Friday, November 21, 2008

Beyond thankful


Thanksgiving is upon us, and if anyone on the face of this earth has reason to be thankful, it is me. Blessings flow in many forms and many fashions, including my beautiful wife, kids, family and the business ventures in which I am involved. I have been blessed in countless ways in these areas, but to say that I have been blessed by, in and through Christ would be the understatement of the century.

L.L. Barkat at High Calling Blogs has issued an invitation to "bloggers" (which I have a hard time claiming to be - I simply offer some random thoughts now and then) to join in a Thanksgiving Celebration, bringing things for which we are thankful to the table of grace.

Today, I offer thanks for my Savior, Jesus Christ - and for all those who proclaim His name and unashamedly champion him in this dark and cold world. As I read Jennifer's post on Getting Down With Jesus about being thankful for beds, my mind jumped immediately to all that Christ has been up to in my world in the past couple of years.

That amazing piece of scripture penned by the apostle Paul to the Philippians is one of my favorites. Philippians 1:3-11 reads this way: Thanksgiving and Prayer "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and God has lavished community upon my wife and I in ways we could have never imagined. We have met people diving deep into what it means to follow Christ, to live as Christ would have lived in this world, and have been blessed beyond all we could have ever asked or imagined in the process.

They are not perfect people - they don't claim to be - but their heart for all things Jesus and who He would have them be is an inspiration. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy..."

This community has forced me to dive deep, to look into my heart and soul and to see the gaping hole that was there - that had been filled with everything of this world for so long - and to finally decide to begin to let Christ fill that hole. And as others have welcomed us into their worlds with open arms, walking along side as we continue this adventure, it is no wonder that I am thankful. In fact, Paul says "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus."

In the course of several years, the focus of our lives (my wife and I) has turned dramatically. God has called us out of our comfortable Sunday morning position in one of the back pews of our church with our four children, and into the lives of people who are broken, hurting and in need of Christ. It is a feeling we know very well.

Broken, hurting and desperately in need of Christ ourselves, God used community to begin to draw us to Himself. We pray that as our lives are continually shaped and molded by Him, that we can show Christ's love to others as it has been shown to us over and over again.

It is the cry of my heart to follow Christ - to give Him all that I have - that he might open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to know and my heart to Him and everyone around me, that I might love Him and them more and more.

As we get to be just a little part of what God is doing in this massive universe, I am thankful for every glimpse of Him that I get. And He is showing up everywhere these days. He is showing up in my wife and kids, my framily (friends who are so close they are family), my family and people being served by the ministries we are involved with.

In each of these cases, I echo Paul's prayer at the end of this passage: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

Thanksgiving is so often lost, isn't it, in the commercialism of Christmas? Let us give thanks for Christ, for who He is and what He has done for us; for the many ways in which He touches our lives (mostly through those around us); and for the work He has yet to accomplish.

Grace & Peace,

Chris

2 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

I love how the table of your lives has become a gathering place... a thanks-giving place.

And the point about Thanksgiving getting lost in Christmas. They really are part of the same story, aren't they? A story of giving and receiving and gratitude and turning gratitude outward again...

Janelle said...

Brother, I grateful to be one of the people that "[you] long for...with the affection of Christ Jesus."

It is a privilege and an honor to walk, trudge, crawl, climb, run, dance, among other things, through this life with you, your beautiful wife, and your (beautiful) children!