By Barbara Higdon
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
As I was preparing for this devotional thought, I looked up the term “thank offering.” Most references say simply it’s an offering of thanks, especially for the gifts received. In Psalm 107, the term is used following the passages about sick people who are sick because of their sins. When they turn to God, he heals them and they are called on to sacrifice thank offerings.
We have all sinned in ways that have sickened our souls and our bodies. I don’t think this scripture refers to disease and illness that are caused by simply being in mortal bodies, but rather afflictions that we have brought upon ourselves by foolish lifestyles–living over-committed, high-stress lives or gluttony or reckless activities, etc.
When we turn to God for healing and He answers, it’s time to give thanks. We also give thank offerings for the gift of salvation we have all received. There are so many tangible offerings we can make in return for our many blessings.
One group of Woodland members give a “thank offering” of donating and preparing a monthly meal for less fortunate men at the Rescue Mission. Another group gives a thank offering of time spent mentoring children at Larkspur Elementary. Helping to support our CBF missionaries through our Global Missions offering is an excellent way we show our thanks.
Recently, our church began taking offerings through PayPal. Our family loves this because we get airline miles by donating this way, but I’ve struggled with this more “hands-off” approach to our giving. When the offering plate goes by and I don’t put in an envelope, I feel guilty. There’s something about participating in the thank offering in our worship service that feels more reverent than clicking buttons on my computer, even though I know the money is still going to be used in the same way.
In this season of remembering what God has done for us, let’s have a response of gratitude and proclaim with the psalmist, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever,” then make thank offerings and “tell of his works with songs of joy.”
By Barbara Higdon
Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45
In the Christian calendar, Lent is generally a time for solemn reflection on God’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from ourselves. Beginning with the marking of ashes from the burned palms similar to those that once waved at the Messiah as he entered Jerusalem, we are reminded that this was a road leading to a terrible death. How quickly the hosannas turned to hisses and boos.
Throughout Lent, many Christians give up favorite foods or activities to suffer symbolically with their Christ. Churches do not sing hymns of hallelujahs, waiting until Easter Sunday. It is a darker time in our calendar.
The passages from Psalm 105 seem to ring wrong as we journey to the cross. These words from David are filled with praises and reminders of what God has done for his people. Action verbs recount how a faithful God has time and again provided for His people. “He IS the Lord our God.” “He remembers his covenant forever…” “He confirmed…” “He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold…” “He spread…” “He brought…” “He fed…” “He gave…” These strong statements remind us of how strong and faithful our God is.
Yes, it is important to remember Christ’s suffering and supreme sacrifice. Yes, that sense of our unworthiness isn’t inappropriate. Yes, that sadness is legitimate.
However, I don’t think God wants us to wallow in sorrow. Even in the Last Supper, when Jesus asked the disciples to remember Him, I think he wanted them to remember the good things, too. Our pastor once reminded the deacons who were serving Communion that we needn’t look like we’re at a funeral. Every meal is a gift of God that we should recall with gratitude and happiness.
“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” This is a command to be filled with joy and share the great news. Laugh and sing, for we are the children of a loving God who welcomes all and provides abundantly. He remembers His covenants; let us remember ours with Him.
By David Goree
My mom and I were in our Ford station wagon on a narrow country road on an errand I have since forgotten. I, a skinny fifteen-year-old with a learner’s permit and a broken ankle in a walking cast, was at the wheel, driving somewhere we in Oklahoma lovingly call “out in the boonies.” The road was bad, even by Oklahoma standards, with long segments of asphalt lying fractured and askew. I inadvertently steered our car onto a peak in the asphalt and hit high center. The car was stuck with the two rear wheels spinning futilely.
Mom and I got out of the car and considered our options. This was a long time before cell phones, of course, so options were few. I tried to rock the car back and forth off of high center—to no avail. We were stuck.
Then, as if on cue by a director in a bad movie, two armed men appeared out of the woods.
Several terrible scenarios raced through my mind before it became obvious that the duo weren’t murderers, but hunters. The bigger man handed his rifle to the other man. With one thrust of his hip, the bigger man shoved our car off of the mound of asphalt and back onto all four wheels.
We had barely thanked them when they disappeared into the woods.
I tell this story a lot, and so does my mother. Stories of people helping me—in unlikely situations, in situations where help is seemingly not to be found, in situations where I don’t deserve help—these stories bubble up to the top of my memory.
The writer of Psalm 22 knows this feeling. He is compelled to tell of the Lord’s deliverance, and he knows these stories take on a momentum of their own:
Posterity shall serve him;
men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn
that he has wrought it.
We tell stories of the Lord’s deliverance, not out of duty and not to simply give credit where credit is due, but because we can’t help it. Gratitude for His help makes us His most avid story-tellers.
By Lori Tyler
I love to sing hymns and songs of praise on Sunday morning. Sitting in a beautiful sanctuary with my family and friends, I am drawn into worship. However, how fervent and majestic is my worship on Monday morning when the alarm rings at 6:00 am? Do I live a life of praise when I am stuck in traffic or rushing to another appointment? Most of all, how am I doing with praise in my home? What response to God does my family see when I am lamenting about the dirty laundry or the sink full of dirty dishes?
I was struck by the words in the last two verses of Psalm 22. The psalmist ends with these words, “Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn. He has done it!” Amazing! My genuine and continual praise to God will be a testimony and influence in the future as well.
As I demonstrate a life of praise to my boys, Benjamin and Luke, they will learn to live their Christian life in the same way. And in turn they will teach their children and generations to come.
But praise and adoration of God does not always come quickly or easily. Often, my first response to difficult situations is to complain. It is fun to vent and feels good. But I have learned that complaining is contagious and springs from a heart of ingratitude.
One way to overcome grumbling is to cultivate a thankful spirit. I have so much to be thankful for and I want my entire life to be an offering of heart felt worship. I want to say “no” to complaining and instead take my complaints and frustrations to the Lord. He is the only one who is able to answer and help. He has not despised my suffering nor hidden His face from me.
Only when I live a life of gratitude for all God has done for me can I find those words and actions of praise no matter what circumstance I am facing. It is my prayer that my gratitude and praise will be reflected in the lives of my children and family.
By Christie Goodman
I recently had to pack up and move into a new office. Working for a non-profit sometimes means tightening your belt a bit. So, like Nikki Blair wrote about recently, I had a lot of culling to do. And since my new office is smaller than my old one and has more windows (yea!), I had to make some decisions about what could go on the walls.
One thing went undebated: my Garfield poster. I’ve never been a Garfield groupie, but this poster is special. I bought when I was in junior high school. With bent edges and faded colors, it has accompanied me for years, hanging in my school lockers, in my college dorm rooms and later in my various offices. It shows Garfield with his chin on the ground with droopy eyelids. He looks miserable. The first thought-bubble above him says:
“Oh boy, am I down,
down, down, down, down.”
The second and third bubbles say:
“Down, down, down,
dooby doo, down, down…
comma comma down
dooby doo down, down.”*
Joy is the song in our hearts. Sometimes it sounds like the fanfare of trumpets. Other times, it whispers our gratitude.
Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances. Rev. Michael Cheuk says: “Joy is not the product of outward conditions; it is the by-product of inner transformation.” Joy is habit of seeing light in darkness.
Galatians lists joy as one of the fruits of the spirit (5:22). And Luke even describes Jesus as being “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (10:21).
In the Christian calendar, we proclaim our joy during the season of advent, anticipating the birth of the Christ child. But, today, we are in the season of Lent – looking forward to the most joyous event in Christian life. Interestingly, the Greek word for joy, “chara” is related to “charis,” meaning grace.
Grace. Gratitude. Joy.
Rev. John Claypool wrote, “Only when life is seen as a gift and received with the open hands of gratitude is it the joy God meant for it to be.”
Yes, God wants us to be joyful.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
*Ahh, Neil Sedaka. See http://www.azlyrics.com/
By Gina Garrison
Mary was bursting with delight! She was to be the mother of the Messiah! Her song of gratitude, humility, and praise overflowed in this passage from Luke. Even today, her wonder and joy fill our hearts as we, like Mary, prepare for the coming of Jesus.
Although few of us have a visit from an angel or a prophetic dream revealing our mission, each of us has a unique role to play in God’s creation. Each of us was created out of God’s love, and each of us, like Mary, has a purpose and a calling. We may never know the impact of our lives, but we all are part of God’s perfect plan. Our daily interactions with family, friends, teachers, students, co-workers, patients, customers and neighbors form the foundation of our part in building God’s kingdom.
Take a moment today to express your love and gratitude to a family member. Tell a friend that their support and advice is appreciated. Take some cookies or tamales to a neighbor. Extend an unexpected kindness to a stranger. Most importantly, spend a moment in prayer to thank the Creator for the blessing of the birth of Jesus.
Rejoice in God the Savior!