By / Nov 23

Today, Americans celebrate a national holiday set aside to give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year. But there is more to Thanksgiving than you may realize. Here are five facts you should know about the holiday:

1. The Pilgrims who traveled on the Mayflower and landed on Cape Cod were not the first Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving. The “Feast of the First Thanksgiving” was held near El Paso, Texas in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims' festival. And at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River in Virginia, settlers celebrated Thanksgiving on December 4th, 1619 — two years before the Pilgrims' festival. As historian Robert Tracy McKenzie, author of The First Thanksgiving, notes, the early Plymouth settlers celebrated in 1621 could more accurately be called the “First American Protestant Christian Thanksgiving North of Virginia and South of Maine.”

2. The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth was a secular event that was not repeated. (A Calvinist Thanksgiving occurred in 1623 and did not involve sharing food with the Native Americans.) 52 Pilgrims and approximately 50 Native Americans attended that celebration. According to participant Edward Winslow, the feast consisted of corn, barley, fowl (including wild turkeys), and venison.

3. George Washington was the first to issue a presidential Thanksgiving proclamation. On October 3, 1789 in New York City, Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.” The Continental Congress supported similar thanksgiving proclamations through 1784. President Jefferson, however, opposed this type of proclamation, saying, “"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises…Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. …But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer.”

4. Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor and the author of the classic nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, is the person most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. Prior to 1863, the holiday was largely a celebration held in New England and unknown in the Southern states. Hale proposed that it be a national holiday in 1846 and advocated it for 17 years before convincing Abraham Lincoln to support legislation establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863.

5. For 75 years after Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, succeeding presidents honored the tradition and annually issued their own Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving. However, in 1939 the last Thursday of November was going to be November 30. Retailers complained to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that this only left 24 shopping days to Christmas and convinced him to move Thanksgiving up one week earlier. Since it was believed most people do their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving, retailers thought having an extra week of shopping would encourage Americans to spend more.    

By / Dec 23

We recently celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday centered on giving thanks for all that we have. Since then, we’ve moved right into the Christmas season. Our neighbors are decking their halls and home with their Christmas best. The streets are lit with twinkling lights, and the stores are crowded with shoppers. The smell of baked goods is in the air, and the sounds of carols are coming from every speaker.

In the midst of all the Christmas cheer, many of us function as if the season for thanksgiving has passed. We shop without giving one thought toward the one who has given us the ability to work and earn money. We bake without seeking the one who is our daily bread. Others of us just don’t feel like being thankful and cheery. Life can be hard,  and it can seem like there just isn’t anything to be “merry” about. But, especially at Christmas, we are reminded that, as Christians, we have unending reasons to give thanks.

The one who gave thanks

And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. (Luke 17:12-19)

In Jesus’ day, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. It was a hatred that went all the way back to the time when Israel split into two kingdoms and Assyria conquered the northern kingdom. John 4 described this animosity when the woman at the well said to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)” (4:9).

Because of this history, the Jews did not talk to or associate with Samaritans. In the case of the ten lepers, it is not only striking that Jesus healed the Samaritan leper, but also that the leper returned to give Jesus thanks. The Samaritan's gratitude is all the more compelling given the fact that none of the other lepers returned in gratitude. Perhaps he knew more than the other nine that he did not deserve Jesus’ healing. He knew well his standing before the Jews and that Jesus could have just healed the nine and left him out of it.

In humility, the healed leper returned to give Jesus praise and thanksgiving. Jesus responded, “Your faith has made you well.” Not only was he healed and saved on the outside, but his soul found healing and salvation as well.

A reason to give thanks

When a non-believer give thanks or makes a gratitude list, it’s not about the things they are thankful that God has done for them. Rather, it’s more like “these are the things I am happy about in my life” kind of list. In thinking about all the good things they have in their life, they feel a boost of happiness. That's because experts say that having a grateful attitude is good for us. Looking at all the blessings we have in our life makes us realize that things aren't as bad as we think. It changes our perspective, reduces stress and transforms our mood. For many in our society, such gratitude is simply a feel-good exercise to greater self-fulfillment and has nothing to do with God at all.

For believers in Christ, our gratitude looks very different from that of non-believers. Our gratitude is based on something other than feel-good sentiment, and it’s not about self-fulfillment. Our thanksgiving is directed to someone, to the God who made us. And it is in response to who he is and what he has done.

In fact, a believer's gratitude comes from a humble heart that acknowledges we are but dust. God created us and breathed in us the breath of life. He sustains us each day. We are completely dependent upon him and can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). Everything we have is a gift of his grace. As Peter said in Acts, “nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (17:25).

A humble heart knows its position before the God of the universe and bows in reverence, awe, wonder and gratitude. Such a heart knows that it is unworthy and undeserving of God’s grace. In reference to this story of the ten lepers, the Gospel Transformation Bible says, “Our worshipful response—or lack thereof—reflects the depth of our understanding of God’s mercy and goodness. The first and greatest response to the gospel of grace is thankful worship” (p.1387). When we know the holiness of God, the wisdom of God, the power of God, and the rich grace of God, we realize how amazing it is that we are able to stand in his presence and receive his gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

It is in this fertile soil of humility where thanksgiving and gratitude grows and thrives. Any soil that denies God’s holiness, wisdom power, and sovereignty will speak words of thanksgiving, but without deep roots, it will not thrive or last. Like the nine other lepers, it will gladly take the good gifts God bestows but won't truly honor and thank him for who he is and what he has done.

In the soil of humility, thanksgiving grows even in the darkest of nights and in the fiercest climates where suffering and trials bear down hard. This is why Paul could say that we are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). This is where much of the world’s efforts at thanksgiving and gratitude break down. It’s easy to be grateful when our blessings are many. But to continue to give thanks in the midst of trial reveals the type of soil in which thanksgiving resides. The soil of humility will produce thanksgiving in all seasons—in sunshine and rain, in plenty or in want.

The soil itself is something for which we must give thanks for it is not a soil we can produce on our own. It too is a gift of God's generous grace. From beginning to end, it’s all a gift of God’s grace.

That is why no matter our circumstances, there is reason for joy and thanksgiving this Christmas. We can be grateful because we know that, like the Samaritan leper, we are not worthy of God’s grace. And we can sing carols with a grateful heart because God has given us the greatest gift of his grace: his only Son.

By / Nov 25

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony weren't the first Europeans to settle in North America, nor were they the first permanent English colonists. But because of our annual celebration of Thanksgiving, and our hazy images of their 1621 meal with Native Americans, the Pilgrims have become the emblematic colonists in America's national memory. Although modern Thanksgiving has become largely non-religious—focused more on food, family, and football than explicitly thanking God—the Pilgrims' experience reveals a compelling religious aspect of our country's roots.

Although people often refer to the Pilgrims as "Puritans," they technically were English Separatists, Christians who had decided that the state-sponsored Anglican Church was fatally corrupt, and that they should found their own churches. (The Puritans, who would establish Massachusetts in 1630, believed in reforming the Anglican Church from within.) Establishing independent churches, however, was illegal. Under heavy persecution, some Separatists decided to move to Leiden in the Netherlands around the same time that the Virginia Company founded Jamestown in 1607.

The Netherlands offered the Separatists religious liberty, but the Pilgrims also became concerned about the negative influences of living in such a culturally diverse society. So in 1620, 102 settlers sailed to America on board the Mayflower. Their final Old World port was Plymouth, England, which supplied the name for their new settlement in what became southeastern Massachusetts.

All adult men on board the ship signed the "Mayflower Compact," which many consider the first written constitution in American history. It is a very brief document, but it powerfully articulated the colonists' commitment to God and government by common consent. It reads, in part:

"Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation."

Documents such as the Mayflower Compact leave little doubt that the New England colonies were founded primarily for religious purposes.

The Compact noted Plymouth's legal connection to Virginia (they shared the same charter), but their southern neighbors were less motivated by religion than were the New England colonists. Some today may exaggerate the secular nature of Virginia, however; among the first laws of that colony was a demand that the people honor God, to whom they owed their "highest and supreme duty, our greatest, and all our allegiance to him, from whom all power and authoritie is derived." The recent news that the foundations of the oldest Protestant church in America have been discovered at the site of the Jamestown fort also reminds us of the southern colonists' faith.

Although our records for the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth are sparse, we do know that in 1621 the Pilgrims held a three-day celebration with allied Indians, in observation of a good harvest and in gratitude for God's help in passing through the trials of the first year of settlement (half of the settlers had died in that scourging winter). And yes, they had a "great store of wild turkeys" to eat for the festival.

The American colonies, particularly in New England, continued the tradition of holding thanksgiving days into the Revolutionary era, when the new American nation also picked up the practice. The Continental Congress and American presidents, beginning with George Washington, regularly proclaimed days of thanksgiving. In 1789, the first year of his presidency, Washington declared that the last Thursday of November would be a "day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God."

Thanksgiving became an annual holiday in America during the Civil War, and Congress made the fourth Thursday of November an official national holiday in December 1941, shortly after America's entry into World War II.

Thanksgiving historically was about "thanks-giving" directed to God. This is an instructive lesson, not only for better understanding our history, but also for curbing the temptation to make Thanksgiving into a holiday of over-consumption. The Pilgrims remind us that Thanksgiving is not all about turkey and touchdowns.

By / Jul 3

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Declaration of Independence, 1776

Millions of men and women have fought to gain and preserve the unalienable rights found in our Declaration of Independence. To many, they still embody the spirit and principles upon which our country was founded and for which we should strive.  

As we approach Independence Day 2015, the irony is that millions have and continue to sacrifice these freedoms in service to our nation in order to make sure they are secure. The real price of freedom for men and women in the Armed Services, their families and loved ones is their sacrifice of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which may be for a time or a lifetime. Men and women in uniform have dedicated and risked their lives to serve our country and preserve the freedoms they may never fully enjoy.

The Oaths these soldiers take place them in voluntary submission to the authority of the President of the United States and the officers and non-commissioned officers appointed over them. Their lives are not their own. They have limited their liberty in order to preserve a greater “liberty for all,” which is a picture of what Jesus Christ has done for us in the gospel.

The marriage vows their spouses take bind their lives inexorably to this submission in mind, body, soul and strength. Their lives too, are subject to the will of the nation’s leadership, which affects where they live, how well they live and at what cost.  

Service to one’s country is not without advantages or purpose. Nevertheless, the pursuit of happiness is greatly impacted by orders, separations and injuries—seen and unseen—and even death. Service men and women make these commitments freely, their spouses agree, and their children and families are then impacted with or without their consent.

So, how then can the Church pray for the ones we pause to celebrate and who often forfeit their lives by defending the freedoms we enjoy?

  • Pray for safety and security: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  
  • Pray for the Lord’s hedge of protection around their marriages and families.
  • Pray for wise leadership and honorable decision-making from civilian and military leaders at all levels. Pray they will not waste their most precious resources, our sons and daughters.  
  • Pray for the salvation of those who have yet to know Jesus as Savior and Lord for all eternity.   
  • Pray for Christians to be salt and light in their families, units and the far reaches of the globe where they are often called. Pray their courage will not falter in word or deed when confronted with evil in its many forms.  
  • Pray for healing from the wounds of war. Many are easily visible, especially as you visit a military medical facility, such as the Navy Medical Center, The Center for the Intrepid, and Walter Reed Military Medical Center. Many wounds, such as Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, are not visible but can be just as lethal. Pray for these men and women to be filled with hope, for without hope we all lose the will to live.

In addition praying, how can the Church serve our service members? In order to serve them, we must identify them. Almost every county or parish in the United States and its territories have someone who served in the military. While less than two percent of the population is serving currently, more than 43 million veterans are alive in this country.

Do you know the veterans in your church? In your community? Do you know their needs? Is there a way the church can meet those needs?

I believe there are four things that the church could offer that would be beneficial to service members, veterans and their families.

  1. Acknowledge them. I believe they want and deserve to be respected. We ought to recognize their service and acknowledge their sacrifices and not just on national holidays.  
  2. Use their gifts. Most of these Christians have valuable leadership skills the church needs, whether short term (active duty folks may only be with you briefly) or long term (veterans settled in your church or in your town). These brothers and sisters, who have been tested on the battlefield and in a life of service, have much to offer. Look at them with an eye to the gifts and talents they bring to your church for “such a time as this.” Paul didn’t stay anywhere for more than a few years, yet look at what he accomplished. If the service member, veteran or family member is not ready to lead, then disciple them intentionally. And if they do not yet know Christ, share the gospel and live it out.
  3. Become aware of their needs (all types) and find ways of meeting them. Some possible needs the church could meet would be help acquiring employment, counseling and support (financial, logistical, emotional or spiritual).
  4. Love them. Get to know them, and without judgment, get to know their stories. Be a friend. Open your homes. Love them “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I am not talking about the mushy Hollywood version of love or the self-serving kind either. I mean the kind of love that endures, meets these heroes where they are, and unselfishly gives to meet their needs whatever they may be.  
By / Nov 28

We’re supposed to be thankful on Thanksgiving. But it occurs to me that we’re not very good at this. By we, I don’t mean the editorial “we” by which I’m pointing the finger at the rest of Americans for being ungrateful while I ignore my own ingratitude. By we I don’t mean the “Church” by which I think the problem is the rest of those ungrateful brothers and sisters in the Lord while I silently pretend I’m not full of unhealthy entitlement.

No, I’m talking about me and my own ingratitude. And of all people, shouldn’t it be me that’s the most thankful? Whose first language is one of thanksgiving? After all, it’s me who was sovereignly chosen to salvation, who was brought from death to life by the mercy of God at the cross. It’s me who is the recipient of God’s resurrection power, giving me new life, endowing me with the Holy Spirit, gifting me to serve God, and securing a beautiful eternal city where I’ll dwell with God forever.

It occurs to me that, of all who should be grateful, Christians are at the front of the line. And yet it is us–it is me–who are the least grateful. We belly ache about the state of our country, posting our beefs on Facebook and Twitter, muttering them at the coffee shop and the water cooler. We complain about our jobs, our marriages, our children, our in-laws. We rail against the faults of the Church worldwide, the church local, and that cranky old neighbor next door. When we’ve exhausted these complaints, we moan about the weather.

But our lips should resound with praise. Of all people, we who have been touched by the gospel, should know the depths from which we were rescued. We, of all people should recognize the simple gifts of beauty from a gracious God. Sunlight, oxygen, green grass, rows of harvested corn, breath, blood, life, and community. We, of all people, should enjoy the fruits of American prosperity: political stability, food, order, money, iPhones, clean shirts, education, books, coffee, and a warm coat.

God’s people should speak first the language of gratitude. We should treasure, rather than bemoan, our closest relationships. We should overlook rather than highlight the flaws of those we love. We should embrace, rather than run away from, hard work and accomplishment and purpose.

I wonder the effect on our culture if Christians first simply expressed the unadulterated joy of a man in prison: The Apostle Paul. Where others would complain, he said, “Rejoice.” Where others would give up hope, he said, “I’m content.” Where others would rail at God, he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Imagine the impact if this attitude prevailed among God’s people. Imagine the impact if it simply prevailed in me.

The careless soul receives the Father’s gifts as if it were a way things had of dropping into his hand yet is he ever complaining, as if someone were accountable for the checks which meet him at every turn. For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks—who is there to thank? At the disappointments that befall him he grumbles—there must be someone to blame! – George MacDonald

By / Nov 27

Thanksgiving Day, commonly marked by celebrations with family, friends, feasts, and football, is one of those holidays rooted in tradition and firmly embedded in the American experience. Turkey may well be the staple fare, but gratitude is the dressing that makes the meal. It’s a table inviting to all.

But for the follower of Jesus, every day, not just the fourth Thursday in November, ought to be a day of thanksgiving and remembrance. We are called to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18), whether in feast or famine. We should, like the psalmist, “remember the deeds of the LORD” and his “wonders of old,” “ponder[ing] all [his] work, and meditat[ing] on [his] mighty deeds” (Ps. 77:11-12).

Perhaps no one has demonstrated a heart of gratitude better than the Apostle Paul. To the church in Philippi he wrote: “I thank my God in all remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5). The church persecutor-turned-apostle opened his letters to the believers in Ephesus and Colossae and to his fellow laborer Philemon with similar thanks-filled words and equal joyful candor.

And he did so, remarkably, from prison.

Friends across the ocean

Two millennia later, here in the “land of the free,” my mind turns back this Thanksgiving, in remembrance and thanksgiving to God, to some special people I’ve encountered along my journey as well. Family and friendships born in the American context immediately flood my thoughts, of course. But I’m thinking in particular about some newfound friends—brothers and sisters—whom I met across an ocean, over in the Middle East, not long ago.

The calendar reads August. I, along with a small team from my church, have just arrived in the hot Middle Eastern sun, safely distanced from mortar fire and the clear and present dangers of ISIS, to minister to a band of believers heavily persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus. Our team of seven—six adults and a one-year-old child—would spend a week teaching, worshiping with, and seeking to encourage a gathering of two dozen believers. This would mark my third trip of its kind in four years.

These converts from Islam, a few of whom I had met on previous trips, are well acquainted with suffering, I soon realize. Many of them cannot get preferred jobs on account of their faith. None are free to speak of Christ openly or to worship with other believers congregationally. One has not experienced fellowship with other believers in more than a decade. Another, a young woman in her 20s, has endured beatings and broken bones from a Muslim brother. Several have been detained and imprisoned for their faith. Others are blacklisted from and barred return to their native land. Theirs is a homeland downright hostile, not merely inhospitable, to anyone bearing the name Christian.

The Apostle Paul’s declaration that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), I ponder, must mean something altogether different to them than to what I’ve known under a free church and a First Amendment. Christ’s admonition to the church in Smyrna to “be faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10) surely carries pronounced meaning in their daily lives. Their testimonies of affliction and abuse, after all, sound more like harrowing scenes from first-century churches in Asia Minor than from the Christianity to which the church in America is accustomed.

A profound joy in suffering

Yet, noticeably, none of these beleaguered saints initiates talk of his or her own plight. Only point-blank questioning yields distressing insights. Instead, I find, all possess a “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), and “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Theirs is the kind of joy the world promises, in fame and fortune, yet fails to deliver. They, like Moses, have “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,” for they are “looking to the reward” found in a crucified and coming King (Heb. 11:26). They gaze, beamingly, heavenward toward an inheritance ultimately theirs.

Much like what I shared following my first Middle East trip among Muslim-background believers, I witnessed worship without performance, a joy that could not be measured, and a thirst for the Word that could not be quenched. They gathered for Bible study sessions early and stayed late. I was the real student.

Then, building to crescendo, our week together concluded with a touchstone event: a wedding, two of the persecuted believers uniting their lives as one. The bride and groom, in fact, insisted that our team of Americans—people whom they had never met—organize the trans-Atlantic trip to align with the wedding day. And the seven of us, once strangers from the States, were welcomed as the guests of honor. It was a wedding and a feast, days long in preparation, I shall never forget.

Sitting here back across the Atlantic, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think that such an ending to our journey, a wedding, was only fitting, a picture of an “already, but not yet” kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, the church, for whom he laid down his life.

The love letter of Almighty God to sinful man, after all, closes with the wedding of all weddings, “the marriage of the Lamb” featuring the once slain but now risen and reigning Lamb, King Jesus, and his bride, the church, rescued and redeemed (Rev. 19:7). The invitations have been printed, and a world full of strangers—as I once was—with nothing to offer but garments stained by sin, have been invited to share in that altar and taste of that feast. That’s good news. Indeed, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

Yes, I have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. So does everyone else, for that matter, who has received “such a great salvation” in faith and repentance (Heb. 2:3).

Today and every day, let’s thank God for this indescribable gift, blood-bought by his Son, the Lord Jesus. Let’s thank him upon every remembrance of our brothers and sisters suffering persecution in the Middle East and around the globe. Let’s “remember their chains” (Col. 4:18). And, above all, let’s not neglect to extend an invitation to all who are thirsty to “come” and to “take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17).

There’s plenty of room at the table. Thanks be to God.

By / Nov 26

“If I hear the word ‘Daddy’ again, I’m going to scream!”

I've heard myself saying those words. And, in my defense, it was loud around here. I was trying to work on something, and all I could hear were feet pounding down the stairs with my boys competing with one another to tell me one thing after another. I just wanted five minutes of silence.

My vocal chords were still vibrating when an image hit my brain. It was the picture of me, on my face, praying for children. The house was certainly quiet then. And in those years of infertility and miscarriage and seemingly unanswered prayers, I would have given anything to hear steps on that staircase. I feared I would never hear the word “Daddy,” ever, directed to me. Come to think of it, I even wrote a book about the Christian cry of “Abba, Father.”

And now I was annoyed. Why? It wasn’t that I’d changed my mind about the blessing of children. It was that my family had become “normal” to me. In the absence of children, the blessing was forefront on my mind. But in their presence, they’d become expected, part of what I expected from my day-to-day existence. And that’s what’s so dangerous.

Gratitude is spiritual warfare. I’m convinced my turn of imagination that day was conviction of sin, a personal uprooting of my own idolatry by the Spirit of Christ. What I need to fear most is what seems normal to me.

We’re all, in some way or other, in the same place the people of Israel were in in Joshua 23 and 24. Joshua, their warrior-leader, stands before them and recounts all the blessings God has given, reminding them that “not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord God promised concerning you” (Josh. 23:14a). Joshua said, “All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (Josh. 23:14b).

And yet, as Joshua foretold (and Moses before him), the people would soon be in the land of olive trees and wine presses. These things, what they’d cried for in the wilderness, would soon seem “normal” to them. And, soon enough, they’d crave more and more, so much so that they’d chase after Canaanite idols to get what they wanted.

This is what some philosophers call “hedonic adaptation.” We tend to adjust to the level of happiness or prosperity we have. We grow to expect it, to not even notice it. And then we want more. That’s why it’s so hard for people to come down in standard of living. It’s easy to move from a studio apartment to a two-story house, but it’s awful to do the reverse. Few people have a problem going from a 1985 Ford Fairmont to a brand new BMW, but it’s incomprehensible to go the other direction.

This is the way of all flesh, as it is pulled toward the abyss by the satanic powers. It is always so. The garden of Eden becomes mere vegetation for blinded humans in the beginning. The mountains and caves become mere covering for blinded humans in the end.

The Spirit of Christ draws us toward gratitude because the Spirit convicts us of our creatureliness. We’re dependent on breath, on bread, on love, and these things come, personally, as gifts from a Father (Jas. 1:17).

Is there anything in your life that you’ve grown accustomed to? Is there something you prayed for, fervently, in pleading in its absence that you haven’t prayed for, fervently, in thanksgiving in its presence? There’s several such things in my life, and, I fear, many more that I don’t even think about.

This article originally published here.