Thanksgiving


Leviticus 22-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is blessed by our celebration of His goodness

As somewhat of a foodie, I am immediately attracted to any chapter in the Bible that is all about feasts.  Foodie or not, all of us have good memories of holidays, festivals and celebrations through the years, most involving visits with family and friends and consuming lots and lots of good food.  As a child, I knew it was Thanksgiving when I woke to the smell of roasting turkey and pumpkin pie, and Christmas was undoubtedly right around the corner when I smelled cookies baking in the oven all day long.  What birthday celebration is complete without the traditional decorated cake with gooey buttercream frosting? Decorated eggs at Easter and grilled hot dogs on the Fourth! We have so many memories of delightful days spent celebrating momentous occasions. 

@ Leviticus 23
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.  These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as official days for holy assembly.’” (1-2)  The feast or festivals mentioned in Leviticus 23 played a significant role each year in the lives of the Israelites.  Life was difficult during those early years on the road to Canaan, and the festivals were welcomed opportunities for relaxation and celebration for the Israelites.

The feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread centered around their deliverance from Egypt; the feasts of First Harvest, Harvest (Pentecost) and Trumpets were feasts of thanksgiving for God’s provision and blessing on their lives.  The Day of Atonement was actually a day of fasting as offerings were given to atone for their sin as individuals and as a nation, and the feast of shelters celebrated God’s protection and guidance in the wilderness.  These feasts were observed throughout the centuries, including the time of Christ, but for most of this time period, the impact of what they were celebrating was lost because their hearts were seeking other gods and other things to worship.

Often we are so busy with all the preparation and festivities for our holidays, we, too, forget what we’re celebrating.  For secular society, this is true, but even as Christians, we forget.  Our hearts are there, but our lives get so very busy.  If we think about it, we can see that the celebration of Jesus at Christmas and at Easter is a combination of all the Jewish feasts.  With thankful hearts we celebrate the deliverance and atonement for our sins, so grateful for the tiny babe who came and grew to become our sacrifice as well as our Shepherd who guides and protects us through our wilderness.

We, however, look forward to yet another feast, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.  For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself…Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Revelations 19:7,9)  All other feasts, festivals and celebrations pale in comparison to this wedding feast when we, His Bride, join with our Savior to celebrate eternal life together.  This foodie is not going to miss this one!  I’ve already received the invitation!

I decided in my heart several years ago that I was going to spend some time every day celebrating Christmas and Easter.  While no food is involved in these daily celebrations, the joy is amazing.  Every day I thank God for sending His only Son.  He didn’t send a substitute or facsimile. He sent the only part of Him that was His Son, His Heir, with the knowledge of what the future held for Him.  Every day I thank Jesus for His willingness to come, leaving a place more glorious than I can imagine, willingness to suffer sin and humiliation for me on the cross.  And every day I thank Him for the empty tomb and the power of the risen Lord.  Sometimes I sing, sometimes I dance and sometimes I just sit and visit with Him, but regardless, it’s a grand celebration.  Christmas and Easter every day! 

Moving Forward: After celebrating this morning, I think it’s time to go out and spread some Christmas cheer! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 21-25

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  My lists, however, keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in a sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I apparently have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  I love lists. Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Luke 17-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our heartfelt praise and thanksgiving

My husband and I didn’t stay in youth ministry for 40 years because of the spontaneous and habitual outbursts of gratitude from teenagers.  No, it was because we just couldn’t help ourselves – we loved those kids.  But when those words of thanks came on occasion, they were deeply appreciated, and they encouraged us to do even more to minister to them and get to know them in a greater way.  Because we are made in God’s image, I imagine He feels the same way towards words of thanks, and the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is a beautiful illustration of gratitude and the blessings that flow from it.  Just for the record, I would never compare teenagers to lepers. 

@ Luke 17
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (11-13)  This was the last road trip for Jesus before His death and wouldn’t it be just like Him to travel right through Samaria, the town that other Jews went out of their way to circumvent.  I must admit I might have been tempted to avoid groups of lepers calling out to me, but not Jesus.

Jesus made one request of them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (14)  From verse 13, we know that the lepers knew who Jesus was and perhaps had heard of His healing power.  Even before they saw the evidence of healing, they responded in obedience and did what He said, and because of it, they were cleansed

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done.  This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine?’…And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.’”(15-19) The nine lepers were so focused on their healing that they forgot about the Healer, but the Samaritan man who had every reason to avoid Jesus returned to give thanks.  This allowed him to move on to Round Two.

By returning to the Healer, the man not only was healed of leprosy like the others, but he found out why he was healed.  His heart of thanksgiving opened up a face to face dialogue with Jesus who gave him one of the keys to future healing, “Your faith has healed you.”  However, in the original language, this word healed has a deeper meaning and is often translated made whole, speaking not only of physical healing but of spiritual healing as well.  The man’s belief in the Lord and His wholehearted act of giving glory to the Lord made him the winner that day!

God revealed in Psalms, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (50:23)  And that is what happened for the Samaritan leper!  His words of true thanksgiving were not given to get something more from Jesus, but blessing came because of them.  Just as gratitude encouraged my heart to do even more for our youth and to know them better, I imagine that God is also encouraged to do even more and to reveal Himself in a greater way in response to our praise and thanksgiving given in honor to Him.

Moving Forward: I will move through this day with praise in my heart and words of thanksgiving on my lips for who He is and all He has done.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 1-2

Psalms 134-136 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: “His faithful love endures forever” 

@ Psalm 136
Psalm 136!  The perfect Psalm to read during the Thanksgiving season. Thanksgiving is the day we commemorate the early settlers of our great land who paused after a bountiful harvest to celebrate and give thanks to God for their blessings.  Unfortunately, we would be hard pressed to discover to whom they were giving thanks if searching through our current history books. The honoree is seldom mentioned.

Abraham Lincoln, the President who proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving, had no qualms about giving thanks where thanksgiving was due:  “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” (Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863)  Amen!

The writer of Psalm 136 was proclaiming thanks with an overflowing heart of praise and gratitude, and there is no doubt he knew who should receive the praise and thanksgiving as well, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.” (1-3)  His praise, too, went to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

In verses 4-9, God receives thanks for the miraculous creator that He is. Verses 10-16, He is honored for His faithful guidance through the challenges of life.  His protection and powerful rule are praised in verses 17-22.  And in verses 23-26, God receives thanks for His personal blessings to our lives – His mercy, salvation and provision.   Each word of thanks is followed by yet another attribute of God for which to be thankful, “His faithful love endures forever.”

Our early pilgrims had survived a year of hardship and trials, but when they came through it, they were grateful to the One who had blessed them with His faithful provision.  In the midst of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln paused to give thanks to His beneficent Father.  And we, regardless of the struggles we may be facing should offer praise and thanksgiving to the One who will see us through to victory.

As we express our thanks for our country, our family and our friends, let’s thank Him for being our miraculous Creator. Let’s thank Him for His faithful guidance, His protection and His blessings. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise Him all creatures here below…” (Doxology) 

Moving Forward: Blessed beyond measure and so very thankful for His faithful love, I praise Him today, tomorrow and every day!

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 9-10

Leviticus 22-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He is blessed by our celebration of His goodness

As somewhat of a foodie, I am immediately attracted to any chapter in the Bible that is all about feasts.  Foodie or not, all of us have good memories of holidays, festivals and celebrations through the years, most involving visits with family and friends and consuming lots and lots of good food.  As a child, I knew it was Thanksgiving when I woke to the smell of roasting turkey and pumpkin pie, and Christmas was certainly right around the corner when I smelled cookies baking in the oven all day long.  What birthday celebration is complete without the traditional decorated cake with gooey butter cream frosting? Decorated eggs at Easter and grilled hot dogs on the Fourth! We have so many memories of delightful days spent celebrating momentous occasions. 

@ Leviticus 23
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.  These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as official days for holy assembly.’” (1-2)  The feast or festivals mentioned in Leviticus 23 played an important role each year in the life of the Israelites.  Life was difficult during those early years on the road to Canaan, and the festivals were welcomed opportunities for relaxation and celebration for the Israelites.

The feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread centered around their deliverance from Egypt; the feasts of First Harvest, Harvest (Pentecost) and Trumpets were feasts of thanksgiving for God’s provision and blessing on their lives; the Day of Atonement was actually a day of fasting as offerings were given to atone for their sin as individuals and as a nation; and the feast of shelters celebrated God’s protection and guidance in the wilderness.  These feasts were observed throughout the centuries, including the time of Christ, but for most of this time period, the impact of what they were celebrating was lost because their hearts were seeking other gods and other things to worship.

Often we are so busy with all the preparation and festivities for our holidays, we, too, forget what we’re celebrating.  Certainly for a secular society, this is true, but even as Christians, we forget.  Our hearts are there, but our lives get so very busy.  If we think about it, we understand that the celebration of Jesus at Christmas and at Easter is a combination of all the Jewish feasts.  With thankful hearts we celebrate the deliverance and atonement for our sins, so grateful for the tiny babe who came and grew to become our sacrifice as well as our Shepherd who guides and protects us through our wilderness.

We, however, look forward to yet another feast, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him.  For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself…Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” (Revelations 19:7,9)  All other feasts, festivals and celebrations pale in comparison to this wedding feast when we, His Bride, join with our Savior to celebrate eternal life together.  This foodie is not going to miss this one!  I’ve already received the invitation!

I decided in my heart several years ago that I was going to spend some time every day celebrating Christmas and Easter.  While no food is involved in these daily celebrations, the joy is amazing.  Every day I thank God for sending His only Son.  He didn’t send a substitute or facsimile. He sent the only part of Him that was His Son, His Heir, knowing what the future held for Him.  Every day I thank Jesus for His willingness to come, leaving a place more glorious than I can imagine, willingness to suffer sin and humiliation for me on the cross.  And every day I thank Him for the empty tomb and the power of the risen Lord.  Sometimes I sing, sometimes I dance and sometimes I just sit and visit with Him, but regardless, it’s a great celebration.  Christmas and Easter every day! 

Moving Forward: After celebrating this morning, I think it’s time to go out and spread some Christmas cheer! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 21-25

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  But my lists keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of a prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I obviously have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Luke 17-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our heart-felt praise and thanksgiving

My husband and I didn’t stay in youth ministry for 40 years because of the spontaneous and habitual outbursts of gratitude from teenagers.  No, it was because we just couldn’t help ourselves – we loved those kids.  But when those words of thanks came on occasion, they were deeply appreciated, and they encouraged us to do even more to minister to them and get to know them in a greater way.  Because we are made in God’s image, no doubt He feels the same way towards words of thanks, and the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is a beautiful illustration of gratitude and the blessings that flow from it.  Just for the record, I would never compare teenagers to lepers. 

@ Luke 17
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (11-13)  This was the last road trip for Jesus before His death and wouldn’t it be just like Him to travel right through Samaria, the town that other Jews went out of their way to circumvent.  I must admit I might have been tempted to avoid groups of lepers calling out to me, but not Jesus.

Jesus made one request of them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (14)  From verse 13, we know that the lepers knew who Jesus was and perhaps had heard of His healing power.  Even before they saw the evidence of healing, they responded in obedience and did what He said, and because of it, they were cleansed

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done.  This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine?’…And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.’”(15-19) The nine lepers were so focused on their healing that they forgot about the Healer, but the Samaritan man who had every reason to avoid Jesus, returned to give thanks.  This allowed him to move on to Round Two.

By returning to the Healer, the man not only was healed from leprosy like the others, but he found out why he was healed.  His heart of thanksgiving opened up a face to face dialogue with Jesus who gave him the key to future healing, “Your faith has healed you.”  However, in the original language, this word “healed” has a deeper meaning and is often translated made whole, speaking not only of a physical healing, but of a spiritual healing as well.  The man’s belief in the Lord and His wholehearted act of giving glory to the Lord made him the winner that day!

God revealed in Psalms, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (50:23)  And that is what happened for the Samaritan leper!  His words of true thanksgiving were not given in order to get something more from Jesus, but blessing came because of them.  Just as gratitude encouraged my heart to do even more for our youth and to know them better, I imagine that God is also encouraged to do even more and to reveal Himself in a greater way in response to our praise and thanksgiving given in honor to Him.

Moving Forward: I will move through this day with praise in my heart and words of thanksgiving on my lips for who He is and all He has done.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 1-2