Gratitude Versus the American Dream

How the Gospel Confronts Entitlement

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This time of year most Christians in particular and non-Christians in general stop and give thanks. We pause if only for a moment to remember the gifts that we have been given. The act of remembering and the discipline of Gratitude are central to the Christian faith and to the development of any disciple of Christ. The challenge of gratitude is that it requires humility. You can not properly give God Glory or give honor to others if you believe that you achieved what you have on your own.

The irony of the Puritanical work ethic that came from an understanding of Salvation by grace alone that led to good works has changed over the years to a work hard to achieve the American dream. In America you are told if you work hard enough you can have anything you want, you can be anything you want and do anything you want. This is true as long as we maintain a clear understanding that our lives our not our own. Freedoms that are not based in ultimate truth become cruel taskmasters. Our country has evolved from a land founded by flawed but gracious leaders who gave birth to generations who worked hard to get what they wanted who then gave birth to future generations who believe that this country owes us things that only God can give. We have moved from the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the safe and the home of the entitled.

We rightly lament the loss of meaning of Thanksgiving with more and more mega sales creeping into to the time mean for family, humility and reflection. We as a nation as a culture must fight the idea that we are owed a good life, which we deserve certain things and learn to be grateful for the good gifts that we are given. Entitlement is the very antithesis of the Gospel. It is what Paul calls in Galatians “another gospel.” Entitlement sees everything in life not from the lens of what God had done for us in Christ but from what we believe we deserve because of our social standing, race or economic status. Paul tells Timothy this very thing contentment is not settling and a lack of faith but is evidence of who has your heart, where your affections lie and whom you ultimately trust.

1 Timothy 6:6-9

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Are riches bad no but they are deceitful because if we do not learn the value of contentment, humility and gratitude we will never have enough. Our right desire for good things turns into an over desire for things that are not ultimate things. Gratitude is central to the life of a believer because if you do not see salvation as a gift you will go about in a thousand ways trying to earn the security that your heart desperately needs and longs for. You fight to earn what can only be given. Teaching our kids the spiritual discipline is small things connects everything to the most important thing, the Cross of Christ.

When we say thank you we are in a small way recognizing the soverignty of God in all things. Prolific writer and blogger Ann VosKamp explains how she passess gratitude to her children. cultivating a life of gratitude is a long process. “It’s not instant. You can feel like you’ve arrived, but there will always be a situation that can make you un-arrive very quickly. But even that is good news because it’s the Lord’s way of saying, ‘You know what? You need me.’ And you’re back to being laid low before the cross again.” Voskamp emphasizes that writing down her gifts is not about gratitude. “It’s acknowledging the sovereignty of God in all situations and recognizing that God can redeem any situation. He’s using everything to refine me more and bring me into Christ. And we are made to give God glory. That’s what this list is for me. It’s seeing God’s work in any situation. It leads me back into his presence and the fullness of his joy.”

Strong, J. (2014). Ann Voskamp: Seeing God at Work.

True gratitude leads us to worship. To see all things in light of the work of Christ and position as adopted sons and daughters who receive all that we have including the ability to work hard soli deo gloria – for the glory of God alone.

This week at your dinner table don’t just dig in we fight for gratitude.

Ask your kids these questions.

  1. What is the greatest gift you have been given?
  2. Write down 3 things you are thankful for.
  3. Take turns praying have each person thank God for the five following things that R.T. Kendall outlined in Understanding Theology.  Think of things about God and his Word:
    (1)      Thank him for being as he is.
    (2)      Thank him for Jesus and his blood.
    (3)      Thank him for the Holy Spirit.
    (4)      Thank him for the Bible.
    (5)      Thank him for saving you.

Gratitude will always lead you away from what you have done and if followed logically to the end conclusion and by Divine revelation you will be lead to worship. I pray that you and your family enjoy each other the gifts you have been given and the God who graciously gave them to you.

Soli Deo Gloria

3 Things every pastor should say during Christmas

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Yesterday I talked about the value of old things and how consumerism keeps us from understanding and seeing the value in redeeming something old rather than always looking for the rush something new provides. One of the mistakes many pastors (kids pastors, youth pastors and senior pastor alike) make is during Christmas we demonize culture rather than show people how to redeem it. If you attend church during Christmas in most churches, you will hear some form of this rant. “Christmas is not about stuff, or buying things; we need to put Christ back in Christmas.” While this is true, it falls short. The church for the past few years has done a good job of talking about what Christmas isn’t and haven’t done a good enough job describing the beauty of Christ.

3 Things Every Pastor Should Preach During the Christmas Season:

The long term damage consumerism causes

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I am not Amish and don’t churn my butter. I actually love technology and new things but I think events like Black Friday and disposable everything does more damage to our society than good. We have this obsession with new. When is the last time you repaired anything? Everything we own is new until it’s not anymore then we discard it and replace it and not repair it. Why fix my TV for 200.00 when I can get a new one for 300? We have a society that no longer sees the value in old things. We even want a new version of our old things and call it retro. We live in a society that used to value “growing old” together, now it seems everywhere you turn people are cashing in relationships to chase new things they think will make them happy but what we don’t know is that this new relationship will eventually break and if  we don’t learn to value old things we will never understand or experience the power of redemption. The long-term damage consumerism causes reaches farther into our lives than just our stuff, it erodes the fabric of our relationship because our desire to have new things slowly makes its way into the most important relationships in our lives.

Raising Kids in Post Apocalyptic America

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I write this before the election results are final because it will be extremely relevant for the half of America that feels like they lost but should be relevant for all us. Most parents want their kids to be politically like-minded. The problem is in the fact that we are trying to raise our kids to be loyal to a particular party.

Parents what your kids need to see from you after the election is over.

  1. Humility – We need much more humility on both sides of the aisle.
  2. Humanity – The opposition is not an evil to be eradicated but people to be reasoned with and listened to and opposed strongly.
  3. Hope – Our kids need us to point them to the history of our republic and show the resilience that our founding fathers built into this experiment. They don’t need us counting ration cans and loading our weapons.
  4. Help – We need to have conversations with our kids about how they can help restore our country to her founding principles.

We need to teach our kids to be more faithful to the constitution, and to the principles that make America great. We need to tell them the goodness of our history without shielding them our massive shortcomings. We need to teach them that we must fight for liberty for all because when we fail to live up to the preamble of the constitution we collectively pay a great price. Lincoln understood this with a heavy heart during his second inaugural address he said

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

“Will an equally severe accounting be demanded for America’s equally brazen denial of the Declaration’s promise of life for all and a myriad of other contradictions of America’s declared commitment to freedom?”

Guinness, Os

We must pray and pass on to our kids the stories of sacrifice and greatness rather than ranting on and on about why (insert political enemy here) is the worst.

The last thing we must always do is remind our kids of the hope of heaven. We only passing through if we look to the kingdoms of this world or political parties in this world we will be only ever disappointed. We must gain our footing and regain our perspective.

“One day America and all its presidents will be a footnote in history, but God’s kingdom will never end.” John Piper

Semper Reformanda.

Halloween and Pseudo-Transformation.

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I have been thinking a lot about the whole Halloween debate. The difficulty with these types of debates is the Bible doesn’t address them so we pick sides and dig in. I know he did a lot of things that angered the “evil” Pharisees. It is easy to point to the Pharisees and say how they represent all the things we disagree with and our position is represented by Christ. But you know what, sometimes I find myself being a Pharisee. I find that I often seek my value in myself by rule keeping alone, actually one of the more scary realities is that it’s generally when I feel I am not a Pharisee that I am most in danger of being one.

A Pharisee to me is someone who has the outward appearance of the values that Jesus came to model with none of the inward convictions he lived out.

I think we need to take a hard look at what is meant when the Bible calls Jesus a friend of sinners.