Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good…(Psalm 136:1)
In the Hebrew, this is written in the imperative.
Hmmm. You’re telling me this is a command?
Yup. This is a command. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not just a good idea. This is a command. “I COMMAND THEE…GIVE THANKS!” (read it in a deep thunderous voice)
Why would God command creatures he created to give thanks to Him?
Seems kinda pathetic…create a bunch of creatures and make them go around thanking you. “Thank you God”, “yeah, thanks God,” “gee, you’re awesome. Thank you God” (read it in a squeaky mousy voice)
What can this be about?
I want to suggest that God commands us to give thanks because giving thanks has more to do with making our lives better than it has to do with making God feel good.
I suggest that we are commanded to give thanks, for when we do our lives significantly improve.
You see, think about all the things you can’t do when you’re grateful. Think about all the things that are impossible to be when you are giving thanks.
When you are giving thanks:
- It’s impossible to be angry
- It’s impossible to be jealous
- It’s impossible to be sad
- It’s impossible to be critical
- It’s impossible to be cynical
- It’s impossible to hate
- It’s impossible to be fearful
- It’s impossible to fill in the blank
There are so many things that are simply impossible to do and be when you are giving thanks.
Now look at that list…wouldn’t your life be better without those things?
Wouldn’t our world be better without those things?
So who is the command for?
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
Standing with the disenfranchised, the powerless, the stranger, the alien, the outcast is not a democratic thing or a republican thing.
This is a Christ thing.
This is who Christ stood with.
E Pluribus Unum…
Recognize it? Ever seen it?
It’s on the Great Seal of the United States. It’s on US currency.
E Pluribus Unum…
It’s been a de facto motto of the United States since her founding.
It means “One from Many.”
When the founders of our country were working on the constitution and how they thought the country should be made up, their intent was to have 13 distinct states that make up one nation. “One from Many.”
They also recognized that they were a people from many different backgrounds: British, Scottish, Welsh, German, French, etc. Even though each came from different backgrounds, they would be united as one nation.
E Pluribus Unum…
But unity doesn’t just happen. In fact, unity is elusive. So how does many become one? What is the uniting factor?
For the founders of our country, it was a dream. A dream of a nation where people can freely live out their convictions without the threat of persecution. A dream of a nation where people of different backgrounds and nationalities would come together to form a greater nation that promised freedom and the pursuit of happiness for all people. And most importantly, a dream of a nation that would find herself living under God.
Living under God…
“In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States. I don’t think that’s an accident. It’s only God who can unite us. It’s God from whom unity comes. Everything we do as a nation, everything we are as a country is based on this fundamental understanding – “In God We Trust”.
Without that, unity is merely a dream. Without binding ourselves under God, unity will never be reality.
You can not like this. But you cannot change our history.
E Pluribus Unum…One from Many…is only possible when it is “In God We Trust.”
One of my best friends worked for a company that made nothing, but earned millions in profits every year.
I know. That’s the kind of world we live in. But I am personally thankful for the work they and companies like them do because their work saved my life. I have had four bypasses, three stents, multiple angiograms to count, too many days in the hospital, etc.
Andy worked for a company who worked with hospitals to ensure their equipment were functioning within acceptable tolerance. The equipment and the machines our doctors use must operate within an extremely tight window of acceptable tolerance. The equipment is only useful if the readings are reading correctly. If the readings are off then the equipment is not only useless, it is dangerous.
Andy’s company made sure that the equipment used in hospitals and by doctors were operating within acceptable tolerance.
Isn’t it interesting that through regular use, and with time, equipment drifts. And very rarely does it drift toward perfection. It always drifts further from acceptable tolerance.
Equipment needs regular recalibrating. The same goes with us.
Our focus, perspective, hopes, goals, dreams tend to drift away from God’s best for us. In time, we forget God.
Regular worship is our weekly recalibration. We need it because we drift. We get further away from acceptable tolerance and worship brings us back.
So, when’s the last time you’ve been in God’s house to worship God? Isn’t it time for a recalibration?
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to find a new church home. For most, this is a painful and difficult process. Leaving a people and place you’ve called home is both painful and hard. Most only leave their church home because they feel they have no other choice.
Should you ever find yourself in such a situation, here are two things to avoid at all cost:
- Avoid speaking badly of your former church
- Avoid speaking badly of your former pastor.
As a pastor, when I meet people who are visiting the Little Church on the Prairie from other churches, and they begin telling me about their terrible experiences with their former pastor and congregation, I want to run for the hills. It literally makes my skin crawl.
Talking badly about your former congregation and your former pastor physically and emotionally hurts pastors.
You see, most pastors love the congregation they serve. They have a great concern and a great love for their people. And pastors serve congregations because they are called and they love their calling. So when you start bad-mouthing your former congregation, pastors who love their people, cannot help but take that personally.
And when you start bad-mouthing your former pastor, I can’t help but think – “That’s going to me. This is what they will be saying about me when they get upset with me.”
Both of these are cringeworthy.
I get it. Life happens and sometimes you have to find a new church home. And should that ever happen, do yourself and your new place a favor: please don’t bad mouth your former church or pastor.
If you’re a professional driver, drifting is both incredibly cool and amazing to watch.
Most other contexts, drifting is not cool.
The thing I find interesting about drift in life is that in life drift never drifts toward good or our intended goal.
Most people’s new year’s resolution includes getting back into shape. And the plan works great for a few days or even weeks. And then the temptation to drift enters. And when drift happens, drift never leads us to the gym or to the track. Drift always leads to the couch.
We decide we need to eat a healthier diet. That’s a great plan. We all should. And things go well for a few weeks, but then the temptation to drift enters. And again, when drift happens, it never leads to more carrots and celery sticks. It usually looks like a cheeseburger and fries and a milkshake, and pizza, and ice cream. I know. I’ve been there and done that. All in one sitting!
Same thing with relationships with our loved ones, our friends. This also applies to our spiritual walk with God. When drift occurs, drift never takes us closer to God.
Here’s the thing about drift. Drift happens. So don’t feel bad when drift happens.
The key is not that drift happens, but that you get back on the plan and correct the drift….get the drift? The thing that determines whether we achieve our goals is not that drift happens but what you do once you drift. The ones that succeed get back on track, get back to healthy habits, get back to the things that lead to health. And the ones that don’t succeed…well…they’re still drifting.
Don’t feel bad that drift happens. When drift happens, get back with the program.
Growth, maturity, health is a journey. On this journey, drift will happen. The key to getting to our goal is that when drift occurs, we get back on the program and stay the course.
Get the drift?
Spiritual journey…our “walk” with God…is not an event but a journey. And since God is infinite and since we are finite, our journey with God will be an eternal journey…there will never be a time or a moment when we will be able to fully comprehend or appreciate the fullness of God’s awesome glory, God’s limitless sovereignty, God’s amazing majesty.
Since our “walk” with God is a journey, and since we will never “arrive” at our destination, whether we just started our “walk” with God or whether you have been “walking” with God for decades, we find ourselves in the same situation: we are further along than we used to be, and we have a limitless love and grace yet to explore.
Since our “walk” with God is a journey, what matters is not how far along you are on this journey. What matters most is that you are heading in the right direction and that you keep going.
So find your true North in Christ…and keep on keeping on!