ThanksLiving Right

It’s easy to love this time of year.

The smoky smells of autumn, the traces of fall color, the countdown to Christmas…

…the thought of a better year beyond the horizon.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense the third of week of November has become this pre-holiday rush pedestal, a calm before the storm we all know as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.

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If so, consider this post a take among many seeking to re-establish Thanksgiving as its own sacred entity.

For while most grasp the importance of giving thanks, not all see it as an unconditional reality as the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thessalonians 5:18) where gratitude is contagious, sacrifice a cheerful obedience metric, and thanksgiving a light share as opposed to a light switch (see Isaiah 58:8, Matthew 5:15-16; more on this in a moment).

The question is: If thanksgiving is more than periodical expressions of vertical delight, what’s stopping us from employing it horizontally?

Consider the following verses…

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” ~ Nehemiah 12:27 (ESV)

I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” Psalm 26:6-8 (ESV)

Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” ~ Psalm 50:22-23 (ESV)

But I am afflicted and in pain;let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” ~ Psalm 69:29-30 (ESV)

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” ~ Psalm 107:21-22 (ESV)

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (ESV)

Note when we drill down systematically, we find thanksgiving to be far more than temporary appreciation, but a call to invite people to taste and see that the Lord and His provisions are good (Psalm 34:8, Psalm 107:9,  Philippians 4:19). Applicably, this has profound implications.

For starters, while thanksgiving is often confined to altar calls, staged responses, and special events, when we recognize its pre-Mayflower, pre-creation context, we find sanctified space celebrating what has always been…perpetual love in continuous offering…giving and receiving simultaneously.

Unfortunately, for many of us, when it comes to thanksgiving, it’s easy to compartmentalize giving and receiving. I know for me, ego, independence, entitlement, and agenda can compromise my benevolence and negotiate my generosity if I’m not careful; however, I also know by dying to these rights, I expand the room God has to reveal Himself1

…which brings me the reason I’m writing this.

If we desire the lost and broken to see Jesus, not only must we be intentional in declaring thanksgiving, but sharing it as well. For when we engage thanksgiving as celebratory and communal worship, we inevitably position ourselves to glorify God as fresh revelations of His providence abound. Granted, this doesn’t mean we dial up the decibels of our praise to prove the goodness within. Clearly, our hearts would be misaligned if the visibility of our virtue preceded the availability of God’s power to provide it.

That said, by understanding thanksgiving as an outpouring of interdependent love and vulnerable relationship, we ultimately discover how our loved-by-God identity can extend God’s Kingdom through perfect other-centeredness.

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Think of it this way: When I praise God for who He is and what He has done, while the point of my adoration is to love Jesus first and foremost, the posture of my adoration opens me to overflow the love I receive in return. Accordingly, to the extent I abide in this rhythm, to that extent God’s heart (i.e. His love, goodness, kindness, compassion, faithfulness, etc.) inundates the people and places I encounter. Perhaps this is what the author of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

Bottom line: Thanksgiving, at its core, celebrates the Trinitarian nature of God. While Pilgrims and Indians are worthy of mention, their actions in 1621 merely reflected a divine dance that has and will continue on into eternity.

As such, why not extend tomorrow (i.e. Thanksgiving) into each day? Why not [literally] give thanks as opposed to voicing it in isolation? Why not receive from the Lord as you inquire direction on what you have to offer?

After all, not only do you have something to offer, but a specific reason why. And that, my friends, is worth being thankfull for.

From my house to yours, have a Happy Thanks Giving…and don’t forget to look up as you reach out.

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Footnotes

  1. Also, the room is created for godly fear – not only loving what God loves and hating what God hates, but hearing what God says and seeing what He sees.
Cover photo creds: stmed.net

 

Chosen to Succeed: A Homily for Vocational Ministers

Shared at The Gate Community on 11/18/18

Many times in this sanctuary we have acknowledged pastoral leaders, ministerial entrepreneurs, and trailblazing missionaries, recognizing their call to churches, organizations, and nations. But until last year, seldom have we, as a local body, celebrated the ministry giftings in vocational leaders and those appointed to corporate frontlines.

For many of us in this room, there’s been a convergence of conviction in recent years centered on the idea that fivefold ministry gifts aren’t exclusive to those with fivefold ministry callings. For instance, like vocational ministers, a CPA with God-given financial skills, a physician, and a businessperson known for quality service can function in pastoral, evangelical, and apostolic anointings.

The question is: Are we helping them make connection between original design and occupation…between sacred and secular offices?

While many answers could be said, the truth is we, at The Gate, believe works of the Spirit are manifold and that there are infinite functional ministries saints can be called to. As such, it is also our belief anyone who is saved and aligned with Christ has difference-making, culture shaking potential as part of their appointed skill and spiritual gift mix…

…which brings us to today where it is with great pleasure we celebrate these individuals who have fulfilled their Commission U course requirements as part of Messenger Fellowship’s initiative to equip and empower marketplace ministers.

For those unaware of what Commission U is all about, in short, it’s more than a credentialing course, more than a biweekly small group, more than a quest for frame-able accomplishment; rather, it’s a pathway for disciple-making believers to discover and apply their spiritual gifts in worldly systems…a training ground for men and women of faith to mature their reach in fallen settings.

Scripturally, the word ‘commission’ is used several times. In Genesis, we find Joseph being commissioned by Pharaoh as the vizier of Egypt. In Numbers, we find Eleazar the priest and Joshua being commissioned in front of large assemblies. In Timothy, we find Timothy being commissioned by Paul to commit to his calling. And in the Gospels, the disciples are commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of all nations.

While these cases may seem random, the point is in each of them God appointed his chosen to succeed. And it’s for this reason we are gathered here: to charge these ambassadors not only to go and make disciples of all nations, but occupational arenas as well, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey not only what they’ve chosen to follow, but what they’re continuously choosing to learn and abide in.

So to our graduates, we employ you to build upon the insight you’ve inherited and to see the Scriptures as God-breathed in what you put your hands to.

As 2 Timothy 3:16-172 Timothy 3:16-17 says…

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth [knowing] all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

And to all of us, understand we carry a priestly, Immanuel’ (God with us) identity embodying the incarnate… with ignitable Kingdom influence wherever we walk…wherever we work.

On this note, we consecrate this moment by commissioning our Commission U graduates.

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Photo creds: Lydia Ingegneri