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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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 3

At this time of year, we generally think of a helpless Infant wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Now, there’s definitely wonder in the truth that God Incarnate came to earth as a Baby, dependent on His mother and her husband for His basic physical care. If that concept hasn’t filled you with awe and amazement at least once in your life, it should!

But Jesus is much more than a Baby in a Bethlehem manger. The shepherds and wise men, while they didn’t understand that this Child was the God Who rules all nature, knew that He was Israel’s promised Messiah. “Christ the Lord,” the angels had told the shepherds.

Our sentimental images of Christ’s birth often cause us to forget His power and majesty as the sovereign Lord Who governs all creation. I therefore encourage you to step back from thoughts about a Baby for a moment, and to meditate on Who this fairest of all Babies truly is. As you think about this Son of God and Son of man, you’ll remember that glory, honor praise and adoration belong — now and evermore — to Him.

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 1

I purposefully didn’t watch the Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade this year (or did the COVID-19 panic cancel it?), but I’m pretty sure it concluded with Santa ushering in the Christmas shopping season. And a society known for thumbing its nose at Christianity suddenly focuses on celebrating a Christless Christmas.

We struggle as Christians to keep our gaze on the Lord Jesus Christ amid pressures to buy everyone the perfect gift, decorate our homes and send cards. Though we sincerely desire to keep our attention on Him, we find ourselves pulled into the secular aspects of the season. It’s hard!

So in these four Sundays before Christmas I’ll post hymns reminding us of Who our Lord is. This week let’s enjoy this beautiful adaptation of Psalm 23 as it describes His function as our Shepherd.

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Join To Sing

Everyone loves singing. There’s something about it that liberates our spirits, making us feel as if we’re soaring on the music. What a glorious gift the Lord has given us!

Christians have an even deeper reason to appreciate this gift of singing because we have the privilege of singing praises to our God and King. And those who are blessed with the ability to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ understand the joy of mingling our voices with theirs to form a chorus of worship.

What a joy to know that, in eternity, our voices will join with all the redeemed to praise Jesus! Alleluia, Amen!

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More Thoughts About Thinking: It’s Deeper Than Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

Raindrops on a pink rose

Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?

If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?

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John Newton Explains Why Grace Is Amazing

When we think of John Newton, our minds immediately go to his beautiful hymn, “Amazing Grace.” But did you know that he wrote other hymns?

Yesterday I poked around YouTube a bit, not sure what hymn to feature today, and I came across one performer by Indelible Grace. I’m certain they updated the tune, but they apparently preserved Newton’s original lyrics.

Right away, I knew I needed to post it!

In this hymn, Newton walks us through the various benefits of Christ’s atonement, continually returning to the glorious truth that He has washed us with His blood. Newton gives lots of good doctrine throughout the verses, introducing each one as yet another reason to worship our wonderful Lord.

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Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Wrote To The Colossians (Reboot)

Untitled-1

Last Monday I explained that I’ll repost the few Bible Studies I wrote on Colossians before I injured my back in February. I’ll add a few remarks to these articles where I feel they need further comment, so you really might find it beneficial to read them again. Once we’ve reviewed those studies, we’ll continue working through the epistle.

As a young Christian, I would get impatient when Bible Study teachers would spend time talking about the background to whatever book they taught. I just wanted to grab verses here and there that I could shoehorn into my immediate circumstances. Textual context only mildly interested me; I had absolutely no use for historical or cultural background, thank you very much!

So if you’re groaning at the title of this post, anticipating a boring history lesson about First Century Colossae, I understand. It’s not what you expected from a study on discernment.

Don’t close this article yet, ladies! You need to know that I’m writing a little about the background to this epistle precisely because it will enable us to see how Paul taught discernment without once naming the false teachers that he refuted.

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Ancient Hymns Exalt God

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading through Psalms. I started doing so in response to COVID-19, eager to find encouragement in these troubling times. Indeed, many of the psalms do offer wonderful comfort as they point to God’s protection of His people in all sorts of affliction.

Psalm 57 begins with David telling the Lord about some of his trials. The early verses depict his despair as circumstances close in on him. Yet almost immediately he intersperses his statements of fear with his confidence in the Lord. He knows that only God has the power to deliver him from his encroaching enemies.

David wants more than simply his own deliverance, however. He wants the world to see God’s power, and to exalt Him. Verses 9-11 close the psalm with a prayer that God would exalt Himself above the heavens and spread His glory over all the earth.

When I read this ancient hymn during my time with the Lord a few days ago, I fondly remembered singing a portion of it as a praise song in the early 1980s. How beautiful to sing such an ancient hymn that centers on the exaltation of God!

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Beyond Heavenly Wheelbarrows And Tennis Courts

Heaven's Glory

Eschatology intimidates me. Although I have been a Christian for a little over 49 years, I can’t take iron clad positions on when our the Rapture will occur in relation to the Tribulation or which saved people will live in the Millennal Kingdom. Many of you will undoubtedly be disappointed that I don’t unquestioningly follow John MacArthur’s pronouncements on these points. But I just don’t think I understand the finer points of eschatology well enough to take a stand on these two matters.

I’m not sure it’s necessary that I be an expert in eschatology, frankly. It’s an important topic, yes. But minds far more brilliant than mine have debated the details for centuries.

That said, I do have firm convictions about our eternal state. And I find much of contemporary evangelical speculation about heaven to be man-centered and silly. Furthermore,  much of what evangelicals say regarding heaven bears almost no resemblance to the Bible’s depictions of heaven.

My disability provides an extra opportunity to hear some of the foolish ideas people have about the eternal kingdom. For instance, friends often talk about Read More »

The Incredible Hope Of Resurrection

SunsetApr10_2004Although Christians understand that Christ’s resurrection is absolutely central to our faith, many of us struggle to see exactly what it means to us personally. The atonement for sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ makes a little more sense to us — we grasp the idea that He died the death that rightly belonged to us. But sometimes (if we’re honest), we have difficulty articulating the significance that His resurrection has for us.

Before going further, let’s remember that the most important reason behind Christ’s resurrection is His glory. While we most assuredly do benefit tremendously from the fact that He is risen, we must take care not to make it about us. As in everything, we need to keep our focus on glorifying and honoring Him.

Having made the point that His glory remains the primary point of His resurrection, we can also acknowledge its impact on us. Our eternal future in His kingdom comes about precisely because God raised Him from the dead! Apart from the resurrection, we would have no hope (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

For the purposes of today’s article, I am going to particularly emphasize the teaching that Christ’s physical resurrection guarantees the physical resurrection of Read More »