Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanksgiving



Psalm 95:1-7 “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
         Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
    2Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
         Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
    3For the LORD is a great God
         And a great King above all gods,
    4In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
         The peaks of the mountains are His also.
    5The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
         And His hands formed the dry land.
    6Come, let us worship and bow down,
         Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
    7For He is our God,
         And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand…”

As we look at the Bible in broad terms, we see God moving through the pages accomplishing the task of redeeming man to Himself. We see judgement because of holiness, and grace because of love. What about the story of your life? Can you see God there too? Has He been drawing you to Himself both before and after He met you at the foot of the cross at salvation? There are so many people out there that don’t get the story of the cross; they don’t know the story and they aren’t interested in the historical context. It seems they want a sanitized incarnation without any link to history or to the flesh and blood of reality. They want faith to be more about a practical theology than a spiritual response to grace.

This Thanksgiving, I trust that the cross is at the top of your list of what you are thankful for. With communion fresh in our minds, we are reminded again of the price paid for you and I to be redeemed.

The cross is about love - love in action. God is love in His infinite wisdom reached down out of eternity in order to make us free from the bondage we were in. Do you remember the story of Israel, of how they were enslaved in Egypt some 3500 years ago. They cried out to God and He delivered them. They were free from their bondage, free to make choices about life where there were no freedoms before. Outside of Jesus we are slaves to sin; powerless to help ourselves out of the futilities of life. There is that continual question about Why? What is my purpose; why am I here? Most of you, if not all of you have had that questioned answer. When you look around at your family and neighbours, though, there are people that are still enslaved. Who will be a Moses to them and stand before the god of this world on their behalf and cry, “Let them go - set them free”? We are saved to be ambassadors of Jesus, to share the reason for the hope that lies within us. I am thankful for my redemption, for the purpose that He has put into my life.

What are we redeemed for? What are we redeemed to? Sometimes we have visions of changing the world; of being successful in business or sports. For what did Jesus redeem you for? I was young when I accepted Jesus, and a teenager when I experienced that work of grace in my life when it was no longer a question of who would sit on the throne of my life. After high school I went o University for a math degree with an accounting option. Within a few weeks, though, I knew God wanted me elsewhere. The following year I went to Bible College, and after 4 years went to seminary part-time. I spent 5 years as associates in 2 churches and then moved to a maintenance job in a college for the next 9. A year of managing a Christian Campground and 3 as a supervisor in grocery retail brings us up to the time when we moved here to Saskatoon almost 3 years ago. So here I am having taken a scenic route to get here. Following Jesus is about what you are doing with Him today, in the present. All through my journey of the last 30 years I am thankful for God’s presence in my life in that daily sense. Through all the ups and downs I have never lost a sense of His presence. He has been faithful in good times and bad times. Do have that sense? God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Claim that promise in good and bad times. Rest in Him. These are not clichés, but reality. This is where the rubber hits the road, where our faith reaches out and flexes its muscles. Job, who experienced tragedies and sorrow, never once doubted the presence of God. He had that assurance that in spite of his finite knowledge that God was there regardless of the circumstances of his life, regardless of the opinions of his friends, and in spite of what seemed to be endless sorrow. I am thankful for the presence of my Savior in my life.

There’s the story of Israel, and my story. The third story is yours and how you live out the redemption and presence of God in your life. Let me close with 4 encouragements to have more thanksgiving in the story of your life.

Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Thanksgiving is a necessary ingredient to dealing with anxiety. You cannot beat anxiety if you don’t recognize what is good in your life. If in your anxiety you forget what God has done you will be lost in your worry. Remember, and be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” The will of God! You were created to be thankful! Some people think they have the gift of being critical or the gift of questioning. Be careful, and understand what God is saying. He was not pleased with those attitudes in Israel, so let them go, be thankful and see what God is doing in your life.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater…” Being thankful helps us to focus on what is important; on ministry. We are thankful for two things here: for spiritual growth and for increasing love. When we cut to the chase, we want to see people fulfilling the 2 great commandments of loving God which is spiritual growth, and loving neighbours. When I see that as a pastor I am greatly encouraged. That is why we are here - to become more like Jesus. God is holiness and love; Jesus was holiness and love; let you and I be about holiness and love.

Ephesians 1:16 “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.” Thanksgiving gives us the recognition that we are in a community. We are reminded of the body of Christ as our focus is drawn to those around us. Pray for one another. One of the great blessings I have is every night to pray with my family for people in the church and for our extended family. It connects me to people, even to those that do not come every Sunday. Pray for one another because it will help you to be connected to one another.

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