Thanksgiving Through the Years
The first official presidential proclamation issued in America was George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving message to the people of the United States. He recommended to the people:
“…that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country… “
Later, when the constitution was severely tested in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln also issued a Thanksgiving proclamation:
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to … fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it … to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
Today we once again face monumental challenges in America and around the world. But as our Forefathers did in the midst of their trials, we must us also take time to seek wisdom and guidance from our Heavenly Father and to thank Him for His blessings.
Thanksgiving is an important part of the Christian life. It is the capstone to a life of prayer. The apostle Paul instructed the church in Philippi regarding prayer:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NASB)
Our requests and intercession are to include thanksgiving as a sign of our faith. We thank the Lord in advance that He hears our prayers, and that He is about a good work, bringing His will to pass in our lives. The Scriptures are filled with prayers of thanksgiving:
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1, ESV)
“To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you…” (Daniel 2:23, ESV)
“… addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father…” (Ephesians 5:19-20a, ESV)
Thanksgiving is also a way that we show humility before Almighty God. One day Jesus witnessed this kind of a grateful heart when He healed a group of ten lepers. Luke writes:
“… And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:14-16a, ESV)
Jesus made note of his humility in thanksgiving, but also of the lack of thanks on the part of the others:
“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'” (Luke 17:17-19, ESV)
May we be like this one leper who was healed and then came back to give thanks. As we celebrate with our family and friends, let us do so with a heart of thanksgiving for all that God has done in our lives over this past year.
And in faith, thank Him for all that He is going to do in the year to come – because there is tremendous power in Thanksgiving!
Now I See Clearer Than Before November 13, 2020
“Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.” Acts 9:18 (NIV)
In anticipation of 2020, there was a battle cry at many new year’s celebrations: vision. Not only was it a new year; it was a new decade! Most of us had a hopeful feeling about it.
For me, this year started out great. Some new opportunities were opening up. My nephews’ basketball team won the state championship in their division. Another nephew was making plans for graduation while enjoying all the typical senior year activities. My husband and I would be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and had booked a long-awaited trip to the Holy Land. The year of vision was looking good.
Until it didn’t.
By mid-March, the world was understanding more about a quickly spreading virus. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on the news … people of all ages were falling ill, universities were canceling classes, professional sports leagues suspended their seasons, travel was limited … what was happening?
Life around us felt like a movie. Then, it started getting personal.
One by one, our plans got canceled. No more driving into the office or going to school. Working from home and virtual classrooms were now the new normal.
No Israel trip. No big anniversary celebration. No graduation or prom for my nephews. Add racial and political tensions to the mix, and it just didn’t seem like this year could get any worse for my family.
Until it did.
In mid-summer, my nephew tested positive for COVID-19. Then, the following month, my mom had a health scare. (By God’s grace, both are doing well now.)
What a year it has been so far. The year of vision appeared to be a blurry mess.
There’s a man in the Bible whose physical (and spiritual) vision was also a blurry mess. In Acts, we read the story of a young Pharisee named Saul. He was a devout Jew with his own crystal-clear vision to punish anyone who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. In a surprising turn of events, a voice from heaven confronted Saul while he was traveling to Damascus. A light flashed around him, and he fell to the ground. Then, “ … when he opened his eyes he could see nothing” (Acts 9:8a, NIV).
For three days, Saul was blind. During that time, there was no record that he heard from God again. A divinely appointed visit from Ananias changed that. “… Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:17b-18 NIV).
Not only was Saul’s physical sight restored; his spiritual eyes were opened too. What happened in the natural was a reflection of what was happening in the spiritual. This man named Saul, who persecuted the church, would soon be identified as Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, we think we can see, but we’re actually blind.
The year of 2020 has blindsided many of us in more ways than we can count. But could it be, in these uncertain times, that God is also removing the scales from our eyes?
For me, my priorities have been revealed. Who were the people I stayed connected to during this year? What did I miss doing? What did I not miss doing?
Also, my faith has been exposed. Is my trust in God as strong as I thought it was? Have I wandered in worry when I should have walked in holy confidence?
Maybe this hasn’t been the year we envisioned it would be. Perhaps all the things we thought we would accomplish will have to wait until later. Here is something I do know: Just because our plans have shifted does not mean God’s plans have. He knew what this year would hold, and thankfully, He holds us in His hands.
This can still be the year of vision. One that brings to light how blind we actually are. This could also be the year the scales fall off our eyes, and we see God clearer than we ever did before.
“Whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us.” – Romans 8:18 PHILLIPS
Amid daily living, we can be absorbed by immediate circumstances. Demanding conditions make it difficult to think about the future. Perplexing problems fill us with worry.
Describing our plight, Paul described how, right now, we just know “a little fraction of the truth.” Trying to understand the challenges of life is like looking at “puzzling reflections in a mirror.” But there will be a time when everything will be clear (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We can be so preoccupied that it can be hard to get excited about this future. Yet the Bible promises, “the time will come” when all doubts will be resolved, all secrets will be revealed, and “we shall see reality whole and face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will experience the wonders of all God has prepared for us.
You may be going through challenging times and facing problems that seem impossible to solve. Your needs may seem overwhelming. You may not know how to get the answers to important questions. But the Bible assures you that whatever you are going through is “less than nothing compared with the magnificent future” He has in store for you.
Do not despair. God loves you and has a plan for your life. You can trust Him. His covenant promises are true and available for you right now. And He has already prepared a magnificent future just for you!
The special call and the unfailing result
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.’ 1 Corinthians 1:9
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:3–10
Where would you have been but for grace? To repeat the old saying of John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to Tyburn to be hanged, ‘There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.’ When you see the swearer in the street, or the drunkard rolling home at night, there are you, there am I, but for the grace of God. Who am I? What should I have been if the Lord, in mercy, had not stopped me in my mad career? I know there are some of us who can remember the old story of Rowland Hill, when a good Scotsman called to see him, and without saying a word, sat still for some five minutes, looking into the good old gentleman’s face. At last, Rowland Hill asked him what engaged his attention. Said he, ‘I was looking at the lines of your face.’ ‘Well, what do you make out of ’em?’ ‘Why,’ said he, ‘that if the grace of God hadn’t been in you, you would have been the biggest rascal living;’ and some of us do feel just that, that if it had not been for the grace of God, we should have been out-and-out ringleaders in every kind of infamy and sin. I know for myself I can never do things by halves. If I had served Baal, I would have built him an altar, and made victims smoke upon it day and night; and if we serve God zealously and earnestly, we have the more reason to be humble and to lay low in the dust; for that very zeal of spirit would have been turned to the very worst account unless grace had been pleased to transform us.
For meditation: God’s saving grace is his free undeserved favour towards people spiritually dead in sin (Ephesians 2:5,7–8). Where would you be now but for the grace of God? See Ephesians 2:1–3. That is exactly where you are now, if you are still rejecting his grace—and the worst is yet to come (Hebrews 10:29)..