Scott Bryant

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It's NOW A Wonderful Life

Ok, I must admit that of all the Christmas movies my children enjoying watching each year, there’s one nostalgic film that is hard for me to sit through. Not because it’s a poorly made movie. It’s very well done and has a great story line with a great cast. The movie just gets a little too close to home for me, as it follows a character who has the same tendency I do, and just maybe you do as well.

The famous film is called “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and it follows a man name George Bailey as he clearly is struggling to believe that his life is indeed wonderful. He’s looking back at his life and all the struggles that have happened and is about ready to end it all. The rest of the movie follows an angel named Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, as he is assigned to help George see life differently. As George goes on this journey with Clarence, he begins to see all the past challenges and heartache through a very different lens. By the end of the movie, he can see his present situation for what it is. That life is indeed wonderful.

Instead of jumping off the bridge and ending his life, he instead runs back to his family and friends with a renewed enthusiasm. The movie concludes with George finding a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and reading this inscription from his guarding angel: "Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! Love, Clarence." A bell on the Christmas tree rings, and his daughter, remembers aloud that it means an angel has just earned his wings. George realizes that he has had a wonderful life and the movie comes to a wonderful end.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, while this might make a great holiday film, this is not what makes our life wonderful. We have been given so much more than a copy of Tom Sawyer and a bumbling guardian angel. As you move into this month of Christmas celebration, let me remind you what enables us to truly believe that “It’s A Wonderful Life”!

Let’s start with Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1. As they discovered from a true angel sent from God, that “It’s NOW a wonderful life, and His name would be John!” And their son would have the amazing challenge and privilege of preparing the way for The Most Wonderful Life!

The angel Gabriel gave these fascinating facts about the wonderful life that John would be born into:

  • He will be a joy and delight to you as his parents
  • Many will rejoice because of his birth
    • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth
    • He will bring back many Israelites to the Lord
    • He will turn the hearts of fathers
    • He will turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous

The people of the 1st century were given the same message that we are given in the 21st century by the wonderful life of John. If we can’t accept John’s message of repentance, then our heart won’t be ready for the message of Jesus. John would give his life passionately challenging the people of that time with a message we need to hear today:  “Repent from trying to be king, so you can receive THE King!

Then we see an angel come and give the life-altering message to Joseph and Mary that “It’s NOW a wonderful Life…. And His name would be Jesus!

For Mary the message was literally, “It’s NOW a wonderful life…He’s in your womb!” Can you imagine that ladies? And then Joseph was given a message, “It’s NOW a Wonderful Life, but it’s not your son, it’s God’s Son!” His role as an earthly father would be to care for The Wonderful Life of Jesus Himself! A boy that wasn’t from his flesh, but one that would save his very soul.

A life that would grow up to give His Wonderful Life for ours so we wouldn’t have to jump off the bridge of depression and be destroyed by the challenges of earthly life today. To instead have our life forever changed as we encounter The Most Wonderful Life of Jesus.

The Shepherds soon discovered “It’s NOW a wonderful life…He is Christ the Lord! They were visited not by just one angel, but by a heavenly host of them singing the wonderful message: “A Savior has brought eternal peace for all people!

That’s why we can journey through our life, no matter how challenging the circumstances we might face today. Let me leave you with just three things to remember this month!

It’s Now A Wonderful Life because:

  • An Eternal King came to earth!
  • An eternal kingdom is now established!
  • An eternal kingdom mindset can now provide us with endless joy!

Don’t give into the proud mindset of our day that says, “When life doesn’t feel good, God must not be good!” Instead, follow in the steps of the humble servant Mary who in essence said, “God alone is good, even when life doesn’t feel good!”

IT’s Now a Wonderful Life…When I learn to see His eternal promises as more precious than any earthly pleasure! As we build our life on that Truth, our eyes will be opened, and our courage will be renewed to see that “It truly is a Wonderful Life- and His Name is Jesus! 

The Gaurdian of Gratefulness

Our God intended for Thanksgiving to be more than just a yearly holiday feast, followed by football or a long nap.

There is indeed a purpose in coming together with family and friends to give thanks to God on this national holiday for the miraculous provision He gave our pilgrim forefathers. Yet sadly, our country has forgotten, or worse yet, rebelled against the very motivation that caused the pilgrims to search out a new country in the first place.

They were looking for a safe place that would enable their children and grandchildren to find the religious freedom they so passionately valued. The freedom to give thanks to God each day of the year. They were grateful to God and God alone. And it was this gratefulness that stood guard over their souls as they weathered that first winter and the many hardships that would soon follow.

As the years have turned since that first Thanksgiving Day in America, our country has followed a very familiar path that mankind has taken since the beginning of time. The path of ungratefulness to God. A path that Romans 1 says will lead a nation down into the very degradation that we are experiencing in the 21st century. Notice what we are told about the role of thanksgiving in guarding our hearts in verses 18-25:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

Every time that mankind is tempted to worship the creation instead of the Creator, it means that Satan has succeeded. Our national holidays are a prime example of how he strategically does this.

Black Friday now dwarfs Thanksgiving Thursday. We have been receiving continual advertisements for weeks now of how much we can save if we will purchase our favorite products on this important day. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t stand in line for that great savings on Friday morning, but I do want us to notice the bigger problem.

 We are constantly being told that we need more, so we can be thankful. While our God wants us to see that we can give thanks to Him, and need no more. If more or less comes our way this next year, our hearts can be steadfast and safe. Because they are being guarded by gratefulness. Gratefulness for who God is, not just the good that He can give.

When a nation’s heart isn’t guarded by gratefulness to God, you get some strange responses to Thanksgiving. Here’s one called “An Atheist’s Grace”. This was one man’s response to his family asking him to say “grace” at Thanksgiving even though he wasn’t a believer in God. Notice how his prayer represents the value system of our country today. Here’s what he said:

“For the good food now laid before us, delighting our senses, and the wine that gladdens our hearts;  For the hard work and loving hands of those who helped prepare this feast;  For all those whose labor made it possible, the farmers, pickers, truckers, merchants;  For the service of all who toil on this day so that we may rest, our soldiers, sailors, police, firefighters, engineers, doctors, caregivers;  For the love of all our family and friends, those here gathered and those we hold in our hearts;  For all these things we are grateful.  For all these things we give thanks.  Amen.”

A nice prayer right? But you’ll notice the prayer is directed to worshipping all the good, not our God.  A very popular path in our world today, even more many professing Christians.

One website called “Recovering From Religion” offered this invitation to people at Thanksgiving time on their website:

“Navigating the journey is difficult, especially if you’re traveling alone. At Recovering from Religion, you’ll find many resources to help you along the way….. “As an atheist/non-believer, do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, how?  What role does gratitude and gratefulness play in your life?”

Here are just a few responses that came in:

Brandon wrote– “I celebrate all the main Christian holidays such as Easter, thanksgiving, and Christmas. I just don’t celebrate them in a religious way. On Easter, I basically just celebrate by buying chocolate and other sweets. I celebrate thanksgiving by just eating ham and turkey and other good foods while spending time with my family that I love and am thankful for that. On Christmas, I celebrate by buying presents for other people and putting smiles on their faces. As well as buying presents for myself and putting a smile on my face. Lol. If Christians can take pagan holidays and celebrate them in a Christian way, I don’t see why we can’t take them and celebrate them in a secular way. My reason to celebrate?  It’s just nice to have celebrations. Just celebrate to celebrate and because it’s nice and fun.”

Cassidy wrote, “I think it’s important to be grateful and express gratitude to others. Doing so helps me feel connected to others and to my community. I don’t need a higher power to love my family and be grateful that they’re in my lives and that we’re in pretty good shape. I love Thanksgiving–it’s a great time to make and eat good food, hang out with my family, and reminisce about the previous year’s good events–and look forward to the events to come in the next year.”

Ted wrote, “Food, family and football. We are thankful to be together. It’s always been that way even before I de-converted. No religion required. Now my sister’s family holds a prayer and we just respect her and move on.”

As you read over these ridiculous and yet popular responses to thanksgiving, my prayer is that God will use them to alert you to the importance of letting gratefulness to God be the guardian of your soul. Otherwise our souls may slide down this slippery slope that Romans 1 tells us will end in disaster. And sadly, because our mind has become dulled by sin, we think we are being thankful to God, but really we are being thankful that we are God.

Gratefulness to God guards me from thinking I am god. We might say that we would never do that, but sadly the statistics tells us that as a nation we are doing exactly that. And our children and grandchildren are doing it even more.

So, as you prepare to give thanks this year over turkey and pumpkin pie, take time to guard your heart with gratefulness. And one very practical way is to notice the difference between being thankful for who God is instead of just the good things he has given to you.

The Guardian of our Gratefulness is God Himself! So as you finish your Thanksgiving meal and go around the table for people’s thoughts, take a moment to fill in these blanks:

“I am thankful to God because He is _____________. (His Character)

I’m also thankful that He demonstrated His _________________ this year through providing  ___________________.” (His Gifts)

When we take time to worship WHO God is first, then we are able to be grateful for WHAT He chose to give us. It may have been the provision of abundance or the gift of suffering. Either way, we will be able to give thanks. Because we are enabling God to be The Guardian of our Gratefulness. Only He can protect us from the spirit of this age that says we will always need more in order to be thankful.

This Thanksgiving, instead of letting the “Atheist’s Prayer” tempt us into only being thankful for the good stuff in our life, let our God enable you to find the true Spirit of Thanksgiving. That Spirit has a name of course. He is the Holy Spirit that stands ready to Guard us with God’s Gratefulness. Let’s be sure to let Him.