Oh, Give Thanks

This week millions will celebrate the grand holiday of Thanksgiving. Our heritage precipitated it and our gratitude perpetuates it. In certain circles the meaning has been diminished. In some public schools it is now represented as a time when the Pilgrims got together with the Native Americans to thank them for their help. Not so.

Out of hearts of thanksgiving in 1621 the Pilgrims met with 90 Wampanoag Indians for a time of thanksgiving to God for His blessings on them. For three days they celebrated and feasted on clams, corn, codfish, geese, ducks, turkey, eel, bass, barley, venison, and corn bread.

Such was the land of the Pilgrims’ pride.

Two years later in 1623 a drought threatened the Pilgrims. Governor Bradford issued a proclamation on November 29 that all the people should gather in the meeting house to “listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye God for all His blessings.” Before the meetings were held rains came and the services became times of thanksgiving. 

In 1789 President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving proclamation setting the last Thursday of November as a time of giving thanks for the new Constitution. 

In 1863 Sarah Joseph Hale, author of the well known poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” persuaded President Lincoln to establish a day of Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday of November was set. 

In 1941 Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday of Thanksgiving.

President Washington’s proclamation contained in part the following:

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of All Mighty God,
to obey His will,
to be grateful for His benefits,
and to humbly implore His protection and favor,
to pardon our national and other transgressions,
to render our National Government a blessing to all of the people
by being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws,
discretely and faithfully executed and obeyed.”

Residents of the Land of the Pilgrims’ pride had reason for giving thanks and they did. How much more have we cause to give thanks. Be sure to do it.    

Reflect on this little chorus:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
Count your many blessings see what God has done.

What Is Your Goal?

We are a goal-oriented society. Clinics, conferences, and seminars are held on goal setting. Yet, few people envision their life as having an overall goal.

Defined goals result in refined lives.

Scripture says, “if there be any virtue, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) In other words, a diamond found in a pig pen is still a diamond.

A diamond from the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, is worth our attention. He said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

Life inevitably will end for all. An expression is used to describe the end of life: “the time of my departure is at hand.” The New Testament Greek word so translated is “analusis.” It was used in several ways that help our comprehension of death.

        * It was used to describe a yoke being taken off a beast of burden.

        * It was used to depict ropes being removed from a person who had been tied up.

        * It was used to picture a ship that had been loosened from its mooring. Set free to sail.

In every sense of the word it depicts being set free for fuller use. Are you confidently heading toward such a destiny?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of our nation’s greatest former Supreme Court jurists, said, “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” 

What is your direction in life?  Where is it going?

Have you made a life coloring decision to follow and serve the Lord? If so, in what arena of thought are you invested? For what are you sold out? What cause is given your dedication? In what are you fulfilled?

Martin Luther said: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however fondly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steadfast on all the battle-front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Are you a football or a basketball? A football bounces around abstractly. It is hard to know which way it will bounce next. A basketball is predictable. You can know where it will bounce next. Are you exercising a predictable stand for the Lord?

“Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.” (I Kings 8:61)

Don’t Mess With God

Hidden in the pages of the Old Testament is the little book of Nahum. It bears the name of one believed to have lived in Capernaum (Town of Nahum). He wrote of the long and painful oppression of Israel by the Assyrians. They were actually God’s means of disciplining His disobedient people. God said, “I have afflicted you….” (Nahum 1: 12)

Fast forward, the heart of Nahum’s message is epitomized in 1: 7 – 9. Therein God’s goodness and sufficiency is noted.

Nahum’s contemporaries Jeremiah and Zephaniah wrote principally of Israel’s reformation resulting from the judgment. 

Regarding God’s moral judgment on both Israel and later on Nineveh it was slow to come, long deferred, but certain. Nahum accents the fact the judgment is not an act of capricious sovereignty, but the just reward for the two.

Nahum writes of the impending judgment of God on the Assyrian capital Nineveh. Chapters 2 and 3 detail explicit details regarding Nineveh (2: 8 & 3: 7).

The destruction of such a city seemed impossible. It was surrounded by 7 ½ miles of walls so thick three chariots could ride abreast on the top. It was populated by a sensual, ferocious, and diabolical atrocious race.

Nahum’s prophecy came true when the Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians razed the city. To facilitate the fall the Tigris River overflowed creating breaches in he wall. Seeing the end the king burned himself alive killing himself in his palace (3: 15 – 19).

Why all of these details?  They reveal the universality of God’s governing. It reveals there is a just God, His judgment is a subordinate part of His grace. 

Two verses in the book stand out like twin peaks on a sandy beach.

Before reading then reflect on their setting.

“Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power, and by no means will clear the guilty” (1: 3).

The second verse is one of my favorites in all of the Bible.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows them that trust [take refuge] in Him.” Nahum 1: 7

Many heartaches and lots of problems could be avoided if that were kept in mind. Amid all difficulties He is a citadel for those who trust in Him.

Discipline of nations and people is not an expression of punishment in order to inflict pain. The word discipline and the word disciple both come from the same root which means to learn. Israel in the era of Nahum learned from their discipline and reformed to become a better and blessed nation. May we individually respond to God’s discipline and learn to be better people. 

I love two countries. America and Israel, may both learn from Nahum. 

How to Be Fulfilled

It is not possible for everybody to be the best at something, but everybody can be their best at everything.

Some of our limitations are a result of things we can’t control. Everybody has limitations. Got that, everybody! However, many of our limitations are imposed on us by us. It is amazing when a limitation like the husk on grain is shed. Some do the seemingly impossible, simply use the ability they have and don’t whimper because of their limitations.

Before going further note God doesn’t expect us to be the best at anything. He does expect us to be our best at everything.

Jim Abbot was born without a right hand. He didn’t focus on what he didn’t have, he concentrated on utilizing what he did have to the best possible. Courageously he concentrated on his left hand. He overcame his limitations and became the quarterback on his high school football team.

He excelled at baseball batting 427. Later he made the US Olympic Gold Medal team. He broke into the major leagues with the Angels in 1989. During his amazing career he pitched in 263 major league games. In 1991 he was 18-11 with an ERA of 2.89. Most remarkably of all while pitching for the New York Yankees this one armed phenomenon pitched a no-hitter.

He said, “My career wasn’t always great, but it was wonderful.” He had a right to say that. He used what he had without pouting over what he didn’t have.

George Washington Carver was born into slavery with an enquiring mind. As a slave child there was a lot he didn’t have but he used what he had. In young adulthood his inquisitive nature prompted him to pray as he said, “God show me the mysteries of the universe,” but God answered, “That knowledge is for me alone.” So I said, “God tell me the mystery of the peanut.” Then God said, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” He made more than 300 products from peanuts, 118 products from sweet potatoes, and 75 from pecans.

Use what you have to the best of your ability and take pleasure in it. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2: 10)

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4: 10)

Personal Freedom

Three negatives erode our vitality and limit our joy. Control these three and you can live a better, more productive life. They are:

* Free your heart of hate. Booker T. Washington opined, “I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him. Holding on to your anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

* Free your mind of worry. Shakespeare said, “There is a divinity that shapes our ends.” Joy dances in the corridors of our cranium when we come to trust the Lord God who loves us and watches over us. Then we can say with the poet:

“I say it when the storm is heavy.
I say it when night is on the land.
That behind the power is God’s kind hand.
And so I rest as a swan rests on a river
Calm amid life’s troubled flow.
For I know I am held by a power and a love
That will not let me go.”

* Free your life of guilt. Guilt is a load too heavy for you to carry alone. It is essential to have someone carry it for us. Our Lord does so when we confess our responsibility for our part in what caused the guilt and ask Him to cleanse us of it. So,

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience….” (Hebrews 10: 22)

Then we understand what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is not deceit.”