Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gratitude has gone viral.

Taking the time to be silly and to give thanks.

Gratitude has gone viral.  If you’re a Facebook user, perhaps you’ve noticed that your newsfeed has become a much happier place over the last few weeks as many people have begun using their status updates as an opportunity to give thanks.  People have offered up thanks for family, friends, jobs, churches, and health - just to name a few.  These offerings of thanks have pushed to the edges the usual status updates that tend to complain about, well, family, friends, jobs, churches, and health – just to name a few. 

What’s made the difference?  Have people’s lives dramatically changed over the last few weeks?  Probably not.  My guess is that the difference is primarily found in the fact that people, prompted by the Thanksgiving holiday, have become more intentional in looking for reasons to be thankful.  In other words, they’ve just taken the time to look beyond the surface of things (most of the reasons we complain are found on the surface of things!) to the deeper realities of life.  There, in those moments of reflection, people almost always find a reason to be grateful.  To our great surprise, these reasons for thanks often lie just below the very things we so often complain about (ie. family, friends, church, jobs).

We know it doesn’t take a holiday to live this way – or at least it shouldn’t take a holiday to live this way.  It does take the discipline of reflection and the time to see the deeper truths of life.  That requires a slowing down in our living.  When our lives are crowded, even with good things, we tend to only notice the irritations.  But when we slow down, when we give ourselves time to think about the people and things in our lives we leave room for the surprise of discovering gifts where we previously thought only frustrations could be found.

Take time today, to pause, reflect, and give thanks.

 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness;
   I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High – Psalm 7:17

This is Life with a capital L

Last evening in prayer meeting, we read aloud from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  We were reminded once again that while eternal life does have a quantitative component (it goes on and on, forever and ever), eternal life is first and foremost about a relationship.  Knowing God is life.  Notice Jesus doesn’t say that knowing God brings life, as if that life is somehow secondary to the relationship, no, the relationship is life.  This is good news for it means that our lives with God are not in some kind of holding pattern until we die.  We can experience eternal, abundant life today through a relationship with God.

But if knowing God is life – why do so many Christians seem so lifeless?  I think the reason lies in a simple mistake we often make.  Knowing God is not the same thing as knowing about God.  A lot of people know about God, but knowing about God isn’t life, knowing him is.  J. I. Packer in his classic text Knowing God explains it this way, “We are perhaps, orthodox evangelicals.  We can state the gospel clearly; we can smell unsound doctrine a mile away.  If asked how one may come to know God, we can at once produce the right formula: that we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of his cross and mediation, on the basis of his word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith.  Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us – rarer, perhaps, that they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known.  Here, too, it would seem that the last may prove to be first, and the first, last.  A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.”   He’ll later go on to say, “You can have all the right notions in your head without ever tasting in your heart the realities to which they refer.”

The scriptures invite us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  It’s the difference between knowing the recipe for your favorite dish, an actually tasting your favorite dish.  It’s the difference between knowing about someone you’ve never met or knowing your best friend.  Think about it.  Best friends are life giving.  If you’re fortunate enough to have a spouse as a best friend, then all the better.  Knowing Alyson provides me with life.  Not the information of knowing her – like when her birthday is, or where she grew up, or what her favorite flower is – I know those things – but what gives me life is knowing her.  It’s our interactions, it’s her smile, it’s sharing in her joy when she’s had a good day at school, it’s the feeling her comforting embrace after a tough day.  It’s the relationship, not the information that gives my life value. 

If this is true for a friendship with one who is equally sinful, how much more life-giving is a relationship with God. 

“This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the  has life” – 1 John 5:11-12