Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanking and the Thankee

I’m Thankful For…

So many people will be celebrating tomorrow (Thanksgiving) by starting off sentences with the words, “I’m thankful for…” Traditionalists will say it before carving a turkey. Vegans will say it before carving a large piece of vegetable protein disguised as something they secretly wish they could eat. Children will even say it just to please their grandparents and to be assured an extra scoop of Cool Whip on their pumpkin pie.

But one thing’s for sure, being thankful implies the influence of an outside source and suggests things could have been different, despite a person’s will. And even though it might sound crazy, being thankful suggests there is someone to be thankful to.

Thankful to Whom?

Maybe you have never stopped to think about it, but being thankful for anything is pretty ridiculous when there is no one to be thankful to. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary* defines “thanks” as  a “plural noun…an expression of gratitude…another way of saying THANK YOU.” So, who is the “YOU” that you are thankful to?

According to many of the stories I have heard, especially in public schools, the original celebrants of Thanksgiving were thankful only to the Indians (Native Americans). According to many accounts, the Pilgrims were so happy that the Indians provided them with food and land that a party was necessary. So, in other words, the first “thanks” of Thanksgiving was given to Squanto and the Wampanoag people.

That’s not totally correct.

Thankful to God

Like those who celebrated in 1623, I am thankful to God. Unlike the common history lessons, the Pilgrims recognized the true Source of blessing.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, 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 the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

‎ Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 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.”

‎—William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony

If I am going to be thankful, I am going to be thankful to the “great Father…who has granted us freedom to worship [Him] according to the dictates of our own conscience.” As a pastor, I will lead my congregants in praise to the “Almighty God for all His blessings.

What am I thankful for?

I am most thankful for those things which I could not have had if it were not for the grace of God. Among those things are mercy and forgiveness; a family; a peace that passes all understanding; joy unspeakable and full of glory; and even a love for my enemies.

I am also thankful for and to those who serve this great nation, putting their lives at risk for my (and others’) freedom.

I am thankful for and to those who enforce the laws and keep the peace here at home, and for those who brave dangers to rescue us from harm.

“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” – Psalm 107:1

And ultimately, I am thankful for all the blessings which I do not deserve, including all of you who read this blog, even those who do not believe a word of what I am saying.

One More Thing

One more thing…being that I have some Cherokee blood in me, I understand that Thanksgiving may not be a Native American’s favorite holiday, but the principle of thanksgiving remains. When we give thanks, to whom do we give it?

“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” – Psalm 86:9 

“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.” – Psalm 117:1 

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;” – Revelation 7:9 

One day, when all is said and done, we all will stand before God and give thanks, for He is the God of us all, despite what we have done to each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

*Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Filed under America, Christian Living, Culture Wars, Faith, God, Thanksgiving, worship

Stick Simplicity: A Lesson In Contentment

George

First off, George is my dog. George is the best dog in the world. Everybody loves George. These are the facts.

Secondly, George loves me more than anyone else, and that’s because we think alike in many ways – and because I play with him more.

George is a dog. He doesn’t have a job, any source of income, and no idea what it would even mean to go shopping. His only concept of “Black Friday” is when I turn out the lights and put him in his kennel earlier than he deems fair.

Simple Stick

But George is the kind of dog that likes simple things. He likes his fancy squeaky toys, but he is just as happy with an empty toilet paper roll, a dust mask he might have snatched, or a simple stick in the back yard.

Don’t you wish we could be that way? Don’t you wish that we could be satisfied with a simple little stick to play with? Why do we crave the extravagant things? Why do we need so many expensive and complicated things to make us smile?

That reminds me of a song by Sean Morey I heard on the radio years ago when I lived in Kentucky. It’s called “Dear Santa.” Here’s a video made by a fan.

Sure, there’s more to life than a stick. But just look at George’s face! Look at that smile of contentment! Wouldn’t you like to be that happy?

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. – 1Timothy 6:6-8

Why don’t we just try – I know, we try every year – to keep things simple? Just keep in mind this key truth: George is MOST happy when I play WITH him.

As long as we can find enjoyment in being with those we love, who needs more than a stick?

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Don’t Be Immoral; Be Thankful

Title Undetermined

As I sit down to type this, I still don’t have a title for the post. Several things have crossed my mind, but nothing has clicked.

When I got to thinking about it, maybe that’s a good thing: having a title before the piece is written could affect what I write. So, I’m going to share what’s on my mind, then come up with a title – hopefully a catchy one.

Ephesians 5:23

I was reading through the Book of Ephesians and got to the passage you see in the photo (that’s actually from my Bible). The last part of verse 4 stood out to me so much that I grabbed a couple of colored pencils and marked it (yellow and orange).

But rather… What you have here is an either/or kinda thing. It’s a contrasting statement. Instead of doing one thing, do something else. And what is it that we are to do other than something else?

Give thanks.  Giving thanks is the contrasting opposite to six things described in verses 3 and 4. And what are those things?

  • fornication (πορνεία porneía): any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage
  • all uncleanness (ἀκαθαρσία akatharsía): in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
  • covetousness (πλεονεξία pleonexía): the greedy desire to have more
  • filthiness (αἰσχρότης aischrótēs): obscenity
  • foolish talking (μωρολογία mōrología): stupid or rash conversation; like the conversation of a drunk man
  • jesting (εὐτραπελία eutrapelía): witty talk, usually with double, vulgar meanings 

Corruption and Comedy.  Notice, the first three (in verse 3) have to do with immoral actions and desires, while the last three (verse 4) have more to do with talking about it. Isn’t that what most comedians talk about?

Unbecoming.  The fact is that sexual immorality, along with even joking about it, does not “become” saints (Christians). It doesn’t look good on us. We can do better.

Beautiful thanks.  Giving thanks IS becoming! Giving thanks to God for all His blessings is a beautiful thing! It looks great on those who wear the name of Christ.

Why the Highlighted Part?

So why did I highlight the last part of verse 4? it’s because when I looked back at all the sexual sins that are so unbecoming, all of them have roots in ungratefulness.

Simply put, if we would just be thankful and content with what God has given us, then we wouldn’t try to seek out sinful activities to satisfy our longings. It really does make me think the last days are getting closer.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” – 2 Timothy 3:2 CSB

Let’s be thankful for what we have and leave what we don’t have alone.

It’s more becoming that way. 

(Now I have to think of a title…hmm.)

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Culture Wars, Thanksgiving

The Undeniable Religious Underpinnings of an American Holiday

No Arguments

I don’t want to get into any arguments this Thanksgiving, believe me. I only look forward to meeting with family, eating turkey, along with every imaginable kind of casserole, then later flopping prostrate onto some flat surface to nap through the mythical effects of tryptophan and marshmallows. But just as with so many other things in this politically-correct life, there are those who want to make a case against Thanksgiving, at least the religious underpinnings it brings to the dinner table.

Like as with Christmas, there will inevitably be those who want to keep God out of Thanksgiving.

There has been so much debate over the level of influence religion (specifically Christianity) had in the founding of our great nation, the United States of America. Many have argued that our forefathers wanted nothing more than a completely secular society void of anything sacred. Others have argued that our Founders, if anything, might have been tolerant of religion, but never had any propensity toward the public expression of Christianity, especially in governmental affairs.

But facts are facts.

Just Facts

Look, I know that some of you would like to argue with me about the Christian heritage of this country, but I’m not going to argue; I’m just going to present the facts.

The following excerpts are taken from early Thanksgiving proclamations made by our Continental Congress.

From the First National Thanksgiving Proclamation made by the Continental Congress, November 1, 1777

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to
set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and
PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings
of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that,
together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession
of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest
Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive
and blot them out of Remembrance…

That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education,
so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing
Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom,
which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

May I ask a stupid question or two? What about the above quote sounds totally secular? What about the above quote gives the idea that the majority of Congressmen were nothing more than deists?

You see, we can argue all day long about the current state of our nation, but at its founding there were men in government who were not afraid to encourage our people to pray, praise, give thanks, and repent for our sins. I read nothing about thanking the Indians for corn.

As a matter of fact, what I read in these early documents was a call to be thankful, even in the midst of hard and difficult times. These early congressmen all agreed that even though we were at war, God was merciful and the gospel needed to be proclaimed throughout the world! Can you imagine that kind of thinking coming from Washington today?

United States Congress, October 20, 1779

Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states, to appoint Thursday, the 9th of
December next, to be a day of public and solemn thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercies,
and of prayer for the continuance of his favor and protection to these United States; to beseech
him that he would be graciously pleased to influence our public councils, and bless them with
wisdom from on high, with unanimity, firmness, and success; that he would go forth with our hosts
and crown our arms with victory; that he would grant to his church the plentiful effusions of divine
grace, and pour out his holy spirit on all ministers of the gospel; that he would bless and prosper
the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners
of the earth; that he would smile upon the labors of his people and cause the earth to bring forth
her fruits in abundance; that we may with gratitude and gladness enjoy them; that he would take
into his holy protection our illustrious ally, give him victory over his enemies, and render him
signally great, as the father of his people and the protector of the rights of mankind; that he would
graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to
contending nations; that he would in mercy look down upon us, pardon our sins and receive us into
his favor, and finally, that he would establish the independence of these United States upon the
basis of religion and virtue, and support and protect them in the enjoyment of peace, liberty and
safety. as long as the sun and moon shall endure, until time shall be no more.

Notice the prayer that God would “graciously be pleased to turn the hearts of our enemies, and to dispense the blessings of peace to contending nations?” Therein lies the big difference between a Christian nation at war and a Muslim jihad.

United States Congress, October 31, 1780

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and
calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and
thankful acknowledgments… and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace…

…to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause
the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

United States Congress, 1781

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be
religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on
that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our
manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please
Him to pardon our offenses, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and
relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give
success to all engaged in lawful commerce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counselors,
judgment and fortitude to our officers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and
favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to
bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters
cover the seas.

And just one more, 1784

[May the Supreme Ruler of the universe]  bless all mankind, and inspire the
princes and nations of the earth with the love of peace, that the sound of war may be heard of no
more; that he may be pleased to smile upon us, and bless our husbandry, fishery, our commerce,
and especially our schools and seminaries of learning; and to raise up from among our youth, men
eminent for virtue, learning and piety, to his service in church and state; to cause virtue and true
religion to flourish, to give to all nations amity, peace and concord, and to fill the world with his
glory.

Argue all you want, but I consider Thanksgiving to be a religious holiday, one that should be encouraged by our government. At least that’s what it seems our Founding Fathers would have wanted.

Please share this. I’d appreciate it.

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Got Leftovers? God Wants Them!

The Meal

Yesterday for Thanksgiving we had a wonderful meal of green bean casserole. macaroni and cheese, rolls, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, giblet gravy, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and the all-important turkey and dressing.

We had to put an extra leaf in the table to accommodate everyone, but we had fun with the new turkey plates, fancy silverware, and the new tablecloth meant to be written on… yes, we signed our names.

But that turkey – oh my goodness! It was the largest turkey my wife has ever prepared! It weighed 20 pounds! Needless to say, we are going to be eating turkey for a while to come. Including what we freeze for later, there will be turkey sandwiches, turkey pie, breakfast turkey, and late-night turkey snacks up until Christmas.

Leftovers

Yes, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftover turkey. However, not all leftovers are good. Sometimes leftover food should just be thrown away the next day, especially if it’s not properly stored.

When it comes to leftovers, it really all comes down to context, and that was the basis of a sermon I preached at Riverside Baptist Church (my former pastorate) back in 2015. Actually, the sermon I preached was divided into three major points, the Provisional Context, the Praise and Worship Context, and the Personal Context.

If you feel like God can’t use you because you’re too used up, too far past your prime, or yesterday’s news, why not take a few minutes to listen to the sermon I’m linking to below. The audio is not the greatest, but you should be able to understand it well enough.

Find out what God thinks about “Leftovers,” especially now that you’re going to be surrounded by them for the next month 😉

Leftovers (In Three Contexts): a Sermon by Anthony Baker

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Not Just for Americans

As I sit in bed with a laptop on my… lap…duh… I can’t help but wonder if anyone will have the time to read this post. I mean, really, it’s Thanksgiving!

Oh, I just said I’m lying in bed, but don’t think for a moment it’s because I’m being lazy; I was up with my wife, daughters, and sister till 2 a.m. getting ready for today’s Thanksgiving meal.

People talk about how many calories we consume on Thanksgiving, but when you think of how many calories are burned during the preparation, I think it all evens out.

But the whole reason I’m taking a moment to write is because Thanksgiving shouldn’t be an exclusively American holiday. Sure, the historical basis for the actual Thanksgiving holiday is unique and should be celebrated, but the call to be thankful should be heralded across every land.

Without question, Americans will consume more food today than much of the world will see all year. Unfortunately, the whole idea behind having a feast to celebrate God’s blessings will be lost on most. As I have heard just this morning, the main thing people have been stating as the meaning of Thanksgiving is “to gather with family” and be “thankful for friends.”

However, if nothing else, what we should be being thankful for are blessing that span every continent and people group. Both the poor and the rich, the slave and the free, the sick and the well, the forgotten and the famous have plenty to celebrate.

We are loved by God. So much so that He made a Way for us to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.

We are the recipients God’s mercy. How often has the Righteous One withheld His hand of judgment? Do you ever stop to think how close to hell each of us really could be if not for the mercy of God?

Grace! Amazing grace! It doesn’t matter where you are from, America or Zimbabwe, even Paradise, California, God’s grace is there and in superabundance. Where mercy is not getting what we deserve, grace is God’s unmerited favor shown toward those who can offer Him nothing.

The ones sitting around a table eating turkey are not different than the child in Haiti eating mud cookies: without God’s grace we would be eternally lost. This world is not all there is, and what is waiting on the other side will far outweigh the sufferings and sorrows endured during this life – and the only reason we have hope is because of God’s grace.

Yes, I’m thankful for the fact that today I can sit at a table with my wife, all three of our daughters, my sister who’s here visiting from Germany, my son-in-law, and a friend or two. I’m thankful for the fact that we are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a large meal, including turkey and dressing. But even if all we were having was a cold bowl of cereal and decaffeinated coffee, God has been good.

Thank you, Lord, for all you have provided, but thank you most of all for your grace. May you be praised.

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Praying for the President

Why can’t more Christians be like Pastor Brunson and pray for the President?

How many times do folks like myself have to remind fellow believers that even if you dislike the man, Donald Trump is the President of the United States, and we are therefore instructed to petition God on his behalf, to pray for him when he might not even recognize his needs, and to thank God for him.

Don’t believe me?

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 CSB

Notice the “why’s” attached to the above commands:

  • So that we may lead a peaceful and quite life.
    Tell me, how in the world is throwing civility out the window helping things? Is our nation peaceful and tranquil? Heck, no! And why not? Could it be that many Christians are guilty of allowing Satan to use them as tools to stir up strife?
  • So that we lead a quite life of godliness and dignity.
    Oh, tell me, how much godliness is there in forcing people out of restaurants and threatening constant incivility? Where is the dignity in screaming at the sky and clawing at the doors of the Supreme Court?
  • It pleases the Lord.
    Newsflash: Rioting in the streets and burning police cars does not please the Lord. Sending hate mail does not please the Lord. Creating an atmosphere of chaos and incivility – even anarchy – does NOT please the Lord.
  • For the sake of the gospel!
    Yes, we are to pray for our leaders so that we might live peaceable, godly, and dignified lives in order that the good news of Christ might be shared with those for whom Jesus died, and that those for whom He died might be saved.

If that’s not enough, and you can’t think of anything good to say about President Trump, Jesus Himself leaves you with no excuse for the hatred and violence.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. – Matthew 5:44-45 KJV

Some of you can’t believe that any Christian would support Donald Trump. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that any Christian could support Barack Obama, the man more hostile to the Church than any other president in history.

But I can tell you this without blinking an eye: I prayed for President Obama.

We should be praying for President Trump, too.

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Filed under America, Christian Living, Christian Unity, community, current events, ministry, Prayer