TO GIVE THANKS… PART ONE, BY KIANG P LEE

Greetings Friends the world over! This is the time for Thanksgiving in America. Thanksgiving Day is November 28, 2013.

Thanksgiving is an essence of the human spirit which stands inviolate and knows no borders, and is the epitome for good in all people and nations. Sometimes gratitude does not come easily because of our biases and prejudices. To say “thank you” is to express the dignity and decency of our humanity replicated in God’s likeness. “Thank you,” (English) “Danke” (German), “Mahalo” (Hawaiian), “Merci” (French), “xiexie” (Chinese), “Terima Kasih” (Malay), “Takk” (Norwegian), “Kamasahamnida” (Korean), “Paldies” (Latvian), “Gracias” (Spanish), “Spasibo” (Russian), “Dhayavad” (Hindi), “Dziekuje,” (Polish), “Obrigado” (Portuguese), “Bula” (Fijian), and hundreds and thousands of languages and dialects all speak the language of this larger-than-life divine attribute.

Let’s talk “Thanksgiving” today. I’ll do this presentation in three installments in the month of November. Part three will be the combined version of parts one and two. The release dates are, 7th, 12th, and 17th November, 2013. Let’s begin with Part One.

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Rest and be Thankful (Wiki Commons) 

Where, how, and when did Thanksgiving began? In America we usually rehash our colonial history and tell the story of the Pilgrims and native Americans, and how they came together to celebrate their autumn harvest crop in 1621. That’s all fine, and I find the story inspiring each time I find fresh bits of information. It was reported the Wampanoag native tribe arrived bearing five deer for the feast. And of course, an abundance of turkey caught in the wild, I’m sure. Although it was not known then by a thanksgiving label, it was obvious gratitude was the prevailing mood among the Pilgrims and indigenous natives. It was reported that they celebrated for three days, not just one. They were thankful to God for surviving the hardships they endured in the New World, for the religious freedom they now enjoyed, and for the successful harvest and bounty before them.

“Thanksgiving” & Eden

Much later, by Presidential edict a day was set aside for a national day of Thanksgiving. But let’s step further back in history and really see where thanksgiving truly began. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden – yes, as far back as the very beginning. Here, we’ll find where the spirit of “thanksgiving” all started. For the most part, the story of Adam and Eve almost invariably gravitate to their disobedience, right? We don’t look at the life he lived before he alienated himself and Eve from Eden. There is no record how long Adam and Eve remained faithful to God before the fall. This is important, for the life Adam and Eve had with God was the kind of life God had in mind for mankind. It was a relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God. It was a relationship based upon His Love for man which is the sole reason why He created man. What we see in history in the post-Eden era of man, is six thousand years of human experience lived apart from God.

Gratitude – A Way of Life in Eden

The truth is: being appreciative and thankful was a way of life for Adam and Eve as long as God was in their lives. Adam and Eve did not live like Neanderthal cavemen trying to eke out a living. No, they lived in God’s glorious company. Our educational system in supporting evolutionary science (so-called) do our children a great disadvantage in this area of human origin. Think about this, Eden was a garden planted with God’s own hands. He handed it to our first parents with all the blessings of a home where they could live a life of unbelievable miraculous manifestation and live happily as humans. Adam never dropped a sweat off his brow. Eden was handed to him and his wife on a platter – literally. Josephus, the Jewish historian, said that fruit trees in Eden would automatically produce fruits right before our first parents’ eyes when they were hungry. Imagine what that’s like? Adam’s thoughts had the power to materialize what he desired into reality. What do you think happened when God brought the animals to Adam to be named? “Whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (Gen.2:19)

Was It a Legalistic Union?

God could well have pointed a dense jungle to Adam and said, “I want you both to go out there and make us a garden-home where we can all live together. I know it’s going to be tough, but it will be good for character-building. Your performance will be a reward of itself when the garden is complete.” No, but unfortunately, many a legalist would have us believe God to be like that. And sadly many a believer fall for that kind of relationship with God. The legalist would have you believe God would never plant a garden for you—you are to plant it for yourself. He would not fight your battles for you—you are to fight your own battles. Of course that is what the “solitary” life brings us. They are proponents of the belief there has to be something we do to earn God’s Love. If that’s so, then whatever man does in his “solitary” expression will be reward unto itself, so at the end of the day, he has no one to thank, but himself. Is it any wonder then that they live thankless lives, because they can’t see God as the Mover and Shaker in their lives? How can we see God in this way where He is the Mover and Shaker in our lives? How do we find every reason to thank Him? Or, is it hard to find reason to thank Him, if ever?

Instruction Was a “Thank You,” Not “Payback”

What was the only instruction God gave Adam? What were they to do with their with their lives and their beautiful garden-home? They were to work it and watch over Eden, and to not eat from the tree of the fruit of good and evil.” (Gen.2:15, 17). Adam and Eve were to take good care of Eden, their home. And right here – here’s where the origin of gratitude and thanksgiving began. This is the very first directive God gave man – what do you think was Adam’s response when he looked around him, and he saw: 1. He was told he was created from the soil he stood on. 2. He saw his beautiful wife Eve God gave him for a fitting life-partner. 3. He saw this most beautiful garden-home call Eden, with all the abundance to keep them alive and healthy. 4. He saw God living and walking with them; 5.They saw how this relationship created the incredible ongoing miraculous life they were living. There was nothing they saw in all this they could attribute to themselves and pat themselves on the back – none whatsoever.

Here’s where the very first act of man to his God comes through: Adam’s responsibility of “keeping and caring for Eden” was their way of saying “Thank You” to God for His Love. It was their act of worship and gratitude. That was the first and natural reaction of man to God – to respond to what you sees around him, acknowledge the Love of the generous Giver, and say “Thank You, God.” That was all – what else could be more fitting than a heartfelt “Thank You.” Nothing more and nothing less! The act of gratitude is an act of Love flowing back to the God who is Love.

Love is “Free” 

This was a relationship based upon Love that can only be exchanged “freely.” It also tells us the basic determination God had in mind when He created man in His own image. And what’s that? He determined to give and bless man with everything out of His Love, so that man will enjoy living in His presence. It was to make man see and never doubt where his happiness stem from, and how and to whom he is to respond with his gratitude and worship. There’s no price tag attached to this relationship. The relationship in God’s Love was very simple – there is a Giver who lives to give His Love for He is Love; and there’s humans who lives to receive Love for he is the vessel for God’s Love – and whose response to life is to give worship and thanks to the Great Giver. God will not spare anything from man, whom He has made in His likeness. That would be tantamount to denying Himself. Later, His Love would not hold back His only Son but sacrificed Him for man.

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“God id Love” (1 John 4:8) (Wiki Commons)

Love Cannot be “Repaid”

The act of taking care of Eden was not to “repay” God. Love can never be repaid. True Love travels one-way, and never expects to be repaid. Jesus said, “If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? But lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High” (Luk.6:33-35). Jesus was talking about God’s divine Love. If you pay for something, then it becomes a “trade.” By its very nature, Love can never be traded. Think of the sunshine, the air we breathe, the water we get from our rivers and lakes? Think of our earth that hangs in the blackness of space? Can man repay God for His Love He freely gives us?

God’s Love is His unearned favor. Love is priceless. What price tag do you place on His Love for you? For Adam, do you think “working and watching over Eden, and not eating of the forbidden fruit” was enough to repay or earn God’s Love? There is only one response that God’s Love can generate and trigger in us – all we can say to God’s Love is – “Thank you.” There is nothing else to say. God is Love and is not for sale. You can’t buy Love. We can’t say “If I obey God –“work and watch my garden” – He will bless me.” That’s extortion, not Love. The miraculous life comes from His unearned Love, not because of our obedience. For Adam and Eve, working and watching over Eden and being obedient” was an act of Love and gratitude for God’s Love for them. Working and watching over Eden and being obedient” was going to be what their life consist. Therefore, all of life itself, is an act of gratitude. Life is an act of gratitude. Gratitude is an act of Love.

We would find the meaning of life if we remember God did not create us out of a judgmental conviction, but out of the wellspring of His unearnable Love. 

God Provided “Freely” for Israel’s Wellbeing

When we look in the Bible, do we find this miraculous life happening on this side of the post-Eden era? The answer is a resounding “yes.” More remarkably, it happened on a national scale. > This relationship with God, though alienated by Adam, was once more brought to earth with Abraham’s encounter with God. Through Abraham’s faithfulness God called him a friend and their relationship was bound by a covenant which extended to his descendants and eventually the nation of Israel. > Israel found itself a slave people in Egypt. God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and through Moses He brought Israel out of Egypt. > How did He do it? By a series of miracles with His own hands, just as He planted Eden with His own hands! We know the story. Israel experienced the miraculous life and saw one miracle after another until the final miracle of the Passover forced Pharaoh’s hand to free the people. (Exodus 3-12) > They left with riches handed to them by the terrified Egyptians. > They saw the pillar of fire leading them by night, and a pillar of cloud by day. > They saw the Red sea part with their own eyes which allowed them safe passage across it. > They saw Pharaoh’s pursuing army drown as the sea collapsed upon them. > They celebrated and gave thanks for their deliverance. > They saw God wrote the Ten Commandments with His own hands at Sinai. > He miraculously fed them for 40 years in the desert where nothing could grow. Their clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on their feet. (Deut.8;4)

The Promise Land

> Finally, when they were ready to enter the Promise Land, He went before them and defeated Jericho in such a spectacular manner that it left no doubt in their minds God was leading them. > He went before them and drove out the inhabitants of the land, and gave > them cities they did not build > vineyards they did not plant > livestock they did not raise > homes they did not build or furnish > riches they did not acquire > wells they did not dig—with God Himself going before them as their Defense (Deut. 6:10-12; Ps. 46:1; Josh. 23:9-11). Just as God planted Eden for Adam and Eve, He handed the Promise Land to Israel – on a platter. The one singular reason this miraculous life was possible was because God was in Israel, as He was with Adam and Eve in Eden. As long as they lived in such an environment their lives was one continuous miraculous expression after another. In that kind of situation, it was hard not to be thankful.

Israel’s Instruction

What was God’s instruction to Israel? Recall, this is the path Adam took humanity in the post-Eden era of disobedience and mayhem. Mankind has lived through so much pain and death under the influence of the unseen enemy. The flood of Noah had come and gone. Israel’s instruction was to keep the covenant. God told Israel, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,  you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo.19:5-6). Israel answered, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do” (Exo.19:8). Where Adam’s gratitude for God’s Love was to work and watch over Eden,and not eat the forbidden fruit” Israel’s gratitude was to “keep My covenant.” Life was to be lived in a certain way as explained in the Commandments. Living that life was their expression of gratitude for all the miraculous manifestation which saved them from slavery in Egypt and establish them as a nation, which continued to be manifested in their national purpose and life. But instead of “keeping the covenant” as an act of gratitude, they found it a burden. They desired to serve the gods of the nations around them.

Outline, Review

But we know what happened? Let’s look back at this scenario presented to us. Adam failed, and so did Israel. Israel found itself back to where they started as a slave nation carted off by the northern kingdoms. Eden – gone! The Promise Land – gone. The presence of God which brought the miraculous life – gone! Their security and defense with angelic host that stood guard over Israel – gone! Man in the pre-Eden era failed. Man in the post-Eden era failed. You can say both sides of Eden was experimented on, our “solitary” self-centered way of life was put to the test, and found wanting. What happens now? God gave man the only answer. (TO BE CONTINUED)

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on bulamanriver@gmail.com.

Blessing

Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you today and give you strength for authentic Triune Living as a Bula man-river.*

Kiang                                                                                                                                                          (Your Servant in Christ)

* The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bula man-river, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.

All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise

Note: Any information obtained from this website that is used for publication should be acknowledged by citing the website address, date of acquisition and information pertinent to original authorship. For general guidelines regarding web citations see The Guide for Citing Electronic Information .

11 thoughts on “TO GIVE THANKS… PART ONE, BY KIANG P LEE

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