Thanksgiving Or Thanksliving?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving.
— Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving is a day we mark on our calendars, but it really ought to be our way of life. Read the words of Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

The psalmist could have stopped with "bless his name!" God deserves to be praised simply because he is God, because he created us, and because we belong to him. But the psalm does not stop there. He continues ...

For the Lord is good

Okay, stop for a moment . . . Do you believe that? Do you believe God is good?

"Yes," we shoot back. "Of course we know God is good!" Yet too often when we assent to God's goodness we are thinking of God's moral goodness, that he can do no wrong. While this is true, the word "good" carries far more than just moral goodness. God is also joyfully, cheerfully, generously, and festively good.

We can catch glimpses of the greatness of God's goodness throughout Scripture. One of my favorite passages is in Deuteronomy, the second-giving of the law.

Israel stood on the far side of the Jordan River, preparing to take the Promised Land. God gives them a detailed account of what to do when the distance is too great to carry the tithe of their land to the place of worship:

And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.  And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do. Deuteronomy 14:24-29

How good is God? Looking closely at that passage I discover five amazing aspects of the goodness of God:

  1. God's goodness is intensely personal: "If the way is too long for you"
  2. God's goodness is extremely practical: "turn it into money"
  3. God's goodness is amazingly lavish: "spend the money for whatever you desire"
  4. God's goodness is meant to be experienced: "eat it there before the LORD"
  5. God's goodness is meant to be shared: "and you shall not neglect the ... sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow"

Reflecting on that passage, I can see the people of God sitting around their table, enjoying the festive meal. As they take in the lavish feast, the good conversation, the smiles and laughter they do so "in the presence of the LORD," that is, realizing that all this goodness comes from his hand.

Today you have the opportunity to do the same thing. As you enjoy the food, the festivities, the family and friends, take a moment to see it all as a gift from our good God -- and celebrate!

Dallas Willard said,

Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small and we find in it great strength to do the will of God because his goodness is so real to us.

A few years back, my friend Bob Schuemann shared the following questions with me. Let me pass them your way as another means of pointing your thoughts to God and turning Thanksgiving into Thanksliving.

Today, share with family and friends:

  1. A gift that you are thankful for that you have received this year.
  2. Things you have learned about God this year that have changed your life.
  3. Things you are thankful for about your family’s faith.
  4. Things you are thankful for about your family.
  5. An experience your family had this year that made you happy.
  6. People outside your family who have blessed you in some way.
  7. Ways you have experienced the faithfulness of Christ this year.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!