Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Enduring Thanksgiving

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever." (Psalm 136:1)

It is that time of year again when we are encouraged to give thanks. In fact the very word "Thanksgiving" doesn't leave much room not to be grateful. But every year there is that nagging question, "Why should I be thankful?" For some folks Thanksgiving evokes feelings of ingratitude because of a difficult situation. Some are unemployed, others have lost loved ones, many are homeless and there is chaos going on all over the world. Yes, these situations are real and a reminder of the sadness that came into the world because of the Fall. (Genesis 3) In spite of the pain and discord, we can always give thanks to God and who He is. The Scripture verse from Psalm 136, exhorts us from the outset to "give thanks." There are no words proceeding this command. The psalmist then goes on to point to the object of our thanks, which is the Lord. There is no mention of any other material goods. There is nothing about giving thanks for what we own, what we do, or what others think about us. The only one worthy of all our praise is God. The psalmist then focuses on the reasons to give thanks to God. He first points to the fact that God is good. Many continue to question how God can be so good given the suffering in the world? God is not oblivious to our pain and suffering nor does He delight in the consequences that are a result of a fallen world. Others might say that Jesus never had cancer, so how can He understand the suffering my friend or loved one experienced? My understanding is that in the end stages of cancer the pain is intense and the person is kept comfortable with medication, typically morphine. God in His goodness has equipped doctors/scientists with the knowledge to develop pain killers to ease suffering. Jesus had none of these medications as He hung on the cross. He felt everything with each painful breath as He struggled to ease His physical suffering. In Christ, God knows what agonizing pain feels like. Moreover, God's goodness is not measured by worldly definitions. We tend to judge "goodness" by what we perceive people have done and how it fits into our measure of what is good. God is not good because of what He does but rather because of who He is. John tells us, "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5b) God is the only one who is good all the time. Can we honestly say we, our friends, or family members are good all the time? Many of us can look good from the outside but what happens behind closed doors when no one is looking? If God's goodness is not enough to celebrate, the psalmist gives us an even bigger incentive, God's love endures forever! His love is not limited to a few days or years or even a 24 hour period. It is limitless! In these days when few are inclined to demonstrate love consistently whether that be in marriage, friendship, or any other relationship we can rest assured that God's love endures forever. John tells us very simply and directly, "God is love." (1 John 4:16b) Furthermore, "This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10) So, this Thanksgiving as you sit around the table with family and friends and someone asks, "What are you thankful for?" I encourage you to take the psalmist's words to heart. "I give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever."
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Pastor Sheree

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