Thanksgiving 1621-2011

The original Americans who started the American tradition of Thanksgiving were dissenters in Europe, and they went on a pilgrimage of faith to the New World, America, and thus became known as Pilgrims. They arrived at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620, and had their first Thanksgiving service one year later, 1621. Plymouth Rock is still there – some of us have seen it, and so is this tradition of Thanksgiving, of giving thanks to God, despite our modern secular humanism and atheism in our society and government.

The Pilgrims dissented, or disagreed, with the official religions of their governments: most of that original group of Pilgrims came from England and they disagreed with the English government and its Anglican church. As time went by, others came to America who were also dissenters: they were not Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Anglican Christians, although some of them, too, came. They made life decisions for themselves and their families because of their faith, not because of governmental dictates.

The tension in them by governmental dictates led them to meditate and pray, and then act. They acted by choosing not to subordinate their faith to their lives, but the other way around: by choice, they subordinated their lives to their faith. They really lived out the admonition of Paul to the Church in Rome, Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Rather than choosing to be conformed to the requirements of their governments, regarding their free exercise of their faith in Jesus Christ, they chose the transformation of the renewing of their minds in and by Jesus Christ, even as that meant that they chose the translocation of their bodies, of their lives, all the way to America, to the Free World. They had dealt with religious oppression in Europe, and many of them had become driven underground there for worship, even for life, or had been forced to leave their native lands, their historic family lands, their businesses and farms, their families in order to worship somewhere else in Europe according to their own choices. They had already made hard choices, made and executed out of deep convictions and faith, and fear of God much more deeply-seated than any fear of man or environment.

In America, we have come to call this freedom from religious requirement simply “religious freedom”, and so this concept is now known all around the world. Like all of our personal freedoms in America, our rights to exercise them, in America, stop where they prevent someone else from exercising their own personal freedoms. Of course, that is the current, festering problem with Sharia law, with Islam by-the- book, which abides no religion on earth but their own and mandates the earthly punishment and death to those who fail to convert to Islam. Our early Pilgrims in the 1620’s did not have to deal with that Islam issue then, but, every day, even here in America, they still found trouble enough for each day, of its own.

Today, as we stand at the front edge of Thanksgiving week 2011, we are all mindful of, and know, that we Americans have much to be thankful for: health resources, jobs, food, shelter, clothing, warmth, most of the time, by electricity or natural gas in our homes, automobiles and a relatively-peaceful and secure nation in which to live. It takes no sermon of preaching to bring such things to mind. Those first Pilgrim “Thanksgivers” had, to the contrary, been blessed with almost none of those things during that first year.

Let’s take another look at this issue of Thanksgiving, then at the beginning, and today. I believe that those first Thanksgivers celebrated their religious freedom to publicly worship Jesus Christ; they celebrated their physical enclave, their new City for Christ, in the New World, and they celebrated the opportunity to bear fruit by evangelism in the New World.

A very large percentage of their group was lost to disease alone in the first year, but they still counted their blessings, sitting at the table of First Thanksgiving, even as family members remembered the days in Europe when all of them were alive and, on that First Thanksgiving date, those unfilled chairs, and those hearts aching for the loved ones who had already died in America, had to have been most vivid and difficult. Yet, they gave thanks then, Thanksgiving, to our God, to their God, to our Jesus, to their Jesus, to our Holy Spirit, to their Holy Spirit, worshipping Him freely as they chose, not as some government dictated. Hallelujah!

The comfort components of our lives can well be summed up today in Matthew 6, which says that if we seek first the kingdom of God, all the things that we need, physically, for our comfort will be added to us (eating, drinking and clothing).

Today, in comfortable America, the Holy Spirit wants us to move beyond thanksgiving for our mere creature comforts (you know, like ice cream and Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M’s), although we have no right to take them for granted, but the Holy Spirit wants us to see and know and make choices on the basis of something deeper than the latest Steve Jobs Apple something-or-other, or the coolest new song, or the coolest new Ford F350 Dually Truck!

The Holy Spirit, today, leads us to another Scripture that we need to grasp in order to have great insight into that first Thanksgiving. This Scripture passage describes what really was going on, back then, and what they had all been through, in order to be free Christians in the New World of America. This Scripture passage is I Peter 2:19-25For this is commendable (KJV, “thankworthy”), if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (see Isaiah 53:9); who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going away, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

These Pilgrims, were no more perfect in all their ways than you and I are, have been or will be. But, they chose to live for righteousness, for God’s approval and not for the approval of their former government and its national religion! And, they paid the consequences: money for passage over the Atlantic, arrival here in an inhospitable place (no Holiday Inn Express, no local hospital, no grocery store, no Best Buy, not even a Wal*Mart!). In this place, they scraped out a physical existence, while so many of them fell ill and died, right off the boat, in that fateful first year. To them, the physical existence was secondary to their spiritual existence, and in that they reveled and excelled and were exceedingly fulfilled.

How could they be so happy in the midst of such physical difficulty, with so many fresh graves in their new cemetery? They, I am sure, were not so very happy, but they were filled with joy, and that is a whole different thing than happy.

Happiness is an emotional state. Joy is a spiritual state. There is a long distance between the two, for most people, most of the time. Sometimes those two states are, and thank you God when it is so, united in one person at the same time. When the Pilgrims considered their cemetery, and yet feasted at their first Thanksgiving celebration, they could not have been emotionally happy, but they were obviously full of Joy. Praise God!

Not only were the Pilgrims celebrating their Joy at their freedom of worship of Jesus Christ, in which they had invested their money, their time, their energy, their blood. They had also created this outpost of Christianity – boots on the ground, if you will – in the New World of America. This occasion of Thanksgiving the First, was an occasion of dedication of their place, their enclave, in America. So, we see here this second basis for Thanksgiving in America.

In the Old Testament, we find a similar occasion of Thanksgiving, in the dedication of the Jews’ place, of their enclave in Jerusalem, as set out in Nehemiah 12:27, when the wall, providing security and protection to the City of Jerusalem, had been rebuilt under the leadership of the governor, Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 2:5-6; 10:1), Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites (the priests) in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps.

So, now, let us look at the third basis for Thanksgiving in America, thanksgiving for the opportunity to bear fruit, spiritually — through evangelism and discipleship – in America. In II Corinthians 9: 10-13, Paul wrote, Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and with all men.

History indicates that these early Thanksgivers had guests, locals/Native American Indians, with whom they shared liberally, not only their food, but also their Christ. The real fruit of those Pilgrims’s righteousness was not that God provided them food, but that they shared Christ with all men – and the only other ones around were their newfound friends, the local Indians.

These three salient aspects of that first Thanksgiving should give us pause today, in our prayers and meditations, as we prepare for our Thanksgiving week of celebration: What are you thankful for? I hope it is for those basics of Matthew 6, yes, and for the “goodies” of our astonishing creature comforts, but that does not scratch the surface. The Pilgrims had all the right things of Joy for which to be thankful: religious freedom in their persons, and in their place, and in their privilege to share Christ, to share that religious freedom, with their neighbors! Now, that is something, some set of three main things, for which to be thankful.

In this Thanksgiving 2011, pay attention to Thanksgiving 1621.

Giving Thanks: The Challenge of Your Lifetime

Happy Thanksgiving!

What a season for us to celebrate: Although, we should every day celebrate God’s blessings in Jesus Christ’s ministry of reconciliation of God to Man (as explicated by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 5: 14—6:1). And we should every day celebrate God’s favor of family and friendship, as described by God Himself in Genesis 2: 18, 22-25. And we should everyday celebrate God’s provision for us, as described in Matthew 6: 25-34. And we should everyday celebrate God’s protection, even from the eternal death, the second death, in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Revelation 21: 8), because our Savior Jesus Christ, in His appearing, abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through His gospel (II Timothy 1: 10), and He preserves us from all evil (Psalm 121: 7) . Well, today, we are celebrating all those things, for the Thanksgiving season and also for the example of celebrating these things every day. However, the challenge of the day is what else do you have to be thankful for, today, and do you give all these thanks?!

If you think about those points of thanksgiving, all of them are celebrations of what is coming to us, the intake or income side of the ledger of accounting of thanksgiving. As, at the direction of the Holy Spirit we alluded to last Sunday, there is another dimension to thanksgiving, another side, and it is thankfulness through giving, and that not just of the tithe, which God has claimed as His own anyway as a cheerful act of obedience and thankfulness on our part. It is a thankfulness of giving of ourselves, to others, including to our enemies. (See Matthew 5: 43-48.) What a thought! It is the thought that we are called and challenged to give to those we know and love, to those we don’t know, and to those we know are our enemies. That’s Thanksgiving!

We note in our church, I think with some accuracy, that we have not grown by being seeker-friendly, in the modern sense, now even typified by what is called the “Hipster Church”, or “Hipster Christianity”, but we note that our growth has been mostly internal, inside each one of us if you will, and external only in a limited sense. And we would make this distinction between internal and external by the march of discipleship, of having grown individually from immaturity to maturity. And that is not a bad thing, it is just incomplete.

It is a challenge for a non-believer to accept the basic principles, the elementary principles, of Christ. We as believers of Christ have all had to overcome that challenge. And that is a big challenge, and not easy to overcome, even though it is God’s desire that every person should come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2: 3-4). Why is that a big and difficult challenge? Because to accept that challenge we have to choose to believe, in faith chosen, in the supernatural as overcoming the natural, of choosing to believe that our faith supplies belief beyond the extent of our experience and of our ability to reason (Hebrews 11: 1). But, once we have chosen and accepted the basic, elementary principles of Christ, we are challenged to go beyond the internalization of our chosen beliefs and to externalize those internal beliefs into actions, and we do that by choosing and causing our actions in life to be acts of giving thanks. And that is the challenge of our lifetimes: not just to be good, quiet little Christians (although we are called to be that, too: I Timothy 2: 2; Colossians 3: 12-17), but, II Timothy 4: 5, we see that our giving of thanks by being watchful in all things, to endure afflictions, to fulfill your ministry.

So, you have to know what your ministry is, what is your calling and purpose in life – and it may be different at different times of your life. Not everyone like Paul was/is called to be an apostle. Not everyone like Timothy was/is called to be an evangelist. In Ephesians 4: 11-16, Paul explained to the church in Ephesus, and thereby to us, the Five-Fold Ministry given by Christ: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature, complete) man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” What is clear, however, from this passage, and often overlooked in its teaching, is that the Five-Fold Ministry is not the end of ministry in the church. Indeed, the whole purpose and effect of the Five-Fold Ministry is, Verse 12, “. . .for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry . . . .” So, again, we ask, what is your personal place and calling of ministry; what is your purpose in life? If you don’t get around to believing, in faith, what that purpose and calling is, you can’t, except by random error, get around to doing that calling, and thereby letting the actions of your life be a large part of your giving of thanks, of your personal Thanksgiving.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we see and know that, through the discipleship of the Holy Spirit, of the Holy Scripture, and of the ones God has placed in our lives, we have achieved substantially in Biblical knowledge of Christ and in the elementary principles of Christ, in which we are all well-schooled in this body. But now that we are here, the Holy Spirit raises a serious personal challenge to each one of us and to this church as a body. That challenge is the question of whether we are ready for a break-out year, a breakout future, or not. By breakout, what do I mean? What does the Holy Spirit mean? It is meant, are we ready, Hebrews 5:13, to know and believe that we are skilled in the word of righteousness, and Hebrews 5: 14, and that we have, by reason of use, had our senses exercised to discern both good and evil? If we are, and I believe we are and I also believe that the Holy Spirit is confirming that we are ready with skill in the word of righteousness with discernment of both good and evil, then we are challenged to leave behind the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, Hebrews 6 1: 2, (1) of repentance from dead works (sin); (2) of faith toward God; (3) of the doctrine of baptisms; (4) of laying on of hands; ((5) of resurrection from the dead; (6) and of eternal judgment. We’ve got all that down, right; check them off, (1) through (6)? Right, checked off? With that foundation laid in those six planks, those six stones, as Scripture is telling us, and as the Holy Spirit is today confirming, we are called out, and challenged to leave behind the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ and to go on to perfection (maturity, which is where we think and believe we are)! We are among those, Hebrews 6: 5, who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come. We Are Ready! So, what are we to do? And will we do it? This is the great challenge of the rest of our earthly lives!

So how do we accept and meet this challenge and go on in our lives, “. . .beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. . . .” (II Corinthians 3: 18)? How do we do that?

First of all, we need to be strong and courageous, so we can overcome shame from peer pressure, from political correctness. We need, first of all, to believe and act in Jesus’ warning, set out in Mark 8: 34-38, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them (not just to the disciples, but also the believers, those who had accepted in faith the elementary teachings of the principles of Christ), ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed (principle of sowing and reaping) when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’” If peer pressure, political correctness, or any personal feelings of inadequacy are holding you back – yet you have already chosen in faith to believe in the elementary teachings and principles of Christ — then repent, trust in faith that you can and will overcome this, because the battle and the victory are the Lord’s (I Samuel 17: 47; II Chronicles 20: 15), and you can do all things through Christ who strengthenest you! And get to work; you can do it!

And, related to the first reservation, shame, there is a second reservation: excuse/complacency, which I believe is properly defined only as misplaced priorities. And there is no room for that among the mature in the Kingdom of God. Let’s see what Jesus said about it, in Luke 14: 15-24, in which the context is that Jesus, with others, was invited to a meal in the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. Here is what happened, “Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him (Jesus) heard these things (parables of the wedding feast), he (that table companion of Jesus) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then He (Jesus) said to him (in another parable on the same subject, the wedding feast), ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses (sound vaguely familiar?). The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”

Jesus is not interested in the things of this world, not our business and job pursuits, nor even our wives, if they interfere with His purpose and His plans. He wants there to be a full house at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and He is looking for his ambassadors, the Ambassadors for Christ, his Christian soldiers, who will leave behind the businesses and jobs, and family as necessary, to live their lives in His calling. It is not a matter of abandoning your families or of failing by misguided choice, to provide for your families and yourself, so that you and your family are a burden to others. It is simply a matter of getting your priorities right and getting rid of unacceptable excuses, ones that God and Jesus have heard many times.

So, third, you get past these two issues of shame and misplaced priorities and you are now well-founded in the elementary principles of Christ, you are bold in the gospel and the word of righteousness, and you can discern good and evil, all in God’s order, to fill up the house for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. So, now, what do you do?

If you have received a specific calling or plan, then obey it. If is to go to Thailand, as some decades ago our newly-found brother in Christ did, then go. If it is not that, then do not do nothing (despite the bad grammar)! Instead, just look around you in the city where you are, looking in the alleys and the streets, and out into the fields and hedgerows, looking for those in need, and go to them, and bring Christ to them.

What most people need first is Christ, they need to be saved, and Jesus, right on in the next chapter of Luke, carried on with these theme: Luke 15: 3-10, “So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having lost a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing, and when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (if such exist). Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’” Yes, John 14, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts in regard to sin, judgment and righteousness and Who guides in the way of all truth, but from these parables, we see that we are the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and hearts of Christ on earth to do the inviting to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. So we have work to do, all shame, misplaced priorities and any other excuses aside. The ministry of reconciliation, II Corinthians 5: 19, has been committed to us, so that we are now ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us! So plead, plead, plead!

But a lot of people are impaired in their vision, and so at first can’t get to the salvation message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because of and by their circumstances, circumstances of pain, hunger, poverty, fear, imprisonment, physical and mental and emotional disability, and God simply says for us to go and minister to them, the same way we would if we saw Jesus, Himself, in such a fix in His circumstances (see, Matthew 25: 33-46) In our ministering, naturally with bread, and supernaturally by fervent prayer and the faithful laying on of hands, their needs will be met and they will see those actions as signs and wonders, and they will be encouraged to heed the work of he Holy Spirit to guide them to Truth, Jesus, and to understand the distinctions between sin, righteousness and judgment, and to receive the invitation we bring for them to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord!

And, do not forget the instruction in the Book of James, 1: 27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” That is part of just looking around you and finding and meeting needs, unless you find some different instruction from the Holy Spirit.

So, even if we are not called to a specific ministry elsewhere, we are called to a ministry in our hometown, even if not, individually, as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, then merely (and that is a big word) as ministers, as Royal Ambassadors, of Christ Himself! That local work is probably a test for us, because everything is what? A test, a preparation ground for us in ministry, a walking before we run, as we walk out our faith in maturity. The hardest part of a journey is the first step. For many of us in this body – and in the larger body – it is time to invest ourselves, and to spend some of this spiritual energy that God has graciously stored in us, with resources of elementary principles of Christ, with the word of righteousness and with discernment of good and evil, by greeting and ministering to people, outside of our comfort zones, so that we can rejoice with the angels, the shepherd and the sweeping woman, and the master of the feast, with others to whom we shall have ministered, and who come into the kingdom, growing in and to their own maturities, to bring others in to the kingdom. Then, we can share with them and with the angels and with all Believers, and with Christ this word from I Thessalonians 2: 19-20, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you (those who received our pleading as if God were pleading through us) in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” Let us take up the greatest challenge of our lives, and give thanks by our ministries, by going from one to another, from glory to glory, from joy to joy, as we, with the Holy Spirit, fill up the Master’s house at the ultimate Thanksgiving, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb!! Give thanks, the rest of your lives, by meeting the challenge of externalizing your faith, stepping into the world around you, as you find it, and bringing and sharing the light of life, as you plead with those you encounter to know, love, confess, honor and obey Jesus Christ and His and the Father’s commandments, and the instructions of the Holy Spirt. If you are not up to that challenge, how can you expect anyone else to be?

Amen and God bless you+

Preparation for Thanksgiving

How are you doing on preparing for Thanksgiving?

You know, in the preparations for Thanksgiving, you normally sort though the steps of determining where you will be, who will be there with you, and the buying and preparation of the traditional elements of the meal – the turkey, sometimes other meats, the casseroles, the vegetables, the breads, the deserts, the accompanying drink and all that. You, if you are traveling, might make sure the tire pressures are checked and the oil is changed and the car or truck cleaned up a bit. And some folks may even be planning ahead for those big sales on Friday, Black Friday they call it now, which often start at midnight, just at the end of Thanksgiving Day!

Somewhat like Christmas, Thanksgiving is for many people, and probably, most people, in America a time of great attention to preparation, with many details, much energy, some emotion, and some expense of money involved in those preparations. It seems at times that the actual Thanksgiving Dinner is almost anti-climactic, after all the energy spent in preparation. That is sad, and often, sadly, much the same can accurately be said of Christmas and the Christmas Season and its preparations.

It is almost a cliché that the pulpit preachers are frequently railing against materialism and commercialism. And there is a place for that, but that is not a new or deeper message, for it is true that in America, we have made Thanksgiving a mere cultural tradition, as Satan would wish, and we have allowed him, for the most part, to hijack the real purpose and meaning of Thanksgiving. And thus we have come to allow Thanksgiving to serve Satan’s purposes in many ways, and we have allowed the true purpose of Thanksgiving to be largely divested, minimized and devalued.

Once we see this, we could be quick to say, that God has, in that process and by that result, been short-changed. And that is true, but that is not the whole story. The rest of the story is that we who are Believers are also short-changed, and our country and world are short-changed if that is all our Thanksgiving really is. What Thanksgiving is really about is Jesus, and His Ministry of Reconciliation, offering mankind, one by one, the opportunity to be forgiven, to be cleansed of all unrighteousness, to be made holy and unblemished by sin, to be washed in His blood that we may stand without guilt before a Holy and Perfect One, our God. That is what Thanksgiving is really about – not just the provision of our daily bread, but the provision in Christ of the Bread of Heaven! That is an indescribable gift!

When we turn Thanksgiving into a program or a production, if you will, then we miss the whole point of it, which is to address our hearts to giving thanks abundantly, thanksgivings, to God, the Christ and the Holy Spirit – The Trinity—for their abundant, life- giving grace, forgiveness, provision and protection in our lives. That is what its all about – what is going on in our hearts as we go through the preparations and the assemblies of families and friends – what is going on in our hearts about thanksgiving in the Thanksgiving Season? That is the personal question for each one of us American Christians, but it is also a personal question for Christian Believers all over the world: Are we giving thanks, liberally, to God, and are we living our lives not only at the actual Thanksgiving Day/Dinner, but year-round – between Thanksgivings – so that others are caused, in their hearts, to give thanks to God?

The setting for this question comes from II Corinthians 9: 6- 14, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.’ (Psalm 112:9) Now, may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness , while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

What a great passage this is, not just one appropriate for our annual Thanksgiving Celebration, 2010-style. No, this is for life- style, year-round and we can especially celebrate this on our annual Thanksgiving Day, yes.

This passage from II Corinthians 9 draws us to expand the horizons of our thanksgiving, but in so doing, I believe that it draws us into a place of deep repentance – yet again. This deep place of repentance is, on one level of analysis, what has allowed us to receive God’s grace, His sure mercies, and His forgiveness, with the promise of eternal life with Christ. But on another level of analysis, to which God is drawing us now as we turn into 2010’s Thanksgiving Week in America, God is showing us not only to transcend the focus on the cultural preparations for Thanksgiving, but also to attain the spiritual focus of Thanksgiving, which is on two levels of analysis:

First, be abundantly thankful for all of His abundant, life- giving grace, forgiveness, provision and protection in our lives;

Second, be so and similarly thankful for God’s provision of the seed and its multiplication (verse 10), by which the fruits of your personal righteousness are increased (verse 10) between Thanksgiving Celebrations! And to see that there is a synergy of Thanksgiving – as thanks build upon thanks like mounting waves in the ocean! – if and as (verses 6-8) we sow bountifully, with open hands, all through our lives, then not only does God’s grace abound to us in all things, so that we have an abundance for every good work, but that through us He gives to the poor, He supplies the needs of the saints, and that in turn (verse 11) those poor, those other saints pray for us (verse 14), and they are blessed and fed and enriched, “which causes thanksgiving through us to God”! All this (verses 12 and 13) is our “liberal sharing with the saints and “all men” (so, non-believers, too) (not liberal sharing through the government, but through the church and its Christians). And that is (verse 14), the “indescribable givt”, this synergy of Thanksgiving (define “synergy”), by the principle of multiplication, where one seed becomes many, all (verse 12) abounding through many thanksgivings to God. And this not all physical bread sharing – it is that, but even that is a fruit of our righteousness, as we – and by the principle of multiplication – we, and they, are all beneficiaries of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning death and resurrection- (verse 13) as we glorify God by that Bread-of-Sharing, the testimony of our lives, and they in turn “glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ and for your (resulting) liberal sharing with them (the saints) and all men. Again, what an indescribable gift!

Here at BibleFaithFellowship, we share our Praise Reports each week, as we share how God has answered our prayers for ourselves and others, how He has used us in His kingdom work, and how in other ways He has blessed us. This is a proving ground, if you will, by which we and our young people have learned to stand up for Christ, and to state publicly, albeit in this safe setting, our and their confession of the gospel of Christ and how He has blessed them and others. These Praise Reports are also “Mini-Thanksgivings” every week through the years. And they are preludes to our annual, “official” celebration of Thanksgiving.

As we continue with our preparations for 2010’s Thanksgiving Day, let us ask some searching questions:

First, is the testimony of my life measured by my confession of the gospel of Christ and my liberal sharing with the saints and all others?

Second, is that testimony bearing fruit in changing other lives and my own, on a daily basis, resulting in a multiplication of thanksgivings not just by us, but through us by those whose lives we have impacted, to God and His glory?

Third, do I need to repent of any sin of selfishness, self- absorption, miserliness in sharing bread, or timidity in sharing the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ, with the saints and all others?

Those three questions – that’s enough of a challenge for today, and I believe that the Holy Spirit knows that those questions will bring some, maybe even all, of us to profound places of repentance and change. Whenever we get our hearts right with the answers to those questions, we will understand God’s indescribable gift to mankind even better, and this will enable us to bring even greater and more numerous Praise Reports, as Thanksgivings, into the House of God all through the years and especially at this time in America called Thanksgiving, And this will enable us to prepare, properly in repentance and prayer and sharing, for Thanksgiving. And we will see, and share with, the great passion and joy, in Revelation 7: 9-12, all the great multitude crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” and all the angels, and the elders and the four living creatures all around the throne were on their faces before the throne, worshipping God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

How are you donng on getting ready for Thanksgiving? Amen+

Thank God He has a Plan

Last year, I gave a sermon about what we have to be thankful for. I found that the word thankful appears only 3 times in scripture in the KJV: Psalm 100, Romans 1:21 and Colossians 3:15. Once again, I’m going to be preaching about being thankful.

Merrian Webster defines it this way.

  • conscious of benefit received <for what we are about to receive make us truly thankful>
  • expressive of thanks <thankful service>
  • well pleased : GLAD <was thankful that it didn’t rain>

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Colossians 3:1-3, 15-17

Verse 15 says, “and be ye thankful.” For what? Everything in this passage is telling us one thing: be thankful that God is God and that Christ is His son. Be thankful that Christ lives in us.

According to scripture, being thankful isn’t an expression of thanks, or being glad; rather, it is a mindset about who God is, what He is, and the fact that He is God. God calls us to be thankful always not just when something good happens. Being thankful is a state of mind that we are to be in at all times.

So how is that possible? How can I, being the sometimes pessimistic human that I am, negative in my attitudes and always seeing the bad things that are about to happen, or the possibility of the failure that I know I can achieve today, how can I be thankful all the time? What exactly is there that I can focus on that will allow me to have a “thankful” mindset?

A couple of weeks ago, I was really struggling at my workplace. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Things are not going well, my superiors don’t seem to have a clue as to what I can do, or what I should be doing. I’m apologizing to the teachers about not being able to solve their problem more often than I am actually able to fix the issue. It is frustrating and almost humiliating. There is no respect for any of the technicians for their abilities or their knowledge or their work ethi … the list goes on. Generally speaking it is a difficult task to go into work knowing that you can fix problems, yet not having the authority or the ability to do so because of the restrictions placed by those in charge. I was to the point that I wanted to quit, and every day I had to force myself to go to work.

I love how God works in our lives: He places people in a position to minister to us; He sends people to say things to us; He puts us in positions that we have to learn what He wants us to learn. It almost sounds as if He has a plan.

Anyway, I went to a customer’s house, her name is Betty Chaplin. We tend to see each other on a regular basis, usually when one or the other of us is struggling with something in our lives. She is a wonderful woman who loves the Lord and whom God puts in my path on many occasions, especially when I need correction or encouragement. This time, she asked me a question. She asked, “Do you believe that God has a plan?” What a simple question, and one that I, myself, have asked others many times! Do I believe that God has a plan? Of course I do; God has to have a plan: He sees everything, knows everything, has everything, does everything; He is God. So ,of course I answered, “Yes.” to her question. Then she asked me, “If you believe God has a plan, why are you so worried about what is happening at work?”

Good question! Why was I so worried about “stuff” at work? What was it that I was so consumed with that I could not seem to find any joy or anything to be thankful for at work? I don’t remember exactly what was said after that, but it was something like, “So why are you so worried about what’s going on at work? Why not just do what God has set you to do, knowing that He has bigger and better plans for you?”

One of the best examples in scripture about God having a plan for us is Joseph. Joseph went through a lot of bad times, but God definitely had a plan for him; he just had to get through the bad stuff first. Now if that isn’t the truth. If you ever think you’re having a bad day, think about the stuff Joseph had to go through – being thrown down a well, sold into slavery, taken from your land and your family, thrown in prison. Now that’s a bad day at work, and all he did was go out to check on his brothers because his father asked him to. Did God have a plan? Absolutely!

God openly tells of us His plans throughout scripture. One of the first in scripture is the plans He makes for Abraham. Open your bibles to Genesis 18:10-19 (KJV).

10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. 16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

First, God is going to make an old couple pregnant. Then, He is going to make that one child, the one child of promise, into a great and mighty nation. Then, He is going to bless the entire world through that nation. Now that is a plan!

So We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster. The Lord detests the proud; they will surely be punished. Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil. When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them. Better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest. We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. God have a plan for us? Scripture says that He does.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

Psalm 40:5

The Lord will work out his plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138:8

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Proverbs 16:1-9

These are a few of the passages that tell us that God has a plan for each and every one of us. But we can also see in our own lives, look back at some of the things that have happened to you, can you see God’s divine hand involved? I know that I can. Some of the things that I’ve done should have ended in my death. But God has a plan, and we can never fail to do what God knows we are going to do, He is God after all. Sometimes it takes a few bumps and bruises, but if we believe in Him, and we seek Him, and we want to do His will, then He will direct our paths and His plan will come to fruition through us. Ofcourse, His plan is going to prevail whether we believe in Him or not. However, when we are believers in Him, then He can direct us and make our lives exactly what they should be.

For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you – whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

1 Corinthians 3:9, 21-23

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Those called by God – we – are God’s workers: powerful, wonderful, exciting statements. And we should be thankful for them every single day. We know we are called by God: He says so in His Word. Here are some verses that should make us very thankful:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Romans 8:14

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

God says that we should be thankful always, that it is a mindset and we should walk around joyful and thankful, giving praise and glory to God in everything we do. I didn’t see that for a while, but now, I just have to remember that no matter what we are going through, we can hear His voice and be thankful that He has a plan … and it’s good.

What Do We Have to be Thankful For?

So, what do we have to be thankful for? A new pair of shoes? A new car? A new house? When we think of being thankful, we tend to think about the things we have received, or the material things that we have. Sometimes we’re thankful for things that we don’t have, like … I’m so thankful there was no school this week, or I’m thankful that I don’t have to work tomorrow. In scripture (King James Version), the word, thankful, appears only 3 times.

Merrian Webster defines it this way.

  • conscious of benefit received (for what we are about to receive make us truly thankful)
  • expressive of thanks (thankful service)
  • well pleased : GLAD (was thankful that it didn’t rain)

Scripture has it a bit different, Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Psalm 100

The psalmist is simply saying: be thankful that God is God, and that He loves us and extends His mercy to us. I can understand that, without His mercy, where would we be?

Read Romans 1:20-25.

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: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 1:20-25

Paul is writing here explaining how even though every man has seen the glory of God, and understand it, men still did not thank Him, or even acknowledge that he was God. Instead, they made idols and worshiped them.

Read Colossians 3.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

Colossians 3

Verse 15 says, “and be ye thankful.” For what? Everything in this passage is telling us one thing: be thankful that God is God and the Christ is His son. Be thankful that Christ lives in us.

In the NLT, the word Thankful shows up only 8 times (thankfulness twice).

  • Ephesians 5:4: “Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.”
  • Colossians 2:7: “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
  • Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
  • Colossians 3:16: “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”
  • Colossians 4:2: [ An Encouragement for Prayer ] “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13: “As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.”
  • Hebrews 12:28: ” Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.”

So, according to scripture, being thankful isn’t an expression of thanks, or being glad, but rather, it is a mind-set about who God is, what He is, and the fact that He is God. God calls us to be thankful always not just when something good happens.

So what about all the good things that God does? What do we call it when we celebrate good things, when we want to give God glory for the wonderful things that He does for us? When do we give him thanks? Well, if you live in the USA, it’s on the last Thursday of November. But I think we can do better then that.

Definition of Thanksgiving

  • the act of giving thanks
  • a prayer expressing gratitude
  • a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness

The word, Thanksgiving, shows up 29 times in scripture (in both the KJV and the NLT). It always has to do with giving God the glory for what He has done.

  • Leviticus 22:29: “And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.”
  • Nehemiah 12:8: “Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren.”
  • Nehemiah 12:27: “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.”
  • Nehemiah 12:46: “For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.”
  • Psalm 26:7: “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.”
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11-12: “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God;”
  • Philippians 4:6: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
  • Colossians 2:7: “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
  • Revelation 7:12: “Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

So according to scripture, being thankful is a state of mind that we are to be in at all times, and thanksgiving is what we do when we receive those wonderful and good things from God, giving Him praise and thanksgiving always.