Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863)

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863)

he year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. 

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Gratitude, Serving others, and the Advancing Kingdom of God

Gratitude, Serving others, and the Advancing Kingdom of God

As I was writing my first book, The Persuasive Christian Parent, I realized how important it was that I taught my three children about the importance of gratitude and a thankful disposition in the Christian life. I remember often praying with the family, mostly around dinner and other such events, that God would give us a heart of gratitude. Once when my daughter had become an adult I too remember her praying and asking God to give us a heart of gratitude; my very own words spoken through my child back to God, and I got the chills. And I was beyond words grateful to God! In the book I focused primarily on gratitude to God to whom we have an infinite number of things to be grateful for, but here I want to focus on the horizontal aspect of this powerful attitude and perspective on life. Being grateful to God, though, naturally leads to gratitude to and for others.

I was prompted to write about this because as I’ve grown older I’ve become increasingly aware of how powerful gratitude and a thankful disposition is to the flourishing Christian life. Not only that, but I see it as an integral part of bringing the kingdom of God and its blessings into a dark fallen world, a way to put our light on a stand so everyone can benefit from it, not under a basket where no one can. And when I use the word kingdom I am purposefully using the metaphor of light with it in a very specific way to convey a message about what God’s kingdom means for us in a dark fallen world.

As a recently converted postmillennialist, I have been impressed by the almost ubiquitous use of Kingdom in the gospels, appearing some 124 times. The mistake almost all Christians make is to look at the kingdom as a synonym for the church. I always did. I never saw a reason not to. Now I’m convinced they are not the same thing. The kingdom is God’s rule in the world through Christ by the Holy Spirit, that serves as a blessing to all people, lost and saved. The church is specifically made up of those who have been spiritually raised from the dead by the same Triune God. I’ve been especially impressed by two kingdom parables I previously never thought through in terms of the implications for the world we now inhabit.

The parable of the mustard seed:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Notice the size of the mustard seed and the mustard tree. Quite the contrast. And if we had to guess how long it took the tree to get that big, it’s likely decades, maybe many decades. The point is that it is slow and enduring and obvious growth; it can’t be denied. Since Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven to this fallen world, died, rose again, and sent his Holy Spirit, his kingdom has been slowly but surely growing like a mustard seed into a massive tree. Unless the tree is chopped down, it only grows, and it grows through us.

Right after telling this parable, Jesus shares another with the same message:

 “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

The NIV here says sixty pounds, and different versions have different numbers, but the KJV and ESV render it as it is in Greek, “three measures of flour.” Three, of course, is the biblically symbolic number for perfection. For some reason Jesus uses an unnaturally large amount of flour, which I would suggest is symbolic of the whole world. Many commentators interpret yeast (or leaven) as sin because it’s often used that way in the Bible, but here it most certainly is not! Jesus compares yeast to “the kingdom of heaven,” not the “kingdom of hell.” The context is clearly the fruit of the kingdom he came to bring to earth. And notice how leaven or yeast works in this time laps photography of yeast working its way through a batch of dough, slowly but surely and in only one direction.

In both parables Jesus is clearly teaching that the growth and influence of the kingdom of heaven takes time, doesn’t happen quickly, but happens . . . inevitably. They are illustrations of the fulfillment in redemptive history of the gospel in a tiny corner of the Roman Empire as it spreads to the entire earth. Against absolutely all odds this little movement broke out into a world dominating influence, an influence that 2000 years later affects every corner of our world today and every person in it to one degree or another. That would include us in our own little corner of the world where we are kingdom and gospel influence for all the people we interact with on a daily basis. While I’m a big fan of talking kingdom and gospel content to people whenever and wherever I can, acting out kingdom and gospel values and the blessings that brings, is wonderful to behold. Gratitude is a very easy and effective way to do that.

A thankful disposition and words of gratitude to others in the most mundane of everyday interactions is beautiful. It is a bright kingdom light shining in darkness that makes the darkness flee. The reason I used the phrase “thankful disposition” above is because I like the idea of a mental or emotional outlook or mood of thankfulness toward others. It’s not just saying “thank you” to the person who answers the phone or serves you in a store, it’s being truly grateful for who they are  and what they are doing for you. It is not affectation, but sincere gratitude. It’s amazing to see a person’s face light up when you do this, or hear in their voice the gratitude, and often surprise, for your being thankful and appreciating them. In almost every e-mail interaction I have I write things like, Thanks! Or I really appreciate your help. Or in conversations say, thank you so much, and mean it. So simple, so profound.

I was going to end this by saying try it, but Jesus and God in his word doesn’t give us that option. We are commanded to be thankful. So I guess I should end by saying, do it! Make it a habit, do it all the time, and you’ll be very glad, and grateful, you did.

The Boundary Lines Have Fallen for Me in Pleasant Places: Psalm 16:6

The Boundary Lines Have Fallen for Me in Pleasant Places: Psalm 16:6

When I was involved in a campus Christian ministry in college, we periodically went to ministry conferences. I’ll never forget a talk at one such conference about Psalm 16:6. Having read through the Psalms recently coming upon this verse again brought back wonderful memories of that time before I had to go out into the real world. As I look back over 40 plus years I could not express any better than King David the life God has given me since I first encountered this verse:

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Land was a big deal in the ancient world, and more than just an economic transaction as we see it today—It was a matter of life and death. There were no grocery stores, and people fed themselves through painful toil and the sweat of their brow. The more and better land, the more wealth, the more food, the more life.

To really get what David is saying, though, the entire context of the Psalm is critical. These boundary lines didn’t just fall out of the sky, by chance, but involved David himself in his relationship with God. In other words, God’s blessings happen to us for a reason because we ask, seek, and knock; all blessings come from God’s hands. We also live in a cause-and-effect universe He designed, and when we live according to those designs blessing are likely to result. But more importantly, this is a Messianic Psalm, and our earthy blessings are ultimately tied to our spiritual and eternal blessings in Christ.

First, David commits himself to God’s care:

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

This reflects something I write about here often, trust. We are promised perfect peace if our mind is stayed on God because we trust in Him. I know, easier said than done, but it is doable. We just have to pray for it all the time in everything, and live on his Word as Jesus exhorted us to do.

David also understands a basic fact of existence in God’s created reality:

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

David acknowledges Yahweh is his master and the Creator God who defines all things in his life that are good. Apart from Yahweh there is no such thing as good. This realization is fundamental to a life well lived, to life that is really life. It’s absurd to think otherwise because as Paul says, God gives us life, breath, and everything else. Then he contrasts this abundant life with the life of poverty that awaits those who think they can find good apart from God:

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply . . .

This other god is of course no god at all, but a false god who promises everything but delivers nothing but hurt, injury, and pain. We call this idolatry, which is turning good things into ultimate things, as if the created thing can fulfill what only the Creator Himself can provide.

These realizations and practices lead to a life of boundary lines falling for us in pleasant places, for each of God’s people having a delightful inheritance. This is especially powerful in light of redemptive history and its fulfillment in Jesus and the gospel. We are sinners deserving of one thing and one thing only— death, sins wages. As I often say, if God’s justice prevailed I would be a pile of ashes smoldering on the ground. We begin to have problems when we think we deserve anything other than that. As I think of it, everything other than death for my sin is gravy. Paul’s contrast with death’s wages? The gift of God that is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Every other gift that is everything in our lives flows out of that supreme gift, and therein we can have true, bubbling over, inconceivable gratitude.

David could not know how the gospel would play out, but he knew enough:

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

The “secret” to the always blessed life is always keeping our eyes on Him, and that means on Jesus, on the cross, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. Jesus used an event during the Exodus to convey the “secret”:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

The Israelites were complaining because this little journey through the wilderness wasn’t going so well, so the Lord sent venomous snakes among them and many were bitten and died. The Lord told Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” Don’t look at the bite no matter how much it hurts, look up and live! Jesus used this strange story to tell us that we too need to look up to him, trust him, that we too will with David not be shaken.

David’s confidence was in looking forward to Jesus:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead (Sheol),
nor will you let your holy one see decay.

It’s amazing when you consider David is writing God’s word which is The Word, so even as these are David’s words they are Jesus’ words. This is confirmed by Peter in the first Christian sermon after Pentecost in Acts 2 when he is testifying to the resurrection. Paul confirms it as well when he’s preaching about Jesus’ resurrection in Acts 13. David finishes the Psalm affirming the blessings of those who make God their refuge:

11 You make known to me the path of life;
you fill me with joy in your presence;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I had never thought of it quite this way before writing this post, but Christ himself is the boundary lines that fall for us in pleasant places. He is our delightful inheritance. I had always thought of these in more material terms, including friends and family, but when Paul says in Ephesians 1 that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ,” it is these spiritual blessings that imbue every material blessing with ultimate meaning, hope, and joy. Praise the Lord!

 

Life’s Swift Passage and Our Only True Fulfillment

Life’s Swift Passage and Our Only True Fulfillment

Nothing quite trips me out like time, and the swiftness of its passage. This is of course a common thing among all human beings as we age. If you’re into your 40s you get what I’m saying, and we get it more with every passing year. This strangeness I’m speaking of is impossible to understand in your 20s and 30s. I sure didn’t. We were at a conference when I was in my 30s, and the speaker was talking about a 3–5-year plan. He said, “You young people think 5 years is a long time; it’s not!” I remember thinking, yes, it is! Oh no, it’s not.

We think we understand this swift passage in our younger years, but it’s only theoretical. If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you look at someone in their 60s or 70s, to you they’re “old;” but those people don’t feel old. Being young, you can’t conceive of yourself being that “old,” and think it will take a long time to get there. It won’t! And when you do get to be that “old” you look at yourself in the mirror and wonder, how the hell did this happen! And so quickly. We oldersters can’t conceive of ourselves as “old” any more than when we were young. But there we are. When my grandfather was 92 and on death’s door, I remember him telling me, “Look at me. Inside I feel like I’m 16, but my body sure doesn’t.”

I was reminded of the swiftness when I read these words of David in Psalm 144:3, 4:

O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

A breath is fleeting indeed, and that is our life. David could obviously relate to tripping out on time’s swift passage (and he lived 2500 years ago!) because he wrote similar thoughts in Psalm 103:

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.

Grass is a little more enduring than a breath, but not much. This Psalm is so beautiful because David focuses on the blessings of God for His people, and that His steadfast love for them “is from everlasting to everlasting.” David’s almost maniacal focus on the Lord is the answer to time’s swift passage, our hope of life eternal with the God who created life itself. And without sin and misery and death!

I’ve always loved history, almost majored in it in college. I’m currently reading Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain, and just finished a chapter on Henry V. This king of England lived from 1386 to 1422, died at only 35, and reading about his life and times almost made him present in mine. Those people living in medieval Europe at the time seemed alive to me. I know they were just like us, but that was 600 years ago! Poof! Over. They couldn’t conceive of 600 years passing from their lives any more than we can.

Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to live by sight than by faith (i.e., trust), so most people obsess with the here and now, the mundane, and treat these things as if they are more important than what comes after this life. This is why the topic of death, our mortality, is not a polite topic of conversation. It’s such a downer and most people would just as soon ignore it even though they know they’re headed on a freight train to the grave. The infinite distractions of modern secular life make that particularly easy, but it’s always been so. Here is Pascal’s take on his contemporaries in the 17th century:

We can’t imagine a condition that is pleasant without fun and noise. We assume that every condition is agreeable to which we can enjoy some sort of distraction. But think what kind of happiness it is that consists merely in being diverted from thinking about ourselves! As though they could wipe out eternity and enjoy some passing happiness merely by repressing their thoughts.

In spite of all these miseries man wants to be happy, and only to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy. But how can he go about this? It would be best if he could make himself immortal, but since he cannot do this, he has decided to stop thinking about it. Being unable to cure death, misery, and ignorance, men have decided that in order to be happy, they must repress thinking about such things.

But try as we might, death stalks us at every turn, and as Pascal further says, “The last scene of the play is bloody, however fine the rest of it. They throw dirt over your head, and it is finished forever.” Yet that last scene is something everyone knows is coming, and sooner than we think. Yet most people refuse to even think about it, as if the thinking or talking about it would make it real when it’s not.

Even we as Christians fall into this trap thinking if we just make it over the next hill, we’ll find the elusive thing called happiness, or fulfillment, or some such satisfaction of soul, but as soon as we crest the hill we see there’s another higher hill beyond it to climb. It’s the “grass is always greener” affliction. If only I had . . . 

As my children were growing up, I had a saying that’s a slight variation of Wesley’s statement to Buttercup in The Princess Bride, Life is disappointment, Highness. No matter what you get in life, no matter how much you want it and dream of it and aspire to it, it will never fully satisfy. Never. In fact, after you reach what you thought was the peak, you find it isn’t so great after all.

Our youngest son seemed especially given to this temptation. When he wanted something like a guitar, he really wanted it, had to have it, and I knew he thought if he just got it that would be it, fulfillment. As soon as he opened the box I would mock him, saying something like, “Now your life has meaning! You’ll finally get true fulfillment.” And he would reply, “Oh, shut up!” He got the message. But even when we know this, we’re still easily seduced by it.

Me and my best friend forever, Greg Luther Smith (since 7th grade, which is almost forever!), went to Italy in 2014. I planned every moment for many months, and we talked about it all the time, how great it would be, once in a lifetime, etc. and it was incredible. But afterward we almost felt let down. All the incredible artwork we saw in the Vatican Museum or the Ufizzi, the incredible history of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, the beauty of Rome and Florence, all of it was amazing. But afterward we both felt like, that’s it? Not that it wasn’t all that we expected, but it couldn’t live up to the anticipation and expectation. Nothing in life ever does.

Solomon told us why: God has put eternity into the heart of man, and only what is eternal can truly fill it—that would be God himself in Christ. Pascal said it best once again:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.

God through Isaiah encourages us not to be seduced by the empty promises of this life:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.

Ironically, only in God himself can we truly enjoy what this life offers.

 

Psalm 73: When I Tried to Understand All This . . . Circumstances People

Psalm 73: When I Tried to Understand All This . . . Circumstances People

Christians love the Psalms because we can relate to how they portray the messiness of life in a fallen world, and Psalm 73 is one of the most relatable. It starts with the fundamental Christian perspective on all things:

 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

Our sinful tendency when things go south is to wonder if God has it out for us. In the novel The Magnificent Ambersons, the protagonist is having an especially tough day: “After that, the whole world seemed to be one solid conspiracy of malevolence.” Who hasn’t felt like this at times! The much younger me often threw a pity party for me, myself and I, but nobody seemed interested in joining the party. I’ve taught my kids all their lives, and still do, that nobody cares how we feel; they care about how they feel. It’s best to keep whatever those feelings are between me and God, and a few close loved ones.

I hate to confess this for all the world to see, but it wasn’t until I got into my 40s that I was able to effectively counter the natural inclination to victimhood in my sinful heart. It took me a long time and much misery to realize God is good to his people (Israel), i.e., me, no matter what the circumstances look like. God’s goodness is not a function of our assessment of circumstances, as if from our limited perspective and knowledge we can assess the ultimate goodness of anything. It wasn’t too many years ago, five to be exact (September of 2017 to be even more exact) that I prayed to God something like, “It would be ideal if . . . “ And one day as I was praying I heard God say to me, almost audibly, “What a moron! How would you know what ‘ideal’ is?” Good question. Only God knows ideal, and that eternally. I now pray what I think I want, but always in the context of, “Thy will be done,” God’s good, pleasing and perfect will in Christ.”

Paul in I Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to give thanks in all circumstances because having a grateful perspective on things “is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus” (compare Eph. 5:20, always and for everything doesn’t leave us any wiggle room). By giving God thanks we acknowledge his goodness and sovereign power over all things, and in Christ means we are all in his eyes “pure in heart.” Romans 8:28 is the ultimate truth of our lives. Paul says we know, not think or hope or wonder, but “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This doesn’t mean the knowing through all the vagaries, vicissitudes, pain, and suffering of life will be easy. Nothing is easy! But it gives our lives a hope and purpose and stability the circumstances people can never have, Christians or not.

The question is will we live by sight or by faith, i.e., by circumstances or trusting God. The Psalmist, Asaph, rooted in knowing the goodness of God, still struggled because life is, well, life:

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Living by sight he almost lost it, but only almost because he didn’t let the circumstances determine whether God was good, or not. He was even tempted to believe obedience to God was worthless:

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.

But he knew that would be a betrayal to God’s people (v. 15), yet he still made the fatal mistake all sinners make:

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me.

It’s insane to think we can understand God and his ways, as if comprehending the nature of God is more important than trusting him. Trusting him is what it’s all about. If we make this mistake it creates, in the Hebrew, trouble, labor, or toil. In other words, trying to figure out God is a miserable way to live. Asaph didn’t quite understand this until he realized God is God, and we are not:

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Only when we look to the place where God dwells, understand who he is in all his glory and goodness and power, will we understand who we really are, and the destiny of those who belong to him, and those who do not. Otherwise, we will be senseless and ignorant, a brute beast before God (v. 22). The “secret” to a truly fulfilling life is as easy as it is hard:

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And being with you I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

It’s either this, or we will be circumstances people.

This Thanksgiving Make Thanksgiving a Habit, For the Rest of Your Life

This Thanksgiving Make Thanksgiving a Habit, For the Rest of Your Life

Thanksgiving is a good reminder we ought to give thanks, and ought to do it 365 days a year, literally. As I grow older, the more I realize how central thanksgiving is to the vibrant Christian life, and how naturally we are given to un-thankfulness. Complaining is so much easier because naturally (i.e., sinfully), we live by site and not by faith (i.e., trust in God). We look to circumstances as sovereign, not the Sovereign God who is in control of all things. We look to them for succor and comfort, not God. It’s a fool’s errand because our circumstances will never be enough to give us what we think we are looking for. The irony is we have no idea what that is! Augustine tells us that would be God:

You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.

Then we do something even more ridiculous, we look to other people for fulfillment. If you want a recipe for disappointment, look to other human beings to fulfill you. Whether it’s other people or circumstances, we will be disappointed. That’s life in a fallen world among fallen people in a fallen body. Something I’ve emphasized to my kids as they were growing up is a slightly different version of a quote I got from The Princess Bride, one of our family’s favorite movies: Life is disappointment, highness. Wesley says pain, but it’s all the same (the short version or the longer version). Life will never live up to our expectations. That is when it’s most important to give thanks.

Normally, when I’m lecturing others, or myself, about the necessity to give thanks, I quote the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:18. In a direct command he tells us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t leave much room for ingratitude, or its corollary, complaining, or whining, or moaning, or grumbling. It tells us the key to a thankful heart is found “in Christ Jesus.” To be truly grateful, and give thanks because we are in fact thankful, we must understand the gospel.

In Ephesians 5, Paul confirms in an even more far-reaching way that our gratitude, our ability to give thanks, needs to be rooted in Christ and the gospel. The context is living “as imitators of God,” which means we walk, or live, in love. No problem, right? Piece of cake. Unfortunately, this goes against every natural sinful inclination we have, so it’s anything but easy. However, God in Christ, in the gospel, makes it possible. Paul explains the gratitude mentality we ought to have and how it becomes doable,

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Adding “always and for everything” to “all circumstances” doesn’t leave much wiggle room. Paul’s use of “the name” points to the significance of the meaning of Jesus being our Lord and Messiah, our Savior and king. And he is not just our personal Savior and Lord. We too easily tend to individualize what he accomplished, as if it were mainly about us. It is, of course, but he is also the Savior of the world, and as Paul says in Ephesians 1, raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” All this for us! His church. That is the name in which we can and ought to give thanks.

The gospel is deeply personal, and cosmic, which is why we no longer have to look to our circumstances as the key to our fulfillment or happiness. Saved from God’s wrath because of our sin, we are now reconciled to him, and can love him by loving others. The more profound this saving is to us, meaning the more we know how rotten we are, the easier it is to love others. We have no choice; we love because he first loved us. Then knowing that Jesus has all authority and power in the universe over all things, means we can trust that God works all things “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” There’s all again. I think we’re getting the picture.

All applies to the cosmic piece as well. Prior to his ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus said all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him, therefore go. Paul promises us that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” As we begin to understand the entire picture of the gospel in all it’s personal and cosmic ramifications, developing the daily, even minute by minute, habit of giving thanks, is really not hard at all.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever!