Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

  1. Week 4 of Advent: Thanksgiving

    Posted on December 24th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    The coming of our Savior should ultimately lead to thanksgiving. So this Christmas Eve, we’ll wrap up our series of Advent posts (here are one, two, and three) with an encouragement to that end.

    Take a look at Zechariah’s beautiful words of thanks when his son, John the Baptist, was born:

    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
    and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
    as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
    to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
    the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
    that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
    might serve him without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Lk 1:68-75)

    Though he prophesied this when John was born, it wasn’t primarily his son’s birth that he was thankful for here. He knew John was to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (verse 76), and that’s who he was ultimately thankful for – the Lord Jesus. During Advent, we remember that Jesus “has visited and redeemed his people,” and we thank him for it.

    Even so, for many, this time of year is darker and lonelier than any other, and thanking God for his goodness to you can be hard to do when you’re in pain. What if, during this supposedly special time for family and friends, you’re without either? What if there’s real strife among your family that makes being together nearly impossible? What if you’re still reeling from the loss of a loved one or dealing with old scars that no one else still feels? What if this time of year does nothing but remind you of the past – the loss, the poor decisions, the abuse?

    If you’re hurting, take heart. That’s why Jesus came . . . to heal hurt. Isaiah tells us that we are healed by Jesus’ wounds (53:5). In other words, it took hurt to heal hurt. Jesus knows pain and is fully able to sympathize with you in it.

    If you find thanksgiving hard to come by, know that the Bible speaks nothing of superficial, fuzzy feelings. In fact, a biblical idea of thanksgiving will tell us that it can sometimes feel more like a hard discipline than an overflow of emotion. This is the sort of thanksgiving that Paul is directing the Thessalonians toward, a church well-acquainted with suffering, to be sure (1 Thes 1:6). He told them, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:16-18).

    Thanksgiving is not a response to circumstance. Instead of rejoicing over the highs and lamenting over the lows, we can use life’s dips and plunges to remind ourselves all the more of why we ought to be thankful. For when we respond to pain well, not only are comforted by the reality that Jesus knows pain and is fully able to sympathize with you in it (remember, it took hurt to heal hurt), but we are also prompted to remember that Jesus came and suffered for us so that, eventually, our suffering will end altogether. For this reason, in feast and famine, we thank Jesus for his first Advent . . . and we thank him in advance for his second.

    “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'”(Rev 21:3-4)

  2. Four Missions Trends to be Thankful For

    Posted on November 27th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    This Thanksgiving, we wanted give thanks to God for four current trends in world missions.

    1. Disasters and Crises – This may seem like an odd way to begin a list of things we’re thankful for. We certainly aren’t suggesting that these situations are good or that there is no need for further help, but in all the bad, we have great reason for praise. In what seems to be an increasingly tumultuous world, God is working in amazing ways. The displacement of people in the Middle East is forging bridges between peoples that have long been opposed to one another. The Lord is using such moves toward unity to spread his gospel across ethnic divides. As Muslims see the extreme brutality of ISIS (which directly associates itself with Islam), many are beginning to question their faith and loosen their grip on what has for so long been the cultural status quo. This, coupled with their extreme need, has led to an increased receptivity to the good news of Jesus. This increased receptivity could also be the case in Ebola-striken West Africa, where people are in dire need of assistance and missionaries are sacrificially serving while giving public glory to God.

    2. Chinese Church Explosion – This is not a new storyline, but its steady continuation ought to give us even more reason for praising God. The church in China is rapidly growing. Many now believe that there are more Christians in China than registered communists (87 million), and based on current growth rates, there could be “250 million Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world.” Keep in mind that this is happening in a country governed by the Chinese communist party – the world’s largest atheist organization. The party is now being forced to adapt and/or change its strategy for “controlling” Christianity.

    3. Globalization and Business Initiatives – Fresh research on the migration of people groups has made individuals aware of unreached peoples next door. This is, in part, the result of increasing globalization. Also a result of globalization, growing foreign markets and overlapping international economies have given rise to a desire in Christians to reach the nations through global business opportunities. When combined with initiatives like Every Square Inch and The Gospel at Work, people are now eager to take advantage of their careers to make disciples near and far.

    4. Latin American Shift Toward Protestantism – Pew Research released a study this month showing a monumental shift in religious identity for a vast region of the world that has historically been majority Catholic. Latin Americans are converting to Protestantism at an unprecedented rate. Their number one reason: “seeking a more personal connection with God.” This has led Albert Mohler to attribute the shift to theology, not just culture or politics.

    When it comes to the spread of the gospel, let us remember that no matter the circumstance, we have much to be thankful for, because in Christ, the victory is already won. May our praying, giving, going, and thanking always reflect this reality.

  3. I Am Not God: The Message of Thanksgiving

    Posted on November 21st, 2012 by David Burnette

    G.K. Chesterton once said,  “The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

    Chesterton’s comment reminds us that giving thanks is directly tied to how we view God. Gratitude implies that we have been dependent on something, or better yet, Someone else.

    Yesterday we looked at how serious it is not to give thanks to God in light of what Paul says in Romans 1:21 (You can view that here).  Today we’ll consider what it is that we’re saying when we express gratitude to God. This seems appropriate enough the day before Thanksgiving.

    Even though we are commanded to give thanks throughout the Scriptures, the idea of being thankful can easily slide into the same category as being kind and sharing; you know, less important truths that seem appropriate for young children. These commands can start to sound more like good manners than the fruit of the Spirit. This is unfortunate.

    Whether or not we are grateful to God says a lot about how we view Him and about how we view our circumstances. For instance, if we believe that God is sovereign over every detail of the universe, which includes every detail of our own lives, then we will not view the blessings in our lives as things that “just happen.” Worse yet, we won’t look at what we’ve attained and quietly congratulate ourselves in the recesses of our own hearts.

    If we are thinking in biblical, God-centered categories, we’ll acknowledge that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), that everything from our salvation to even the ability to think and breathe comes from God’s hand. Jesus memorably speaks of God’s all-encompassing sovereign care when He reminds His disciples that even sparrows falling to the ground do so because God wills it. In fact, the hairs of their heads were numbered (Matt 10:29-30). And so are ours.

    When we are confident that this kind of sovereignty belongs to God, we will (or at least we should) give all the credit to Him for everything in our lives. We’ll acknowledge that we have not been the authors of our own fate. The charade of pretending as if we are in charge of our own lives will be seen for what it is. We’ll take to heart Paul’s question to the proud Corinthians: “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7)

    When we give thanks we are in essence declaring, “I am not God.” It’s an admission: “Someone else has provided for me, cared for me, sustained me, rescued me, forgiven me, and given me life.” This perspective helps explain why the failure to give thanks is such a big deal in Romans 1:21. To withhold praise and thanksgiving from God is to ignore the One from whom all blessings flow. It is to turn your nose up at Sovereign Majesty and declare yourself king. It is to declare yourself God.

    As we celebrate this Thanksgiving, let’s be reminded that we are completely dependent on God. And as we reflect on His undeserved goodness, let’s not utter a forced “thank you.” Instead, let’s rejoice in a God who is lavish in His grace, abundant in His provision, and reliable in His faithfulness. Let’s acknowledge that He is God and we are not. For then we will find ourselves spontaneously obeying Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

    You aren’t God. So give thanks.

     

     

     

  4. It is a Serious Thing Not to Give Thanks to God

    Posted on November 20th, 2012 by David Burnette

    Thanksgiving Backgrounds“Say ‘thank you’,” we constantly remind our children.

      Whether it’s an expensive Christmas present or simply having a door held open, we want our kids to express thanks when they are the recipient of something good. After all, few things are more off-putting than ingratitude.

    When a musical artist receives an award, we expect him or her to come to the microphone and thank a long list of people. When the winning quarterback is interviewed after the game, we want to hear him say, “I just wanna thank my offensive line and our coaches. I couldn’t have done it without them.” We know instinctively that giving others credit is an appropriate response.

    With Thanksgiving coming in a couple days, it’s a good time to reflect on the real significance of, well, giving thanks. There’s actually more at stake here than you might think, and I’m not just talking about thanking your mom for preparing a fabulous meal on Thursday afternoon (though you should definitely do that). Your gratitude, or lack thereof, is eternally significant.

    Later this week, you are likely to hear news anchors, NFL analysts, and everyone else under the sun talking about how grateful they are for what they have. The cynical side of me takes this kind of talk as code for “I’m really glad I’ve got my stuff.” That’s not always a fair assessment, since even unbelievers have a sense of gratitude to God (however they define Him) for what they’ve been given.

    Nevertheless, the fact that some level of gratitude is recognized by (almost) everybody as a good thing shouldn’t cause us to forget this important biblical truth: It is a serious thing not to give thanks to God.

    In Romans 1:18-32 Paul is building his case that every human being stands under God’s judgment and is therefore in need of His saving righteousness in Jesus Christ, a gift that can only be received by faith (Rom 3:21-26). Paul tells us in Romans 1:21 why God’s wrath is unleashed against the Gentiles: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…” Did you catch that last phrase?

    The Gentiles stand under God’s wrath, and a part of the reason is that they don’t give Him thanks. God gives them life and sustains them at every moment, yet they refuse to acknowledge Him. That’s evil. That’s ingratitude.

    The failure to give God thanks is far more than bad manners; it’s rebellion. It’s a refusal to acknowledge the authority and glory of our Creator. Instead of ascribing praise to God and submitting to His rightful rule, we turn to idols. We worship ourselves or some aspect of God’s created order other than the All-Glorious Creator Himself. We don’t acknowledge that everything we have comes from God. And to make things worse, we do all this willingly.

    Someone may object, “Non-Christians don’t know God, so why should they give thanks?” But remember how Paul starts verse 21, “For although they knew God…” In other words, unbelievers are aware of their Creator, but they won’t give Him His due praise.

    Knowing God as Paul talks about it in Romans 1:21 doesn’t mean having a saving relationship with Him; rather, it speaks of the knowledge that all people have of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Rom 1:20). Yet, despite this knowledge, unbelievers “suppress the truth” (Rom 1:19). That is, they seek to remove God from their mind, pushing aside what they know of His character and their obligation to obey Him. And the result of this rebellion is that such people become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom 1:21).

    With these things in mind, we ought to be sobered at the prospect of not giving thanks to God. Only pagans live with such ingratitude. It is our duty, and it should be our delight, to give thanks to One who is so worthy. This is true on Thanksgiving and every other moment throughout the year.

    Tomorrow we’ll consider more about the significance of our giving thanks to God. For now let’s remember this as Thanksgiving draws near: It is a serious thing not to give God thanks.