Monday, November 12, 2018

Top Ten Things I'm Thankful For #1 - A God whose love can appear reckless to us

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34
Psalm 106:1
Psalm 107:1
Psalm 118:1
Psalm 136:1

Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt not worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

In this season of thanks, it seems most appropriate to give God the glory and thanks first and foremost.  For it is through Him that all other blessings flow. He was the reason the pilgrims gave thanks that very first celebration, a practice that has continued on to this day. President Washington in recognizing the holiday gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including "for the civil and religious liberty," for "useful knowledge," and for God's "kind care" and "His providence."  From his proclamation on Thanksgiving Day 1795, "In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and affirm the blessings we experience."

Through the scripture, we see reminders and commands regarding thankfulness, and in particular, thankfulness to the Lord.  As we see in the repeated instances in the Psalms, we are given reminders to give thanks to the Lord.  We do so because He alone is truly worthy. He is good and his love, the one true love that surpasses all, is eternal.

Last night at our community service, we talked about the command given to be thankful and how it is part of the will of God.  The verses in 1 Thessalonians quoted above show us the three simple things that are God's will for us.  As discussed, we often over-complicate seeking God's will for our lives.  We are looking for specific directions, specific decisions.  Paul instead outlines a framework for living that is God's will for how we are to live.  We are to maintain a spirit of rejoicing.  We are to maintain constant communication with God.  And we are to give thanks regardless of our circumstances.  We are to continually give thanks.  

All three sound like simple directives, but we know how hard they can be.  To rejoice even when you do not feel particularly happy.  To rejoice when circumstances bring anger or grief.  And likewise to give thanks when it seems like everything is falling apart.  To be able to give thanks when it would seem you could not name one thing to be thankful for.

I personally believe that is why this seasons is so important.  For an Ebenezer.  Something that makes us pause to write out the list or to verbalize the things we have to be thankful for.

I am particularly humbled and grateful for a God who's love from our perspective can seem completely reckless.  A love that appears to be granted with complete abandon.  The love of God lavished on His creation, redeeming even the worst and most broken creatures, reminding them of the worth that He created in them.

A love that was shown to us while we were still enemies of God.  That fought for me while I was still a foe of God.  "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:6-8  No matter how far I was away from Him, no matter how far I might run, God was always seeking to redeem me.  Just as He is seeking to redeem every single piece of His creation.

That's why the story of the Prodigal Son has been so fascinating to me over the course of  this study.  In the parable, the father, our image of God, pouring out his love on both of his sons.  Toward both of his sons, he is continually to bring them into his favor.  To have them in his presence.  To join him at the feast.  He allows them to engage in their own paths of destruction, whether that path is wanton living or self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.  But to both, he is ready to welcome them back and bring them out of their destructive paths.  To offer the best alternative.

It is hard for us to fathom this kind of love.  A love that goes to the limits and beyond.  The love that leaves the 99 to find the 1.  The love that turns the house upside down to find the lost coin.  The love that lavishes riches on the wayward son when he returns home.  The love that sends joyous celebration throughout Heaven for one sinner that repents.

There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me

That love is why we have reason to give thanks in all things.  For no matter where we are, no matter what we have done.  No matter how broken we may think we are.  No matter how little we have estimated our worth, God has pursued us, picked us up, and reminded us of our worth.  He has shown us the price He paid to redeem us.  To restore us.  

And we can celebrate that fact, no matter what may come.

I love the way The Message puts the passage in Romans.  "We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inpsire us to selfless sacrifice.  But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him."  God reminds us that he pursued us as His creation, not because of what we can do for Him.  Not because of any worth we had, beyond that which He put into us.  

And to the uninformed, that love appears reckless.  It's over-whelming, all-consuming.  It is relentless.  It is beyond comprehension.  It is never-ending, eternal.  

It is unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  It's freely given and lavishly applied.  

It is perfect.

And I am beyond grateful for it.

Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn't earn it
I don't deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

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