This is from my journal last year as I reflected upon Thanksgiving. How do you think we are going to open our Thanksgiving Eve service this year? 11.29.06 7:19 AM Before I jump into a study this morning, I should pause and recount things. We just came through Thanksgiving – my heart is full of thanks. We had a great worship service – I used a lot of Scripture that just declared thanks to the Lord and commanded it. As I prepared the other morning, I had the great fortune of running into Rick Langer. I asked him to lend me his perspective on Psalm 116.
“How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD—in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.” (Ps. 116:12-19, NIV)
This is one of my favorite psalms about worshiping God through thanksgiving because it makes it joyfully public. Yet, the middle verse seems so out of place – talking about death in the midst of a proclamation of thanksgiving. However, it is in context with the psalm that begins, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.” Rick reminded me that in the Old Testament, statements like this, and this Psalm in particular were more often than not a response to God’s physical salvation from death. Assuming that King David wrote this psalm, that speaks of God’s rescue from death, I can imagine him fighting in battle, watching friends die, being near to death countless times, then coming home and praising God with thanksgiving for sparing his life. I realize that the very salvation that Jesus offers me is the same in essence. Rescued from the grave, from destruction, from everlasting torment in Hell. Rescued from the bondage of sin. Redeemed out of the hand of the Enemy. From the New Testament and in the context of thanksgiving we read this: “joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:11-14, NIV) Having declared/accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 5, I cannot really remember my life apart from Him. I can definitely recount my struggles with sin and am very aware of my depravity, but somehow, in a good way, I have only known this life with Jesus as my Savior. This makes it easy to take His salvation for granted, to forget the gravity and destiny of my life apart from Christ. Perhaps my greatest joy this past year, that for which I am most thankful, is my friendship with John Mace. He reminds me what it looks like to celebrate the rescue to be genuinely thankful for God’s salvation through Jesus. I don’t ever want to lead a worship time where I don’t spend some time saying, “Thank you,” to Jesus for saving me. Perhaps the highlight of our Thanksgiving Eve service was at the beginning with my worship team. Instead of praying in the usual way, I told them that we would pray in song. I then played Crowder’s, “Thank You for Hearing Me.” The song has that simple phrase repeatedly, and each verse changes the subject, from loving, to hearing, to healing, to finding and then it explodes into saving and ends there with a considerable amount of time and energy devoted to it. I want to use this song next year to open our service. One of my favorite things about Crowder is how he excels at celebrating the Rescue – God’s saving work through Jesus death and resurrection. Perhaps I could use this song for our Good Friday services. So I find my love for Jesus renewed and heightened as a result of some Thanksgiving meditation. Truly thanksgiving is and ought to be a daily part of the Christian’s life. So I echo the psalmist. I praise God for all His benefits toward me – my family, friends, work, home, health, but mostly my salvation through Jesus. And how shall I repay – by giving Him my worship and doing it in the presence of all His people! Cheers to God!