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27 November 2014
A few years ago, my sister asked my dad to write a Thanksgiving song for the children’s choir at High Country Baptist Church, a church her husband pastors. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good recording of the song. You’ll have to take my word for it that Dad wrote a lovely melody. But he also wrote the lyrics, and this is how they go:
“Oh, Heavenly Father, grant that we
May ever rightly thankful be,
Forgive us, Father, when we fuss
And fail to show our faith and trust,
Thanking Thee. Thanking Thee.
When You let troubling times arise,
And bitter tears come to our eyes,
Teach us to praise instead of wail,
And let our thanks to Thee set sail
To the skies, to the skies.
Oh, let us ever grateful be
To Thee, now, and eternally.
And let our voices sweetly ring
When every day we rise to sing
Thanks to thee, thanks to thee.”
This was specifically written for children, but when you think about it, Christians are all children to God. And it’s remarkable how like children we can act when things don’t quite go the way we want them to. We adults have more sophisticated ways of wailing and fussing and stamping our feet, but the underlying attitude is the same. We don’t trust and we think we know more than God does. It is hard to see our lives through God’s lens. He doesn’t often let us in on His designs for us, at least not at first. So like my music students who sometimes chafe and grit their teeth when I make them count and play or say their note names and play, we protest and buckle under the mundane, the waiting, and the pain God sends for us to bear. Just as my students don’t understand what the discipline of counting and saying note names is doing for them in the long run, I can’t figure out why God won’t just snap His fingers and make me mature instead of putting me through His paces. Yet, He tells me to give thanks whether I understand or not. But many times I don’t feel thankful at all, and I’m hard pressed to think of anything to be thankful for. How do I do it!
Last Sunday night, I was sitting in a church service listening to a Pastor preach through Psalm 100. He mentioned something about how thanksgiving is closely related to confession of sin. At that remark, I tuned in a little closer. He continued to say that when giving thanks is mentioned in the Bible, it closely follows repentance and confession. Why? Because of God’s forgiveness. The greatest reason for thankfulness is not the car God provided for me, my physical needs being met, my possessions, or my family, though I ought to thank Him for those things. The ultimate reason to give thanks is salvation and the forgiveness God offers when we become repenters—the very first time and all the multitudes of times after that. So, if my dog dies, the car breaks down, someone hacks into my computer and steals my identity, my boss fires me and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills, there is still cause for thanks left to me. Because God’s forgiveness is a perpetual reality and eternal life is mine right now, I can give thanks while I’m saying my “note names.”
So, with that I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness:
Come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord, He is God:
It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people, and sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gate with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:
Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting;
And His truth endureth to all generations.