Day 2 – Thanksgiving: Pathways in Worship

In the previous segment we looked at the distinction between generic thanksgiving and deliberate thanksgiving. Hopefully, we’ve found it helpful to be more deliberate about the things we say. Today, let’s look at why thanksgiving to God is so important in the life of every believer. We will unpack why thanksgiving is the foundation of christian worship.
Scripture Reading
Psalm 100:3-4 (ESV)

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 50: 23 (ESV)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Psalm 50:23 Paraphrased (TPT)
The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of my grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right. This is the sacrifice I desire from you. If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.”
Thanksgiving is important because its the foundation of what we call ‘worship’. It can seem synonymous, but there is a depth that might be useful to unpack a little right here. In the Bible, God talks about ‘thanks’ as the doorway into His presence. Without getting too involved it is worth mentioning that when Israel built the tabernacle in the wilderness during their exodus, God was very specific about the approach and pathway to meeting with Him. While we are not under the obligations and practices of the law handed to them, we must see that the new covenant God made in Jesus, through His work on the cross, fulfilled the total requirements of the law and ushered in the complete reality of God’s manifest presence which the Old Testament pointed toward. Many people get caught up trying to copy what the Old Testament practices were, forgetting that these things pale in comparison to the reality that is found in Jesus. It was pointing to the reality of a guaranteed meeting with God face-to-face; the promise for everyone who comes through Jesus. So, with that context, here’s the bullet-point version of what God taught Israel about worship.

Scripture tells us quite plainly on more than one occasion to ‘enter His gates with thanksgiving’. In simple terms… If you are planning to meet God at his home… ‘thanks’ is the front door! The way into God’s presence is thanksgiving. It sets the context for an encounter with God. Anything done well involves preparation and life teaches us that there is no substitute for good preparation. Thanksgiving gets you into a place of God consciousness.  This is ‘good preparation’ for face to face encounters with the One who made everything and rules over everything.
As we ‘count His blessings’ or ‘call to mind’ or ‘forget none of His benefits’, starting with the work of The Cross, we are rehearsing what our God has done. As we do this, we are quickly filled with how amazing our God really is and praise becomes a real thing and  is no longer a dry-mouth-with-fake-words activity. “God is almighty” is not just hearsay, we have actually seen Him do mighty things for us and now we’re better placed to see how He could be mightier than just our experience. Scripture now informs my praise. Soon, a song or tune becomes irrelevant and we discover that praise and worship had little to do with music and everything to do with being wrapped up with God while responding with our whole being; using words, shouts, tears, dance…and maybe even song. I find myself meeting God in worship where it is no longer about me, but Him alone. He gets to show me who He really is. I respond to what He reveals and I am overwhelmed. This, my friends, is how worship works. Do you see how each of the three stages fold into each other? A progression of seeing God in light of where we’re at to seeing Him for who He is alone. I hope you don’t take this and turn it into a formula, but see that God is after something much bigger and grander than we imagined for our encounters with Him.
Never ever ever let a song or a thanksgiving table “moment” get in the way of lavish thanks and praise (don’t be intimidated by musical worship or more tuneful/eloquent people near you). Notice, I emphasized the need for us to use our voice. The book of James talks extensively about the power of the tongue. Oh! that we would be people whose mouths are continually filled with thanks and praise (Psalm 34). I hope that we as worshipers are looking at ‘Thanksgiving’ as something more than just a family meal that ends with <burp>! I long for us in the church to move past the trappings of music and songs and come into the place where all we do is return to God and just say “Thank You”; completely unreserved and unashamed. May we be so wrapped up in God and His goodness that looking like a crazy dancing King David (I will be more undignified than this) would be something we want to emulate.
When God has our attention in the midst of a life situation, we magnify Him more than we do the situations we are in. Now the truth about what I am facing is dealt with in the context of seeing God. My responses to the great successes or great trials of life are handled much differently than they would be without God being “The Way, The Truth, and Life” for me.
My greatest influencer must always be “God with me”. Just hearing that phrase is no good to me. It does not change who He is, but I have no context for relating to Him in the context of what I am facing. However, when I go right up to Him and say, “Lord, in this circumstance, reveal yourself to me”, He responds with His presence and I find myself  magnifying Him with truth, not just Christianese. This sort of worship is not fake or contrived; it is completely truthful and responds with spiritual realities winning the day.
Ephesians 1:17-19
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
Psalm 27:8
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Action Point:
So, let us ask God to awaken us to what He has done. May we move past the Christianese responses to life and begin seeing how awesome our God really is, so we can respond with worship that pleases Him. Can we practice setting aside a little time today to enter God’s presence with thanks, continue to praise Him with a psalm  (there are 150 in the Bible) or a attribute of God seen in the Bible, and finally come to a place where God can speak to our heart with something new about Himself that we’ve never seen before. Take a journey in worship today!

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