I like Christmas as much as the next person. But I do like to get through Thanksgiving before we turn to the chaos that has become the advent season. Last night I was at a church service that was dedicated to giving thanks. We sang songs requested by the people in attendance. But the price for requesting a song was a testimony. "You want to sing a song? You have to give a testimony of thanksgiving."
It was a great time with plenty of laughter and tears as people recounted God's goodness. Some of the thanksgiving testimonies were sort of generic, while others were very detailed with moving accounts of God's faithfulness in the lives of people who were far from Him. But I was struck by the consistency of the testimonies. The most common themes were...
I am thankful for salvation.
I am thankful for a Christian heritage.
I am thankful for my church family.
Now these may seem like obvious 'go to' points of praise. But there was something very real about them. Nobody mentioned that they were thankful for their car, or cellphone, or house, or promotion, or dashing good looks, or any number of things we seem to value most highly in our culture. The things mentioned were not the things we will spend loads of money and time on during the next month. No... they were the things money can't buy. They were the things people talk about when they are at the end of their life.
Salvation is the most amazing thing. To be forgiven and set free from the penalty, pollution, and power of sin with no effort on our part is a blessing beyond words. If you have been given eternal life, this will always be the greatest cause of praise. Nothing even comes close... not even that cute little dress you've had your eye on for the last 2 weeks.
A Christian heritage is something else you have absolutely nothing to do with. You don't choose it. You can't buy it. You are born into it... or you are not. God does not save people based on their parents' relationship. But a Christian heritage definitely gives a child a head start in the spiritual race. Each person has to make their own decision about God, but God has designed the family as His primary method of passing along the torch of faith. We don't always appreciate Christian heritage until later in life, but it is truly one of the great blessings of life.
The Church is often maligned and misrepresented. We often hear about scandals, and money-hungry preachers. We hear about back-biting and hypocrites. The Church is often painted as an utterly broken organization. ANd while we certainly have our problems... we also have the purpose of being the primary avenue of God's grace and salvation in this broken and sinful world. The fact is, for every problem in the Church, we also have to recognize that God's Spirit moves with an extreme level of power and freedom in the Church that He does not in the world. You can find fault in the Church, but it is where you also find faith. The Church is where love, peace, joy, comfort, holiness, and acceptance are found in great abundance. You want to sense God's presence? Get involved in the Church.
Let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:15-18)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with thanking God for material blessings. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. It is right to be thankful for temporal stuff that you enjoy. To not thank God for food, and clothing, and even our toys would be a sin. Gratitude is a wonderful thing. But when we are given a chance to publicly proclaim our thanks, it is best to thank God for the eternal.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.