Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! - 1 Chronicles 16:34
The Thanksgiving holiday has been with us here in America almost as long as our nation has existed. George Washington was the first president to recommend that Americans set aside a day for giving thanks to God for his blessings way back in 1789. However, it did not become an official federal holiday until Abraham Lincoln (America’s best president ; )), in the midst of the tragedy of the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of "thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. So now, at least one day a year, most Americans consider giving thanks for all we have received by God’s grace – or not.
I hate to be a killjoy, but the reality is, like all holidays celebrated by our nation that have a Christian heritage, Thanksgiving has been overtaken by a secular society bent on removing any vestige of the worship of God from every aspect of American life. Thanksgiving, I suspect for the majority of Americans, is just another day off - only this time with football! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a day of relaxation, good food, and a little bit of football myself. It’s a nice respite as we prepare for the looming winter. But truth be told, Christians really should have a better grasp on giving thanks than our typical American neighbor. The Scriptures, literally hundreds of times, call on God’s people to give thanks, to remember God’s blessings, and to recognize our own humility and God’s greatness in the midst of that remembering.
If you have given the Old Testament even a cursory reading, you cannot escape the familiar refrain “God…who made the heavens and the earth…” We are to be a people who naturally live in humility and thanksgiving before such a great Creator God. Consider just one example of this from the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17). By the time the New Testament comes around, we find the theme has not changed: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Thanksgiving and praise should flow from our lips as naturally as the seasons slip from one to another by God’s good design.
In light of this, here are a few things that I am thankful for. I am thankful that, by God’s own choosing, I was born in America (no reason why I should not have been born in the slums of Calcutta, or in Europe during the Black Plague, or anywhere else for that matter). I am thankful that, even though I was about to become my parent’s fourteenth child, the thought never crossed their minds to have me destroyed in the womb. I am thankful for the fact that those parents were wonderful, caring and loving parents, who raised me to know, respect, and fear God, and made sure my whiny little bottom found a seat in church every Sunday. I am thankful that my brothers and sisters loved and cared for me, and still do. I am thankful that God deemed it good to let me grow up under the care of that family, and that I did not lose my parents to death until I was a grown man. I am thankful for two Christian friends during my high school years who, although as silly as I was in many ways, kept me accountable to the faith. I am thankful that I met my wife, and that she found me to be the most handsome man alive (kind of), and that she said yes to a skinny 23-year-old guy almost 30 years ago. I am thankful for two beautiful daughters, a godly son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as a pastor at LifePoint - a healthy, Christ-centered and truth-oriented church that was already being led well when I arrived ten years ago, and for all of you who make it the body of Christ. I am thankful for an incredible group of co-elder/pastors, support staff, deacons, and volunteers who help make my work a joy. Finally, and most importantly, I am thankful to God for bringing two brothers into my life who shared the gospel with me almost 40 years ago, and for his grace in opening my head and heart to the truth and saving me from myself.
I give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever! I hope you will take some time, not just at Thanksgiving, but often throughout the year, to give thanks as well.
Grace and peace,