You Had One Job (Guarding the Gates of Gratitude)

Great WallThe Great Wall of China is an amazing thing to stand upon.

It’s even more amazing to take an alpine slide down the mountain it’s on with Chinese men yelling at you, in a language you cant understand, that you should slow down. But that’s another story. (And perhaps “amazing” is not the right word for that latter experience.)

What I learned in China about the Great Wall—It was built to repel invaders from the north. Its massiveness is beyond imagination, unless you happen to be standing on it, where you clearly can imagine it. Fifteen to thirty feet wide, up to 25 feet high, 4000 miles long. That’s a serious wall. A thirty-foot wide stone barrier should have no trouble doing its job of keeping the bad guys out.

Except it did. The wall had one job—and it failed. It failed at its most vulnerable points—the gates. Though outside barbarians could not mow down the wall, traitors inside could and did open the gates. They willingly let in the enemy. Why? Various reasons. Money, revenge, even at least one case of  love (or more likely, lust).

The wall fell.

45f63-img_0727We, too, open our gates to the enemy when we should know better. During this season of thanksgiving, let’s focus on gratitude and the reasons we don’t feel it at times. We are in a tough season, here in America. There is a lot of anger. A lot of hate. A whole ton of fear and frustration. Gratitude is not an emotion I’m seeing a lot of these day. And from Christians? That is simply a tragedy. We of all people should trade in thankfulness and joy and hope. We are the only ones who know its inexhaustible source. Yet we are acting as hopeless and thankless as anyone.

Can we put a stop to that?

img_6430Can we tell the invaders of fear, mistrust, hopelessness, ingratitude, and disobedience to pack up and turn around at the gate? We’re not opening it, nohow, no way?

I think we can, with a few reminders of how to be a grateful people.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.6-7

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then, peace.

There are very, very few times I will make a guarantee, because I know how many things in this world are not guranteeable. Like, “I will for sure be there!” and “I absolutely promise not to tell anyone that.” Not to mention, “We are definitely going to offer you a book contract!” Or, never mind.

Jesus said to let my yes be yes and my no be no, and I take that seriously, so, few promises.

But I absolutely promise you—if we remember all God has done and thank him? We will experience peace.

First, let’s look at that word “remember.” In the Bible, it’s not a word like “I can’t remember why I came into this room,” or “I don’t remember why I came on Facebook in the first place.” (Two hours later.) “Remember” in Scripture has a full, rich meaning. It’s the chai masala of Bible words.

Remember — To call the past into the present, making it real here and now, and act upon it.

Funny how all the god Bible words are calls to action. It’s like God knew we would need a few kicks now and then.

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This kind of “remember” is like me thinking about the day we spent on the Great Wall of China, pulling out the photo album, going to the website for the orphanage we worked at, praying for those kids in the photos, writing them a check and an email of encouragement. It’s remembering the past in a way that creates momentum in the present. I do something with my memories. Something constructive.

Constructive action always leads to peace.

When God remembers, He is going to act, not just think fondly of us. When he remembers his people in Egypt, he immediately acts to put their freedom into the works. The prayers of the Psalmists for God to remember them were all calls for him to act, not simply consider them and nod his head now and then.

If I remember that my car needs gas and drive off without getting it, that remembering does not do me much good.

if i remember I have a doctor’s appointment but don’t actually show up, the remembering is not useful. Also, potentially expensive.

If I remember I have an assignment or article deadline but choose to head out to Six Flags instead, that memory is pointless.

Do you get the point?

The cool part about what God offers here? It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. If I remember and give thanks, refusing to open the gates to fear and worry, his peace will guard my heart. That’s what it says. With my heart guarded by peace, I am much less likely to open those gates the next time. The more I keep the gates closed with my thanksgiving, the stronger the gates become.

How awesome is that?

But how? How do we guard those gates? The next few weeks are going to be devoted to some very practical, easy ways to do that. Hang with me—you will love this.

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