My wife came across an interesting sign that asked the question, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today? After we shared Communion tonight I began to ask myself, “What if next Sunday we only had the people for whom we thanked God for today?”
Maybe our church and yours would have a lot less empty seats if we wete grateful for one other rather than complaining. ( I confess to being one of those!) Maybe if we began to truly appreciate the people who do come to our services God could help us to grow and then He would get the credit!
1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.
I would be willing to bet big money that when the apostle Paul visited the folks couldn’t wait to get to church! When was the last time you couldn’t wait to get to church? I am taking the thankfulness challenge this week. Anyone care to join me? Let’s give thanks for as many people as we can remember starting tomorrow. Let’s give thanks and ask God to have His way in their lives and ours, then wait and see what He will do!
Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread.
1 Corinthians 11:23
As Jesus approached the table that His disciples had prepared they little imagined what they would share together that night. What we sometimes call the last supper could also be called the first. It was the first time Jesus would share the bread as a reminder of His body given for us. It was the first cup of the New Covenant purchased with His own blood. That night they had set the table but Jesus had prepared in His plans that first link in the chain of grace which we still celebrate today. Why is it that God chooses on the night of betrayal and in the presence of enemies to prepare our greatest blessings and to give His greatest gifts?
Appreciation: The act of recognizing someone’s worth as a person or showing that you are grateful for something that person has done. Cambridge Dictionary
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers,[a] as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing
“What do you say?” my mom would ask me as she held tightly onto whatever it was I wanted at that particular moment. “Thank you” I would answer, knowing that with those “magic words” as she called them would allow me to finally possess whatever it was I had asked her for at the time. The reason behind Mom’s training was her attempt to pass on to me not only a modicum of politeness but also an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation.
That appreciation is often missing from our lives because as adults, we often rush off with things in our hands that we haven’t paused to even look at yet alone appreciate. We give a quick kiss or a hug to our loved ones then too eagerly hurry off to the activities of the day with scarcely a backward glance. “Great tuna casserole!” I said to my wife one night, only to hear her laugh in reply, “Honey that’s chicken! Don’t you even taste the food you eat?” That small conversation is a sad reflection of the ease with which as we speed through our days we are losing the small graces of gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation.
Maybe we could ask ourselves three questions as we begin yet another day.
Do I really need to hurry?
Have I remembered to say thank you for what God has put in my hand?
Have I tasted what I have been given and truly appreciated those who gave?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me Psalm 23:4
Many of us walk through dark valleys in our lives. The dark valley is not some mistake. The presence of a shadow means that something is standing between us and the light. God leads us through our valley of the shadow as His forgiveness moves us out of our darkest place.
Forgiveness comforts our sorrows
Like the centurion at the cross do we suddenly see what we have done to Jesus? All around us lies the wreckage that our sins have left behind. We’ve seen the pure love of Jesus and we realize that His sufferings have been at our hands. Yet from the cross the centurion heard the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” God’s words work in our life like a shepherd’s staff that corrects and guides us. When we feel that staff we know that despite our many failures and sins He has still decided to be our shepherd and he has chosen us to be His sheep!
Forgiveness sets a banquet table
“He prepares a table before me” means that God has chosen the time and place of our forgiveness. Just as the father held a celebration when he found the prodigal on the road home, so God prepares a celebration of forgiveness just for us. When God sets the table He is not at all afraid to do so even while our enemies are watching! God doesn’t wait for some hidden private moment. He claims us as His own in full public view and then sits down with us. That is why Paul calls it, “The Lord’s table”
Forgiveness Restores more than was lost
When Jesus took the cup He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” That New Covenant cup is God’s offer of restoration. But when God restores He does more than simply return things to as they were. God’s forgiveness is the cup that overflows. God’s forgiveness pours until our cup can’t hold it all. God’s life giving forgiveness is given in such quantity that we have more than enough to give to those people in our world who have treated us badly. There is such a harvest of His mercy and goodness that even after we have given it all away -there will be enough to follow us all the way to His home!
The lights and the Angel we bought from the store. The ornaments are gifts from friends and family members mixed with some made at home or that came in Maxwell House coffee cans almost 40 years ago.
I begin with just the tree which came as a gift from friends who live thousands of miles but as I put the branches on I remember. Then once the lights are strung come many hand-made ornaments from my mother in law. Then come two brass Teddy bears with tiny portraits of our sons when thee were boys. As the branches begin to fill a gentle quietness fills up my soul. Our life together hangs brightly there amid the lights and I am thankful for years of both happy days and sad are mixed together in the crowd.
But on that first Christmas night when God sent His angels to awaken the shepherds He was remembering us. God remembered our weaknesses and He remembered His promise. Jesus came to the stable that night for us. He came as the eternal reminder that God has not forgotten us. From that moment in Bethlehem till the supper at which He said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” God has forever remembered.
Just so we would never forget He has given us the memory tree called the cross. When we look there we will see all the best gifts of Christmas waiting for our faith to open.
For God so loved the world that he gave us His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!