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A Day to Give Thanks

Posted by Dr. Fay on November 22, 2012

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There are many admonitions in the Scriptures to give thanks to God.   For example:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1 NIV)

I Chronicles 16:33-34
33 Let the trees of the forest sing,
let them sing for joy before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.

34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

Beginning with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, at least one day has been set aside in America each year to thank God for his blessings.  The dates of these days of thanks varied from state to state and locally until George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789, during his first year in office.  Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863 that made Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.  See that history here and here.

I like this brief description of the first Thanksgiving Day that I received in an e-mail from DaySpring earlier today and which can be found here.

After enduring religious persecution in their native England and for twelve years in Holland, the pilgrims sailed for America. They were modest men and women with a great hope and inward zeal. They rested in the providence of God that He was leading them to a land of religious freedom to advance the gospel of the kingdom of Christ.

The voyage of the Mayflower took twice as long as Christopher Columbus’ voyage, enduring several wintry storms. After arriving in their new land, they faced disease, famine, bitter cold and many dangers. However, when the Mayflower made its return voyage, none of the pilgrims returned with it.

Their first harvest occurred in the autumn of 1621. Their own seed had barely grown, but the Indians had shown them how to plant corn which yielded a huge harvest. On the first Thanksgiving, they celebrated God’s goodness to them with a party of ninety Indians. Their Thanksgiving feast lasted three days and included a festival of sports.

Having survived the brutal first winter in the New World, in which half their number died , the Pilgrims were thankful for their first corn harvest.  Surrounded by their Native American friends, they gave thanks to God for his goodness.  The story of Squanto, the English-speaking native American who taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and fish, along with other skills,  and helped them form a friendship with another local tribe, is fascinating.  It is one of the great stories of how God caused unfavorable circumstances for one person to turn around and be used to save a people.

A lot has happened in this country and the world just before Thanksgiving Day this year.  Israel just entered a tenuous truce with Hamas after 8 days of rocket attacks.  Many people are still recovering from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy.   Organizations like Operation Blessing are helping some of those hit hard by Hurricane Sandy to celebrate Thanksgiving today.  Here is a photo I received in an e-mail today from Operation Blessing of volunteers and relief workers  serving a “full Thanksgiving feast for first responders and residents of New York who were hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy.”

Photo Prayer of the Day

So how do we give thanks when times are hard?  I think first we have to look at what is really important.  We live in a materialistic society in which one measure of success is an abundance of material things.  But there are so many things that are more important.

For people of faith, the very most important thing is a personal relationship with God and the hope of eternal life.  Each day is in  itself a gift from God.  Good health is a blessing.  Relationships with family and friends are among our most important blessings.  Psalm 127:3 tells us that “Children are a heritage from the Lord.”   These types of blessings are the enduring blessings.

And yes, we are thankful for material blessings also, when our hard work pays off and we are able to achieve our goals.  But these are secondary to the blessings that last a lifetime and an eternity.  God has promised to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), and sometimes He does that in unexpected ways.

So let each of us reflect upon and thank God for our blessings today.   Let us pray for those who have been impacted by war and disaster and for our military who are spending Thanksgiving away from home, defending our freedom and that of others.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Have a wonderful day!

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