Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thoughts Early on Thanksgiving Morning

Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. All across this great nation the Thanksgiving traditions will unfold. Many Moms and Grandmothers are already up preparing to put the turkey in the oven. In millions of homes, families will gather together and feast on such traditional goodies as the aforementioned turkey, with stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, hot rolls, and pumpkin pie. Even in missions and homeless shelters, thankful people will sit down to what may be their best meal of the year.

There are many other traditions that will be honored today. Families will gather. Some making long drives or flights to come home for the special day. NBC will televise the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live from Manhattan. There will also be football - the NFL on TV, and the annual "Commode Bowl" game between the River Rats and the Highlanders in Nitro, West Virginia. (Ever heard of THAT one?) There will be mountains of dishes to be washed, coupons to be clipped, and strategy to be planned, as Mom prepares to hit the malls and shopping centers on "Black Friday" looking for those great deals on their Christmas shopping.

Sometime throughout the day, most folks will take time to reflect on their blessings and to be thankful. All will be thankful for the feast. Some will be thankful for home, family, jobs - for living in the land of the free, for our churches, and all our material blessings. Although Thanksgiving has become more of a secular holiday, many will still bow their heads and give thanks to their maker for all He has provided. While it is altogether appropriate and right that we thank Him for His material blessings to us, In the Bible, Psalm 100 (A Psalm of Thanksgiving) gives us other reasons to give thanks. There are two basic commands in the 100th Psalm, along with the reasons to be thankful.

The first set of imperative is found in verses 1 & 2 " Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs." Verse three tells us why we should make that "joyful noise" (HCSB). Why we should serve the LORD with gladness and come before Him with joyful songs:

1. Because "the LORD is God". When you see "LORD" (all capital letters) in your English Bible, know that that reference is referring to the personal name of God. This is the name He revealed to Moses in the 3rd Chapter of Exodus. When Moses asked His name, He answered, "I Am That I Am". He is the pre-existent one. He is the self existent one. "From everlasting to everlasting, He is God". (Psalm 90) He is not just a god, He is the true and living God. There is a tendency today for people to talk about "God" in a generic way. The idea is as long as a religion is monotheistic, that we all worship the same god. This is hogwash! More and more, when I refer to God, I find it necessary to call Him, "The God of the Bible". He has often revealed Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". He is not to be confused with other so called "gods". He is majestic, powerful, and HOLY, and worthy of all praise. (see Isaiah 6). We can be thankful that in a world of uncertainty, He is God!

2. We also sing and serve Him because "He has made us". Take a moment to read the 139th Psalm and see how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". You are not an accident. You are here for a reason. God has a plan for your life. Your days were known to Him before you were conceived. We learn from the Bible that we were made in His image. Man is the capstone of God's creative work and He seeks glory, praise and honor that are due Him from His creation. We can be thankful that it is He who has made us and not we, ourselves.

3. The psalmist further tells us that "We are His people". Those who have a personal relationship with Almighty God belong to Him. We only come to a relationship with God through the way He has made. That avenue is Jesus Christ (John 14:6) The New Testament reminds us that we are not our own, but we have been purchased with a price. Not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus. We can be thankful that we are His people.

4. We are also told we are "The Sheep of His Pasture". David understood the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep. The great King was, himself, a shepherd in his younger days. In the 23rd Psalm, David shows our relationship with the Great Shepherd. It shows us His provision, guidance, protection, and blessing for us, His sheep. This truth becomes more evident in the New Testament when Jesus tells us that He is "...the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep". He also tells us in John 10 that "He knows His sheep, they hear His voice, and they follow Him". We can be thankful that we have a loving and caring shepherd.

Verse four gives us the second set of imperatives. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name". We often think of thanksgiving and praise as the same thing. While linked, they are two very different concepts. Thanksgiving is thanking God for what He has done for us. Thanking Him for His many blessings. Praise, on the other hand, is acknowledging that He IS God. Whether we feel "blessed" or not, we praise Him because of who He is! The fifth verse of Psalm 100 tells us why we give God thanks and praise:

1. "The LORD is Good"! This may be the greatest understatement in the Bible. God is Good - all the time. All the time - God is good! Furthermore He is Sovereign. "God is in His Heaven, and He does what He pleases." Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God knows the plans He has for us. Plans for our benefit and not for calamity. Plans to give us a future and a hope. All that God does is good and right. This is not always obvious to us during a time of trouble or testing, but it is true, nonetheless. Have you ever known anyone who does needlework? It is an interesting craft. The material is stretched over a hoop and the artisan painstakingly uses a needle and various colored threads to create an image of some sort. When you look at needlework from the bottom, it is a unintelligible mess of colors and threads. There seems to be no form or design to any of it. Yet when you view the work from above, you see the beautiful finished product. That's how it is in our lives. Romans 8: 28 tells us that God is working all things together for good to those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. We can be thankful that God is Good.

2. We also thank and praise Him because "His love is eternal". Some translations say "His mercy is everlasting". God's love is manifest in two obvious qualities - His Grace and His Mercy.

What's the difference? I like to explain it like this. Grace, is God giving us what we DO NOT deserve. Mercy is God NOT giving us what we DO deserve! The beauty of this, is that His Mercy and Love are eternal. We are recipients of God's mercy now, and shall be through eternity. In the 23rd Psalm, David made reference to it in this way, "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever". We can be thankful for God's mercy.

3. The Psalm of Thanksgiving closes by reminding us that "His faitfulness endures through all generations". When Moses died and Joshua was charged with the responsibility of leading nearly two million refugees into a land of promise, God told him, "As I was with Moses, so I shall be with you". What a comfort that must have been to Joshua! What a blessing this truth is to us today! If you are like me, you may not have always been as faithful to God as you should have been. But God has ALWAYS been faithful to you! He promises His children that He will never forsake them of leave them alone. I often find myself concerned about the type of world my precious grandchildren will grow up in. Two of them are already Christ followers, and I pray that the younger two will accept Jesus when he begins to deal with their hearts. What will they face as Christians deep in the 21st Century? Perhaps great persecution will face them as they live out their faith. When I find myself worrying about that, I am reminded that God is faithful and His faithfulness endures through all generations. We can be thankful for His faithfulness.

When I thank God today for all His blessings, I will thank Him for what matters most. I will remember the words of a song we learned as children in Sunday School. "Thank you Lord, for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord, for giving to me. Thy great salvation so rich and free."

Linda joins me in wishing you all a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving Day!

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