A Grateful Heart

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Consider some thoughts from II Cor. 9:11-15.  Paul focuses on the contribution that he has been collecting for the poor saints and others in Judea.  He mentions four key concepts:  grace, gratitude, generosity and glorification of God.  As he develops each of these concepts, he defines a grateful heart.
A Grateful Heart is God-Centered
A grateful heart recognizes God as the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift (James 1:17).  A grateful heart readily admits dependence upon God.  Ingratitude insists upon self-sufficiency rather than God-sufficiency.  God enriches us with a bounty of blessings.  His infinite goodness is freely manifested in the wonderful riches that He gives to us.  This includes both physical and spiritual blessings.  The chief gift that God gives is His Son (II Cor. 9:15).  Ingratitude breeds independence from God rather than dependence on God. Simply put, the ungrateful do not see their need of God.  However, they could not live even a single day without God.  Ingratitude shows a heart that has forgotten God.  This was the very thing that Moses warned Israel about in Deut. 8:6-20.
A Grateful Heart Is a Humble Heart
Those who despise God’s goodness manifest impenitence (Rom. 2:4-6).  Unbelief produces impenitence.  Impenitence is due to man’s pride.  Unbelief, impenitence and pride produce ingratitude.  Gratitude shows humility.  Humility leads to a recognition of the need for God and the redemption that He supplies through Jesus Christ.  Godly sorrow precedes repentance (II Cor. 7:10).  Repentance precedes reconciliation to God.  Through reconciliation to God we can stand in His divine favor (grace).
A Grateful Heart is a Devoted Heart
Thanksgiving to God is manifested in praise and prayer.  Praise and prayer are integral elements of our worship of God.  In praise and prayer, God is glorified.  Worship is an act of gratitude to God.  The ungrateful do not draw nigh to God.  They fail to see any connection between who they are and what they have acquired and God.
A Grateful Heart is a Generous Heart
Paul writes concerning “this ministration” i.e. the work of gathering a contribution to help the poor saints and others in Judea.  The church became a channel of blessing to others.  The generosity of the churches resulted in many thank to God and God was glorified.  Ingratitude robs God of the glory due His name.  Ingratitude leads to selfishness and others suffer because of the failure to show a generous spirit.
A Grateful Heart is a Compassionate Heart
A grateful heart is a warm heart.  A grateful heart is full of compassion.  A compassionate heart can be moved by the needs of others.  Ingratitude produces cold heartedness.   Remember Scrouge?  Scrouge was miserly, stingy, cold hearted and lonely.  His greed isolated him from others and produced a darkness in his soul.
The Greatest Gift
The greatest gift deserves the greatest thanks.  God gave His Son.  Jesus gave His life for us.  This spiritual windfall leaves us speechless.  “But thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”  Through God’s grace we are enriched unto all bountifulness.  God’s grace produces a grateful heart.  This is the heart of a Christian!

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

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David expresses a beautiful prayer in I Chronicles 29:10-19.  He makes this prayer prior to leaving the kingdom to his son, Solomon.  He glorifies God and credits Him as the source and owner of all things.  He gives thanks to the Almighty.  He prays that the spirit of joy that existed in Israel at that time would always be present.  And, he prays for Solomon.  Solomon is young and  inexperienced.  David has given him an important task: to rule over Israel and to build the temple.  David prays that Solomon will walk in the ways of the LORD.  The prayer begins with these words, “Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.  Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory,  and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.  Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.”  In all humility, we say, AMEN!

Blessed

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).  The apostle Paul uses two different words for blessed in this passage.  The first word, blessed, comes from the Greek word, eulogetos, which is used of God only and means blessed or praise.  This is the expression of praise from the human heart that has been touched by God’s infinite goodness.  The second word, blessed, is from the Greek word, eulogia, meaning a benefit bestowed.  Paul has in mind all of the spiritual blessings that are in Christ. Our praise for God arises in answer to the spiritual blessings received from God.
Spiritual Blessings.
1.  All spiritual blessings are in heavenly places in Christ.  All means “without exception” or “every single one.”  Consequently, there are no spiritual blessings “outside” of Christ.  We experience temporal blessings outside of Christ.  The sunshine and the rain fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).  However, we do not experience spiritual blessings outside of Christ.
2.  Who is “outside” of Christ and who is “in Christ?”  These questions are important.  Paul gives the answer in Eph. 2:12-13; 4:17-20 and Gal. 3:26-29 and Eph. 4:5).  To be “outside” of Christ is to be dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1); to walk according the course of this world in the lusts of the flesh (Eph. 2:2-3); to be children of disobedience to God; and to by custom and practice be the children of wrath.  Paul also describes those who are “outside” of Christ as hopeless and godless (without God in the world).  In contrast to this state, Paul describes those who are “in Christ.”  Those in Christ are children of God through faith and baptism into Christ.  They are in spiritual union with Christ and have been redeemed by His blood.  They walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.  They pursue righteousness and godliness.
3.  What are Some of these Spiritual blessings?
-Election, Eph. 1:5.  The people of God are the elect of God.  They are chosen by God “in Christ.”
-Forgiveness, Eph. 1:7.  The people of God have their sins washed away by the power of the blood of Christ.
-Redemption, Eph. 1:7.  The people of God belong to God by the atoning power of the blood of Christ.  They are blood-bought.
-Inheritance, heaven, Eph. 1:11, 18 and I Pet. 1:4.  The people of God are heaven-bound.
-Truth, Eph. 1:9, 13.  The people of God have the precious truth revealed from God.
-Sealed with the Holy Spirit, Eph. 1:13.  The people of God are authenticated and secured by the Holy Spirit.
-Wisdom, Eph. 1:17, The people of God have the disposition of wisdom from God.
-Hope, Eph. 1:18, The people of God are full of hope in contast to those “outside” of Christ who are hopeless.
-Power, Eph. 1:19, 3:20,  The people of God have the mighty power of God working in them.
-Spiritual Life, Eph. 2:1, The people of God are experiencing new, spiritual, life in Christ.
-God’s love, Eph. 2:4,  The people of God experience the great love of God.
-God’s mercy, Eph. 2:4,  The people of God are recipients of God’s mercy (pity, compassion).
-God’s grace, Eph. 2:5, 8-9, The people of God are saved by God’s grace.
-Peace, Eph. 2:14-15, The people of God have the peace that passeth understanding.
-Reconciliation, Eph. 2:16, The people of God are one with God.
-Access to the Father, Eph. 2:18, The people of God have access to the Father through Jesus Christ.
-New Identity, Eph. 2:19, The people of God are the saints (holy ones) of God.
-New Sense of Belonging, Eph. 2:19, The people of God are the household of God.  They are in God’s family.
-Indwelling of God Through the Spirit, Eph. 2:22, The people of God have the spiritual presence of God in their lives.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the great blessings that are “in Christ.”
4.  Heavenly Places.  The heavenly places are “the heavenlies.”  The center of God’s saving activities–spiritual realms–where God and Christ are functioning and where the Christian has his/her citizenship.  Phil. 3:20.
God is to be praised for all of the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon His children.  These blessings are only “in Christ.”  They are available to all who seek God and desire to know Him.  But, they belong to the redeemed.  Yes, Christians are truly blessed.

Essential Elements of Thanksgiving

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A key concept related to thanksgiving is reciprocity.  Here are some important elements involved in thanksgiving.
The Benefactor.  The One who is the ultimate source of every good gift and every perfect gift is God!  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).  “Father of lights” refers to God as the creator of the greater and lesser lights in the heavens.  God is the creator of all things.  He has the power to bless and the will to bless.
The Gifts.  God gives us our daily bread (Matt. 6:11).  He gives His Son to die for the sins of mankind (the unspeakable gift-II Cor. 9:15).  He gives everlasting life (John 3:16; Matt. 19:29).  He gives love, mercy, and grace (Eph. 2:4-9).  He gives us truth (Eph. 1:9). He gives all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3).  He gives us everything needful to sustain us in this life and in the world to come.
The Blessed.  God acts for the highest good of His special creation–man.  He sends the sunshine and the rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).  In a sense, God blesses each person on the earth.  However, in a special sense and in a special way, God blesses His own children.  The people of God are His speical creation (Eph. 2:10).  God bestows the greatest spiritual blessings upon those who are “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
The Thankful.  The “thankful” are a special class of people who recognize God’s goodness toward them and reciprocate with gratitude.  The truly blessed give back something to God.  The nature of the gifts they give are different from God’s gifts to them.  But, they give:  (1) their love; (2) their devotion or worship including praise and adoration; (3) their lives in covenant relationship with Him; (4) their service (the labor of their hands including benevolent acts to others; and (5) their loyalty (faithfulness over time).  The thankful have humble hearts that have been touched by God’s grace.  They reciprocate out of sense of being debtors to God for all He has done for them.  Through gratitude they complete the circle of fellowship with God.  The truly thankful are Christians who reciprocate gratitude for God’s grace!

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is the expression of the human heart in praise and prayer of the sacred memory of the gracious acts of God which benefit our lives every day.  In Psalm 9, David manifests thanksgiving in praise and prayer.  Praise and prayer are aspects of worship.  Worship is devotion or homage paid to deity.  David renders unto God what is rightly due His holy name.

Thanksgiving and Praise.
Praise is adoration of the name of God for His glory, holiness and majesty.  God acts in creation and redemption to benefit all of mankind.  David makes a holy resolution in response to all that God has done, “I will praise thee.”  Consider some aspects of this praise:
1.  It is personal.  “I.”  David engages his own heart, mind and will to glorify God.  He has been touched by God’s mercies and graciousness.  He renders the praise as thanksgiving.
2.  It is reflective.  David spends time thinking about God and what He has done.  We must count our many blessings and name them one by one.  We are ‘vessels of mercy’.  Just as a ordinary vessel by its scent tells what liquid is in it, so should our lips smell of the fragrance of God’s mercy shed abroad in our hearts.  Thanksgiving is reflective of God’s mercies and help.
3.  It is purposed.  “I will.”   It sometimes takes all of our determination to bless God in the midst of adversity.  Job’s wife told him to curse God and die.  Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed by the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 and 2:9).
4.  It is focused.  “I will praise thee.”  God is the ultimate source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  God is an inexhaustible fountain of blessings that enriches our lives.  You cannot separate thanksgiving from God.
5.  It is declared.  “I will show forth.”  The psalmist openly declares his praise for God’s goodness.  He tells saint and sinner.  His praise is a thankful telling forth of all God has done for him.
6.  It is unfeigned.  “With my whole heart.”  There is no pretense.  There is no lip service.  His praise is whole-hearted and sincere.  This distinguishes him from the hypocrites who pay lip service but their hearts are far from God (Matt. 15:8).
7.  It is all-encompassing.  “All thy marvelous works.”  Can we truly comprehend all of the marvelous works of God?  His preservation, forgiveness, conversion, deliverance, creation, provision, guidance, justification, sanctification, atonement, reconciliation, salvation, answered prayers and we shutter to leave something out.  If we are willing to talk of His deeds, God has given us plenty to talk about!

Gladness and joy are the appropriate spirit in which to praise the goodness of God.  Joy and thanksgiving go together.  Can you be sad while counting up all the blessings God has bestowed upon you?  Can you truly be thankful and not be joyful?  We rejoice in the Lord.

Thanksgiving and Prayer.
In Psalm 9:13, David pleads, “Have mercy upon me, O LORD.”  This breathes forth a humble spirit.  It exudes a deep spiritual need.  It indicates self-knowledge and self-awareness.  It make appeal to the source which possesses the power of spiritual healing.
Thou liftest me up from the gates of death.  Sickness, sin, despair, and temptation have worked to bring us low.  When it seems helpless and hopeless, God delivers and saves.  Underneath us are the everlasting arms of Almighty God.
The psalmist returns to praise.

This day of thanksgiving, let us use our lips to declare the true feelings of our hearts as we stand overwhelmed by God’s graciousness and lovingkindness.

 

What Shall I Render Unto The Lord?

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Psalm 116 contains the central thought of love, adoration, and thanksgiving to God for His acts of redemption. The thoughts are personal.  God is magnified for His graciousness.  He has manifested mercy, deliverance from enemies and protection.  The Psalmist asks, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?

We want to focus on the response of the human heart that knows the grace of God. What can be done to manifest our gratitude?

Take the Cup of Blessing
We must first drink of the fullness of God’s goodness.  We must take it all in and experience His saving power.  Partake with joyful hearts.  Thanksgiving from the heart flows from participation in the stream of the grace of God.

Call Upon The Name of the Lord
In the Old Testament, the phrase, “to call upon the name of the Lord” was used frequently for worshipping God.  Worship directed to God is a manifestation of thanksgiving. Worship is homage paid to deity.  It is reverence, awe, love and devotion toward God.  It involves acts, sanctioned by God, that are directed to Him. Prayers are thank you notes to God. Praise glorifies His name.  In the midst of the assembly of the saints, God’s Word is declared and honored.  His works are remembered.  Worship attempts to give God what is rightly due Him.

I Am Thy Servant
God’s goodness toward us produces a desire to give something back.  Many today have become lovers of self.  This results in being self-centered, and self-absorbed.  Freedom from sin is the result of God’s saving acts (redemptive acts).  Such freedom results in our sonship.  Sonship without service is a manifestation of ingratitude. When we become lovers of God, we become selfless.  Service to God is the result of selflessness.  This is the key to sacrificial love.

Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
The Psalmist declares, “My inmost soul shall adore Thee.”  How?  He will do it with lips of prayer and praise.  He will surrender his heart in character and conduct that is befitting a servant of the Most High God.  He renders a thankful heart.  This is a heart that is humble, full of love and totally devoted to God’s Will.

A Challenge
Use holy ingenuity to search out various ways by which you may render fresh praises to our God!  Begin with the thoughts expressed in this Psalm.  Render to God the genuine praise His majesty and glory deserves.

The Blessing of Gratitude

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     Are you thankful for your job?  In difficult economic times, you would think that everyone would be thankful for his/her job.  But, a Gallup poll indicated that nearly three-fourths of us with paid positions are “emotionally disengaged” (55%) or “actively disengaged” (16%) from their jobs.  The actively disengaged cost their companies $350 billion each year! (Christianity Today, Nov. 10, p. 47).
     In Luke 17:11-19, Luke relates an event in the life of Jesus where gratitude played a significant role in obtaining a special blessing.  Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.  He was going to attend the Passover Feast toward the close of His personal ministry.  He went through that region northward through Samaria into the southern or southeastern part of Galilee so as to fall in with the pilgrims going from Galilee through Perea to Jerusalem.  As He went, He came to a certain city and encountered ten lepers.  Leprosy was a contagious skin disease which required separation from others.  The group of ten consisted of Jews and Samaritans.  They were united by a common malady.  They were unclean, isolated and hopeless.
     When they saw Jesus, they recognized Him and cried out to Him for mercy.  Jesus commands them to show themselves to the priest–a requirement of the law of Moses to be declared clean.  They were commanded to go before any healing took place!  This was a test of their faith.  They went as instructed and as they went, they were healed of their leprosy.  Faith must be active in response to the commands of Jesus.  No obedience, no blessing!  The blessing bestowed was a miracle of healing.  It meant instantaneous recovery from leprosy.  It was a wonderful blessing.
     One of the ten cleansed, when he saw he was healed, turned back and found Jesus and with a loud voice glorified God.  One effect of leprosy was the loss of the strength of the voice.  When healed, this man, a Samaritan, used his new voice to glorify God.  He also thanked Jesus for the tremendous blessing of healing.  The gratitude he showed was freely given from a humble heart touched by God’s graciousness.  Gratitude reflects a sacred memory of blessings received from God.  The gift of healing could not have been received except by the power of God.  The thanks offered completed the circle of relationship with Christ and so the leper that returned to give thanks receives a double blessing!  First, he recieves a temporal blessing in being healed from his leprosy.  Second, he receives a spiritual blessing of fullness of relationship with Jesus Christ.  When Jesus said to him, “thy faith hath made thee whole,” He meant not only that the man had been healed, but that he had been forgiven. 
     Where are the nine?  The nine had their cure, but the one, a Samaritan, had his cure plus fullness of relationship with Jesus.  “Temporal mercies are doubled and sweetened to us when fetched in by the prayers of faith (be merciful to me) and returned by the praises of faith (gratitude)” (Christianity Today, Nov. 10, p. 49). 
     Gratitude completes the circle of relationship with Jesus!  Without it, we are nothing but selfish takers.  With it, we are humble recipients of God’s blessings desiring fullness of relationship with Him.  Gratitude motives to deeper and richer relationship with God.

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