Archives For Thanksgiving

Thanks for everything on blackboard

There are a few verses that most Christ followers at least sort of know by heart. Verses like John 3:16. Or Hebrews 11:1. Or this one:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It’s a strange passage coming from someone like the apostle Paul. He’s been bitten by snakes, shipwrecked, beaten within an inch of his life on numerous occasions, abandoned by his friends on some occasions, maligned by people he cared about on others. And yet, Paul stresses the obedience of joy and thankfulness almost as much as he stresses grace and faith.

And make no mistake—it is an issue of obedience. Often we think of joy and gratitude in the realm of feelings. Either we feel joyful or thankful, or we don’t. When we feel it, we do it. But obedience doesn’t work that way.

Obedience is doing regardless of whether you’re feeling. Thankfully, as we grow in Christ, we find the Lord not only bringing about in us the correct actions but also the correct feelings that come alongside those actions. But until we are made right and whole again, it is left to us to give ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit by continuing to do, even (and perhaps most especially) when we do not feel.

So, your gratitude—just like mine—is not a question of whether you feel thankful, but whether you are willing to obey this command from the Lord.

But there is another issue here to examine during this season set aside for giving thanks—whether there is a difference between giving thanks IN all circumstances and giving thanks FOR all circumstances.

Gratitude isn’t a matter of how we feel in the moment, but a measure of our obedience.

If there is, it means that no matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always something to be thankful for. You may not be thankful for the suffering, the pain, the hardship or the persecution, but there are other things to lift your heart. When you consider everything that the Lord is, all that he continues to do in the world, and the next world waiting for the believer, there are plenty of reasons to say “thanks,” no matter what happens to be going on.

If there’s not a difference, it means you believe that every circumstance, regardless of how devastating or marvelous, has come from God. And since you know that God is for you, not against you, then you can be thankful for the circumstance, even if you are doing so in faith. You are thankful because you believe that ultimately good will come of it.

I think people love Jesus and believe both of these things. And at the end of the day, both sets of believers are thankful.

In my own life, I have seen how, over time, you become more thankful “for.” Over time, and with perspective, you begin to see the invisible hand of God moving in times that, in the moment, you could not see. You begin to reflect on God’s providential care and love and wisdom even when he may have seemed so significantly absent. You see how he has shaped you and guided you into a deeper experience of Jesus. And so, over time, you become thankful “for.”

To bring it full circle, notice that the command here is to give thanks in all circumstances. That’s what you can do right now, even if you don’t feel like it. You can practice the discipline of gratitude, finding the grace of God, in general and in particular, at work in your life.

But as you do that, think back a bit. Think back to those moments when you thought you would never have another reason to feel thankful again. Think back, and then look and see the redemptive hand of God at work because of those times. And maybe this is the year that you are not only obediently thankful in, but also being thankful for.

Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is on Twitter at @_michaelkelley and online at michaelkelley.com, where this article first appeared.

– From Baptist Press

The real first Thanksgiving

ib2newseditor —  November 22, 2017
The_First_Thanksgiving_Jean_Louis_Gerome_Ferris

The First Thanksgiving Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Public domain)

Images from the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving Day feast are easy to call to mind—black hats, wide white collars, Native American guests, and an idyllic feast bringing together two very different cultures. But historian Robert Tracy McKenzie—along with others in his field—say that many of those images are, to put it simply, not true.

The Pilgrims often wore bright colors, for example. And while the 1621 feast did include Native Americans, the dynamic between the two groups was likely tense.

McKenzie, chair of the history department at Wheaton College, explores the Pilgrims’ journey from England to Holland to America in his 2013 book “The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.”

The Pilgrims, he writes, wouldn’t have been given to celebrating very many holy days. This set them apart from the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Aside from a weekly Sabbath, the Pilgrims had two distinct reasons to call for a holy day: a day of humiliation and fasting, and a day of thanksgiving.

Both happened in 1623, as new settlers arrived while the existing colonists were already struggling to survive. Food was scarce, and now there were more mouths to feed. And on top of all that, McKenzie writes, they faced a two-month drought that summer.

The Pilgrims called a day of humiliation “to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer.” They prayed for eight or nine hours, McKenzie writes, during which the sky became overcast. Then, it rained for the next 14 days.

And then the Pilgrims saw reason for another holy day—a day of thanksgiving. McKenzie writes this particular day was very different from what we traditionally think of as the first Thanksgiving, which historians generally consider to have been a kind of harvest festival. The real first Thanksgiving, he says, was “called to acknowledge a very specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord.”

The current vestiges of Thanksgiving Day celebrations are very different than what the Pilgrims embraced, McKenzie says. “In their view, an annual Thanksgiving taught human conceit and divine predictability and could easily degenerate into a meaningless ritual that reduced God’s provision for human news to his creation of the crop cycle.

“By observing Thanksgiving irregularly, on the other hand…the Pilgrims reminded one another to look with expectancy for God’s ongoing, direct intervention in every aspect of their lives.”

– The First Thanksgiving (IVP Academic, 2013)

Thnaksgiving Blessing Celebrating Grateful Meal Concept

(Editor’s note: For thirty years, Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a wonderful essay of thanks. It was part song, part poetry, and a lovely grocery list of God’s blessings in the year nearly passed. Beck died in 1998. Here we offer our own humble version, with thanks for her example of gratitude.)

As we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings,
396 years after the first Thanksgiving Day,
we are grateful, dear God
For pilgrim fathers and mothers
who survived privation and dismay,
only to see your rich blessings
on the other side of suffering.
Their spiritual journey reached fulfillment on these shores;
Brave Pilgrims in a fearful new world,
Found welcome and home.

Now thank we all our God—
For that signal year 1517,
When an agitated priest sounded a protest,
Nailing his complaints to the church house door.
The echo of his hammer rings today.
We are grateful inheritors of the Reformation,
Expiation, Propitiation
Justification, Sanctification;
that the just shall live by faith alone;
For grace that grants to us salvation
offered freely but in Christ alone
my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.

Here we are, five centuries past, and the Protest lives.
The freedoms won by our spiritual ancestors are still protected;
We are grateful for the Constitution that lets us worship freely—
even though our theology differs,
And to speak freely—even when others object.

O God, our help in ages past, our help for years to come…
For responders first on scene in crisis and storm,
That in their service we see the Ultimate Rescuer.
For those who come in the second wave;
“Yellow Shirts” and the Relief they bring,
the love they extend for the One who gave
his very life the dying to save,
and for standing for us all, we sing,
You’re a good, good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are,
it’s who you are.

Give thanks with a grateful heart…
For text and Skype and e-mail too—
(I may never have said that before)—
because it keeps our loved ones close
though they live on distant shore.
For faithful companions for life’s journey
and a church that proves they’re truly family
in our time of need,
and for man’s best friend
who loves us steadily to the end
(not only because we feed them)
thank you.

For summer tomatoes and cornbread dressing,
Folded hands and children’s blessing,
The Spirit’s whisper in times distressing;
For “miracle drugs” and miracles real,
For doctors, nurses, and the God who heals,
for the will to get up and the desire to soldier on,
for endurance and insurance and the blessed assurance
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media

The BriefingCastro death unlikely to halt revival or spur liberty
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who died at age 90, is being remembered as both an unwitting catalyst of revival and an opponent of religious liberty. His death, said Southern Baptists with ties to Cuba, is unlikely to yield significant increases in religious liberty for the island nation until the fall of the communist government he inaugurated 57 years ago.

3 dead, 5 sickened after church’s Thanksgiving dinner
Three people have died and five more were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner at an event organized by a church in the San Francisco Bay Area, health officials said. Sutter Delta Medical Center said it received eight patients with probable symptoms of foodborne illness Friday and Saturday. Three of the patients died, four patients were treated and released and one remains hospitalized. It remains unclear exactly what caused the illness.

Violent Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago
Chicago saw one its most violent Thanksgiving holidays in years, with eight people killed and 62 others wounded. The toll towers over the number of shootings in the previous two Thanksgiving holiday weekends, according to data kept by the Tribune.

Why Jerry Falwell Jr. turned down Trump’s Cabinet position
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. believes that Donald Trump “will become America’s greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.” But that wasn’t enough to persuade him to accept Trump’s offer to become secretary of education. Falwell told RNS the decision was due to concerns for the health of his family and the university he leads.

Pope challenged by conservative cardinals
Four senior Catholic cardinals went public with a private letter they sent to Pope Francis, asking him to state plainly whether he is liberalizing Church practice on divorced, remarried Catholics. The letter also questions whether the Pope is relaxing traditional and biblical standards on morality in general. Francis refused to respond so, the cardinals published their letter on various Catholic news sites.

Sources: Baptist Press, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Religion News, CNN

Thanksgiving 2016 FB Twitter.jpg

The BriefingAmericans most thankful for family & health
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Most Americans are thankful for family (88%), health (77%), personal freedom (72%) and friends (71%). Fewer give thanks for wealth (32%) or achievements (51%), according to a new study from LifeWay.

Top Bible verse, topics of 2016 election
On Election Day, more people were searching the Bible for topics involving the end times than for praying for government. And the top Bible verse of the 2016 presidential election: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Christian colleges grapple with election, views on women & minorities
Exit polls suggest 81% of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump. But support for him may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals. Internal polls from some Christian colleges before the general election showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43% of respondents said they would vote for Clinton.

University: Religious volunteering doesn’t count
Two students are suing a Wisconsin university for denying them mandatory community service credits for work they did with a local church. The university claims their service projects violate a policy excluding hours that involve certain religious activities. The students, who filed a lawsuit in federal court, argue the policy is viewpoint discrimination and unconstitutional.

Protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress. “Look, these people, these protesters, aren’t opposing me or our church,” he said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church because of the pastor’s apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. “When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, saying I’m going to topple you over.

Sources: Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Religion News, World Magazine, Baptist Press

Give thanks Autumn conceptual creative illustration

(Editor’s Note: Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a list of things for which she was grateful, letting lines from a few famous hymns to guide her prayer. With appreciation, we borrow her literary form for our own version again this year.) 

As we gather together to count the Lord’s blessings, 396 years after the first Thanksgiving day, we are thankful once again that our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation… that survives even today, twelve score years later,

still committed as one nation, despite our divisions,
still committed to the proposition that all people are created equal,
still committed to pursuit of life, the cardinal freedoms, and happiness.

Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, we are grateful—
For the rule of law and peaceful transfer of power,
for the right to vote, and whether we win or lose, we’re still one nation under God;
That truth, justice, and the American way, mystifying it at times may be
Is God’s gift, this noble attempt to govern well through liberty.

O Lord My God, when we in awesome wonder consider—
this year’s progress with cancer drugs, loyal dogs and healing hugs;
children raised with tender care, troops come home in answered prayer,
dear souls saved by God above…this is amazing grace, unfailing love.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
Wins we never dreamed came true, this was the year for champions:
Gymnasts, Phelps, and medals gold, victory laps and stories told
Of dedication’s sure reward, winners crowned and loss consoled;
Several million voices raised, the whole state rings with the praise;
Holy cow! a chant sublime, Go, Cubs, Go! It’s about time.

Count your blessings, name them one by one…
the bills were paid, the taxes too, the floors were sound, the roof was sure;
with many homeless, we were “homed,” many hungry, we were fed.

So thank you, Lord, for my three squares, Pease’s candy, deep-dish pizza,
Horseshoes, cornbread, and Cracker Barrel.
Forgive the irony, but thank you, too, for insulin and athletic shoes,
which we’ll use next year.

Surely, there are 10,000 reasons for my heart to say…Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

In Christ alone my hope is found…and in a year of uncertainty, we have learned again the meaning of sovereignty, that God’s in charge whatever man plans, when the world’s unsafe we rest in Your hands. At day’s end with the lights turned out, we hold this blessed assurance close, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.