Category Archives: Thanksgiving

What Can I Give God?

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10)

I heard a story about two bills that were printed on the same day. One was a one-dollar bill, and the other was a twenty-dollar bill. They became good friends, but as things go with paper money, they were soon separated at the bank and went off in different directions. After many years apart, the two ended up in the same wallet. The one-dollar bill immediately recognized his long lost friend. “Andy! How have you been? What have you been up to?” The twenty-dollar bill responded enthusiastically, “Well, Georgie, let me tell you. I have just been having a grand old time. I have been on several cruises up and down both coasts of the good old USA. I’ve been to all kinds of concerts, and sports events. I have dined at the finest restaurants all over the country. I’ve been having a blast! How about you, Georgie? What have you been up to?” The one-dollar bill sheepishly answered, “Well, you know me, Andy … church, church, church.”

Giving to God is a struggle for many. I could spend a lot of ink offering many scenarios and excuses for why Christians have trouble giving to God, but the simple truth of it is lack of trust in God. Everyone has “X” amount of money coming in, and “X” amount going out and the two Xs have to balance. Unlike the government that makes its money by legalized theft, most people work for a paycheck which is limited by what the employer is willing to pay. That paycheck only goes so far, and it has to cover housing, food, transportation, medical expenses and so on. Unlike the government, real people get into real financial trouble when they spend more than they take in. Unlike the government, real people cannot print extra money when they run out of cash; that’s against the law.

After all of that, the Bible teaches that we should give to God. The Old Testament teaches the concept of tithing (giving 10%) of our income to God. The first example of this takes place early in the book of Genesis when Abram gives a tithe of all his spoils to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Christ.[1] Later the practice of tithing was codified in the Mosaic Law tithes were collected for three different occasions. They were the Levitical tithe (Numbers 18:21, 24), the tithe of the feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) and the tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).[2] In all, the Israelites were giving 30% not just 10%.

Why did God demand so much? The answer is that God wants His children to depend on Him for their provision. God proved Himself as Provider by giving them manna daily and water in the desert. In all their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, neither their clothes nor their shoes wore out (Deuteronomy 29:5). God took care of them even with all of their complaining. God showed that in spite of what they gave up in tithes, God abundantly provided for all of their needs.

Another purpose for the tithe was so that the people could participate in God’s work of provision. One of the tithes was for the maintenance of “the Church.” The Levites, the priestly tribe, were not allotted any land. They derived their sustenance from the tithes the people brought to the Tabernacle (later the Temple). It was also used for the maintenance of the facilities. The third tithe provided for the poor, and through it, the people participated with God in caring for those who could not care for themselves.

Doubtless, like in other aspects of their religion, the Jews were unfaithful in the giving of their tithes. God points this out through His prophet Malachi. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8). Of course, we cannot rob God! As our lead verse affirms, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. In another place God makes the claim, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). Every created thing belongs to God, even our very souls. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). If God owns it all, what then can I give Him?

God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and with that image came a free will to choose. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), but sin is a choice every soul makes individually. Our soul, then, is the only thing over which we exercise a small measure of control, and therefore the only thing which we can give to God. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). The “sacrifice” is our offering or “gift” to God. A broken and contrite spirit and heart recognize God for who He is and submits to His ownership. It acknowledges our sinfulness before the Great and Holy God and our unworthiness of all His beneficence. By His grace, we receive what we do not deserve. By His mercy, we are spared what we do deserve. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Part of that “reasonable service” includes giving of tithes and offerings for the work of the Lord. I have heard Christians say that the New Testament does not mention tithing. This is true, but neither does it negate the practice. Jesus practiced Judaism perfectly and was therefore obligated to offer tithes. (He paid taxes also: Matthew 17:27; Mark 12:17.) Jesus expanded upon the law by going beyond the external practice to the very thoughts of man – “Ye have heard it said of old … but I say” (Matthew 5:21-46). By the same token, early Christians brought more than a tithe to the church; they sold all of their possessions and gave it to the church (Acts 2:44-45). Paul relates the attitude of the Macedonian church in their giving. He said, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis mine). There is the sacrifice!

Many Christians (80%) do not tithe for a variety of reasons, but most do not tithe because they fear they will not have enough to meet their financial obligations. This demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s provision. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It also demonstrates that they have not given themselves to the Lord completely; therefore they are relying on themselves for their provision. Other Christians do not tithe because they view their possessions as their own. They have not learned that God ultimately owns everything; we are merely stewards of the blessings He has placed in our possession.

Tithing is an act of faith. It is the sacrifice of ourselves to God through our lives and our possessions. Tithing is the only practice in which God challenges us to test Him. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10 emphasis mine). Before you take up that challenge, be sure that you give yourself to Him first.

What can I give God? I can give Him all of my life and give back all that He has given to me.

 Notes:


[1]  “Is Salem Jerusalem?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/08/16/is-salem-jerusalem/

[2]  “The Three Tithes of the Old Testament” – https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1958/09/the-three-tithes-of-the-old-testament

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Religion, Thanksgiving, Theology, Worship

Pilgrim

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, November 11, 1620

Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. (Psalm 39:12)

On Thanksgiving Day[1] we remember the Pilgrims and the first celebration of Thanksgiving. Sadly, most Americans, including many Christians, cannot explain the significance of the day. For most, the day is a time for gathering together with family and friends to feast on turkey with all the fixings and pass out from tryptophan over a football game. On the following day, everyone swarms the malls and outlet stores to stock up on Black Friday bargains for the next big holiday. For these people, Pilgrims are people with funny clothes, stovepipe hats, big buckles on their shoes and guns with bell-shaped muzzles. Pilgrims look cute on greeting cards or as seasonal decorations, but what is a pilgrim?

Without rehashing what can easily be found with a quick Google search or repeat what I have written in the past, allow me give a different perspective on the word “pilgrim.” Dictionary.com defines a pilgrim as (1) a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion, (2) a traveler or wanderer, especially in a foreign place, (3) an original settler in a region, (4) one of the band of Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth, Mass., in 1620, or (5) a newcomer to a region or place, especially to the western U.S.

Those fitting the fourth definition of the word celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day in 1621 after surviving a harsh winter with inadequate shelter where almost half of their company died from exposure to the elements. The Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. These Pilgrims traveled to a foreign place (Definition 2) and were newcomers to the place where they landed (Definition 5). However, it cannot be said that they were the original settlers in the region (Definition 3) because the Patuxet tribe lived on the land before the Pilgrims arrived. Nor can it be said that they came to a sacred place (America) as an act of religious devotion, albeit they desired “the advancement of the Christian faith.”

About a month ago, my wife and I visited the Holy Land as pilgrims (Definition 1). We traveled a very long distance from Dallas, Texas to Israel and visited many sacred places there because of our devotion to the Word of God and our desire to visit the places we read about in the Bible. Our pilgrimage served to bring God’s Word to life in our minds and to form a stronger bond and love for the land of Israel and especially for the city where God has placed His name. June and I were pilgrims!

As Christians, we are all pilgrims. Regardless of where on earth we dwell, we are strangers and sojourners in this world – pilgrims; “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). The Greek word translated “conversation” is politeuma and it means “community” or “citizenship.” Our true citizenship and our allegiance are in heaven; therefore, it is right for us to feel out of place in this world. If not, we might need to take a second look at our passport! “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. … And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15, 17).  Knowing that this world is passing away, I am “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:12-13).

As a pilgrim, I yearn with an aching heart for the Lord to return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and make this world right again. Then I will be home, no longer a pilgrim. In the meantime, fellow pilgrim, we can thank Him for all His care and provision as we travel this alien land and for the assurance that our real home is with Him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Notes:


[1]  “A Day to Give Thanks” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/11/26/a-day-to-give-thanks/

Comments Off on Pilgrim

Filed under Christianity, Holidays, Random Musings, Thanksgiving

Thank You, Lord Jesus!

Thank You, Lord Jesus!

You have preserved my life for 67 years and You have blessed me with a good, strong body and excellent health. And even though I have not escaped “the curse,” I still do pretty well, for an “old man.”

A couple of months ago I thought I was fit enough to run, and, while You kept whispering to me not to do it, I thought I could, and did. The next day, my right knee loudly complained that I should have listened to You.

Thank You for a good physical trainer that understands the anatomy that You designed and assembled enough to take it easy on my whining knee, and who encouraged me to have a doctor take a closer look. This time I listened, and I went to see my familiar orthopedist, Dr. Medlock. Thank You for the knowledge You have revealed to men and women in the medical field. Thank You for the desire You have instilled in them to devote their lives to the care of others.

Dr. Medlock started with conservative means – a cortisone shot to the knee. That did not help, so he ordered an MRI. Thank You for such wonderful technology You have allowed humans to develop that see inside the human body to help doctors pinpoint physical injuries. Dr. Medlock saw that I had, for the second time in one year, torn the medial meniscus in my right knee, and it would require surgery to repair.

Last Friday, May 26, 2017, I went to the Ambulatory Surgery Center at Medical City, Dallas to get the work done. Thank You, Jesus that You have allowed me to live in the United States of America where we have an abundance of good public and private hospitals staffed with talented and well-trained medical personnel that are efficiently run without oppressive government meddling. Dr. Medlock is an excellent doctor.  With the use of an arthroscope (again, thank You for technology) and the skill of an excellent surgeon (thank You for Dr. Medlock), I was out of the operating room in less than an hour.

Thank You for my wonderful wife, June, who drove me home in the car You gave us. Thank You for an abundance of food at every corner. June bought me a double-double Whataburger for my first meal with money You have provided through the ability You have given us and by the good employment You have provided. You have even provided the insurance to cover most of the medical expenses through the employment You have provided.

Lord Jesus, Thank You for a church family, and a choir and Sunday school family and all the many Christian brothers and sisters You have blessed us with that care for us, and pray for us, and encourage us as we go through the down parts of life. You have not left us alone!

Today, I am four days out of surgery. So far, You have given me the strength to walk eight blocks around the neighborhood, and I plan to walk at least four more before the day is done. Tomorrow, I will drive the pickup You gave me to the place of service You have provided for me.

Thank You, my Lord Jesus, most of all because I am Yours.

Lord, I feel sorry for all those who are so richly blessed by You, and they do not even realize from Whom their blessings flow. Open their eyes, Lord. All things come from Your hand, dear Lord Jesus. Thank You.

5 Comments

Filed under Random Musings, Thanksgiving, Worship

Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (5)

47642620 - cascade on small mountain stream. cold crystal water is falling over mossy boulders into small pool.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)

Jesus was in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) and taught in the temple throughout the weeklong festivities (John 7:14, 37). Knowing His devotion to observing the Mosaic Law, the “Jews” looked for Him (John 7:11) hoping to find some excuse to kill Him (John 7:1). Regardless of the threat, Jesus went up to the feast anyway, albeit incognito (John 7:10).

Jesus must not have posed a particularly striking appearance. He probably looked like a common, uneducated Galilean, but His speech bewildered the Jews. “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” (John 7:15). To be sure, Jesus, the Word, knew the Scriptures better than they did. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16-17, emphasis mine). The Greek noun translated “doctrine” is didachē and it means “instruction” or “teaching.” This teaching comes from God, therefore, because they were not doing God’s will, they did not understand the instruction, nor recognize the One delivering the message. The same problem exists today. One can understand the “unchurched” not doing God’s will, but sadly, many so-called “churches” preach a “gospel” contrary to the will of God, and are as fundamentally ignorant of the “doctrine of God” as are the unchurched.

Jesus demonstrated kindness and compassion, but when it came to the false teaching of the Jews of that time, He pulled no punches. “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” (John 7:19, emphasis mine.). Jesus revealed Himself here, but the Jews failed to recognize Him. They searched for Jesus to have Him killed, but standing before them, they did not recognize Him. “Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel” (John 7:21, emphasis mine).  Some commentators believe Jesus referred to the healing of the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda,[1] but that was six months before during Purim. That healing took place on a Sabbath, and for that, the Jews sought to kill Him! Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. “If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man [completely] whole on the sabbath day?” (John 7:23). It seems reasonable that if a circumcision can be performed on a Sabbath, a healing should be just as valid, if not more so. Therefore Jesus admonished them, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

At this point the Jews started to realize that this was Jesus, whom they sought, and Jesus no longer hid the fact. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me” (John 7:28-29,emphasis mine). More than Jesus healing on the Sabbath, they hated His claim of being from Him more than anything. Jesus claimed equality with God, and it irked the Jews. “Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30, emphasis mine).

Jesus caused quite a stir. Many of His hearers believed in Him, but the Pharisees and other religious rulers sought the more to take Him into custody. Jesus then alluded to His crucifixion and resurrection. “Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:33-34, emphasis mine). Jesus previously pointed out that these religious leaders were estranged to God; therefore, like anyone estranged from God, they cannot be with Him in the presence of God. Of course, they did not understand what He was saying as anyone in this same condition remains blind to the things of God.

Finally, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus offered the invitation to soften that hardened condition. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38, emphasis mine). The “belly” is a metaphor for ones innermost being. John further explains Jesus’ meaning. “But this spake he of the [Holy]Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, emphasis). When one places his trust in Jesus for salvation, Jesus’ promises to come and reside within him.“…if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Of course, Jesus cannot do this physically (after all, He does have a physical body), so He accomplishes this through the Holy Spirit Who inhabits every believer.

The remedy for ignorance of God and His will, is the Living Water that Jesus freely offers. Jesus promises, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, emphasis mine). “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26, emphasis mine). “And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8, emphasis mine). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13, emphasis mine). Ignorance of God and of the things of God dissipates by drinking in the Living Water that Jesus so freely offers.

Reader, are you thirsty to know God? If so, why not take Jesus up on His invitation. Come and drink of the Living Water He offers. It is free for the asking.

Notes:


[1]Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (3), https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/11/06/jesus-seven-signs-in-john-3/.

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Thanksgiving

A Day to Give Thanks

horn-of-plenty

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

In the “Jaywalking” segment of the “Tonight Show,” Jay Leno posed some Thanksgiving Day trivia questions to passersby, and the results were humorous and sad at the same time. Here is a sample of questions asked and the responses:

  1. What year was the first Thanks giving? 1966, 1492
  2. Pilgrims are often shown wearing what on their shoes and their hats? Moccasins
  3. What is a male turkey called? Fred, Richard
  4. 280 Million Americans will cook turkey on Thanksgiving. How many Americans are there in our country? 8 Million
  5. Where did the first Pilgrims land? Hawaii, the East Coast
  6. What President declared Thanksgiving a national holiday? Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin
  7. How many days did the first Thanksgiving last? Three: one day for breakfast, one day for lunch, and one day for dinner
  8. What is the name of the ship the Pilgrims came over on? the Nina
  9. Where did the Pilgrims come from? Spain

This may be good for a belly laugh, but it is really tragic that Americans today are so ignorant of our nation’s history and traditions. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off of work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.

It does not have to be that way. The psalmist said, “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name” (Psalm 18:49). The “heathen,” in this case, were the gôyim, Hebrew for the “nations” or the “Gentiles,” and by implication, the “godless.” Our attitude of thanksgiving should be a testimony to those that are without God not just on Thanksgiving Day, but everyday of our lives. In these “last days” we should live in contrast to those who are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Timothy 3:2).

C. S. Lewis once said, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” Paul expressed this same idea when he said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12). We assimilate this attitude when “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). “Them who are the called according to His purpose” do not live their lives like the “heathen” who are ungrateful or “unthankful” in their life conduct.

Perhaps the reason the “heathen” are unthankful is because they do not know to whom they should be thankful. That, of course, presupposes that in every other respect they are caring of others beyond themselves. If expressed at all, we often hear such empty platitudes as: I’m thankful for my job; I’m thankful for my family; I’m thankful for good friends, etc. That is fine, but thankful to whom?

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they arrived in the face of a harsh New England winter. They were without food and without shelter. Of the 121 souls that departed England to escape religious persecution and “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country,” only 47 of the original colonists survived that brutal winter. With the help of neighboring Indian tribes, the colonists learned to cultivate and enjoy the bounty of the land. At the harvest that followed, they celebrated a season of thanksgiving to God for His providence and protection. The third year after having landed, William Bradford officially proclaimed November 29, 1623 a day of thanksgiving.

In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest … and in as much as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three … there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

Our nation, from its beginning, has always set aside a special day to give thanks to God, but not always on a consistent basis. George Washington declared a national day of thanksgiving on November 26, 1789 with these words:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor … Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is or that will be … that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions …

Would that our current national leaders adopt that attitude!

Finally, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed an annual national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He said:

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy … I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens … [it is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord … It has seemed fit to me and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.

This Thanksgiving Day, amid all the festivities and family gatherings, try to devote at least some time to “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

1 Comment

Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Current Events, Holidays, Religion, Thanksgiving, Theology

Thankful to Whom?

thankful2

Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13)

It is that time of year again where almost everyone says they are thankful for something. At least, we are expected to be thankful. I enjoy browsing through my Facebook newsfeed and reading all the things for which my “friends” are thankful. I read comments like:

  • I am thankful for my husband/wife.
  • I am thankful for my family.
  • I am thankful for my kids.
  • I am thankful for my home.
  • I am thankful for my friends.
  • I am thankful for my health.
  • I am thankful for my job.

Of course, there is always the spiritual one that will remember to be thankful for Jesus, or for their salvation.

Whenever I receive something from someone, whether a gift or simply a kind gesture, I say “thank you” to that individual – the giver. I don’t say, “I am thankful for the gift” or “I am thankful that the door was held open for me.” No, I thank the person.

To be thankful for something one must recognize the originator of the benefit. Who gave you that husband or wife? Who gave you that family, children, home, friends, health or job? After giving that some thought, some may conclude that all those things came about through their own effort. After all one has to attract and win the affections of a good mate. Or they may surmise that their children are the “product” of their marital union. Home, job, friends, are all products of one’s own effort. Good health? Well maybe that is just the luck of the draw or the result of good genes. So, for what does one have to be grateful? To whom must one give thanks? To self or to dumb luck? To thank yourself or dumb luck would be silly!

If we are to be thankful, we must recognize the originator of the gifts or “blessings.” Ultimately that is God. Without God, there is really nothing for which to be thankful. For starters, without God to give you life, you are nothing more than a leech on the planet sucking out of it all that you can get in order to survive. Who is there to thank? The Doxology exhorts:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
 

If you are truly thankful for what you have, the thanks must go to the Giver. I thank God for giving me life, and for the blessing of good health. I thank God for giving me a loving wife. I thank God for giving me sons and grandchildren. I thank God for my extended family, especially those who are “twice” family. I thank God for giving me the ability to work and earn a living and for providing a job where I can exercise those abilities. I thank God for my home and all the material blessings that fill it. I thank God for surrounding me with good friends and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank God for Jesus, my Savior, and for the sure promise of an eternal home in Glory. I thank God.

Comments Off on Thankful to Whom?

Filed under Christianity, Holidays, Religion, Thanksgiving

Psalm 103

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

All that is within me, bless His Holy Name!

Psalm 103

A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

This wonderful psalm reminds us to give grateful praise to God for all His goodness and love that He continually demonstrates for His children. When we think of blessing someone, we often think of doing something good for that person. When we think of God blessing us, we might think of having good health, a nice home, a wonderful family and friends or any number of things – good things. But is that really what it means to be blessed? And if that is so, how can we possibly bless God? I mean, what can we give to God that He does not already have? (Besides your heart)

Perhaps “blessing” is not what we think it is. As translated in this psalm (and many other places in the Old Testament) the Hebrew word is bârak, and according to the Strong’s Dictionary, it means: “to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), and (vice-versa) man (as a benefit); also (by euphemism) to curse (God or the king, as treason): –  X abundantly, X altogether, X at all, blaspheme, bless, congratulate, curse, X greatly, X indeed, kneel (down), praise, salute, X still, thank.” I don’t know about you, but that definition is certainly confusing. In reading the context of the psalm, we gather that cannot mean to curse God, so by the general tone of the psalm we can infer “an act of adoration.” The Greek translation in the Septuagint (LXX) of this psalm uses the word eulόgei, which means “to speak well of,” and from which we get our English word “eulogy.” I have never been to a funeral where an ill word was spoken of the dearly departed; only good is spoken of the dead in a eulogy.

So this psalm encourages us to “eulogize” God from the very core of our being. We are to “speak well of” His holy name. Why should we do this? The next four verses instruct us. We “eulogize” Him because of how He treats us, i.e., “His benefits.” He forgives our perversities (“iniquities”) which is a disease that only He can heal. He “redeems” our lives, i.e., He “buys us back” from destruction, i.e., eternity in hell. Not only that, but He elevates us to royal status by awarding us a crown, and all of this is because of His “loving-kindness” and “tender mercies.” This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) who spurned his father’s love and wasted all that his father gave to him. Then, while in the filthy, smelly pigsty, having hit absolute bottom, the son remembered all that the father’s house had to offer, and leaving his pride in the mud pit, he determined to return to his father’s house as a lowly servant. But rather than chastise him for his ingratitude and cast him out as a worthless vagrant, the father welcomed him with open arms and elevated him to his former status of the master’s son and heir to the father’s wealth. Then the father threw a huge party with lots of wonderful food – he killed the “fatted calf” that was reserved for special occasions – to celebrate his boy’s return. The fifth verse tells us that He “satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Imagine how the son felt after a long season of hunger, shame, and disgrace! That is what God offers us, and we should speak well of Him for that.

We eulogize the Lord because He carries out righteous judgment on behalf of all who are oppressed. He is merciful – He withholds the punishment we deserve; He is slow to anger. He is gracious – granting us what we do not deserve; He is abounding in mercy. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (v. 10). As great as His mercy is – greater than the heights of heaven – it is there for those “that fear Him.” Do not think for one moment that you can live like the devil and obtain His mercy; but His mercy is there when you recognize Him for Who He is – the great Creator God, Who is to be feared, and whose name is holy and deserves to be “well-spoken of.” When we understand that, He will remove our transgressions, “As far as the east is from the west so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (v. 12).

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (v. 13). “Pity” is an unfortunate translation here. The Hebrew word is râcham, and it means to fondle, love, show compassion. Picture a father or mother cuddling an infant child – that’s the picture; and again it is qualified by “them that fear Him.” His love and compassion stem from the fact that He knows our “frame.” That Hebrew noun is yêtser, whose verb form is yâtsar, which means to “mold” or “form” as a potter fashions a clay vessel. God knows how we were made because He made us out of the dust of the earth, and He cherishes us. This should cause us to “bless” His name!

Our life on earth is brief. Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). This psalm reminds us of that truth. When compared to eternity, our life is like grass or a Texas wild flower; when the hot winds of summer blow in, they dry up and their beauty is forgotten. But God’s mercy is not like that. This psalm says that His mercy “is from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). Once again, the promise is to “them that fear Him,” i.e., “To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (v. 18). For these “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (v. 19).

In light of all that God has done, all of His creation – the hosts of angels that do His bidding and all of His “works” over which He has dominion (that includes everything and excludes nothing) – can do no less than “speak highly, reverently, and fearfully of the Lord.” And if we fail to do so, Jesus says that the very “stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). Let not the stones do what we were created to do.  “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

Comments Off on Psalm 103

Filed under Christianity, Creation, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Origins, Thanksgiving, Theology, Worship