Revealer of our Heart

Season of Opening Boxes

opening box 2

Not sure how things are at your house, but I know for many, these weeks are so busy with boxes.  There are small boxes, and large boxes, fat boxes, and thin boxes.  Secrets and presents are busily being purchased, baked, built or developed to be revealed at the perfect time.

opening box 1The outside appearance of a box can hide a multitude of things.  It is often quite difficult to imagine what is inside.  The actual item may be a lot smaller than the box, but the box is filled with tissue paper as a playful deception. That’s part of the giddiness of Christmas giving – concealing the contents, avoiding the predictable. At the appropriate time, however, the lid comes off and what is inside becomes visible.

Pulling the Lid Off My Heart

The same is true with the human heart – you don’t know what’s inside until the lid comes off. Some of us put more stock, investment, and armor in our façade than others. But with the right amount of pressure or intoxication, the box opens up and … wow!

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.”  Psalm 140:13

opening box 4The Psalmist makes a revealing statement about the righteous person in Ps. 140:13.  Someone who loves God and is cleansed by the Lamb, will surely give thanks. They will have a bent towards wanting to be th(i)nkful.  It will fit for them and not feel out of place.

I Thessalonians 5:18 says that even when the box is suddenly ripped open, one of the first things people should see inside is the giving of thanks.  Yes, there may be hurt, pain, sorrow, expectations in ashes, and a thousand tears, but they will be intertwined with this unbelievable ribbon of thanks. That is God’s will.  It may not be easy all the time.  It is hard work to develop the mindset of thinking thanks about every situation, but it is profitable and fitting because God has designed it that way.

So How Is Your Box?

Opening the box of a righteous person’s heart should expose gratitude and a desire to express thanks.  I don’t know about you, but this was convicting for me.  My heart should be full of giving thanks.

When my thoughts are conflicted with frustrations and disappointments, I should take a reality check.  What is really important here?  Am I getting all bent out of shape because of a trivial thing?  May the peace of God rule in my heart and filter my thoughts so that I can quickly give thanks for His name, His character, and the plan He is working out.

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have a lovely season of concealing and revealing boxes. However, let it be a reminder of your own heart box and what is in it.  Let the Lord pour His grace and strength into you so that you, in turn, can choose to think thanks about every circumstance in your life and express that thanks, first to God, and then to others.

opening box 3

 

The Slide of Ingratitude

The Mechanics of the Slide

The physics of sliding down a playground slide has to do with gravity, friction, inertia, and kinetic and potential energy. Your speed will be affected by your weight, the condition of the slide and the temperature.   For a child, there is little that compares with the exhilaration of a good slide.  In Lone Hill, South Africa there was a playground within walking distance of our home that contained a huge slide.  The children were hesitant to climb the step ladder to that slide purely because of its height.

Longest Slide in NYC picture by Tod Seelie Governors Island   

The picture above is “Slide Hill,” the longest slide in New York City, on Governors Island.  Children exude anticipation as they climb up and slide down the famous slide in this new park. A couple of lessons: 1) It takes effort to climb to the top of a slide; and 2) you slide downward quickly.

A Sinister Slide

There is another infamous slide that is recorded in the Scriptures.  This slide is ugly.  It is harsh.  It is fatal and destructive.  It starts out at the top in Romans 1:18 and continues rapidly downward, through twists and turns, to verse 32.  There is a baleful initial description of the ones sitting at the top of that slide.  The people who start down this slide are not thankful.  Ungrateful people suppress the truth of who God is and exchange it for a lie.

1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thankfulness is an antidote to temptation.  The inverse is also true. Ingratitude seems to invite every form of temptation and sin.  I have often mused over how ingratitude seems to create the fertile conditions of sin prospering. My daughter Elly once said that “it is hard for a selfish person to be thankful.” The essence of sin is self – self-absorption, self-preoccupation, self-rule and self-worship. You see all of your blessings as coming from your dreams and your hard work. And yet you are not fully a god just yet, so you are chronically competitive, discontent, and unthankful.

There are two things that sin does not love to do; to honor and glorify God as the source of every good thing, and to thank God for every good thing and for every bad thing He is working together for our good.  Sin wants to replace God with self and with alternate loves that supposedly will bring happiness to self and awkwardly try to fill our God-shaped void.

If you sense that you are not a very thankful person, perhaps it would be good to do some introspection. Why do I not want to be thankful? Do I want to count my many hardships? Is it just that I don’t think about being thankful?  Or do I disregard it?

Cultivating thinking thanks keeps us from beginning down the long and winding slide that is smooth and breezy at the top but becomes indulgent, brutal, empty, and destructive toward the bottom.

“Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles.” –John Piper

 

metal slide

Negative Th(i)nkful

Dennis

This is Pastor Dennis.  He was our co-worker in Johannesburg, SA.  He would often start our worship services at Sandton Bible with the question of: “Aren’t you thankful that you didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning?”

“A help toward personally fulfilling Eph. 5:20 & I Thess. 5:18 may be to continually thank God for all the things that could have gone wrong AND DID NOT; and, for all the things that went well BUT COULD HAVE GONE BADLY’!!! Examples- 1) how many things could have kept us from waking up this morning (countless)? 2) when driving on a 2 lane road and a car safely passes by in the opposing lane – it could have veered into our lane!” – Bob Meyers

There is no end to what we can think thanks about in our lives. When you think thanks about all the bad things that could have happened, but didn’t, you are practicing being negative th(i)nkful.  You could have been in a car wreck on your way to work this morning.  You could have a sore in your mouth that will not heal.  You could have severe abdominal pain right now.  You could have never heard about Jesus and the grace that He offers to anyone who wants to believe.  You could have nothing to live for and be looking for a way to die. You could not have access to the Word of God. You could have been born into extreme poverty.  The list goes on and on.

Think of five things that you are so thankful for that are not true in your life right now. Give that present of thanks to the One who deserves it.

Dennis Chapmon was the eternal optimist.  How inspiring he was to be around.  Yes, I am so thankful that I didn’t wake up in the hospital this morning.  Thank you God, that though Your ways are always good, you chose an easier path for me today in so many ways.