Name Them One By One…

(I encouraged my parishioners to make a list of things for which they are thankful during this season of Thanksgiving.  Below is a sampling from my own journal.)

I am thankful for the Triune God of Scripture. A loving Father gave His Son for me. A loving Son gave His life for me. A loving Spirit sought me out and brought me into the life of God to share in these manifold blessings.

I am thankful for the Holy Scriptures which were able to make me wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

I am thankful that our God gives His beloved sleep, and that while I sleep He doesn’t. He is ever watchful, ever wakeful, and busy preparing new mercies for my many weaknesses.

I am thankful that, by the grace of God, I rose to meet the sun one more time. “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (Psalm 3:5). Thus far 11,655 times. Thanks be to God!

I’m thankful for the color blue. I guess I’m thankful for all colors, all shades, and every hue. God is gracious in that He paints the universe for us just so we can know the meaning of beauty. Think of the glorious sunrise and the marvelous sunsets; of mountain peaks and rolling plains. Think of cascading waterfalls and the breathtaking view of watching the ocean meet the sky in a dazzling parade of colors. In seeing something of their transient beauty we learn something of His transcending beauty. Blessed be the God who condescends that we may apprehend.

I am thankful for the unfailing faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God. As I thought about this 8th day, my mind went to the 8th chapter of Genesis where we read those wonderful words, “And God remembered Noah…and the waters subsided.” God remembered His covenant, thus, He remembered His child. He didn’t desert him and He didn’t destroy him. Thank God He remembers me! Noah only had a boat; I have the Beloved. Noah was just in the ark; I am in Him! To borrow a few lines from Toplady, “My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase; Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace. The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete; His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.

I am thankful for homemade bread, apple pie, red wine, and bacon grease. That is, I am grateful for food and feasts. More to the point, I am thankful that God was so good to us that He put taste buds on our tongues and flavor in our food. God could have made us like mere machines that wouldn’t be able to appreciate the savory or the sweet. Instead, He chose to satisfy our mouths with good things. Food is good because God is good. A celebration feast gives us yet another opportunity to glorify God and enjoy Him (and the world that He has made for us) forever. He even pictures our redemption, not in terms of intellectual fulfillment or quiet piety, but as an extravagant feast. “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined” (Isaiah 25:6). He calls us to live for Him and enjoy the living while we are at it. In tasting these good things we are able to more fully “taste and see that the Lord is good!” We are not gnostics. A good God made a good world for our enjoyment simply because He is good. Let thanks arise for wheated prairies, royal roses, steep giraffes, cool breezes, etched cliffs, loyal dogs, tall corn, indoor plumbing, plastic toothbrushes, zippers, cream sauces, tri-tip steak, marinated mushrooms, and extra notches on our belts!

I’m thankful that I get to go to heaven. I don’t mean when I die; I mean every Lord’s Day! I get to “come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb 12:22-24). Our Elder Brother leads worship before the Throne and says, “Behold, I and the children which Thou hast given me!” I’m thankful that I don’t just “go to church” I get to go to Heaven every week.

I am thankful for the invisible hand of Providence. God is exhaustively and meticulously sovereign. His governing hand plots the courses of empires, establishes dynasties, and plucks kings from their imperial thrones. Exhaustive sovereignty rules over the little things as well as the big things, since all things are “little things” to an infinite God. Providence is good and merciful; just and righteous. Remembering His sovereignty allows us to retain our sanity. Providence is a soft pillow. Rest easy. Thank God that He actively and perpetually controls all things, whether they be the stars in their courses, or the shifting grains of sand on the seashore.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise;
All my times are in thy hand,
All events at thy command.

His decree who formed the earth
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place, and time,
All appointed were by him.

He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb:
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by his wise decree.

Times the tempter’s power to prove;
Times to taste the Savior’s love;
All must come, and last, and end,
As shall please my heavenly Friend.]

Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till he bids, I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit.

I am thankful for the relentless pursuit of a merciful God in the life of rebellious sinners. The goodness and mercy of God pursued me with a fleetness of foot too swift to outrun. Grace overtook me. Grace overwhelmed me. I was hiding. He was seeking. He found me and forgave me. He sought me and bought me. He brought me into His banqueting house and His banner over me was love. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Be glad and rejoice, if He can save the chief He can save the whole tribe! I am brought near, adopted, accepted in the Beloved, made to sit together in heavenly places. He raised me from the dunghill and seated me among princes. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to sooth or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they pictured the blood sprinkled tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu—’twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field,
My cable, my anchor, my breast-plate and shield!

I am thankful for prayer. Of course I am thankful that I can go boldly to the throne of Grace to find mercy for my wickedness and grace for my weaknesses, but that is not what I have in mind. I am also thankful that my brothers and sisters can gather at our Father’s house together on my behalf, but that isn’t what I’m thinking about either. I’m most thankful for the prayers of Christ. My life depends upon those. Satan desires to have me that he may sift me as wheat but Jesus is praying that my faith will not fail. I am saved eternally, to the uttermost, because “He ever lives to make intercession for me.” He prays for me constantly, lovingly, earnestly, and efficaciously. His Father always hears Him and answers Him favorably. Perhaps the greatest of all of His prayers for me is this one found in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Let thanks arise! He’s praying this for all of His people—that’s what He lives for!

I am thankful for books! I love books—big books, little books, short books, long books, new books, old books—I really like books. I like the way they look on a shelf, stacked on a nightstand, piled on the floor, or held in someone’s hands. I really like books. Nothing beats the smell of ancient pages telling some timeless story and beckoning me to join in on the adventure. Did you know that God really likes books too? He wrote the story of our lives before He ever fashioned the everlasting hills. He jotted down our our few defeats and our many victories before ever an angel wing disturbed the hushed stillness of eternity. The Psalmist says of God, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” He wrote us into His magnificent story in living color. Human history is a divine story. He then gave us a book! He gave us a book that speaks of His glory and grace so that He might bring us unto Him that we might see our place in His great story. God likes books. There is one volume that stands out as the brightest jewel in His treasure house, a book inscribed with the names of all of God’s ransomed children, the Lamb’s Book of Life. Thank God, He has a page with my name on it which was written in red before the foundation of the world. God guards this book with His life! It is hidden with Him and we are hidden with Him in it. Every name was written in eternity by the Father, purchased at Calvary by the Son and is sealed unto glory by the Spirit. Thank God for books!

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be near thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.

I am thankful for my grandparents. They have been the most stable people in my life. They have modeled integrity, hospitality, charity, duty, and devotion as well as anyone I have known. They aren’t perfect but I am thankful for those imperfections as they have given the entire family an opportunity to grow in grace. They have modeled a well-ordered and love-filled marriage for the rest of us as well. To my grandmother, I rise up and call you blessed. To my grandfather, may your children and grandchildren be for you a crown of rejoicing. I praise God for both of you.

I am thankful for the vision given to Peter in Acts 10. We can now enjoy ham and football on thanksgiving.

I am thankful that a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Solomon, in his wisdom, tells us, “Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one shall lift up his fellow. But woe to him that is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! If two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” True friends are gift from above. Many people are never fortunate enough to have them. Oh they have acquaintances and many names in their “contact list,” but they don’t have true friends. Solomon tells us in another place that there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, one who loves at all times. I am thankful that God, in His grace, has given me a few such men. Most of my true friends were found on battlefields or in foxholes. You rarely lose those kind. They are men who are loyal; men of integrity and conviction. We don’t always agree but that is part of their great value. As iron sharpens iron, so we sharpen one another. These types of friends know you better than you know yourself. They are the ones walking in when everyone else is walking out. They are those men who will just sit there, quietly, when you want to be by yourself but have not the strength to be alone. They have the courage to fight with you in your presence and defend you to the death in someone else’s presence. I have been blessed to have a few such friends. I thank God for each of them.

I am thankful for the assaults of my adversaries. That is not to say that I enjoy them. But I am grateful that God ordained them for me. They have weakened me so that His strength might be made perfect in my weakness. They have exhausted my resources so that I could learn to lean more upon His inexhaustible grace. They dismantle my foolish thoughts of self-sufficiency and teach me to hurl myself into His everlasting arms. I find myself, ever so slowly, all too slowly, becoming more compassionate toward others who are battle worn and wounded from similar attacks. These wounds cultivate wisdom. The pain works patience, a much needed virtue in my life. The grit learns to be a little more gracious. Through enduring personal and ministerial attacks we are made partakers of the sufferings of Christ; we are made conformable to His death. After having been “wounded in the house of His friends” He ascended to illustrious heights and conquered the world. We follow in His train, tasting something of His sufferings and the glory that is to follow. Every experience of death to self is an opportunity to be raised more in the likeness of God’s dear Son. To all of my enemies and those who have opposed me, thank you. I could not enjoy today’s blessings without yesterday’s battles.

I am thankful that the mercies of God are innumerable and I cannot even begin to count them.

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