Thursday, November 20, 2014

Give Thanks to the Lord

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100:1-5)

We are about to enter what is, for many people, the most stressful time of the year. How ironic that Thanksgiving and Christmas – which are both about giving thanks to God and recognizing his goodness – have been commercialized to the point of absurdity and filled with so much activity that, rather than feeling like holy-days, they just feel like a giant blur!

This year you have the opportunity to slow it all down, take a deep breath and decide to use this season to give thanks to God for what he has done and is doing in your life. One of the things that Jesus tried to point out to everyone he encountered is that God is working – always working – to bless the lives of people (See John 5:16-17). God pours out his blessings because he loves and cares for his creation with a Father’s heart.

When we give thanks to God we are acknowledging that we notice the many ways God is working in our world and in our lives and that we appreciate his loving attention.

When we give thanks to God we are declaring to all that we ourselves are not capable of giving meaning to live, or even capable of providing all that we need to sustain life. Rather, we gratefully acknowledge that God is the gracious provider of life.

When we give thanks to God we are also declaring that, just as God has provided for us in the past, we trust that his goodness endures forever and that our future is secure in his love. (Have you noticed what a huge issue “security” is in our world right now?)

When we give thanks to God we join his family throughout the ages in raising a chorus of thanksgiving to the one who is so generous and loving towards us all. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Whatever else may be happening in your life currently, it is happening in the presence of your loving Father, who is good and whose love never fails, but endures forever. For that we give thanks!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Reverent Submission of Obedience

It is historically safe to say that there has never been any other human being like Jesus. The early church was insistent that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. That was, and is, a difficult concept to understand! They claimed it because they were completely amazed at the life, words and works of Jesus.

            The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus: During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… (Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV) I love that phrase, “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Reverent submission is exactly what God is looking for in the lives of all people who seek to follow Jesus.

            Yet too often we offer something besides reverent submission. Many choose “irreverent rebellion” – the path of the prodigal who seeks to navigate through the world on the basis of being obedient to their own desires. This path is marked with heartache and tragedy, but even with all the evidence saying this is a bad road, everyday many people walk this path. Irreverent rebellion is a crowded road, but it only leads further away from the will of God in our lives. The sooner you realize that irreverent rebellion will never become the basis for a meaningful life of faith the better, so you can take the off-ramp of repentance and begin making your way home.

            The other crowded path – and alternative to reverent submission – is “irreverent submission,” which I take to be the practice of legalism. The practice of irreverent submission looks better than irreverent rebellion, at least on the surface, because it does not leave such an obvious trail of heartbreak and tragedy. Yet it is actually a much harder road and it is difficult to find the off ramp because like the prodigal’s older brother you despise the disobedient as a defense against feeling that you have missed out on the wild side of life. Irreverent submission can be defined as righteousness without joy (a false righteousness if there ever was one!). The pride that builds in your heart makes the idea of repentance repugnant. While you can get off this road, it usually takes a major train wreck to make it happen.

            Jesus was remarkable because he did not practice “irreverent rebellion” or “irreverent submission” like so many others, but he willingly and excitedly embraced reverent submission as the path for his life. It lead straight to the cross – an unimaginable horror – but on the other side was glory. His first disciples saw his life, death and resurrection and had to construct new categories for it! God helped them by giving them the category of Son of God – fully God and fully human. It was his obedience that created such an amazing life.

            Now he calls us to reverent submission – a life of obedience to our Savior. 


- Kenny Payne