For the last little while, the following quote has been my signature online:
"The first of Martin Luther's 95 Theses was that the whole of a Christian's life is to be one of repentance of sin." ~ J. I. Packer
Why repentance? Because of who we are: Fallen creatures, prone to wander.
Were it not for our Beautiful God who keeps us in the palm of His hand;
were it not for the Spirit’s promptings, and our Gentle Shepherd’s leading;
we’d wander aimlessly off the Path, looking for meaning in all the wrong places.
How do I know this? Because I've done it. I've forgotten to look to the Lord, to seek His face in the morning, to ask direction for my day. I've forgotten that I can do NOTHING to please Him, apart from the Grace of God. I've dug out that old checklist of things to do to be spiritual, and been very pleased with myself as I check them off: Read the Bible, check. Pray, check. Be kind to others, check. Intercede for the hurting, check. Don't lose my temper, check. And I've swelled with pride and thought myself a very good Christian, and asset to the Kingdom.
Hogwash. All of my righteousnesses are filthy rags. Any good I do is only because I am a branch attached to the Vine, and He does all things well.
No wonder I am thankful. When I consider all that my God has done for me, how can I be anything but grateful?
He sets us in families. I have a really big family, and lots of children and grandchildren to love. I am blessed to get hugs from big boys, and juicy kisses from little babies. I am thrilled to hear, "Dranny, tan I have a dwink?", and I rush to get it for the wee one who's asking.
But even if I had no family, if every one of them were taken away, I know I am part of the family of God. I have the best Brother, the best Father, the best Guide. I am so blessed to be part of this family, adopted as one of His children. I am so thankful.
He gives us work to do. God is a God of purpose, and does nothing by accident. He has created us to work (six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work) and gifted us with talents that reflect His glory. There is no excuse for boredom, because there is always something for us to do. We are truly blessed when we have work.
Sometimes the sheer amount of work I have to do is overwhelming, but I then remind myself that my God has not given me more than I can bear. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. I am truly thankful!
He surrounds us with beauty, with evidence of His glory. The sheer beauty of the sunset this evening was astounding. Clouds rippled across the sky in varying colours from the brightest gold to a deep purple, with brilliant orange and magenta between. As darkness fell, the full moon rose, giving enough light for the children to keep on with their games of British Bulldog and Red Rover. I look at the beauty, and I am thankful.
But even more astounding than the beauty of creation that surrounds us is the beauty of a God who Heals the Brokenhearted and Loves the Unloveable. This is my God...How can I be anything but thankful?
He gives us the Spirit, as an earnest, a downpayment of what is to come. What joy we will experience one day when we reach that heavenly shore. No more sin. No more need of that daily repentance! Just constant praise and glory and thanksgiving offered to His name!
As we mature in the Lord, we discover what it really means to give thanks. As baby Christians, we are thankful for our salvation, for having been brought into the kingdom of God, and having new purpose in life. We recognize God’s goodness in the tangible things – food, clothing, housing, relationships, church.
But as mature Christians, we learn to give thanks for the trials, too. That’s not easy…. But we are taught in James to count our trials as joy:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I am so thankful for a Shepherd who knows me very well. He knows my every need, and He knows exactly what will mould me into the delight that He is designing me to be.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
Jesus has brought good news to me. How thankful I am!
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
Jesus has healed my broken heart. I lost both my parents and a baby all in the same year. I suffered misunderstandings, abandonment by friends, pain and hurt and loss, but that didn’t even come close to the brokenness I felt when I realized that it was MY sin that put Him on the cross. Jesus bound up my broken heart. How thankful I am!
to proclaim liberty to the captives,and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
He set me free! How thankful I am!
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
He taught me His attributes – He is a God of Grace, but He is also a God of Vengeance. Yet, He comforts those who mourn. How thankful I am!
3to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
(H) that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD,(I) that he may be glorified.
Beauty for ashes; gladness for mourning; praise instead of fear; All this is from our God. He has taken me, a worm, the chief of sinners, and called me an oak of righteousness. He has planted me here in this time and space, and will be glorified because of me. I can’t begin to comprehend His love. How thankful I am!