But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God.

James 4: 6, 7a

 

James is calling for some very serious and real self-examination on the parts of all of us. For there are times when most followers of Christ can say that it seems as if God is not responding to me or even that with the way that things are going it feels as if God is actually against me. I can say with certainty that God does not work in opposition to His people. However, that does not mean that He agrees with everything that we might want or wish in this life. God’s desires for us are well defined, and He works with us when our aspirations follow those desires.

 

In Christ we are granted the most Godly of qualities by way of His righteousness that is poured out upon us. This righteousness that is from Christ is the characteristic that God looks at when He engages in relationship with each of us. So, it is the righteousness of our desires that brings God’s blessing to them and that gains His help in achieving them. Godly righteousness is not a hard-edged, stubborn adherence to rules and laws. Rather, the righteousness that Christ grants to His followers is infused with grace, and it is acted out in love. It continually seeks to reconcile people to God.

 

Living a life that is continually defined by righteousness is not easy. This path through life is that proverbial narrow way. There will be numerous times when we will stumble and even fall off of it during our journey. From my own experience, it seems that most of those painful descents along the rocky sides of the path are caused by my own prideful departure from submission to Christ. These are those times when I proclaim that I’ve got this one on my own, or the tumble is precipitated by the false step that comes about as I stop trusting Christ to guide me safely through and take over the navigation despite the fact that I can’t see the road. Invariably, when the disorientation from the fall comes over me and I start to seek my bearings, Christ is there to lift me up and to set me on His path again. This is love and grace demonstrated in the middle of absolute righteousness.

 

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Where does thankfulness come from? What is it that I am truly thankful for? Why does it matter at all in a world where take is stronger than give and have is far more desirable than relinquish? The questions seem to outstrip the traditions, and the day of gathering and celebration in America has become, for many, just the starting point for the consumer rush of the Holiday Season. Yet, I want to throw out that there is, indeed, much to be thankful for and there is truly a reason to celebrate.

 

This point on the calendar in late November can and should be the start of a very special season. The celebration and the remembrance, the gathering together and the festivities that mark the Christmas Season are good things. In fact, I think that they are more than just good things; I believe that this coming season of Advent is an important part of the cycle of our faith lives. This is a time when we reflect upon the characteristics of God that were given to humanity by and through Christ. During these weeks our hearts should be turned away from our self-imposed necessities and toward our calling in Christ to serve His Kingdom and to glorify His name. This is a time of the year when giving the gifts of kindness, compassion, and care can mean more to a tired soul than any object or fragile token of affection.

 

It seems to me that our greatest cause for thankfulness should be found in the Advent, which is Christ come. This is God with us and God within us. The Spirit of Christ has been given to us to speak truth, love, peace, mercy, and forgiveness into our broken and bitter souls. In Christ we are granted restoration and our lives are transformed from the inside to the out in a manner that grants each of us who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior into persons of real, eternal significance in our world. In all of this resides the cause for thankfulness. It is through Christ and by the results of His coming that we are made alive, and because of His grace and merciful forgiveness, we are granted a life that matters. So, as our thankfulness is focused upon God and reflects on His great gift to all of Creation, we should be motivated to extend the love of God to the world around us and to rest in the certainty of His for us. This is more than enough cause to be deeply and eternally thankful.

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16