In Luke 17, out of the ten lepers healed by Jesus, only one man scrambled back to say thanks. I am sure that the other nine had an attitude of thanksgiving but never applied their gratitude. The power of saying thanks is a simple thing, but often hard to do. A friend of mine says that unexpressed gratitude can often be interpreted as being unthankful. Sometimes it can even be viewed as arrogance or ignorance!
Every day is Thanksgiving for a Christian.
Thanksgiving should be the theme song for followers of Christ. We should have thanksgiving flowing from our lips daily. The people we connect with should be soaked with thanks because we are overflowing with gratitude.
Among the many heroes of faith, the martyrs stand out. They take up a central place in our corporate identity because they so closely evoke Jesus’ faithfulness in the face of death. God honors the martyrs even to the point that he uses their deaths as a countdown to Jesus’ return.
They [those “slain for the word of God”] cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
I recently heard a pastor with decades of experience remark that the passage in Mark 7:24-30 is one of the most difficult in the Bible. “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus said. How does one defend this apparent ethnocentrism directed at a marginalized mother who is desperate to find a cure for her child?
Confronting difficult passages is, well, difficult. And the Mark 7 passage is but one of many that we or people in our congregations may struggle with.
Have you ever heard the lyrics to the song titled “Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone”? It’s unfortunate that sometimes we have to lose something, or almost lose something, before we recognize the value in it and appreciate it. I was reminded of that by a man whose recovery from an illness had been very long and difficult. He said, “Victoria, I see my life in a completely different light than before I got sick. Today, my precious things are family and friends. I’ve realized that appreciating what you have every day is what’s important.”
It’s easy to start taking for granted things that can’t be replaced. We live in a great country with houses that have running water, electricity, and every convenience. We have places to work and worship and stores of all kinds–whatever we need is basically at our fingertips.
Yes, we have trouble with portion sizes, even as adults. What makes us struggle like that? What makes us buck against our portion, whether it’s a portion of finances, of food, of resources, or of work? Many things to be sure, but perhaps one of the things driving that resistance is our sense of entitlement. It’s the idea that we deserve more or deserve less, depending on what’s being portioned out. In either case, the amount of our portion is somehow unfair.
This is at least a part of what’s at the core of Psalm 73. It’s a psalm of struggle; a song of complaint against the perceived unfairness of what the psalmist saw playing out before him.
When we pray, we usually end our prayers with “in the name of Jesus” (John 16:23). It is our custom. A habit. I heard a song recently that repeats—and repeats—a line about love for the name of Jesus. But if we repeat anything often enough, does it devolve into nonsense syllables? Psalm 23 uses the phrase, “for his name’s sake.” Does it slow you down or do you skip over it? A phrase like “in the name of Jesus” is too crammed with meaning to be spoken with little awareness of what is being said.
There are exceptions. Some people certainly know that is being said. In cultures with ancient roots, such as the many cultures in India, “in the name of Jesus” is the defining moment of prayer. It is the climax. All the listeners are waiting for it.
TRUST YOUR CALLING
If you believe and see these internal and external confirmations that God has called you to ministry, then seminary training is the next logical step. (If you remain unsettled in your calling, let me point you to my book Discerning Your Call to Ministry, which will help you gain clarity.)
If you are certain, rest in that calling. Know that God has set you apart to serve His church and to advance His gospel. He has a special ministerial plan for your life.
It’s great to have faith for yourself, to believe for your dreams and speak victory over your life. But God didn’t give you faith just for you. There will be people you encounter who feel overwhelmed by a sickness, a loss, a difficulty in a relationship. Maybe at one time they believed, they were strong, but now they’re so discouraged and down that they don’t have the strength to get back up. The way they’e going to see a breakthrough is not through their faith, but through the faith of a friend. You can be the one who steps up and believes for them. You can encourage them, pray for them, speak healing, favor, and victory over their life.
I got into a fight in 1st grade. She pushed me down on the sidewalk; I got up and pushed her down on the sidewalk. We were both sent to the nurse (and detention) and ended up with almost identical scars that remained through high school. We later became friends and grew to laugh about our craziness.
But, before my scar came along, my skin grew this rough, bumpy scab. As a kid, I was intrigued by scabs: “How’d the body do that? And look how easily you can pick it off, see the dotted, white skin underneath, and then it grows back again…like magic.”
I recently met with a counselee who was struggling with some very powerful and painful emotions. As is almost always the case, those emotions reflected deeply held beliefs. The beliefs plaguing him and the feelings of rejection they evoked aren’t unusual but something new I asked him to try in the session was unusual – at least for me.