Thoughts on Thanksgiving
BY MARIE TIEMANN
The Lord instructs us to be Thankful. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5: 16-18)
How did we come to have a national day of Thanksgiving and how and why is it relevant to the church? Why should we be thankful for the founding of this nation that we live in? How do I/we express our gratitude to God surrounding this event? To answer these questions, we’ll step back to the year of 1620, walk through time, and take a look at a couple of significant events and a few of the people God used during those years.
While reading the book EPIC, an Around the World Journey through Christian History, by Tim Challies, I learned about the development of the Bible and that the founding of our nation was very significant for the spread of Christianity and for the preservation of the Bible. Throughout the many years that the Bible was being written, printed, and spoken, many of the governmental leaders in Europe were trying to suppress the Bible and its spreading to the people by imprisoning and killing those who were faithful in exclaiming the gospel message. They became known as religious dissenters and later they left their homes, jobs and communities in order to escape the religious persecution.
On September 6, 1620, William Brewster and his family set sail on the Mayflower with 39 other religious dissenters to flee persecution so that they could worship in peace. The ship anchored near Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. It was a treacherous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and during the first winter, the new settlers endured much hardship through the harsh climate without sufficient food or shelter. “In the new settlement William Brewster took on the role of the settlers’ pastor and spiritual leader. One of his biographers writes, “He alone held the Pilgrim church together during the early years of settlement, maintaining both its orthodoxy and its willingness to interact with nonseparating Puritans.“1 Brewster was faithful to the word of God and his service, yet he wasn’t aware of how his service would be so important for the future of this nation and to us today who live in a land of freedom where the gospel can continue to be proclaimed. Another important person and leader at the Pilgrim Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts was William Bradford, who was chosen as the first governor. In 1623, he called the Pilgrims to gather for a day of prayer and thanksgiving.
To All Ye Pilgrims- A Thanksgiving Proclamation Attributed to William Bradford, first Governor of the Colonies
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, now, I your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”
The Lord continued to send other pastors and Christian leaders to this land in the years that followed. John and Charles Wesley traveled to America in 1735, followed by George Whitefield who arrived in 1739 and preached to thousands throughout New England. The Wesleys and George Whitefield were instrumental in starting the revival known as the Great Awakening.
On October 3, 1789 George Washington issued the nation’s first presidential proclamation in which he called the nation to set aside a day of thanks. Here is an excerpt of the proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them and opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for this kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to becoming a Nation…”
I hope that you will someday have an opportunity to visit Pilgrim Plantation and discovery the Pilgrims’ experience and thank God for their endurance and steadfastness in their faith and bringing the Bible to this land. Maybe you’ll even find yourself becoming very fond of these great men and women, as I have, who endured great hardship and paved the way for us to live freely in this land. William Brewster’s chest is on display at the Pilgrim Hall museum. Another site that I highly recommend visiting is the Museum of the Bible where you’ll learn more of how the Bible was written and delivered throughout the world.
It’s easy to be thankful for the tangible things that I have and my job, friends, family and church, but I am forever grateful for God’s faithfulness to His children by giving us His son who endured the cross for me to live free from the penalty of sin and for His word that endures through all generations. I pray that His beloved church would continue to be faithful to His word and teach the next generations. “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Psalm 78: 1-4
I find that this prayer by John & Charles Wesley’s mother expresses my sentiments to my Lord very well. Susanna Wesley had 19 children.
“I thank thee, oh God, for the relief and satisfaction of mind that come with the firm assurance that you govern the world. Even the tumultuous and irregular actions of sinful men are nevertheless under thy direction and thy providence. You who are wise, good and omnipotent and have promised “to make all things work together for thy good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Roman 8:28 Thank you my God & Savior. “ Susanna Wesley (circa 1600’s)
HAVE A HAPPY AND BLESSED THANKSGIVING!
1 Challies, Tim EPIC An Around the World Journey Through Christian History, 2020,pg 83
A little child shall lead us…
BY JOYCE PELLETIER
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them."
As grownups we become entangled with the busy-ness of life. Running errands here and there. We have to go to work, have to get the groceries, have to pay the bills. We get on a treadmill that doesn’t stop unless the safety plug is pulled or the timer on the clock runs out.
With a child, life is timeless. They don’t look at the clock or understand its purpose. They don’t worry about eating, they just ask Mom for a cracker.
Let me tell you about my two-year-old neighbor, Cari. We’ve been building our friendship. She can talk the leaves off the tree. Cari has taught me much about taking time to enjoy a few moments of simplistic conversation. In those moments I experience the gentleness of God.
When Cari comes to my door once a week, to drop off her dog Suzi for a visit for the day, she stands outside my door peeping her little head, then, when she sees me, she does her little happy dance and I join her with the storm door between us.
Later when she comes home from preschool, she chatters away, sharing her day, other times she’s just listening. Cari loves cherry tomatoes. Everyday when they come home, she says, “I’ve got to pick tomatoes!” She finds one, then starts eating, whether they are ripe or not. She is the epitome of joy and fun. It is a part of my day that I look forward to. Unconditional love!
As a young child, Cari, just wanting to go pick her tomatoes, She had a task to do, and went to do it. Didn’t Jesus do the same thing? He didn’t just go pick tomatoes, He became a man, lived like a man, learned obedience to God as all of us should. He, too had a goal to accomplish every minute of every day, just like Cari. It shows me we go about on our life’s journey, finding purpose, and being obedient to that purpose. Sometimes we just have to pick tomatoes. In the simplistic encounters with Cari, I’ve learned to take time to just listen and enjoy these types of moments in my life. Somehow, doing so eases the stress of the challenges that life brings.
Before long we will once again enter the season of Christmas. I am reminded of the little child who became a man, died on the cross, so I can be with him forever. We start by becoming a child, then we are fortunate to have the best teacher ever, and we learn to be obedient and just pick tomatoes.
I’m sure of this, that Jesus learned to play as a young child. The greatest message from Cari, is to enjoy the moment, because when the tough times come, He is with us still. What a blessing to have a time in our Sunday Service, when we focus on the little children. It reminds me, too, I was once a little child! How precious it is for us to make time for those moments and when we get ‘older’ we recognize the lessons of our Heavenly Father, who loves us so much, that He became a little child, Himself.
Have Faith and Let God Lead You
BY JEFF DAUGHERTY
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
I read a bible verse the other day and thought I would share it with you.
Psalm 32:8-9, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
This told me many things. First, God will teach me what I need to know, he will show me the direction I need to take. Second, He warns me not to be like a mule that is stubborn and will not move without much prodding. I must be open and ready to God’s directions. All I need to say is “yes Lord”.
Have faith and the words will come. Be ready to say “Yes Lord” and He will take the lead. There is a lesson in this for all of us.
If God wants you to walk along a specific path will you stand, steadfast in one spot, until he tells you a direction? God will gladly give us direction. What he will not do, no matter how much we may plead with him to do so, give us a swift kick in the hind quarters to get us moving. That part is entirely up to us.
Taking that first step is usually a tough one to take. Why does God not give us a shove? Because that first step requires us to put our trust in him. It takes a great deal of faith to step out even when we do not know the direction we are going. It is like Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the water in Matthew 14:29. It didn’t take him long to sink, however. But he did take that first leap of faith. Stepping out in faith is not a single step victory. It merely starts with one step. Then you give praise to the Lord for helping you to take that step. Then you take another step. He will be there to guide us and protect us. Ever vigilant the Father is over his children.
A child will jump without a thought of fear because they know that their parent is there to catch them. Why is it that a leap of that kind gets tougher the older we get? Because we can reason and rationalize things. Because we hesitate long enough with the door open and let fear creep in and overtake us. Sort of like standing at the fridge with the door open trying to decide what you want to eat for a snack.
But how do you take that first step when simply getting out of bed is a monumental task? For those who are severely depressed gathering that will is beyond comprehension. Go ahead and take that first step. That is easy for me to say, right?
I am not some all-knowing Christian with a hotline direct to God. I am just a flawed sinner who once begged God to show him that He was real. I am just a person who learned how to trust and rely upon God. I am someone who learned the truth.
You are loved. You are important. Imagine that you are sitting in your living room watching the Super Bowl with a few friends. You sit and cheer for your favorite team. Things may have not been that cheerful in your life for quite some time, but I am sure that you can remember such an event. You can hear the cheers erupt as your favorite player makes a huge play.
You have such a cheering section. Imagine God sitting in front of a big screen TV with a few of his angels and saints. There share some popcorn and watch your life as it unfolds before them. Filled with drama and emotion, your story has their eyes glued to every moment. They see you about to take the first step in your personal leap of faith and they begin to cheer. But you hesitate and do not take that leap. God may be all-knowing, but the angels sitting with him are not. They let out a sigh of empathy for you. Tears flow down their cheeks as they watch you.
“You were so close”, they cry.
“Don’t give up!”, some shout.
But God, listening to their pleas, motions for them to settle down and keep quiet.
“This is my favorite part,” he says as he leans forward toward the edge of his seat.
All of the angels and saints lean forward as if it would help them to see it a little better.
Silence fills the room as your life continues to unfold across the screen.
But this time you, at your lowest point, give up trying to control what is uncontrollable. In a final act of broken surrender, you decide to take that step, no matter where it may lead. You tried to do it on your own and it didn’t work. You are a little unsure but you reach out with your foot as you take that small, but crucial first step.
That is when you realize you have been holding your breath for the past several moments. As your foot moved forward and you feel the steady earth below it, you let out a deep breath.
From God's TV room, the crowd erupts with a cheer that would topple most earthbound stadiums. As proud as a father watching his child take their first step, God watches on. He knew you could do it.
But for you, in the here and now, preparing to take that step is pretty terrifying. My question to you is this.
Why is it terrifying?
Is it the thought of giving up control? Maybe that is it. Right now, you are in control.
How is that working out for you so far? Not so good, huh?
Realizing that you cannot do it alone is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a sign of maturity and growth.
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
You can do it.
I know you can.
Christ believes in you.
Believe in him. Trust that he will take your hand. Trust that he will protect you as you walk.
We are not talking about a Neal Armstrong type of leap.
Just one small step.
I promise, it will change your life.
Confess and Be Cleansed
BY JORDAN MAYER
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:9
This verse from 1 John has been such a precious truth in my life. It is the kind of take-it-to-the-bank promise that I've clung to every time I fall back into sin. For me, the confessing was never the hard part. It was what came after that has long been a struggle for me.
I confess my sin before God, but feel so defeated, ashamed, and consumed by the weight of my sin, that for days on end I am depressed and moody. That's certainly not my reaction for every sin, but for those particular sins we tend to elevate in our minds. Those besetting sins we tend to separate from the rest. So when I stumble and commit one of those sins, it's like everything comes crashing down. And it's in those situations that I feel as though confessing is simply not enough, that there’s something I need to do. The sad thing is that it seems, in some sense, to be a righteous act. God will be pleased with me if I really beat myself up over my sin, I think.
But in reality, it reveals a hidden self-righteousness that Satan is all too eager to exploit. While his first mission is to keep as many people from believing in Jesus as he can, the next best thing is to so burden a Christian in doubt, guilt, and shame as to make them utterly defeated and ineffective for God’s kingdom work.
I have been that Christian at many points in my life. Oh, how many days I have wasted in the worthless pursuit of trying to cleanse myself of my sin, to somehow atone for my wrongdoing by making myself miserable. Do I believe Jesus died on the Cross for my sins? Certainly, I do! And yet, my actions reveal a tendency to doubt His sufficiency and place some of the burden on myself. Yes, Jesus died for my sins but…
No, not Jesus died for my sins but. Jesus died for my sins. Period.
We must expose these lies for what they are and turn to the truth of God's Word. If we confess our sins, whether it’s the first time today or the hundredth time, God will forgive us and cleanse us from it. That's not to say that God has to re-atone for our sin. No, Jesus’ work on the cross paid for sin once for all - past, present, and future (Hebrews 7:27). This also doesn’t mean that somehow our salvation hangs in the balance until we confess each and every sin. I don’t know about you, but I know that for every sin I confess, there's several others I've overlooked. The act of confession for a believer is not an attempt to restore God's salvation, it’s how we maintain fellowship with Him. Sin turns our eyes off of God. Confession and repentance turns our eyes back to God.
We can have confidence, then, that every time we bring our sins before God, He is ready and waiting to forgive and cleanse. Not reluctantly or begrudgingly, but with arms wide open. The same love that welcomed home the prodigal son is the same love that beckons us back every time we stray.