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Intentional Thanksgiving

As Ava Pennington writes, some of God’s name and attributes can be difficult to understand and accept, but they are part of the complete picture of God’s glory. by Ava Pennington

Which of God’s names is your favorite? Is it Yahweh Rapha, our Healer? Maybe it’s Yahweh Jireh, our Provider. Perhaps it’s Shepherd, Comforter, or Savior.

I’m often drawn to names and attributes of God relating to His compassion, love and forgiveness. When I need help, I prefer to think of His qualities of omnipotence and omnipresence. As He reveals these aspects of His character in my life, I am eager to praise and thank Him both privately and publicly. 

Praise for God as my Provider flows easily from my lips. I need only to look around to see the abundance of His provisions. Praising God as my Healer leads me to thanksgiving for spiritual and physical healing. When I consider how He saved me from sin, how He is shepherding and protecting me, and how He comforts me in my suffering, how can I withhold my gratitude? 

We rejoice that He loved us first before we thought to love Him. We are thankful He graciously forgives the sin that so easily entangles us. We gratefully seek His wisdom because we know our own is woefully lacking. We praise Him for His omnipotence and thank Him when He reveals His power on our behalf. 

Still, I confess there are some names and attributes of God I would rather not dwell on. I sometimes find them difficult to understand or I fear the application of His ways in my life. They might be names that convict me or attri­butes that confuse me. 

If we only choose names and attributes, we like to praise God for, we create a false god. For example, some Christians focus only on God’s characteristics of love and mercy. They don’t want to think about His holiness, righteousness, and judgment. The result is an anything-goes god who tolerates sin. 

Others focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all other characteristics. The god they create for themselves is a fire-and-brim­stone god who is unloving, unmerciful and uncompas­sionate. 

God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and just. He is righteous and compassionate. To truly know Him, we must include all that He is- not just one or two characteristics that comprise who we want Him to be. 

In this season of thanksgiving, I am choosing to be intentional about thanking God for all that He is, including the names and attributes that make me uncomfortable, such as:

Consuming Fire

Hebrews 12:29 (NIV) calls God a “consuming fire.” This seemingly harsh name illustrates God’s holiness. He takes sin seriously, as should I. This fire, which will consume His enemies, will be a refiner’s fire for His children. It will burn away my impurities until I stand before Him, whole and pure. 

Holy

God is described as holy throughout the pages of Scripture. But I am especially uncomfortable when He says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 NIV). Apart from Christ, I will always fall short of God’s standard of holiness. So how can I ever hope to consistently live up to this command? 

The key is Christ. When He died for me, He nulli­fied my slavery to sin. It is by His indwelling Holy Spirit that I have the power to say no to sin and yes to holiness. 

Omniscient

When the apostle John says, “God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:20 NIV), it is meant to be a comfort. But when I first read this verse, I did not find it com­forting. I knew what was in my thoughts and heart, and it was ugly. 

Still, despite my self-condemnation, God is merciful and there is nothing I know about myself that is a surprise to Him. He forgives every sin because I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. 

Impartial Judge

Romans 2:11 tells us God is impartial and Isaiah 30:18 tells us He is just. When I am wronged, I quickly turn to God to plead for His justice, but when I am wrong, I appeal to Him for His mercy and compassion. The last thing I want at that moment is justice. 

God is an impartial judge, but He gives us the choice as to where our sin will be judged: at the cross or at His throne. His impartiality guarantees that no matter what I’ve done, regardless of the depth of sin, Christ paid for it. His blood covers it all- no exceptions. 

Sacrifice

Paul wrote to the Roman Church, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1 NIV). It’s the least we can do in response to Christ’s sacrifice for us. 

While I am grateful for Christ’s sacrifice, I confess that making sacrifices does not come easily to me. If anything, I often go to extreme lengths to avoid having to make sacrifices. But when I obey this verse, surrendering so completely to the Lord than my en­tire life becomes a sacrifice, I understand the beauty of Paul’s appeal. The result is that nothing comes between me and my Savior. 

Jealous

God calls Himself “jealous” in Exodus 34:14. The word has negative connotations. Jealous people can be unreasonable and petty, consumed by wanting what they don’t have. 

But when God says He is jealous, He is not jealous of us, He is jealous for us. He knows what is best for us, and when we choose our own way, chasing after anything other than Him, He knows we will suffer. I am blessed when I follow His choices for my life. 

These are just a few of God’s names and attributes we may find difficult to understand. But they are also part of the complete picture of God’s glory. May every name and attribute of God motivate us to praise Him. And may the knowledge that He is not just the source of our blessings but the ultimate blessing Himself make us truly thankful.

This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of The War Cry.

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