose to find thankfulness, the peace of God starts to truly rule our lives in those seasons. Something like taking each letter of the alphabet and making an “I’m thankful for ____” can reorient our hearts and minds back to just how good God is and remind us that He is near to us. The Psalms also provide a great resource as both a prayer guide and a way to infuse thankfulness. Some of them remain unresolved in their conflict but are resolved to give thanks to the Lord regardless.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I promise you that this ThanksGiver approach will make everything easier to endure. It helps us to realize that even when it doesn’t make sense, or it doesn’t fit in the plan you had for your life, or if it came out of nowhere, God knew it was coming, and at some point you will see it is for your benefit. I’ve held on to these truths through my own circumstances-

Rejoice- Psalm 119:68 You are good and you do good; teach me your statutes.
Pray- Romans 12:2- And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Give Thanks- Romans 8:28- And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

So, take to heart these practices.  Seek Christ’s joy daily. Talk to God about everything as you read from His Word. Choose the thankful perspective, no matter what you are facing. This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, and my hope and prayer for you in the coming weeks.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

Christmas, holidays, joy, prayer, rejoicing, thanksgiving

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