Greetings Friends the world over! This is the time for Thanksgiving in America. Thanksgiving Day is November 27, 2014.
Thanksgiving is the essence of the human spirit which stands inviolate and knows no borders. It 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 the Creator’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), “Vinaka” (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.
“Rest and Thankful” Bench (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 coming together to celebrate their harvest in the autumn of 1621. That’s all fine, and I find the story inspiring each time I learn 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 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 they lived before being alienated 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. Though not apart from His supreme sovereignty.
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) place our children at 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). Mankind has drifted so far away from God that he has no inkling of the kind of life He desires to give man.
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 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, emphasis added). Adam and Eve were to take good care of Eden, their home. And right here – here’s where the origin of gratitude and where thanksgiving began. It began with the Creator giving man a purpose and calling. This is the very first directive God gave man – what do you think was Adam’s response when he looked around him, and: 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. Then, they were to export this Edenic model in their dominion over the whole earth. 4> He saw God living and walking with them, and gave them gifts to live a purposeful life. 5> They saw how this relationship created the incredible ongoing miraculous life of living their destiny. There was nothing they saw in all this they could attribute to themselves and pat themselves on the back – none whatsoever.
“Rest and be Thankful” Shelter (Wiki Commons)
Here’s where the very first act of man to his God comes through: Adam’s responsibility of “keeping and caring for Eden, and not eating from the tree of good and evil” 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 humans to God – to respond to what they saw around them, 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 and who lives for Love.
Love is “Free”
This was a relationship based upon Love that can only be exchanged “freely.” Love is unconditional. It also tells us the basic determination God had in mind when He created humans 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’re humans who live to receive Love for he is the vessel for God’s Love – and whose response is to live life purposefully and worship and give thanks to the Great Giver. To give thanks is an act of Love. 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.
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. That is man’s purpose: to be a vessel for the divine Love through his God-ordained calling. 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 imagine a way in which to repay God?
God’s Love is His unearned favor to man. 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 fruit of good and evil” 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, and be obedient” – He will bless me.” That’s extortion, not Love. The miraculous life in His divine purpose comes from His unearned Love, not because of our obedience. We don’t “obey” God, we Love God. For Adam and Eve, their calling in “working and watching over Eden and not eating the forbidden fruit” was an act of Love and gratitude, not legalistic “obedience,” for God’s Love for them. “Working and watching over Eden and being obedient” was going to be their life’s calling and purpose. Therefore, all of life with its gift, is an act of gratitude. Life is an act of gratitude. Gratitude is an act of Love.
We would find the true meaning of life if we remember God our Father did not create us out of a judgmental conviction so we may live in fear of Him, but out of the wellspring of His unearnable Love so we can Love Him in return. “Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1-2). Humans are miracles waiting to happen when they believe God is the Mover and Shaker in their lives. If we don’t have thankfulness in our hearts, then we’re not living His divine purpose in the miraculous life springing out of His Love, which in turn generates joy and thanksgiving in our hearts.
God Provided “Freely” for Israel’s Well-Being
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)
Moses Viewing the Promised Land, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible (Wiki Commons)
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 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 Israel 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, if not impossible, to be thankless. The people had to see God as the Mover and Shaker in their lives to generate awe and gratitude.
What was God’s instruction to Israel? Recall, this is the path of disobedience and mayhem Adam took humanity into the post-Eden era. 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 being obedient in not eating the forbidden fruit,” Israel’s gratitude was to “keep My covenant.” That was Israel’s purpose and calling in life. Life was to be lived in a certain way as explained in the Commandments. All the physical and material ancillary benefits they enjoyed from the Promise Land sprung from their calling and destiny as explained in the covenant. The Promise Land was given to fulfill Israel’s purpose. Listen to what Moses told Israel before they entered the Promise Land, “But you shall remember the Lord your God: for it is He that gives you power to get wealth,” and for what purpose? “…that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut.8:18).
“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 life and purpose. But instead of “keeping the covenant” as an act of gratitude, it became a burden for them. They forgot their roots and how they came to be a people and nation descendant from the Abrahamic lineage and promise. They became a thankless nation. They desired to serve the gods of other nations around them. The ongoing miraculous manifestation was withdrawn due to unbelief in their purpose, and their lack of gratitude and worship of the God who has always been their salvation. God was no longer the Mover and Shaker in Israel.
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 and divine purpose – gone! Their security and defense with angelic host that stood guard over Israel – gone! The thankful heart – gone! Man in the pre-Eden era had failed. Man in the post-Eden era had 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.
Jesus the Second Adam
God sent the Second Adam in Jesus Christ, His Son. After seeing a thankless nation forsook His purpose and flout His covenant, He had the prophet Jeremiah foretell the establishment of a New Covenant in the Second Adam to do what the first Adam and Israel could not do. God said, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer.31:33-34; Heb.8:10,12). Jesus lived a miraculous life healing all who came to Him with whatever disease and sickness. Not only physical but spiritual disease – He brought a spiritual message of the New Covenant from the Father. (Acts 10:38)
“Tree of Life”
Recall, it is sin which separates humans from God’s Presence and His miraculous manifestation in life. Jesus rectifies the mistake of the first Adam, redeeming man from the sin condition as Savior and Mediator, and takes man back to the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is the metaphor for the Holy Spirit who brings to man the “Triune Life” of the “Bula man-river.”* The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which we were made to partake through the first Adam, is a metaphor for a life of the self (the “solitary life”**) under the influence of the devil. Jesus said, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). It is the Spirit who bring the miraculous life, and reveals our gift and purpose through which we live a thankful life.
Pentecost – Spirit of the Miraculous Life in Man
Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came, became the birth date of the Church. The main characteristic of its birth was the power of miraculous manifestation God gave it. Prior to that, the disciples and the faithful were cowering in fear for their lives. We know the story in Acts 2. The Spirit gave them faith, purpose, conviction, and boldness they never had. They spoke in languages of the different populace that were there for the feast of Pentecost. Three thousand gave their lives to Christ that day. They healed the sick and maimed. With the Spirit’s move the people took the Gospel message back to their countries and homes. What a story to tell.
Man is given the Holy Spirit which brings this rebirth from the fallen condition he had in the first Adam, to the new life he now has in Christ, the Second Adam. Jesus said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God (the “Triune Life”) unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6). This rebirth where, through repentance, we dispose of everything to do with the path of the “solitary life”** we inherited from Adam. The Second Adam comes with the Spirit who brings us the “Triune Life,” and the greater promise of eternal life. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:22, “He (God) set His seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” It is the Spirit who brings the continuous miraculous manifestation into the life of the believer. Not only in terms of the physical, but more so the spiritual – we have an eternal High Priest in Christ and the Spirit who brings Jesus’ mediatory work in heaven into our lives. Our “Eden,” our “Promise Land,” is a heavenly one in Christ, which the Holy Spirit brings to us personally, each and every day.
The Believer’s Calling – Eternal Absolution
What is our purpose under the New Covenant? Very simply, it is to receive the Savior God has provided for man’s redemption. (John 3:16; John 16:8-11, note especially, V.9; Heb.8:10-12) He is Jesus Christ. It is the only way that God could “forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more.” (V.12) Then in response to our faith in Jesus, our Father gives us the gift of the Spirit to “put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” (V.10 a) Only then, through this Triune activity of God, He can now say, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (V.10 b) Man can now live the reborn Triune Life of the “Bula man-river.”* The energy of the “Triune Life” is God’s Love for it is lived in God’s very Triune Being.
Rest and Be Thankful Stop (Wiki Commons)
As humans, we will never stop trespassing, and God will never stop forgiving us in His Son. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray daily for forgiveness. This brings joy and gratitude in us because, as Paul tells us, we are declared “righteous” so we can remain in His Presence, and not be ejected from His Presence like Adam and Israel were. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21). That is the continuous miraculous manifestation we have in Christ – which we will have all the days of our lives, and all the days of our lives for which to be thankful. Each and every day we are declared righteous to live the miraculous life which brings our purpose and all blessings physical and spiritual alike and to offer thanksgiving.
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Our work is to make this good news of Jesus Christ known to all peoples and nations through the gifts and talents God has graciously blessed each of us. The gift represents your “Eden,” your “Promise Land,” whatever that may be in your life. You are to take care of it and God utilizes it to make His Son known to the people you come into contact. It doesn’t mean you have to be a preacher, but it is our example which counts. Our gifts don’t have to be of an ecclesiastical nature. The majority of us have secular talents. Yet, God calls believers part of His priesthood. (1 Pet.2:9) Your example speaks louder than your words. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt.28:18-20). Paul tell us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph.2:10) “Good works” means our gift, calling, and destiny in the body of Christ.
What the New Covenant Does
We should understand the effect of how the New Covenant is presented and the manner it is brought to work in human life in true Triune fashion: no human can adequately thank and Love God in the way God expects because God exists outside of our human reality in His most holy state of Being. God exists in all the mystery of His holiness we will never ever know or comprehend, while man, still exists in his fallen state of alienation from Him. Humans, in their fallen state of existence, will never be able to adequately thank God who lives in absolute holiness. The truth is, only another God who is equally holy as the Father, can thank and Love another God adequately, perfectly, and absolutely. That God is Jesus Christ, the Immanuel – fully God and fully man. (Isa.7;14; Matt.1:23) Jesus existed in the Triune Godhead as the Logos from eternity with the Father and the Spirit in their divine holy existence. But here is the most beautiful picture of humanity God our Father presents to us through the Gospel message Christ brought, and wants us to understand – we are there in their midst, living in the center of their holy Triune existence – the Immanuel who took our humanity in Himself to the heavenly abode of the most holy God – represents and stands for us until the time of our change in the resurrection.
Spirit Unifies Man In The Triune Life
The Spirit is given to man as a gift flowing perpetually through human life. As He dwells in man, He is at the same time indivisibly and inseparably connected to the Triune God in heaven, for He is God. So, as long as He lives in us, He is the union of man to the Triune God, and the union of the Triune God to man. He brings the Triune Life in Jesus to us, and as Mediator, Jesus takes all our inadequate and imperfect human responses to the Father, absolves them in Himself, so we can be declared righteous before Him. (2Cor. 5;21)
Holy as His Father
It is through the Spirit, who takes our inadequate human responses, our hollow and many times meaningless “thank-you’s,” to Jesus who mollifies and perfects our shortcomings in Himself, and offers our “thanksgiving offering” suitably and perfectly to the Father. That’s the purpose of a Mediator, our High Priest, inside the Triune Life of God. Jesus takes the “thanksgiving offering” of our human existence and offer them on the altar of the perfect sacrifice of Himself to the holy God and our Father. (Rom.12:1) Only Jesus could do that for He is God as His Father. He is holy like His Father. There is no other way!
The High Priest
We recall what God taught the Israelite. No one was permitted into the holiest place of the temple where God was present with the exception of the High Priest. If an Israelite brought a peace offering, or a thanksgiving offering, he cannot offer it himself in the holy place. He remained in a designated court within the temple grounds but the priesthood was appointed by God to perform the role of intermediary between God and man. The high priest alone is permitted to go into the Holy of Holies into God’s presence. That is what’s happening in heaven today with Jesus who is our High Priest. The priesthood represent the work of the Spirit in God’s people today, and the high priest represent Jesus, the true High Priest in heaven.
Israel had a human high priest, who mediated for Israel, but this time God Himself in Christ, is our High Priest mediating for all mankind. The human high priest went into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, Jesus has gone back to heaven to be with the Father as He was eternally with the Triune God. We recall, the moment Jesus died on His cross, a violent earthquake shook the land and the veil which cloaked and hid the holiest place in the temple tore from top to bottom. (Matt.27:50-51) The event signified the holy God Himself had come to open the way for all mankind to continuously enter and live in His holy Presence through Christ out High Priest.
Jesus, by addressing His Father, “Holy Father,” (John 17:11), portrays for us a God whose mystery is beyond our comprehension of Him in His holiness, but, at the same time He is also closer to us than we can imagine – by being our “Father.” Jesus is our elder Brother. The Holy Spirit is our Friend and Confidante, our Miracle Worker. His holiness does not mean He is distant and untouchable. In fact, it means the exact opposite. He sent His Son so we can enter and live in His holy Presence. Yet He will be the God as He will always be God – holy, exalted, and sovereign above all creation in the physical and spiritual realms. The holy angels could echo only one refrain, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” (Rev.4:8)
“No Matter What Happens…”
So we read Paul tells believers, “Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, ALWAYS BE THANKFUL… No matter what happens, ALWAYS BE THANKFul…for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, emphasis added). Life is now lived with a rejoicing and be thankful heart. Paul affirms this condition we have in Jesus, saying, “We are complete in Christ, for He is the head over every power and authority” (Col.2:10). Yes, indeed!
We have come one full circle, from the first Adam to the Second Adam, and find ourselves where God has always wanted us to be in the first place: “to enjoy living in His presence” – that’s all the Father wants of His children. That, in its simplest form, is the heart and core of the Gospel message. We are to be thankful that He is our Loving Father, the Mover and Shaker in our lives.
How do we surmise the life of the believer? – All of the believer’s life which subsists in the Triune Being of God, is now an expression of holy gratitude. Every cell in his body, every pint of blood in his veins, every movement in his muscle, every breadth he takes, every heartbeat in his chest, every expression of purpose and gift, all marches with a drumroll which voices one chorus: “Thank You, Lord! Thank You Lord.”
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
** “Solitary Life” is the life lived by and in the self under influence of the unseen devil. It is a life live in antithesis from the “Triune Life” of the “Bula man-river.”
* 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