As usual, I started my day with biblegateway.com‘s “verse of the day” (hitting up a random verse chosen by someone other than myself is one of my devotional practices; it is how I try to hear from God). Today, that verse was this one:
This is a verse I’ve heard many times before. This time, though, I heard it slightly differently. I always thought the phrases “enter his gates with thanksgiving” and “[enter] his courts with praise” were commands; I always thought they were telling (even ordering) us to do something; I always thought they were saying, “You better give thanks and praise when you enter his gates and courts”. When I read them this morning, though, I wondered if they could be conditions instead; I wondered if they were actual telling us how to do something; I wondered if they were saying, “You enter his gates and courts via thanksgiving and praise; thanksgiving and praise are the keys to entering his gates and courts”.
This fits with the sermon series Pastor Doyle just finished at The Church Next Door. That series was called “The Current”, and in it Pastor Doyle repeatedly told us that there is a “current” to the live/walk with God, that there is a way living/walking with God goes.
This idea is absolutely true. There is a current to the life/walk with God. There is a “way” to God Himself, a way/direction/flow that God just goes, a way revealed to us by Jesus the Christ. If you can’t take Pastor Doyle’s word on it, then consider this word from John Eldredge’s book Moving Mountains:
And I believe thanksgiving and praise are a part of that way. I believe that when I give thanks and praise rather than grumbling, complaining, boasting, etc., I am going in the way of God, flowing with the current of God. Whether this is actually what Psalm 100 is saying or not (and I imagine that is debatable; I also know I’m not at all interested in debating it), it is nonetheless true that thanksgiving and praise are a how to enter the gates and courts of God if not the how.
This is something I have discovered in my evening prayer. I used to follow Tim Keller’s five-fold prayer plan during my evening prayers.
But I’ve recently been modifying this a bit. When I come to the “free prayer” part, I don’t offer petitions for myself anymore. Instead, I offer thanksgiving. I do what I call “a deep dive on my day”; I look at the day and consider everything I have to be thankful for. There is always a lot, always far more than I thought. I give thanks for those things, and when I do I find that anxiety, anger, grief, and every other negative emotion that haunts my heart is forced out. I find a great power for drawing nearer to God and representing God to others when I am thankful.
Psalm 100, whether command or condition, reminded me of that source of power today. It was a beautiful reminder, one that not only fit the season but that encouraged me to keep on this path I, by God’s grace, stumbled upon.
And that’s what I saw on November 23, 2019.