I hope you’re blessed with something good to eat, someone to celebrate with (even virtually), and some moments to recount the good things God has brought your way!
Some days it’s easy to thank and praise God. A prayer is answered just the way we wanted, an unexpected gift arrives, a loved one recovers from an illness. When God does something obvious for us, we respond in praise to Him.
But other times, praise is hard. The prayer is answered “No.” A loved one does not recover. Needs and hardships abound with no relief in sight.
Psalm 116:17 speaks of offering “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” After speaking of the sacrifice Jesus made of His own blood so that we could be saved. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
Why would it be called a sacrifice to praise God?
Sacrifices cost something. They acknowledge the worthiness of the one sacrificed to. They encourage faith even as they express faith.
Why does God want our praise? Everyone appreciates a “thank you.” But God doesn’t need praise from us. He is totally self-sufficient. He asks for our praise because we need it. He lifts our chin upwards so our gaze rests on Him. When times are hard, looking to Him reminds us that He is sovereign, wise, powerful, loving, kind. When we praise Him, we acknowledge His greatness for our own hearts as well as others. We remind ourselves that all our answers and provisions come from Him. We don’t ignore the pain or heartache, but we acknowledge God in them.
As Nancy Guthrie shares in Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual:
When we choose to praise God for His goodness, despite His allowing what we would nor describe as good into our lives, that is a sacrifice of praise. When we praise Him for His sovereignty, even though we don’t understand the whys of His plans, that is a sacrifice of praise (p. 177).
In On Asking God Why, Elisabeth Elliot wrote of finding help to praise when she wasn’t feeling particularly thankful:
When I stumble out of bed in the morning, put on a robe, and go into my study, words do not spring spontaneously to my lips–other than words like, “Lord, here I am again to talk to you. It’s cold. I’m not feeling terribly spiritual….” Who can go on and on like that morning after morning, and who can bear to listen to it day after day?
I need help in order to worship God. Nothing helps me more than the Psalms. Here we find human cries–of praise, adoration, anguish, complaint, petition. There is an immediacy, an authenticity, about those cries. They speak for me to God–that is, they say what I often want to say, but for which I cannot find words.
Surely the Holy Spirit preserved those Psalms in order that we might have paradigms of prayer and of our individual dealings with God. It is immensely comforting to find that even David, the great king, wailed about his loneliness, his enemies, his pains, his sorrows, and his fears. But then he turned from them to God in paeans of praise.
He found expression for praise far beyond my poor powers, so I use his and am lifted out of myself, up into heights of adoration, even though I’m still the same ordinary woman alone in the same little room.
She goes on to tell how hymns also help her find words with which to praise:
By putting into words things on earth for which we thank him, we are training ourselves to be ever more aware of such things as we live our lives. It is easy otherwise to be oblivious of the thousand evidences of his care.
This year has been full of various hardships. Thanksgiving may not hold its usual luster. In fact, it might be hard to find something to thank God for. But I have found those times when I have to search for God’s blessings to be especially meaningful. He always leaves evidence of His care, and sometimes we miss them unless we’ve especially tuned our hearts to see them.
One hymn which helps me praise is “O God, Beyond All Praising” by Michael Perry. A few lines express the truths discussed here:
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’II triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless you still:
To marvel at your beauty
And glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise.
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We know thanksgiving is not just a day in November, but it is an activity we’re supposed to engage in year-round. But our annual thankful holiday does help turn our thoughts a more grateful direction.
In past years I’ve made lists of what I am thankful for throughout November, either once a day or all on Thanksgiving Day. I usually ended up with pretty much the same items on my list. That’s fine. We should continue to be thankful for what we have every year.
It’s harder to be thankful some years. Health issues cropped up, loved ones are no longer with us, finances have taken a downturn. The Bible speaks of the “sacrifice of praise”: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15). I’ve often wondered at that wording. “Sacrifice” hearkens back to some of the OT sacrifices, but here it is applied specifically to praise. I’ve thought that perhaps it’s a sacrifice because we have to turn our attention from ourselves to God. But maybe it’s also a sacrifice because we do it whether or not we “feel” it. Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “To give thanks is not the same as ‘feeling thankful.’ To give thanks in the midst of pain and problems is to take a step of faith based on the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: God tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (not just those we can handle or feel on top of). For what things can you give thanks, even while you’re hurting?”
C. S. Lewis said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because is it good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility, and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
One year I did a study on thanks and thanksgiving in the Bible.Just one aspect of it was noticing what people in the Bible thanked God for. It’s perfectly fine to thank God for material blessings and the people He has placed in our lives. But we can expand our thanks to include:
Attributes of God Himself
God’s goodness. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (I Chronicles 16:34; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136)
God’s holiness. “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Psalm 30:4, KJV)
God’s righteous judgments. At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments. (Psalm 119: 62, KJV)
God’s greatness. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3)
God’s power and reign. “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” (Revelation 11:17)
God’s love and wonderful works. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” (Psalm 107:21-2)
What God gives us or does for us
Saving us. “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:12-14)
Bearing us. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)
Victory over death. “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57)
Deliverance from mourning. “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12)
Comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Causing us to triumph, making Himself known through us. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, KJV)
God’s provision, enough for ourselves plus for giving to others. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)
God’s inexpressible gift. “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Food. “. . . foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5)
Authorities. Really? Yes: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
“But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” (2 Corinthians 8:16)
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . .” (Ephesians 1:16)
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4) (See also I Thessalonians 1:1-3; 3:9-10; II Thessalonians 2:13-14.)
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)
This is probably just the tip of the iceberg! I’m sure further study would reveal even more things to be thankful for in the Bible.
I’ve been looking for a quote that I thought came from Martin Luther, but I can’t seem to find it with various searches. But it went something like this: God saved me when I didn’t deserve it. I could and should thank Him eternally for just that. Anything else He gives me or does for me after that is just extra blessings. (If you know this quote, please share in the comments. I would be so grateful.) We’re truly “loaded with benefits”: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19, KJV).
No doubt August Storm had done a thanksgiving study of his own when he composed this hymn in 1891:
Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!
Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!
Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!
~ August L. Storm, 1891
What are you most thankful for this year?
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Here’s some noteworthy reads I’ve come across recently. Perhaps you’ll find something that speaks to you here.
With Thanksgiving coming up, naturally there are a lot of posts about being thankful and content. A few of the best:
Secret to a Contented Heart. “Satan doesn’t come at most of us with temptations to take drugs or rob banks. His main temptation is to rob our joy and rob God of glory by keeping a bunch of unhappy, complaining, whining women on the loose.” (Ouch—in a good way.)
Countless Blessings from a Generous God. “We’ve heard it said to count our blessings. But if we look at the shocking amount of blessings a generous God extends to us, they are hard to number.”
How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Chaos. “I am tempted to cancel Thanksgiving this year…I toyed with the idea for a whole 10 minutes, and then I remembered escaping from reality is never a healthy decision. Plus, the Holy Spirit also reminded me that I am called to let my little light shine in dark places. Sometimes those dark places are at the dinner table with stuffing and cranberry sauce.”
What if You Lost What You Weren’t Thankful For. “What people would you miss if you hadn’t taken time to thank God for them? Not just the ones in your family, but the ones who grow your food, repair your car, treat your illness, and serve your coffee.”
Some Counsel for Christians Leaving Toxic Church Environments, HT to Challies. Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common a problem.
There Are No Extraordinary Means, HT to Challies. “What we want are extraordinary fixes to ordinary problems. In this desire we miss the reality that there’s always something else to fix, there’s always something else to do, and there’s always something we’ll miss. Looking for extraordinary means is a roadmap to variously intense levels of personal frustration. Ordinary means of grace are sufficient because our problems are ordinary.”
Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness, HT to Challies. “I cannot achieve righteousness without spirituality. But it is possible to be ‘spiritual,’ at least on the surface, without attaining righteousness.”
“Worthy?” also HT to Challies. This deals with the idea that we tend to come to God when we feel worthy and avoid coming when we don’t feel worthy. “Are you worthy? No. But Jesus doesn’t require fitness from you. You only have to feel your need of him. You only have to see that his worthiness is sufficient for you.”
And finally, this is me in cold weather:
Wishing you an extra-special Thanksgiving!
Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:
Imperfections Make Sundays More Beautiful, HT to Challies. “I’ll admit it: these human quirks and errors sometimes exasperate me. I’m here to focus on the Lord! Your awkwardness is distracting me from worship! So mutters my self-righteous heart. Perhaps the real problem isn’t with the clumsiness of others, but with our expectations for corporate worship.”
As we look ahead to Thanksgiving in the US this week:
There seems to be a theme running through most of the posts I’ve read concerning Thanksgiving so far this year: the fact that thankfulness isn’t an emotion, but an act of the will, and not always easy. Here are a few:
Gratitude Is a Gift for All Seasons. “To intentionally call to mind images of gratitude in the midst of peace and prosperity is one thing, but it takes a sinewy faith to summon them when chaos reigns and the future looks bleak.”
For some Thanksgiving fun:
Free printable Thanksgiving trivia, for use as a game or conversation starter
And, finally, a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving quotes:
My latest round-up of newly discovered noteworthy posts:
The Last of the Iron Lungs, HT to Challies. A handful of people with polio still rely on them, but they’re not sold or maintained by the the manufacturers any more. Fascinating article. And, though this is not the main point of it, I was inspired by those who are trying to make the best of their circumstances, like the man who took his iron lung to college, practiced law for the few hours a day he could go without the iron lung, until he started needing it almost 100%. Now he’s writing his memoirs while encased in it.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but in case you missed it, I announced the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge for February 2018 and included a long list of related books to consider for those who might want to read beyond just the Little House series.
Finally, I didn’t listen to all this, but overheard a good bit while hubby was listening. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders began the last press briefing before Thanksgiving asking the reporters to share something they were thankful for before asking their questions. What we found amazing was the way they whole atmosphere changed by doing that, from confrontational and adversarial to convivial!
Happy Saturday! It’s Christmas decoration day for us!
A few friends linked to this cute video on Facebook.
OK, some might think it a little cheesy. But it made a good point in a fun way. Though it was made with Christmas in mind, I thought it was perfect for Thanksgiving – or really, for any day – a reminder of all that we have. Much that we take for granted would have been considered luxuries throughout most of history, and in fact would still be considered luxuries by a lot of the world today.
This reminded me of an event several years ago when the church we attended then had a testimony time Thanksgiving Eve. Several young adults expressed longing to see God do something “big” in their lives. I couldn’t help but think of the children of Israel in the wilderness. The everyday manna was just as miraculous and just as much God’s provision as the parting of the Red Sea and victory in battle, yet they soon grew tired of that and wanted something else.
I don’t think those young people wanting to see God do something big in their lives that night were necessarily taking the everyday gifts for granted. I don’t know their hearts. But sometimes in longing for the “big” moments we can overlook the everyday evidence of God’s presence, love, and care – maybe a little like a husband or wife waiting for a grand, romantic gesture from the other rather than seeing the love in providing for each other, being attentive to each other’s needs and idiosyncrasies, and all the various little ways we evidence that “You’re the one that I love.”
May we see God’s hand and rejoice in His love and gifts in the everyday as well as in the milestone, once in a lifetime events.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to show forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night. Psalm 92:1-2
Here’s another round of notable reads found recently:
Please Stop the Mad-ness re “Christian outrage” responses.
Faith Going Forward: A Midlife Following. “If the Proverb is to be trusted, and my mostly silver hair is to be seen as a crown of glory and wisdom, don’t let me be guilty of false advertising.”
And, this is the night!!! Daylight Savings Time ends tonight, so don’t forget to turn your clocks back before going to bed. I hate losing the hour in the spring but I love getting it back in the fall!.
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