Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks Giving Fool

Every year, the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, my church does a "Night of Thanks" service, and it is always one of my very favorite services. There is no prepared sermon, just music, prayers and an opportunity for the congregation to stand up and give God thanks...microphones are set up and anyone who wants to can just get up and publicly praise the One worth praising. Some people just stand up and say something very quick and simple, like "I just praise God for my salvation." Others may tell of a specific need or crisis that God has seen them through this year...almost nobody takes more than about a minute, but I can't tell you just how uplifting it is to hear how faithful God has been in the lives of His people.

But, I am also always struck by how many people don't get up and say something. Why not? I mean, if we won't even stand up and say one word of praise in front of our fellow believers, it makes me wonder how likely we are to praise Him anywhere else.

Is it because they have nothing to be thankful for? I don't think so...now, before I go any further, let me say that I know there are probably some valid reasons that some people don't get up and speak--Maybe they have laryngitis!
BUT...I daresay that the majority of them don't get up because they are more concerned with what everyone will "think" than with just giving God praise. Oh, we fancy our excuses up a bit, so they don't sound so irreverent..."I'm just a quiet person," "I'd just stumble over my words and sound like an idiot," "somebody already said what I was thinking," the list goes on and on. Maybe they're thinking, "well, if everyone got up and said something, we'd be here all night!" Well, let me just tell you...That would be Awesome!! Wow, spending hours just letting every single person stand up and praise God...now THAT'S worth missing football for!! My fondest desire would be that one day we would have this service and every single person would say at least one thing they praise God for...if they can't stand up and walk, we'll bring the mike to them!

All those excuses mount up to just one thing...our eyes are on ourselves instead of on God. We are more concerned with how we appear to others, than with how we appear to God. We are so afraid of saying something "foolish," that we do something even more foolish; we sit quietly when God desires our praise.

When David brought the ark of the covenant down from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David, we are told that he went before it, rejoicing. He was so focused on God and unconcerned with what anyone else thought, that he took off his royal robes and wearing just a "linen ephod," he DANCED before the ark of the covenant. Music was playing, people were shouting out their praises, and David was "dancing & leaping" before his Lord (David might not have lasted long at my Southern Baptist church!)

Now, look at this closely:
"As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart." 2 Sam 6: 16

I notice two issues here:
1) She is disgusted by David's PDA(public display of affection) for the Lord; she thinks it is beneath his kingly position to do something so foolish-looking.
2) Even more important to me--she is INSIDE, looking OUT through the window. The ARK of the Covenant of their Holy God is being brought into the city, and she is not even moved enough to at least go outside and watch as it comes down the street!

A few years ago, when the Olympics were in Atlanta, the flame passed within sight of our house. We knew it was coming, so we all sat out on in our yard, waiting and watching. My kids were about 4 & 6 at the time, and they were quite excited. Well, the big moment came...we saw the truck, and the motorcycle escort...but no flame. Where was the flame?!?! Finally, my youngest son said, "There it is!" and start jumping up and down, he was so excited. Sure enough, there was someone running behind the truck...but there was no Flame...I learned later that, for some reason, they had had to pull the flame into the truck for a few minutes. To this day, my son believes he saw the Olympic flame pass right by his house.
Now, if we can get that excited about a stick on fire, just imagine how exciting this event had to be!! The very Ark that held Moses' staff, the manna the Israelites had eaten in the desert...this was bigger than the Tennessee-Florida game! And Micah could not even muster enough enthusiasm to go outside and watch!
And she couldn't believe her husband was acting like such a Fool! You know, it seems to me like it's the people who aren't busy worshiping the Lord themselves who have the time to focus on criticizing how everyone else is acting during worship...

When she confronted him later, David had this reply:
"It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." 2 Sam 6:21-22

In essence, David said, "I don't really care what you thought of it, because I didn't do it for you. I did it to celebrate before the Lord. And I'll act like an even bigger Fool than that to bring God honor! I'm not concerned with building ME up, but with glorifying God!"

WHY do we care what anyone else thinks about how we choose to praise our God?! Why isn't glorifying Him more important to us than "keeping up appearances?"

We sit in our pews and we say we are Thankful. But we are really sitting at the window, watching the Holiness of our God go past, and thinking only about how others around us look. We give a funny look at the guy next to us with his hands in the air, or the woman behind us who is making up for her poor singing with really cranking up the volume (er, if you're hearing that, it's probably me...), and we sit quietly, and "dignified." And we keep our praise all neatly bottled up inside, because we don't want to "embarrass" ourselves.
In Luke 19, as Jesus headed into Jerusalem, people gathered along the road and began shouting, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Luke 19:38
The Pharisees were incensed and told Jesus to shut them up--Jesus replied that if they kept quiet, then the stones would cry out! (was that the beginning of "Rock Music?")--you know, I can't think of anything much more embarrassing than God having to let the ROCKS cry out his praises because His people are too concerned with "appearances" to do it!

So, this Thanksgiving, be a Thanks-Giving Fool for God! Quit sitting at the window and watching--go out and give God the glory for what He has done for you! Sing to the Lord, even if you "can't" sing; talk about his wonderful deeds; read some of the Psalms before your meal; instead of grumbling about the lines and the crowds and the service, look for things you can Publicly give thanks for!

There are about a gazillion verses I could end with, all on praises and singing and glorifying God, but I especially love Psalm 100, sub-titled, in my Bible, "A Psalm. For Giving Thanks.":
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Are you truly thankful to your Lord? Are you willing to show it, even if it may make you seem "foolish" to some?
Don't make the rocks do it for you!

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