Wednesday, July 31, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-31 [A Life of Thanksgiving] The #1 Reason to Give Thanks

The #1 Reason to Give Thanks

What is the number one reason for us to give thanks to the Lord?
- Is it because He is our Rock and Refuge?
- or because He is our Creator and Sustainer?
- or because He has been our Shield and Strength?
- or because He is our Shepherd and we are His Sheep?

The Old Testament has a repeating refrain:
"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good:
His love endures forever"

This phrase appears 41 times in the NIV translation of the Old Testament. The first time is in David's "thank you" song which we looked at yesterday. In the same section we're told that certain people were "chosen and designated to give thanks to the Lord because His Love endures forever. (1Chron 16:34+41)

The phrase occurs three times at the consecration of Solomon's temple and is the theme song of the choir Jehoshaphat puts in front of His army. It comes up again in the Psalms (100, 106, 107, 118 (5x), 136(26x)) and in Jeremiah (33:11) where it is the theme-song of the restored community.

Psalm 136 is a call and response psalm where the worship leader offers a phrase that calls the community to worship or to notice one of God's qualities. After each call, the worshiping community responds: "His Love endures forever!"

You might think that it would be tedious to repeat that one phrase over and over - but, if you think about it, God's enduring love really is the #1 reason for us to give thanks.

Try going through the day and every time you have/need a moment to be thank-full, just whisper to yourself "His love endures forever." You will see that 26 times isn't too much!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights--
His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-30 [A Life of Thanksgiving] An early Thank You song

An early Thank You song

When David was building up Jerusalem,long before there was a temple, he decided to bring the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle to his new capital city. On this occasion David danced and leapt for joy, earning the scorn and ridicule of his wife, but the pleasure of his Heavenly Father.
It was during this time that David appointed a group of Levites to be responsible for giving thanks and he also wrote a special song of thanks giving. This song is our reading today.
It is a long reading, but here are some thoughts and highlights:

  1. This song has elements found in a variety of the Psalms and in many ways serves as a "overture", precursor or prototype of the Psalms.
  2. There is a clear sense that our thanks to God should also be shared with the nations - People need to hear how good God is.
  3. Songs, Rejoicing, and consciously Remembering what He has done are the ways in which we draw near to Him.
  4. Then David remembers his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and recalls how God watched over them and over Israel as they wandered through the wilderness.
  5. Then he considers some of God's attributes (Saviour, glorious, great, majestic, strength, joy, and many more) and suggests some of our postures and attitudes (Sing, declare, bring an offering, ascribe, awe, come before and worship)
  6. Then all of creation gets in on the act: Heavens, earth, sea, fields and trees. Look at the verbs used: Tremble, rejoice, be glad, resound, be jubilant and sing.
  7. David brings it all together in the final stanza:
    Give thanks to God for He is good - His love endures forever
  8. And then surprisingly he goes straight from thanksgiving to a request: "Save us, O God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name, that we may glory in Your praise." But for David this is a logical consequence of his theology: When we ask God to do what only He can do, we are bringing Him praise - we're admitting our need for and dependence on Him.
  9. And thanksgiving happens best when a crowd can say "Amen!"
Now read this beautiful song and give thanks!
That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD:
8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
11 Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
12 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
13 O descendants of Israel his servant,
O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.
14 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
15 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
18 "To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit."
19 When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
20 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
21 He allowed no man to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
22 "Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm."
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy in his dwelling place.
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
29 ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
30 Tremble before him, all the earth!
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!"
32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!
33 Then the trees of the forest will sing,
they will sing for joy before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
35 Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior;
gather us and deliver us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name,
that we may glory in your praise."
36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said "Amen" and "Praise the LORD."      (1Chronicles16:7-36)

Friday, July 26, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-26 [A Life of Thanksgiving] Organised Thanksgiving

Organised Thanksgiving

We tend to think about giving thanks as something spontaneous and unscripted and, to be sure, sincere thanks does express itself spontaneously and "as it happens".

But there is also the need for "organised" thanks. A quick examination of the Old Testament shows that:

  • David appointed people to give thanks when the tabernacle came to Jerusalem. (1Chr16:4ff) (He even wrote them a "thank You" song)
  • Solomon had a choir of singers and trumpeters to inaugurate the temple (2Chr5:13)
  • Jehoshaphat put the choir in front of the his army (2Chr20:21)
  • Hezekiah cleansed the temple and appointed the newly consecrated Levites to offer praise to the Lord. (2Chr29:31 & 31:2)

But one of the loveliest examples is when Nehemiah rebuilds the city walls and they celebrate by praising God. He sets up two choirs and processions that start at the same place, but go around the city on top of the walls in opposite directions, singing and giving thanks and then meeting up at the temple in a culmination of praise and adoration.

There is great value in organised and structured praise. When we read the passage in Nehemiah we'll see that:

  1. Great effort was made to arrange and organise this thanksgiving service. There is music, choreography, interaction and planning. It is dramatic, exciting inspiring.
  2. There are a lot of names in the whole account. (Even in the selective reading below, you'll see just some of the names mentioned.) All these names indicate that people matter and that their presence was noted.
  3. Special mention is made of women and children (who, in the culture of the day, were taken for granted). This indicates the family nature of worship.
  4. There is a clear indication that as they gave thanks, God gave them great joy.
  5. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

Has God been good to you (even in the midst of trouble)?
As you read the passage below, imagine Nehemiah and the two choirs, moving towards one another in a celebration of praise and thanks to God - as a nation they still have a long way to go, but they're pausing to give thanks.

Sunday gives you a chance to come to an organised time of thanks and praise. Will your name be mentioned as one of those who was there?

I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right, toward the Dung Gate...
38 The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people--past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall...
40 The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, 41 as well as the priests--Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah with their trumpets-- 42 and also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam and Ezer. The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.      (Nehemiah12:31-43)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-25 [A Life of Thanksgiving] Changing Perspective


Changing Perspective

Is the current wave of bad news, corruption and crime getting you down? Yesterday on the radio, the talk-show host invited people to phone in and talk about what they wanted a vacation from, because, (and she said this many times) "We are so depressed, discouraged and really really tired". People phoned in wanting a vacation from traffic, tough jobs, job-searching, crime, corruption, politicians, high costs, tiredness and discouragement.

In Psalm 28 David also expressed his need for a vacation: He felt he was like those going to the pit. He needed to cry for mercy and call for help. He was exhausted by wicked people who "speak cordially, but harbour malice in their hearts and show no regard for the works of the Lord." David longed for them to reap the rewards of what they sowed, and you sense his frustration at the injustice of their ongoing evil.

The turning point of the Psalm is not the moment that evil is dealt with, but the relief of knowing that God had heard him. The seventh verse contains this beautiful parallelism:
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

In these four lines we have a fact, a decision, a consequence and another decision.
The fact is that the LORD is our strength and shield. This truth is greater than the evil and pain in our lives. The decision David makes is to trust in the Lord. The consequence is that David is helped to the extent that his "heart leaps for joy". This leads to his second decision - to offer praise in song.

To give thanks is to shift our perspective. To give thanks in tough times only happens when we have turned our heads away from the realities that vex us and turn our faces to One who is greater. And then our need to sing crowds out the need to whine.

If you need a vacation from the "stuff" that's vexing you, take a read below...

To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.
4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.
5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.
6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.      (Psalms28:6-7)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-24 [A Life of Thanksgiving] Thanksgiving is our PURPOSE!

Thanksgiving is our PURPOSE!

Some people think that thanks-giving is merely an "attitude of gratitude" that makes life better or more bearable. They could not be more wrong! Giving thanks isn't the icing on the cake of life - it is one of the fundamental reasons of our existence.
Today's reading demonstrates this powerfully:

Paul is praying for the Colossians. He prays that :
  • they would know God's will
    (through wisdom and understanding)
  • in order to life lives that please God by:
    - bearing fruit in good works
    - growing in their knowledge of God
    - being strengthened by God to patiently endure
    - joyfully giving thanks!
For Paul, giving thanks was the outcome (the cherry on the top) of bearing fruit, growing and enduring.
In his prayer, Paul also describes who we thank:
  • We thank the Father who has qualified us and rescued us
    (It is not us who have qualified!)
  • We thank the beloved Son in whom we have redemption and forgiveness. You can feel Paul echoing John 3:16 here...
Finally, Paul tells us what the Father and Jesus did for us:
- He rescued us from the dominion of darkness
- He brought us into the Kingdom of the Beloved Son

Read the passage below and notice:
- how God equips us
- what God did
- how He rescued us
- And how that all comes together in "joyfully giving thanks"

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-23 [A Life of Thanksgiving] Saved and Called

Saved and Called

If I were ever to have an argument with the great Apostle Paul, it would be about a statement he makes in our passage for today...
Paul is full of thanks to the God who saved him and appointed him to His service. In his explanation of this, Paul calls himself "the worst of sinners."
I think many of us would argue that maybe we ourselves are worthy of this title!

But Paul doesn't dwell on his sin, he dwells on the Saviour:
Look at how He explains it:
  • "He has given me strength" (in other words, I did not have enough!)
  • "He considered me faithful" (Paul did not prove himself) God imputed (planted/drew out) faithfulness in Paul.
  • "Even though was I a terrible person" (Blasphemer, Persecutor and Violent)
  • "I was shown mercy" (The passive voice implies that Paul was a recipient - in spite of ignorance and unbelief - of mercy that he did not earn.)
  • "Grace was poured out abundantly" (Along with faith and love.)
In the second part Paul is saying "You can bank on the fact that:
  • Jesus saves sinners
  • I'm a big sinner
  • and so this proves that Jesus is patient
  • and generous in giving eternal life
  • to us if we believe"
If I really were to have that argument with Paul, I think he'd say: "It doesn't really matter who the bigger sinner is, what matters most is that God's forgiveness is even bigger than all our sins." The last verse in our reading is a doxology (an outpouring of praise and thanks).

Read our passage below and allow yourself to be caught up in the great joy of His forgiveness and love!
And give thanks!

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.      (1Timothy1:12-17)

Friday, July 19, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-19 [A Life of Thanksgiving] You turned my wailing into dancing

You turned my wailing into dancing

Yesterday we reflected on the fact that God has rescued us. The Psalmist reflected on the times that God rescued people from trouble, but we also recognised the ultimate rescue that He performed through the Cross.

Today the Psalmist gives us another perspective:
Not only has God rescued us, but His love transforms us:
- Wailing becomes Dancing
- Sackcloth (mourning) becomes Joy
- Silence becomes Singing
And so we give thanks!

Not only does God forgive our sin and save us from death, but He also transforms our lives by filling us with His Spirit, giving us inexpressible joy, irrepressible hope and unconquerable love.

Paul puts it like this: If anyone is in Christ, they are a new Creation. (2Cor5:17)

Sadly, we can resist this transformation, and one of the best ways to resist this transformation is to lack gratitude - to fail to be thankful - to be empty of thanks.

The psalmist recognises the change that God has brought to his life and cements this transformation with the decision to give thanks.
Your levels of thank-full-ness will aid or hinder God's transforming work in you...

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.      (Psalms30:11-12)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-18 [A Life of Thanksgiving] Because He saved us

Because He saved us

We started our journey of thanks-giving with Psalm 100 which is aptly titled "A Psalm for Giving Thanks". We started our gratitude expressions by giving thanks that there is a God (and it is not us) and that He is Creator, Sovereign and Loving.

Stop and reflect on that for a moment...
What would your world be like if you had no concept of a loving God? Personally I can't bear to contemplate the idea that everything is random and purposeless. Knowing that there is a God who is personal, sovereign and loving makes sense of the world for me.

And so my first thanks-giving is simply "God I am so grateful that you are..."

Today we move to the second priority of thanks-giving and that is that we are grateful that God has rescued us and saved us.

Psalm 107 is a beautiful psalm that describes how Israel had wandered away from God and how He rescued them. The psalmist describes various scenarios:

  • Some wandered in desert wastelands... (v.4)
  • Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains... (v.10)
  • Some became fools through their rebellious ways... (v.17)
  • Others went out on the sea in ships... (v.23)

In each case, the psalmist describes how God rescued them with mighty acts of rescue and love.
His prologue (our reading for today) says it all:
Give thanks:
- God is good - His love endures forever
- And He rescues us.

And so, with our New Testament eyes, we read this Psalm and understand how all these rescues culminate in Jesus' cross and empty tomb...

So, we are "thanks-full" that there is a God.
And we give-thanks that He is a God who saves and rescues us.
Read the Psalm and then take a moment to say or sing "Thank You for the Cross, Thank You for the Cross!"

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say this--
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.      (Psalms107:1-3)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

EmmDev 2019-07-17 [A Life of Thanksgiving] The Really Good News

The Really Good News

[Apologies for the delay in the restarting of devotions...]

For the next while I want to spend some time on Thanks-giving. I was tempted to call the series "An Attitude of Gratitude" but there is something about the idea of Giving Thanks that appeals to me. Gratitude and Thankfulness are not limited to emotions that we experience from time to time, but are choices we make and gifts that we give. But we'll unpack this as we go along...

John Ortberg, in a preface he gives to a talk about stress, priorities and self-care, says: "I have good news and bad news: The good news is that there is a God. The bad news is that you are not God!"

While I know and understand what Ortberg is driving at, the more I think about his quip, the more I realise that it is not good news and bad news, but actually good news and really good news! If the only god (lower case intentional) in my world was me, then I need to be pitied above all!!!

Psalm 100 or the "Hundredth" as many call it, is a mainstay of Christian Liturgy. It is a beloved Psalm, a call to worship and the inspiration for countless hymns and worship songs. It helps us start our journey of thanksgiving in the right place:
First and foremost we are thankful that there is a God!
And He is a God who is above all, has made all and is our shepherd. This God is good, loving and faithful.

Read this beautiful Psalm and let your heart overflow with praise and thanksgiving. In this topsy-turvy world of ours we don't have to try to be our own gods or try to create a god. There is a God and like sheep with a shepherd we can be in relationship with Him. We can go into His gates and enter His courts. We can offer Him praise and experience His goodness, love and faithfulness.

We are not random creatures in a random universe with no real purpose. We are created and loved to know our Shepherd God. That makes me want to give thanks!

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.      (Psalms100:1-5)