Having grown up in a Chinese immigrant, non-Christian home, I come each year to the Thanksgiving season with few memories and fewer traditions. As a child, I knew something of pilgrims and turkey dinners, but always felt removed from the familial traditions and rich heritage that surrounds this holiday. While Thanksgiving seems to serve as the big family dinner of the year, as well as the inauguration of the shopping frenzy we call Christmas in this country, I found myself pondering today on the significance of this holiday and the giving of thanks. I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year for family and friends. I have a great desire to not just serve up a bounty, but to feast on and consider the blessings that are ours in Christ. What do I want my kids to remember about Thanksgiving? How do I teach them to remember the significance amidst the celebration of this, and other holidays? How can I think rightly about giving thanks that I might influence my family's orientation towards gratitude?
That's when I came across this article by John Piper. Piper considers a quote from Jonathan Edwards:
True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God's own excellency."
Edwards is showing us that whenever we give thanks for any blessing from the Lord, it must be based on our gratitude and love for Him, himself, not just for the blessing. The foundation for our thanksgiving is a heart that trusts and knows the goodness of God for who He is, therefore receiving His gifts as an outflow of His kindness and character. Piper poignantly points out in his article that "if we are not captured by his personality and character, then all our declarations of thanksgiving are like the gratitude of a wife to a husband for the money she gets from him to use in her affair with another man." That is to say, if we make requests of God, yet find ourselves indifferent to His character and less than engaged with His Word, we are really practicing idolatry, if not adultery, as we enjoy our gifts while loving the world. How sobering that is. Does the world have our heart, or does God? Do we thank Him for the blessings He's given, only to love another more than we love Him?
I couldn't get away from these thoughts and wanted to share these before Thursday....that you might prepare...that your Thanksgiving might be a more accurate portrait of your heart of gratitude. That your praises and thanks might be a fragrant offering, flowing from a life that is deeply consumed by God's holy fire. I bring no family recipes or traditions to my Thanksgiving table, but my prayer is for this to be the heritage and tradition that follows for Thanksgivings to come...
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