Gratitude is foundational to every genuine relationship with God.
Without gratitude to God, how could we possibly please Him in anything we do? Over and over and over again, we are told to give thanks – for what He's done, for what He's doing, and for what He will do in the future.
It is appropriate to give thanks every day--not only on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, today seems a particularly apt occasion to make a list! And I like making lists, so...here I go.
(And by the way, the items on this list are not listed in any particular order, though some are definitely more important than others.) That being said, I am thankful for….
1. The Father, Son, & Holy Spirit
Thank you, God, for who You are and for choosing to initiate a relationship with us. Thank you for the redemptive work You planned and accomplished through each Person of the Trinity. Thank You for Your love, which we do not deserve, for Your mercy, which we could never earn, and for the promise of eternal life with You, which is too wonderful to imagine! Thank You, Father, that you sent Your Son and poured out Your wrath on Him instead of on us; thank you, Jesus, that You willingly bore the Father's wrath, paid the penalty for our sins, purchased us with Your blood, and won for us a life of perfect righteousness that is legally attributed to our account; thank you, Spirit, for Your work of regeneration and sanctification in our lives, and for being our Comforter here on earth.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” - Ps. 73:25
|Triquetra (Trinity Knot)|
2. My sweet and loving husband
Hard to believe we've already been married over two years now. It's better when we're together, darlin'. I'm so thankful that you're my husband and the father of my son. I love you, Andrew!
3. My beautiful, adorable, affectionate son
How could anyone not cherish that face? I can't imagine my life without this sweet little boy. What an incredible gift from God! I love you, Dean!
4. My family
Definitely thankful for my family. It's wonderful to live so close to the Herr clan; I just wish the Richey clan could join us over here too. :) (I would post pictures of everyone but I forgot to ask permission earlier, so I'll refrain this time.)
5. A good place to live
Here we live safely, comfortably, and privately, with great landlords, a large yard (and creek!) for Dean to play in, a garden, room for chickens, and a country view (complete with Amish buggies clip-clopping past every so often) – so many blessings rolled into one!
6. A house full of books
So many good stories to explore, so many conversations to revisit...so much comfort and excitement, so many mind-stretchings and personal challenges. I love these books, the authors who wrote them, and the incredible treasures they hold. (And I can't wait to share them with Dean as he grows older!)
I really am thankful for the computer! It lets me write letters, talk “face-to-face” with distant family members and friends, keep a blog, watch movies and listen to music at home, and find out just about anything I need to know via Internet. It's a magical place.
8. Creaturely comforts
To put it another way, undeserved luxuries I enjoy everyday, little luxuries I take for granted. Like a second car (with heated seats!). Or a hot cup of tea and a handful of chocolate-covered nuts. Or an hour of undisturbed quiet while I read Dorothy Sayers or James Herriot or Jane Austen. In a world filled with hatred, death, and strife, where ISIS is beheading Christians left and right, refugees are fleeing for their lives, and we are called to be lights in a very, very dark place, it seems almost insane that most Americans enjoy these kinds of luxuries everyday without thinking twice about it. What we view as “normal” is not normal in many other parts of the world.
God, thank you for the little gifts you permit me to enjoy everyday. Please keep my heart from idolatry; never let me love these things more than I love You or the people around me. Jesus, be the center of my heart, my life, and my purpose. Thank you for these gifts, but thank you most of all for yourself.
9. Freedom to worship God in safety
Who knows what the future will bring? We may not always have the religious freedoms that we have now. But I am thankful for present freedoms, that I can pray, read my Bible, attend church, and openly talk about God without getting thrown in jail or being executed by an organization like ISIS. So many persecuted Christians around the world can't say the same.
10. My identity in Christ
As I was reading John 1 this past week to prepare for Bible study, I was struck by the emphasis on identity – Christ's identity, John the Baptist's identity, and our own identity. In this chapter alone, Jesus is identified as the Word, God incarnate, the Light that “shines in the darkness,” the Creator of the universe, the Son of the Father, the Lamb of God “who takes away the sin of the world,” and even the “I AM” (though not explicitly stated, John's statement that Jesus existed before John—who was actually older—is reminiscent of Jesus' claim to have existed before Abraham: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
John is identified as a witness – a witness of the “light,” of Christ: “He was not that light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:8). Later on, John tells the Pharisees, “I am not the Christ” (v. 20) nor the Prophet (v. 21) nor Elijah (v.25), but rather “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said” (v. 23). When pressed, John keeps the attention off of himself, and continues talking about Christ: “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (26-27).
It's interesting that John is identified not really in terms of who he is, but who Christ is. John is the witness of the Light. His job, his identity, is not to “fully develop his own potential,” so to speak, but to point to Christ. In this chapter he is always deflecting the attention away from himself, and that's appropriate. A huge part of his identity is wrapped up in who he is not. He is not the Christ. Rather, he is the finger pointing us to Christ. As he says in chapter 3, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v.30).
And our identity, I think, it partially wrapped up with John the Baptist's. We are not the one Isaiah prophesied about, but like John, we are witnesses of the Light. Like John, our attention needs to be on Christ and not on ourselves. Our job is not to create the best lives for ourselves here on earth, or to develop our full potential, but to be the fingers pointing to Christ, the lights in dark places that share with others the greater Light that is Christ.
John has more to say about our identity, however. As believers, we have become the children of God (12). That's an amazing statement! Because of the redemptive work accomplished by the Trinity, we have been transformed from being the enemies of God to being the children of God. He has given us amazing rights and privileges (e.g., reigning with Christ in the final state, living in God's presence forever). He has also brought us into a tender, loving, and affectionate relationship with himself. And He initiated this. We are who we are because of who God is and what he has done for us. In short, our identity is determined by our relationship to God. If you've ever felt the need to “discover yourself,” or develop your full potential, then refocus on making Christ the center. When you find Christ, you will find true self.
I am grateful for my identity in Christ!
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Happy Thanksgiving! See you soon.