Monday, November 28, 2011

Magnify the LORD with Thanksgiving

Psalm 69 reveals something pretty neat about thanksgiving. I was reading in the Psalms on the morning of Thanksgiving, when a couple verses popped out at me:
"I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.
This will please the LORD more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs."
- Psalm 69:30-31 (ESV)
Other translations say "glorify" instead of "magnify," but they both essentially have the same meaning. I hadn't really thought a lot about the ways giving thanks can magnify the name of the LORD, but David tells us that not only does it glorify God to give thanks, but it pleases Him much more than any sacrifices we can offer Him. Is that not amazing to think about? God cares a whole lot more about us having a thankful spirit and heart than any expensive, worldly offerings we can make. More than that, I think we can take this verse and safely say that a thankful spirit and attitude is needed while we give our offerings to God (i.e. tithing). If we don't tithe with a grateful heart, will that not offend our God? Sure, we're offering our first 10%, but if we're just doing it out of a feeling of obligation and not out of a spirit of thanksgiving and joy, will that not be foul-tasting to the LORD?

It reminds me of a scene in the new Karate Kid movie (which I watch about every other week with my kids at the Boys & Girls Club), where Mr. Han tells Dre he will train him for the martial arts tournament, but every day just makes him pick up his jacket, hang it up, put it on, take it off, put it on the ground, pick it up, hang it up, and repeat. It bothered Dre's mother to no end to see his jacket on the floor everyday. When Mr. Han witnessed that, he incorporated it into the training to make Dre more aware of how he was treating people. One day, Mr. Han tells him he's doing good, but something is missing - attitude. He needed to do it smiling. So he did, but he eventually got tired of the whole thing, and wanted to quit:

The clip is cut off a bit, so we miss Mr. Han saying "Everything is Kung-Fu," which I thought was a cool line. But anyway, Mr. Han teaches Dre that he was learning and getting stronger all along, by doing something he thought was a hassle, and that Kung-Fu "is in the way we treat people."

I think we can apply that to giving thanks. Thanking God is in everything we do. It's in the way we treat people. Jesus said that "whatever [we] did for one of the least of these [His] brothers, [we] did for Him. (Matthew 25:40)" I believe that Psalm 69 is talking about more than just giving thanks to God. I believe that, like the verse says, the name of the LORD is made more widely known when we give thanks and carry around a grateful heart. Sometimes, it's through direct giving and taking care of those in need, but sometimes, it's through doing things for the people around you that seem like a hassle. For Dre in the movie, it was picking up his jacket.

For me, it's in everyday things. I've only been married to Kaitlin for about 5 months, but I am already finding our more about love than I ever knew in the 3 years we were dating. Some of the best ways to show her that I love her and that I'm thankful for her love for me and how hard she works is to do chores around the house. For example, we have no dishwasher and I absolutely hate doing the dishes. We both do. But I'll bet that seeing the dishes done when she gets home from a long day of teaching pleases her and makes her feel more loved and appreciated than even the most expensive gift I can buy for her. (Kinda like how thanksgiving pleases the LORD more than costly sacrifices). And I can do it smiling, if I just think about how thankful I am for her and all she does.

Just like we can tithe smiling, or during any other offering we present to the LORD. Because while thanksgiving is about thanking other people, it's mostly about thanking God. I wrote our tithe check for November during the Thanksgiving break we had. Sometimes it feels like a lot of money, but this Thanksgiving (our first Thanksgiving!), all I could think about was how much God pulled through for Kaitlin and I when we really needed it the most. It is UNREAL. A month before we got married, we were unemployed with no job offers at all, and we felt like we had exhausted all of our options. We knew marriage was where God was calling us, but had no way of getting through financially. We didn't even know where we were going to be living. About a week or so before "I do," I got three job offers and she had two, all of which were Rome. We went from having no jobs or bites to having to CHOOSE what we wanted to do. A month or so later, when our hours were cut at the Boys & Girls Club and we realized we needed a lot more income anyway, God pulled through for us at the last minute and gave Kaitlin an amazing job offer. I am still to this day amazed at all He did for us, and have nothing but thanksgiving and a smile to give Him with every penny of my tithe, and every little thing I do for others in need.

About a month or so ago, we ran into this homeless man in front of Taco Bell that we had helped before in the past and we started talking to him, and asked him what he liked from Taco Bell. When we gave him some food and a drink, I gave him a 10, telling him its all we really had on us since we don't carry cash. He said that he was more grateful than we could know, because he had only needed $7 more to get a hotel room for the night. He said he had been sleeping in an abandoned house on a cold floor. I realize he may have been lying and a lot of homeless people are said to "not even try to work," but when it comes down to it, that doesn't really matter. You never know what big an impact you can make on someone when you stop to ask them what you can pray for them about and try to meet their needs in some way. It's the simple act of extending your hand that does more than what you give someone, and it's easier to do when you're thankful for what you have, because you'll want to share that feeling of being provided for with everyone else. You'll want to magnify and make more widely known the name of the God that holds you in His hands.

That is what Thanksgiving is really about. Joyfully and freely loving and thanking others. And, I would add that we shouldn't just tell people we're thankful for them. Thank them specifically for what they've done. Thank God specifically for what He's done. Not just on one day of the year, but everyday, constantly. Thank without ceasing! Magnify the LORD with thanksgiving! It will please Him more than you know, and bring others to know His glorious name.

- Zack