On Easter Sunday we make a special celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Sunday after Easter we tell the people again that Jesus is still alive. Easter is not a one day celebration. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It is not a specifically Christian celebration, but Christians above all should be a thankful people. Today is Black Friday, the day all the merchants kick off the Christmas buying season. Though, they couldn’t wait this year. Most big stores were open midday yesterday. The Thanksgiving prayer goes something like – Lord I thank you for all the stuff I’ve got, please help me get more stuff tomorrow. I know I’m being a bit cynical. We all do our shopping, and we all like to get good deals, but this is not the center of life. God is. Everything we have comes from His gracious hand. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) So, today is a day for thanksgiving just as much as yesterday. Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., celebrated yearly on the fourth Thursday of November. It is a time for family, feasting, and football. An often used exercise at the family meal is to ask each member what they are thankful for. Usually people will respond with family relationship, material prosperity, and so forth. This is good. We are thankful for all of the blessings our Lord has provided. But there really is even more. The New Testament speaks frequently about having life. In the Greek of the New Testament there are two words for life – bios referring to physical life, and zoa referring to the life we receive from the Lord. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that you might have zoa, and have it abundantly.” This is a life motivated and empowered by our Lord who promised never to leave or forsake us. This is the life that allowed St. Paul to say, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:12-13) God has blessed us ever so richly in material blessings, but above all He had given us life in Jesus Christ. May you be truly blessed this day and give thanks for the abundance of zoa in Jesus.
What is God’s will for your life? That is a question many try to answer. Paul gives us an answer in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(5:16-18) Really? Joyful always, give thanks in all circumstances, pray? Is that realistic or possible? Paul, at least, seems to think that it is. He is one who knows that there are trials and terrible circumstances in life, but he has also said that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.(Philippians 4:13) On this Thanksgiving Day, Christians, above all people, should be thankful. When we gather, we thank the Lord for family, friends, and all the material blessings, but above all we thank the Lord that He has chosen to occupy this life with us. He is always here. He is beside us in all circumstances. He is our strength for all times of life. He is the One who has promised never to leave or forsake us. For this we give the greatest thanks.
May God bless you very richly with His grace,
and may you have a very joyful Thanksgiving Day.
Gracious Lord God, You have created us and all that is. The heavens declare Your glory, and all the earth shows Your handiwork. The mark of Your life is upon all that exists. And You have made me. You knew me before I was born, and created me for Your good purpose. I have not always sought to know that purpose, or follow it when I did. Forgive me, Good Lord. Yet, You have redeemed me through Christ Jesus, and because of Him I can always be restored again to Your grace. You have given me each breath that I take, and You have given me spiritual breath by the presence of Your Holy Spirit in my life. You continue to guide my life, and give me strength for every situation. You have given me family and friends, and material blessings beyond anything I deserve or could earn. For all of this, Good Lord, I am forever grateful. My desire is to come ever closer to You, and to give you thanks and praise for all eternity. To You be glory and honor, now and forever, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen
We worry about the unexpected. What if this happens? What if that happens? We try to prepare for it as best we can with various precautions, insurances, and so forth. But in a fallen world the unexpected still has as way of coming in upon us. This past weekend my wife had to have a pre-operation physical exam for an upcoming minor surgery. The exam showed up a heart problem that put her in the hospital for three days, with further tests ahead. Certainly unexpected. She had no symptoms of any heart problems. We might complain – why do we have to endure such an unexpected event? It is time consuming, costly, and the procedures very uncomfortable. But the Lord is still there in the midst of the unexpected. Had the condition not been found in the routine exam, a much more serious condition could have occurred. No, we don’t like the unexpected. Life itself in this broken world is not fair. Bad things happen, even as with the recent east coast storms. But God is not off somewhere. He still cares. He is still able to help, and does even in ways we are not aware of. Many things in life are very hurtful, but the Lord’s grace and strength are still sufficient for our needs. And, as Scripture teaches us, we can give thanks in all things.
Sometimes we are tempted to ask what the Lord is doing, and where He is working? Maybe immediate conditions aren’t the way we wish them to be. But I look at my life as a whole – my life, my family, my home and property, my work, my friends. None of this is my doing. I see it all as God’s gracious gift. He has guided me, opened some doors, and closed others. That is what the Lord has been doing. I can’t complain in the least about something I don’t presently have. He has already poured gracious gifts upon me in abundance, along with His promise never to leave or forsake me. I believe you can look at your life in this way also. What this does is bring us in chorus to worship our Holy God. “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. ” (Psalm 34:1-3)
I have ridden in an army tank across fields, been behind a jeep mounted 105mm gun, worked on submarine sonar equipment, and worked with the military in four countries. But I’ve never been in combat, never been shot at, never had a friend die next to me. I am very aware of the sacrifices that men and women, who have done these things, have made for me. I’ve walked through the rows and rows of white markers in a number of military cemeteries, and know that these lives were sacrificed for me, so that I can live the peaceful life I do. We have also recently celebrated the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. God made an ultimate sacrifice in giving His Son for our lives. We are also reminded that our lives have been enriched by many sacrifices of parents, spouses, and friends over many years. As we share Memorial Day we are very aware that our lives, now and eternally, rest upon the foundation of more personal sacrifices that we can possible know. Let us share this day in great humility, and thanksgiving.
Yesterday was a national day of Thanksgiving. I wrote about the difference in our giving thanks for things that are transient, and things that are lasting. Now, today is “Black Friday”, the day all the merchants want to begin selling their Christmas goods to end the year in the black. (Christmas, a day we set to celebrate the incarnation of our God!) A news headline this morning reads: “Black Friday shoppers across the nation are eagerly snapping up deals on everything from TVs to power tools.” On Thursday we give thanks, and on Friday we go out to buy more things to be thankful for! Over the last 3 hundred years we’ve built a society that is dependent upon getting and having more stuff. Individual merchants to large corporations are always looking at their bottom line. Nations are dependent upon international trade balances. I’m not an economists, and my words certainly can’t change anything, but should we not at least be conscious of what we have done, realizing that something is very wrong with the world? (I said the other day I raise issues we can’t do anything about!) But we can observe. We can compare what we see to the truth of Scripture. We can come before the Lord in repentance, asking for mercy. We can govern our own behavior, and strengthen our own values. And we can pray earnestly for the Lord’s return to straighten out the mess we’ve made of His creation.
May you have a very happy thanksgiving day today. I hope it is a day of relaxing, enjoying family and friends, and of course good food. We have much to be thankful for. But as we think of these things let’s consider what is transient and what is lasting. Much for which we usually give thanks is transient. Job, home, all of the material things, even family and close friends. We have often seen these things removed by one circumstance or another. What we truly have that is lasting comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter greeted his people with the words, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…”(I Pt.1:3-4) And Paul in Romans 8:39 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the heart of our thanksgiving, that the God of grace has reached out to us in Jesus Christ to give us life, and that touches everything else we have.
Sometimes we struggle with understanding God’s will for our lives. There are particular things He calls us to at times, but Paul give us a good statement of God’s will that applies to each of us. ” Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (IThessalonians 5:16-18) “Be joyful.” That doesn’t mean being happy about every circumstance we face. We certainly are not. Rather, we have a continuing joy in knowing the grace and strength that God provides, and that He is working in all that touches us. “Pray constantly.” Not on knees 24 hours a day, but prayer as a way of life, knowing that we walk side by side with Him. “Give thanks.” Thankfulness is our way of life because He has made us, and will complete His good plan. There may be specific things God asks of us, but this is the context in which all our lives are lived.