Eucharisteo — a poetic word pregnant with meaning. It represents the gospel, the broken body of Christ — and our response of thankfulness for who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will do.
I welcome letters, even those that strongly disagree with me, if they are peaceable. (James 3:17) Thoughtful questions make me think, and help me see things I may have been blind to, or show me if I am being unclear. God uses the fellowship of believers to keep us from sin and error. I try, as Dawson Trotman (founder of Navigators) did, to take criticism into my prayer closet and sift it before God, to see what is true and what is not. I recently received a gentle letter from a women’s ministry leader that decided not to have the women in her church do my book, Idol Lies, as a study because I quoted and recommended Ann VosKamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She felt Ann taught salvation by gratitude. I thought, I pondered, and reread what Ann wrote. Poet Luci Shaw told me once that many theologians are left-brained, and they may struggle with the metaphors and manner of speaking of poets. I think that keeps happening to Ann, a poet for our time, and my heart grieves for her being misunderstood, but also, for those who are missing the beauty and the power of poetry.
I had a conversation with a godly philosophy professor about the importance of interpreting both Scripture and other writings according to their genre. He was talking about the word “literally,” and said it actually means “read according to the literature,” meaning, according to their genre. Don’t read prose like poetry or poetry like prose. When the psalmist tells us we can find refuge “under His wings,” look for the meaning and don’t press it the way you can prose.
Ann speaks of “eucharisteo,” a poetic picture pregnant with power. I want us, with the help of Psalm 33, to ponder and practice eucharisteo.
I believe my kind letter-writer was well-intentioned but misunderstand this poet. We know, and I know Ann knows, that salvation comes through faith alone, faith in the shed blood of Christ. Yet there are at least two ways thanksgiving is important in regard to salvation.
A THANKFUL HEART IS ONE EVIDENCE OF A SAVED SOUL
First, could we not say that a grateful heart is one evidence of a saved soul? David Martyn-Lloyd Jones, when he asked individuals if he or she was a Christian, watched their attitude when they responded. If they were miffed by the question, he knew they thought they had done something to receive it. If instead they were profoundly thankful and said something like, “Yes — isn’t it amazing?” he knew they understood it was a great gift to them. Also, Romans 1 indicates that the wrath of God comes to those who suppress the truth about him, who …did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” It seems that a saved soul is a profoundly thankful soul for what Christ did at the cross on his behalf.
Secondly, Ann isn’t talking about salvation from the penalty of sin, but salvation from the power of sin. What she repeatedly says is that “Eucharisteo” (the act of continually remembering His acts, His love, His mercy, and His promises that are manifested in so many ways) “really might be the mystery to the fullest life.” She tracks it through the Scripture and then repeats: “Thanksgiving — giving thanks in everything prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ.” What can rescue us from grumbling? Isn’t is treasuring what He has given us? What can rescue us from the enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy? Isn’t it, treasuring the power that the Sword of the Spirit and using it to back that slimy liar into a corner? And what can rescue us from despair when we see we have failed again? Isn’t it thankfulness in realizing that He loved us so that He did die for us and that He is faithful and just to forgive us again?
One of my favorite parts in One Thousand Gifts is when Ann talks about how Satan hammers nails into us, but as Erasmus said, “One nail can drive out another.” Ann says “my camera is a hammer.” She photographs the glories of the simple life that produce thankfulness in her heart, and that hammer out the nails Satan tries to drive in, and rescues her. And she shows those photographs to us, daily, on her blog. We can do it too — and often use Facebook to share our thanks. I think we have to be careful, however, not to be glorifying ourselves, but to glorify the One who gave us these gifts. I loved how my youngest daughter, Annie, framed this idyllic picture of her husband David (and our blog manager!) and her girls that she put on Facebook. She wrote:
“First time we’ve done a family of 4 bike ride. Miabelle kept wanting to go more and more and pushed out a little over 3 miles on her bike! I know we always post bright, happy pictures on Facebook and Instagram but let’s get real here, I’m a grump, a lot.. but my black twisty heart felt sooo happy and thankful on this bike ride with my little family…”
Another way we can encourage our hearts to give thanks is to start singing his praises through the day. It is fitting, Psalm 33 tells us, to sing praises. It is not only an evidence of being filled with the Spirit, it completes our joy.
No, giving thanks doesn’t save us. But it is one evidence of a saved soul. And we can experience the fullness of salvation from the power of sin by continually giving thanks. Psalms 33 and next week’s Psalm 34 help us to do just that. Because of our “natural curvature of the soul,” we have a tendency to forget the greatness of God and His unfailing mercy — and when we do, we become depressed, irritable, and self-focused. Indeed, giving thanks can rescue us.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Psalm 33:1 says “Praise befits the upright.” Since we are all sinful, who are the upright? And why does praise befit them?
3. Watch this and comment:
MONDAY/WEDNESDAY: Psalm 33: A PURE PSALM OF PRAISE TO HELP US GIVE THANKS
Derek Kidner says Isaiah 40 is the best commentary on Psalm 33 — so we will look at some cross-references to help us understand this psalm better, and in so doing, pray it better. The psalm begins with the fact that it is fitting for us to give thanks. Why? Our iniquity has been pardoned. Isaiah 40 begins with “Comfort my people…her iniquity has been pardoned.”
To prepare your heart, listen to this from the Messiah, straight from Isaiah 40 — it has a wonderful little commentary at the beginning. As you listen, remember, this promise from Isaiah is for us, His children, and allow yourself to be comforted.
4. Read Psalm 33:1-3 and list some ways we are to give thanks. What specific thing might you do to help yourself to sing more praises?
5. Read Psalm 33:4-9 and share what quickens you about our Creator God. Compare this with Isaiah 40:12. Then use this passage as a springboard to praise your Creator.
HE GATHERS THE WATERS OF THE SEA AS A HEAP;
HE PUTS THE DEEP IN STOREHOUSES.
This world is full of evil, and evil leaders. I’ve been reading Unbroken and learned that Hitler used the Olympics in Germany to increase his power before he began the holocaust. We said it would never happen again, but isn’t that what we are seeing with Vladimir Putin right now? Where is hope? God’s Word promises that God is in control, that one day, as Isaiah 40 says, the warfare will cease. We can pray and thankfully trust God has a plan.
6. Read Psalm 33:10-12. Compare this with Isaiah 40:14-24. What do you learn about your Lord? Then, as you look at the suffering in this world caused by leaders of nations, and terrorists, use this as a springboard for praise.
7. Read aloud Psalm 33:13-15. Compare this to Isaiah 40:27. Use this as a springboard for confession.
8. Read Psalm 33:15-17 and compare it to Isaiah 40:18-21. What are some things that it is foolish to trust in? When we face life’s giants, our tendency is to trust in ourselves, in our heart idols of control, comfort, or approval. Weforget God who loves us, who laid down His life for us, and will fight for us. Ask Him for help to help you fight giants by trusting in Him.
9. Read Psalm 33:18-22 and compare it to Isaiah 40:28-31. What sure promises are here? Give thanks for these.
My friend Linda Strom is with me now, and she quotes Max Lucado who says waiting is not passive. We wait, but we wait prayerfully, thankfully, expectantly.
10. Remember two times in your life when you waited on the Lord and God renewed your strength. Give thanks for those times here. (Be succinct so they’ll get read!)
This is under five minutes.
I am so enthusiastic about One Thousand Gifts that even if you have read it, I think you will also be blessed by hearing it — because Ann is a poet, and poetry (including the psalms) is to be read aloud. So if time permits, listen to her first chapter, and comment. (And if you are left-brained and want a week off, you may take it with grace!)
11. Comment on the above.
12. What is your take-a-way and why?