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I’m Thankful

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

We have once again arrived at that time of year when we set aside a special time to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has lavished on us. We can focus on the commercialization of the season; following right on the heels of that demonic “holiday” that glorifies death (which is highly commercialized). The focus then quickly changes to the “Holidays,” formerly known as Christmas, without even a cursory mention of Thanksgiving Day. Over the years, I have beaten this dead horse with no sign of revival. I have come to the realization that “it is what it is,” so all I can do is practice what I preach regardless of what others do.

Four years ago, I wrote “One Was Thankful” where I detail the attitude of gratitude, so there is no need for a rehash here. I would encourage my readers to follow the link and read the article. I think I did a fair job of handling the topic. In addition, I have other articles on Thanksgiving Day that I will share on Facebook throughout the week of Thanksgiving. For now, I want to share some of the things for which I am thankful.

First of all, I thank God for life. When God created man,[1] He breathed His breath into his nostrils.[2] What a precious gift, the breath of God, withheld from all other creatures. Only mankind has this special spark of life, and it is eternal. So special is human life that God demands capital punishment for that taking of human life. He even requires that of animals that take human life.[3] The psalmist put it like this: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14). He goes on to describe God’s handiwork in the development of a baby in the womb,[4] which directly confronts those who would kill a baby at any stage of development. Every breath that I take, and every beat of my heart is a precious gift from God, which He can take whenever He wills.

Second, I thank God for eternal life. The Bible says that we all have sinned[5] and we are due the wages for that sin, which is death.[6] With no prospect of rectifying the matter on our own, God took on human flesh[7] and took the penalty of sin upon Himself in order so that we might be saved.[8] It seems too easy, but our only requirement is that we believe in Him and what He has accomplished by His death and resurrection by faith. I made that choice 66 years ago at the age of six and my faith in Him has only grown and has never disappointed. Because I know that my life is His, I know that when He comes to call His children home, or if He calls me home in death, I will be with Him for eternity in a place that I am sure is far more beautiful than that the Apostle John could describe.[9]

Third, I thank God for my wife. She blesses my life daily and has done so for over 34 years. I know she truly loves me even when I am not so loveable.

Fourth, I am thankful for family. I am thankful for Christian parents that were instrumental in leading me to Christ. I am thankful for my brothers and sister who love the Lord and for the love we have for one another. I am also thankful for my wife’s family who has taken me in as a real part of their family. We are family! And I am thankful that we all love the Lord and share that common bond.

Fifth, I am thankful for my church family. In my many years as a Christian, I have found that whenever I am among Christian, even those I have never met, I am among family; I never feel out of place. That sense of family is exponentially stronger in our local church. There we do share one another’s burdens and rejoice with the joy of others. We are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, I am thankful for all the “stuff” with which God has blessed us (June and me). We have a house, our home. We have two, not-too-old vehicles. We have no debt. We have more clothes than our closets will accommodate. We have plenty of food to eat. We are blessed with good health. We live in a wonderful town filled with wonderful people. All of these things, as described in the leading verse above, come from the hand of God who richly blesses us even though we are undeserving. When God has so richly lavished His love on us, spiritually and materially, how can we be anything but thankful! God is good, and I am so thankful for Who He is and for His love for me. He loves you, too.

Dear reader, do you know this great and loving God? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:26-28

[2]  Genesis 2:7

[3]  Genesis 9:5-6

[4]  Psalm 139:15-16

[5]  Romans 3:10, 23

[6]  Romans 6:23

[7]  John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11

[8]  Romans 5:8

[9]  Revelation 21-22

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Give Thanks

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

Beginning around the middle of September, stores started putting out displays for Halloween – candy, costumes, and yard decorations. Not long after that Christmas displays started appearing right alongside the Halloween displays.

My wife likes watching cooking and baking shows on TV. All during this time, the baking competitions were about making Halloween cakes and cookies with “scary” themes. Once Halloween passed, the same shows switched over to Christmas baking competitions.

During all of this time, Thanksgiving Day got little or no attention. It seems to me that the two most self-indulgent holidays received all the glory and the one day dedicated to the idea of giving thanks to God for all His blessings to us went largely ignored.

However, that is to be expected considering the self-centered nature of fallen man. From the beginning,[1] man succumbed to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.[2]

God’s Word teaches that we should redirect our inward focus and turn it to God “from whom all blessings flow” in an attitude of thanksgiving. Indeed, our beginning verse teaches “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

“Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name” (2 Samuel 22:50, Psalm 18:49). This is the first appearance of the phrase “give thanks” in the Bible. King David had just won victory over all of Israel’s enemies, including his own son Absalom. This passages is found in 2 Samuel 22, which is one entire psalm. In it, David focuses on his dependance on God. Never is his focus inward or in his own accomplishments, but rather, he gives all the glory to God because of all that God had done, “Therefore” David gives thanks to the Lord. Not only does he give thanks to God personally, but he will give his thanks “among the heathen.” He does not keep his gratitude to God as a “private” matter, but he will let the world know the greatness God.

“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4). God’s greatest attribute is His holiness. “Holiness” means to be “set apart.” God is far above and beyond us. In theological terms, God is wholly “other.” In other words, God is unlike anything we can know or understand. Yet, we are created in His image.[3] And He has made Himself known to us through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, we can know God. When we remember this, we can give thanks that Holy God cares enough about us to send His Son to save us from our sins

“Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (Psalm 75:1). The psalmist twice repeats the phrase “we give thanks” to emphasis the importance of giving thanks. Why? Because His name is near, i.e., He is near to us. “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8) How can we know? His “wonderous works declare” it. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). We live in a cursed world, and even so, it is a beautiful creation. When we consider all that God has created, we can be thankful for all that He has made.

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). Note the obligation: “We are bound … always.” We should give thanks to God for our brothers and sisters in Christ, “beloved of God.” We share a common bond. We are “beloved of the Lord, chosen to salvation, sanctified by the Holy Spirit,” and we share the “belief of “the truth.”[4]

It is God’s desire that we have a heart of gratitude and be thankful for the blessings He bestows on us, but He does not “demand” it of us. “And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will. (Leviticus 22:29). The psalmist says, “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works” (Psalm 26:7). “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High” (Psalm 50:14). “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). And the Apostle Paul writes, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

Christmas is coming. The TV and internet commercials, store displays, and all forms of attention getters have been reminding us since before Halloween. Maybe we should take time and offer Thanksgiving to God for His gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Entering the Christmas season with a heart of thanksgiving will give us the right perspective.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:6

[2]  1 John 2:16

[3]  Genesis 1:26-27

[4]   John 14:6

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It’s Not Even Thanksgiving!

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

This time of year gives rise to one of my pet peeves, and that is the commercialization of Christmas. Often you can find in stores Christmas displays right alongside Halloween displays. The anticipated celebration of Jesus’ birth coexisting with what is arguably a celebration of demonic activity.

By now, all the Halloween decorations are down and you can get great deals on leftover Halloween candy. Christmas decorations dominate the scene now. Television commercials remind us that Christmas is just around the corner. The news media are raising public anxiety over the fear that all our Christmas presents will not arrive on time because they are all on container ships anchored off the California coast. That could very well happen, but so what?

In all the concern over Christmas it appears that everyone has forgotten all about Thanksgiving. What does this say about us as a society? It seems that we focus more on frivolity and materialism than we do on gratitude for the things we already have.

The Bible says much about giving thanks to God for the blessings we have. It also speaks much about frivolity and materialism. It calls these things idolatry. God takes a very dim view of idolatry. Of course, some may say, “Well Christmas is about Jesus.” Is it? Is Jesus the focal point of Christmas or is it more giving and receiving gifts? All the while, we forget to thank God for all the blessings He has already lavished on us.

Why not start celebrating the true gift of Christmas, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by first being thankful to God for all He has already given us and for His special gift of the Baby Jesus. So what if all the Christmas presents remain on container ships anchored off the California coast! The Bible says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis mine).

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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/

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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.

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