Flashback Friday: Thankful Beyond Compare

Originally published March 8, 2016:

Swan and Ducks

Throughout my life, I’ve fallen into the sin of ingratitude. For the most part, I succumbed to this sin as a result of comparing myself with able-bodied people. I can remember the envy I nurtured in my heart during my two years in Memphis, listening to my co-workers talk about their homes and marriages, and feeling resentful that I was single and living in a nursing home. When they encouraged me to be grateful for a roof over my head, food in  my belly and people to get me up each morning, you bet I felt like smacking them! But, as angry as I was that I couldn’t have the goodies that they had, I was even angrier that their comments exposed my sin of ingratitude.

Rather than comparing myself to my co-workers, I believe the Lord wanted me to compare myself to the blind, non-verbal quadriplegic two doors down from me whose mother wouldn’t even touch him when she visited. Or the woman who had been disabled when a drunk driver smashed into her car, killing her baby and damaging her mind and body so severely that her husband immediately  filed for divorce. Or all those with Cerebral Palsy that had spent their entire adult lives in that roach-infested place, with no hope of getting out. Had I contrasted my life to theirs, I think I would have been much more grateful for all the Lord had given me.

Scripture frequently has to tell us to thank the Lord for His blessings precisely because we naturally gravitate toward ingratitude. We convince ourselves that, compared to certain others, we don’t receive what life supposedly owes us. Or, to put it in terms we’d never admit, we don’t receive what God supposedly owes us.

Our real problem is that we have an inflated opinion of ourselves coupled with a deflated view of the Lord. Rather than recognizing that we actually owe Him everything, both because He created us and because He shed His precious blood to pay the penalty for our sin, we demand that He cater to our desires. I say “we” because I still allow myself to dabble in the sin of ingratitude. I’ll cast the first stone at myself, but I seriously doubt that I’m the only one guilty of taking His goodness for granted.

With that being the case, we all need the Bible’s reminders to praise and thank the Lord for His goodness to us. Psalm 100 is one of many passages of Scripture that directs me to praise and thank Him.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. ~~Psalm 100 (ESV)

It helps me to compare myself to that quadriplegic young man in the nursing home. But that might not be the most Biblical approach to cultivating gratitude, now that I think of it. Instead of comparing ourselves with people more fortunate or less fortunate than ourselves, perhaps we’d do better by focusing on Who God is and how graciously He cares for us.

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So Much More Than A Pretty Piece Of Jewelry

Like many Christian women, I wear a pendant shaped like a cross. It’s a pretty silver thing — slightly fanciful, but nothing ornate. Truth be told, it’s a bit bigger than it should be, making me look a bit like a nun. One of John’s Avon customers ordered it years ago, but decided she didn’t want it, so John offered it to me. I’ve worn it for several years because I like identifying myself as a Christian.

Cross shaped pendants really are pretty, don’t you think? That fact is sort of bizarre, considering that execution by crucifixion was one of the cruelest ways to put even the vilest criminal to death. Some critics of using it as jewelry argue that we might as well wear little gold and silver replicas of electric chairs around our necks. Grudgingly, I see their point. When I think about the gruesome realities of the crucifixion process, it does seem a bit barbaric to turn the cross into a fashion accessory.

In an article on the Learn Religion website, Marcy Fairchild explains The Definition of Crucifixion, an Ancient Method of Execution. If you’ve never read about the things crucifixion entails, her article outlines it delicately but accurately, so I’d strongly encourage you to take a minute to read through it before continuing with this post.

You can see the inhumanity of crucifixion in Ms. Fairchild’s post, and you probably wince at the thought that the sinless Lord endured such physical pain and degradation. Wincing is definitely an appropriate response to the barbaric execution of the One Who created the universe, I daresay! Never has there been a miscarriage of justice as extreme and unfounded! Jesus did nothing to deserve the death of a criminal, and even Pilate (who sentenced Him to death) knew it.

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You’ll Never Find Assurance Apart From Christ

This week I had several severe episodes of anger. Usually, such behavior causes me to doubt that I was ever genuinely saved.

In one sense, our sins should lead us to examine ourselves. If we show absolutely no evidence that Christ is transforming us into His image, perhaps we really need to question our salvation.

But Satan often uses our occasional lapses into sin as an effort to discourage us. Once we attach salvation to our performance, we deny the very heart of the Gospel. Salvation comes exclusively from the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross.

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The Love And Mercy Near The Cross

Oh, how I needed God’s love and mercy 49 years ago, when His Holy Spirit spoke through Scripture to unmask me as a wretched sinner! His love and mercy assured me that Jesus paid for my sin on the cross. As a young Christian, I clung to the cross.

Oh, how I need God’s love and mercy now, as the Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture to unmask me as a wretched sinner! His love and mercy continue to remind me that Jesus paid for my sin on the cross. The older I grow as a Christian, the more I understand my need to cling to the cross.

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The Roarings Of Woke Evangelicals

More and more, evangelicals demand all manner of social justice. The predominant issue is reparations for racial inequality, but the umbrella also covers women’s rights and LBGTQ concerns. The Black Lives Matter crusade is actually a cleverly marketed program to transform the culture into a Marxist society.

People are buying it because they’ve ignored history to the point of not understanding that socialism really amounts to communism, and communism is infinitely more oppressive than the alleged systemic racism and binary patriarchy of our present culture.

Although it troubles me that non-Christians embrace this velvet gloved Marxism, I can understand how they fall into such deception. It bothers me to a far greater extent that evangelicals (even some within the Reformed camp) have jumped on various corners of this bandwagon, many going so far as to claim social justice as a Gospel issue.

I thought of this dangerous false teaching as I worked through Psalm 74 this morning.

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I Couldn’t Have Paid Anything

Most of us have no idea of how extensive our sin is. Personally, I can understand it only by realizing that erasing it required nothing less than the innocent blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But I do know that I have absolutely no resources with which to atone for my sin. Any good that I might have done could never outweigh the ways that I have offended the thrice holy God. My debt towards Him is just too formidable.

Thankfully, Jesus is a merciful God Who took my debt upon Himself. He graciously paid the entire price of my sin, leaving me free to worship God with a clear conscience. Throughout eternity, I will praise Him for paying a debt that I never could have paid.

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For Even Me!

It’s good to face up to the severity of our sin. Sadly, few churches these days teach much about human depravity. Efforts to bolster self-esteem minimize any mention of sin in favor of emphasizing our righteousness in Christ. We nod in agreement that Jesus died for our sins, rarely seriously thinking of ourselves as sinners.

But those of us who actually do understand the depth of our wretchedness run the danger of not speaking enough about God’s grace. This failure is ironic, since our conviction of sin should enable us to have a deeper appreciation of His grace.

What could be more joyful than knowing that the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches even me? How can I resist praising His Name when I think about His grace being broader than the scope of my transgressions, making me God’s dear child? The matchless grace of Jesus fills me with such joy that I want to magnify the precious Name of Jesus!

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Keys To Discernment: It Pleased The Father

Gold Key

As Christians, we often wonder how we can please the Lord. And we definitely ought to read Scripture with the expectation of learning how to bring pleasure to Him.

But Scripture also shows us that God has done things for the purpose of pleasing Himself. I don’t think about that idea nearly as much as I should, and I’m not sure many of us do. Thankfully, the two concluding verses of the magnificent passage we’ve been studying these past few weeks adjusts our attention back to to the truth that God does everything with the ultimate goal of pleasing Himself.

For the sake of context, let’s once again look at our passage as a whole before we talk about verses 19 and 20.

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Throwback Thursday: The Shocking Gospel Message

Originally posted September 11, 2018.

The Gospel and Love

The Gospel, in and of itself, isn’t about our responsibility to love other people.

Does that statement shock you? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Traditionally, the Christian culture equates doing good to others and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves with genuine Christianity. And without argument, Jesus and His apostles taught that the command to love others is second only to the command to love God.

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