As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks Giving

How do two weeks go by without my writing?!

This week was Thanksgiving in America. We had a lovely day with my mom, stepdad, and brother. We ate, played games, talked, and laughed. Truly, it was something for which to be thankful.

The Bible gives a simple directive: give thanks in all things. Now, I believe if God says we should do that, then it is truly possible to do that, and indeed, we should do that. However, I think we have a hard time with that directive because of a warped idea of God's character. Often I have heard people give indication that they believe the sentence says, "Give thanks FOR all things," and that is not what we are being asked to do. Why the extreme difference in meaning? As I said, I believe it has to do with God's character and the misinformation we believe because we simply do not know Him as we should.

For instance, Jesus was known for giving thanks. He thanked the Father for bread, for the believers, for the believers to come, for the Father's protection over them, for the Father's gifts of good things to Him and others. He thanked the Father for His goodness and provision. He recognized the Father's character as being that of a loving, kind, and generous Father. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus said:

Our Father who art in Heaven, holy be your name.
Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,
For yours is the power and the glory and the honor forever. Amen.

Look at what Jesus tells us about the Father's character.
1. The Father is holy.
2. The kingdom of God is accessible, and the Father wants us to access Him. He wants to be active on earth just as He is in Heaven.
3. He provides our daily bread.
4. He forgives us and expects us to share the bounty.
5. He delivers us from evil rather than making it so we sin and fall.
6. He is powerful, and His power makes all of the good things in our lives possible.
7. All glory belongs to the Father.
8. He is to be honored.

This is what Jesus says about the Father. Jesus says something two other things about the Father at different places. Jesus says He can only do what He sees the Father do, and He can only say what He hears the Father say. Do you get that? Jesus' purpose on this earth is to emulate the Father, to represent Him perfectly, so we can assume that Jesus' character will be an exact replica of the Father's character. And everyone I know will profess that Jesus is good. He did good things. He helped people. He fed people. He loved people. He was kind. He was generous. He made time for people. He had close friends that He took into His confidence. He treated women with kindness, respect, and value. He met people's needs. Yes, I am aware that I am stating what appears to be the obvious, but if it is so obvious then why do we miss it when it comes to the Father? How, if Jesus is the replica of the Father on earth, can we call Jesus good and yet accuse the Father of questionable character, which leads us to believe we should be thankful for all things?

A concrete example: I knew a lady who loved God deeply. Truly, her heart was devoted to Him. One night a horrible thing happened, and she was raped. As we talked, she told me that she did not feel it appropriate to file charges against the man who raped her, although she knew him. She felt it was wrong to put someone in prison for doing God's will. Obviously God had determined that she needed to be raped in order to humble her for her pride in the fact that she had been a virgin when she was married and her husband was the only man she had known sexually.

I did not know whether to cry, faint, or vomit. My heart was crushed for this poor woman who believed that her Father, a Father who gave His Son for her, would decide she needed to be the victim of a violent crime for any reason. I can only imagine how much it hurt the Father to know that any of His children remotely imagined He could do anything so vindictive and cruel to them.

Yes, Jesus corrected people. Yes, He drove peopel from the Temple because they were making a farce of the Father's holy place. But when was Jesus cruel? When did Jesus torment people in order to reach their hearts? When did Jesus do harm as an act of love? If Jesus is the perfect example of the Father, why would we believe the Father was capable of such acts when we would never expect such thoughts to even enter Jesus' mind? How can someone suggest that the Father is pro-rape when Jesus honored the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears?

The Bible tells us the enemy goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is the father of lies. In contrast, we are told the Father so loved the world that He gave His only Son so whoever believes in Him would not die but have everlasting life. The enemy takes, destroys, and rejects. The Father loves, gives, and accepts. The distinction is clear, and yet, we get them confused. How can such obvious opposites be confusing?

I think it is so unfathomable that the Father could love us to greatly when we are so undeserving that it is easier for our minds to believe the enemy's lies about our being unforgivable and God being unforgiving. You know that is what defines unforgivable, right? A person is only unforgivable when someone else determines to be unforgiving. The Father's love and forgiveness defies our logic. It is unbelievable. In fact, for God to determine to love and forgive us no matter what might be the most miraculous act He has ever performed, and sometimes, it is hard to believe in miracles, especially when you know you don't deserve them.

I have good news, though. Jesus never asked anyone to give Him their credentials to prove they deserved anything. He simply said, "Come unto me all you weak and heavy laiden, and I will give." The requirements to receive are so simple:
1. Come
2. Be in need
3. Receive

If those are all the requirements Jesus set forth, those are all the Father sets forth as well. If you are in need, come, and the Father will love, give, and accept. And when you feel like you don't deserve it, you're right, but this isn't about what you deserve. It's about God's character, and despite what your humanity or the enemy tells you, God's heart is to give love and forgiveness always. It's just the kind of character He is.

When we accept that and embrace it as truth regardless of circumstance, we can give thanks in all things, and we also realize we don't have to give thanks FOR all things. When Jesus in the garden, we do not find Him praying, "Father, thank you for using me to save this world. Thank you for the suffering I am about to endure. Thank you for finding me mature enough to handle it. Thank you for entrusting such a burden to me because it is an honor, and I know it." Jesus never said any such thing. Jesus said, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but if it isn't possible, I will still fulfill my purpose." Jesus wasn't thanking the Father for the rough stuff. The Father didn't put Jesus on the cross to build character or because Jesus had thought too highly of Himself. The Father put Jesus on the cross because sin was in the world and it had to be defeated. The Father used the nature of the enemy, which is to kill, to defeat the enemy through the death of Jesus. The Father used the enemy's nature to kill in order to bring life to mankind. The nature of the Father is to redeem, to use a situation for the purpose of giving life instead of death. The Father never purposed for my friend to be raped, but He can use the enemy's purpose to destroy to heal others who need hope that they can be restored.

We have friends who lost a baby only a few days after he was born. The enemy killed that baby, not the Father. However, the Father has used the murderous nature of the enemy to offer hope to other grieving parents when our friends tell them how the Lord has brought life back after such a tragic loss.

The reality is sin is in the world. The enemy's nature can be seen all around us. Unfortunately, it can be seen in us. That is not the will of the Father, and we are never told to thank the Father FOR the actions of the enemy. We are told to thank the Father even when the nature of the enemy is revealed and manifested. We thank the Father for HIS character. We thank Him for ways HIS character is manifested.

And when is that? When He prompts someone to send us a note telling us they are thinking about us. When He moves us to go to the store that has groceries on sale when money is short. When life hurts but we are able to find hope in the truth that He heals. When we are in need-emotional, spiritual, physical, or financial-and He provides the answer or even a reprieve.

The Bible tells us that all good things come from the Father. Sometimes He sends them through others. Sometimes He just drops them on us Himself. For all those things, we should be thankful.

We live in a world where the enemy of our soul wants to destroy us, and we can see the manifestation of his character all around. We are not to embrace it or be grateful for the actions it causes, but rather, we are called to wage war against it according to Ephesians 5. As we watch the war rage around us, it is imperative to thanks for the character of a King who empowers us with hope so that we can withstand all things as they may be.

May we always refuse the lies of the enemy by remembering the undeniable character of the Father, and in so doing, may we boldly give thanks in all things.

Copyright Jerri Phillips @ 2006

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