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Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

pilgrim landing

There are many words that express the attitude of the day. You will hear thankful, grateful, and blessed. Our day is focused on early American settlers who crossed a freezing ocean on a little rickety boat because of their faith. While those words and themes are important, let us also focus on the words that inspired these settlers.

In Psalm 103, we find a hymn of Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, 

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These words reminded them to look beyond their losses, their hardships, and difficulties. These words reminded them to instead focus on the Almighty. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult. Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620. They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

May we follow in their example. No matter the problems we have experienced in 2015, let us join together and bless our God, whose love and care sustains us through all things.

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thanks

Thursday is the day that America will stop work, join with families, and give thanks.

In 1620, some 100 people seeking religious freedom, left England and landed in the New World. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult.  Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620.  They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863, the midpoint of our Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring that a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. American has celebrated Thanksgiving Day every November since 1863.

As we gather around homes and loved ones, may we remember the gifts and blessings of this year. May we also remember the Giver, Almighty God, our Creator, and Eternal Father.  It is through Him that we can truly give thanks.

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money

As a nation and as a people we tend to overlook our blessings.  We have abundance, comfort, and wealth like few others.  Our standard of living is so good and so consistent that it becomes common place.  Success becomes normal.  While that sounds like a great problem to have, it can easily compete with or totally eliminate our desire for God.

We forget our beginnings.  We forget the early days of struggle, strife, and bare survival.  We also forget our reliance on God and the vital direction our Lord provided during those tough times in life.

When everything imaginable is working in our favor, it would seem that people should gratefully follow God.  It is often during the times of plenty that we are the worst followers of our faithful King.

While these situations seem contrary, you can even find them in Scripture.  Look at King Solomon in the Old Testament.  The poetic man who sang and wrote of romantic love for his bride also broke records of promiscuity with 700 wives and 300 concubines.  The wise man who composed so many commonsense proverbs, dispensed practical knowledge, and offered successful living advice quickly flouted it all with horrible extravagance and greed.  The devout man who built the temple of God took a final and terrible step of introducing idol worship into God’s holy city to please his foreign-born wives.

Success in the kingdom of this world often crowds out interest in the kingdom of God.

Solomon got whatever he wanted.  Gradually he depended less on God and more on the power, possessions, and people in his kingdom.  Solomon had the world’s largest harem, a house twice the size of the temple, an army full of soldiers, spears, and chariots, and a strong economy.

Success may have eliminated his disappointments with God, but it also seemed to eliminate Solomon’s desire for God.  The more he enjoyed the world’s good gifts, the less he thought about the Giver.

Let us learn the lessons that Solomon did not.  May we always count our blessings.  May we be obedient servants to a Holy and Gracious God.  May we demonstrate our Christian faith in times of joy and abundance.  May we enjoy the gift and praise the Giver.  May we always place God first and remember that I am second, no matter what level of worldly success I may find.

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give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all our troops!  It doesn’t matter where you are today, know that we are thankful for your service, sacrifice, and dedication.  We are also thankful for the military families who support you and your loved ones at home.

Most of all we give thanks to God.  There are everyday blessings that we often overlook.  They become common place in our lives, but today we focus our attention on all that you have done and provide.

May our prayers and actions this day celebrate the gracious love of our Creator.

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charity

Folks are having a tough time financially.  2013 has been a tough year for military families.  Many were impacted by the furlough that started in July. Their paychecks were reduced by 20%.  Others have endured hardship due to the recent government shutdown.  While most military personnel were held harmless during this year’s budget battles, there are some who were unemployed for seventeen days and will not receive back pay for any of that time.  Others are still waiting for the call to return to work.

When tough times arrive, you quickly determine what is necessary in your life.

I stopped wearing a watch in 2011.  I didn’t really need it anymore.  I had just come back from a deployment in the Horn of Africa.  Over there, few people wear a watch because it is a luxury they cannot afford.  Folks are primarily concerned with the basic needs of life; food, water, clothing, and shelter.  A watch in Africa is simply an unnecessary item.  An extravagance to many and a poor use of money to most.

I had it pretty good in Africa.  Anyone was reminded of that fact when you left post and journeyed into town. There you saw people living in shacks, shanties, and cardboard boxes.  You saw women selling illegal drugs on the street corner like you would see a hot dog vendor back home.  You saw orphans who had been abandoned due to poverty, prostitution, HIV, or AIDS.  On post, the Army fed me, gave me clothes, provided a bed at night, and paid me to work.  Yes, I had it better than most of the people I saw everyday.

Americans may not realize it, but we are some of the wealthiest people in the world. In 2011, that fact became crystal clear.  Unfortunately, it took an overseas deployment to see it and truly comprehend that reality.

If you made $1,500 last year, you are in the top 20% of the world’s income earners.  If you made $25,000 or more annually, you are in the top 10% of the world’s income earners.  If you made $50,000 or more annually, you are in the top 1% of the world’s income earners.

People may not take comfort with those figures, but it is a great reminder that even in a time of furloughs and shutdowns, God has blessed us and provides for our needs.  During the good times, we do not think about the necessary, because choices are not being forced upon us.  During the tough times, we see how important charity, compassion, and generosity truly are because we ourselves are in need.

We are all challenged to find what is truly necessary in life.  And when that conviction hits us, there should be a response to share our abundance with others.  Scripture reminds us that our value is not based on our valuables, just read Luke 12:15.  In fact, we are called to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-8), to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27), and also care for the poor (Galatians 2:10).

As we approach Thanksgiving, let us take stock of our lives, find what is necessary, share what God has provided, and thank our Creator for the blessing of His tender care.

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Americans gave almost $300 billion to charities in 2011.  That is a staggering number when you consider our troubled economy.  As a nation with high unemployment and frozen salaries for those who can find work, $300 billion is quite a hefty sum.  But that figure also represents an incredible feat of generosity.  One that deserves a deeper look.

When you dig into the total by category, you find that religious organizations received the most donations.  Religious organizations garnered nearly one-third of the total.

Generous giving of that magnitude creates a lot of attention in the news.  The talking heads and pundits on most media outlets are still discussing the story, but they don’t know how to interpret the information.  They point to foundations, museums, art and cultural groups, or research hospitals as worthy causes for such giving, but for some reason religious groups seem like an odd place for people to send that level of financial support.  In the end of their stories they end up scratching their heads as they try to figure out why people give and sacrifice in this manner.  To me, the answer is quite clear.  Churches, charities, missions, and religious organizations are performing the work of Christ.

Religious organizations feed the hungry, care for the sick, give comfort to the wounded, share hope with the broken-hearted, and minister to our souls.  Significant acts like these will always mean more to people than receiving a tax deduction.  It causes us to open our wallets.  It enables us to volunteer and assist others in their time of need.  It allows us to reflect Christ in a dark world.

As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, remember religious organizations, charities, and churches.  You can give through the combined federal campaign in the armed forces or locally.  Your financial support, no matter how great or small, allows people to share the redemptive story of Jesus and perform the loving work of our gracious God.

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