The word Thanksgiving occurs 28 times in 27 verses in the King James Bible. Most often it is in the context of “a sacrifice” and in the other instances it is either in tandem with song, or prayer.
Thanksgiving is not just a Holiday commemorating the pilgrims first celebration of their newfound freedom in America. It is a heart attitude that makes all the difference in life. It is best when Thanksgiving is a natural and spontaneous response, but that is something that has been stripped out of our make-up over time here in America where we have “had it so good, for so long” that we take it all for granted. But thankfulness can be cultivated once again.
Being thankful means living consciously. That’s another thing most in America have forgotten. Well, not just Americans, but all of us, most of the human race. Always plugged in, constant vigilance that we not miss a text or an important news item or in many cases, the latest song, episode of the favorite show, or whatever. Fill in your own blanks.
I am thankful that my Dad is in heaven with Jesus and with his brothers and sisters and mom and dad, who all went before him and whom he has really missed. I am thankful we had him here with us, all of my life my Dad was present and he was my Dad. He was faithful to his wife and faithful as a provider. How many people can say that of their dad these days? Our neighbor and dear friend Johnny who died the previous month, too is with the Lord. I’ve been more attentive of our other dear friend, his widow, who has been like a second mom to me, since then and not taking her for granted as before. We don’t neglect each other on purpose. Just like my brothers who live nearby, we know they are there and we can see them anytime, therefore we are often less intentional about actually making that time to see them, and before we know it, they could be gone.
I am thankful that my parents took me to church, and for the many good adult influences I had in my growing-up years. From neighbors to school teachers and sunday school teachers. I live in a small town of about 25K residents. It is about 4 miles in a radius as the crow flies. That sounds like we are packed in there, but no, it is just a little “factory boom town” that mostly was built up in an era of simplicity, where houses were not gargantuan monstrosities, just simple 2 and three (small) bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and one bathroom. For the most part we still have families here whose parents and great-grandparents immigrated here and settled here, and they remain active in maintaining the roots of the town. There are still lots of families who know one another and speak as they meet at the post office, or will pick up the phone to let someone know if they saw their kid up to no good, and have that be appreciated rather than offense being taken.
There is lots of parental involvement in the schools, although less in middle and high school, and good cooperation between police and citizens and very active neighborhood watches throughout the city.
I am thankful that not everyone has thrown out all of the “old ways” to the extent we have forgotten them, because the longer the Lord tarries, the higher the likelihood that we are going to need to re-learn some of them. And frankly, it would be hard but that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Even though I have staunchly stood by the probability that things are on a trajectory which is not going to turn around, in my heart of hearts I do know that with God, all things are possible. There is possible, and then there is likely. Still, in the event that enough of us cry out, in genuine mourning over our own sins and that of the church and the nation, and God, who hears and is ever-merciful even in the midst of wrath, He could choose to push the middle East back from the brink, see us through a dark and extremely difficult restructuring period here in the U.S., and maybe restore in us the humble submission to Him with which our Christian forebears initiated this nation to begin with.
Do I want to hang out here on this Earth with things continuing on the road this world is currently on? NO! Not me, not my kids. My cry as I see what is happening, is “Come, Lord Jesus” and come quickly. I am 100 percent NOT a citizen of this world, my citizenship is in Heaven and that future City of the New Jerusalem. But! Here is the thing: Jesus, being yet GOD, :thought it not robbery to be equal with God, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.
You see, when Jesus hung on that cross, He didn’t just die for me, although if I was the only person on Earth, I believe He would have done it just for me. Jesus who was master over Death, Hell and the Grave, was not KILLED on that cross, though He did most definitely die there. He died, willingly giving up His life ( the words from His own lips about His life were: “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again”). But He did so, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It is not God’s will that any should “perish”. Perish, here doesn’t just mean the natural death of the human body, but the eternal death of permanent separation from God, the source of all life.
I am a sinner. I understand that I sin because I have the nature of sin in my mortal flesh, like a genetic aberration, it is a condition in my flesh that I am powerless to change. God is not some stern taskmaster in the sky with a whip who watches like a predatory hawk, for me to slip up and break one of His laws so He can gleefully swoop down upon me with wrath and punishment. God in His genius, instilled in us a “counterpart” to the law, called a conscience. He gave the law to act as a mirror to reflect back to us our behaviors and actions and attitudes, and this conscience is like a sensor that reads our actions in light of the law, and if it is working properly, this sensor tells us whether what we are doing is good or is evil. Notice I did not say “good or bad”. When Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the garden, it was the fruit of “The knowledge of good and evil”. A baby of 18 months knows good and bad. But a baby of 18 months has no ability to discern evil. A baby of 18 months is guileless. They may poke you in the eye and maybe even inflict real harm, but they in no way had evil intent. Adam and Eve first walked in the garden with God Himself and in perfect innocence and yes, naivety, like that innocent baby. Then along came the tempter Satan, and against God’s direct command, Eve and then Adam violated their own consciences and did that which they knew was “wrong”, and in doing so they opened up in themselves a “Pandora’s box” of understanding. You see, what you don’t know, you aren’t accountable for. What you do know, you ARE accountable for. God would have preferred for us not to ever have to “know” firsthand what evil is. But because He created us in His image with free will of our own, and even with curiosity, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jesus took not just the sin of myself and other Christians upon Himself on that cross. He took the entire “phenomenon” of Sin into Himself and became sin, so that sin itself was crucified with Him and in Him on that cross. Therefore look at sin as a disease such as Cancer. It literally is a very auto-immune type condition which always ultimately destroys the host. God has offered the antidote and any fool who chooses not to take, will experience the ultimate end of that “cancer” within himself which is death. That is WHY the Bible says the wages of sin is death. Death is not a punishment, so much as it is just the natural course and ultimate end of disease and decay.
I am so thankful that God sent Jesus to take that sin, my sinful state, unto His own body and bear it for me, and conquer it, so that it has no more power over me. When my Dad breathed his last breath here on this Earth 2 weeks, 2 days, 10 hours and thirty minutes ago, he went immediately into the presence of His Savior and has now seen the face of Jesus! That is all my heart desires. I don’t want anything in this world. Not money, not freedom, certainly not “stuff”, but to be in the actual physical presence of Jesus, and see His face in person!
I know that when we see Him we will fall on our faces in the glory of His Holiness and majesty. But I also look forward to getting up from that, and just giving Him a hug and saying “thank you” in person. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for all the times You forgave me when I did the wrong thing, and loved me when I was unlovely and unloveable. Thank you for removing the scales from my eyes and letting me see truth. Thank you for what You went through on the cross for me.
Because I am thankful, I am grateful for these things, I want others to know Jesus and be saved. Not because of my own “benevolence toward my fellow man”. No, seriously, I don’t have the kind of love I ought to have for others. I am cynical, and suspicious by nature, or, well, maybe by virtue of my life experiences. I would love to be able to say that I love everyone so much that I want to give them Jesus, and show them “the way” but the honest truth about me is that just as the Bible said would be the case in these last days, my love for people has grown cold. I find it harder and harder in a world where most people have zero regard for others, where even life itself is not valued, to uphold that standard of love which a Christian is meant to be known by. Even though I made a conscious choice to “care anyway”, it is a monumental struggle sometimes. I do care. And when I see someone hurting, I respond to them, and reach out to them, but find myself counting the cost.
So, if not motivated by love for others, then what is my motivation to tell others the Way? Is it because I think it will earn me heavenly “points”, a “favored status”, or other rewards? Nope. I’m about the most uncompetitive person God ever made. I’m pretty satisfied with the simple basics even here in the Earthly sphere. Though the one “reward” I would like to earn is to hear my Lord say “well done, thou good and faithful servant”.
My motivation is this: If Jesus died for all the sin of every human who ever lived, so that not a single one had to perish, just think about that for a second. Have you ever been just overcome by the sheer magnitude of evil in this world. Maybe you watched the tragic loss of life during the Columbine High School Massacre, or even just the unceasing wars. Aren’t you sick to death of wars? I know I am. That is just the evil of one generation. It can weigh on you and make you feel tired, hopeless and depressed about life. We most of us love this Earth, nature, the beauty around us and recognize the tragedy of defiling it. That is just a drop in the bucket of evil, and we “feel” the effects of that and we mourn it. Jesus had ALL of that evil, all the evil of the Crusades, all the evil of the Holocaust, all the evil of human trafficking, all the evil of slavery, all the evil of the entire history of the human race converged in His body on that cross. It wasn’t the crown of thorns, the cat of nine tails and multiple lashes which ripped his skin to shreds, nor the pulling out of his beard. The real agony was to take all of that evil into Himself and then to experience the separation from God the Father in that instant, when God had to turn away and the world went dark for half an hour. If Jesus did that, for every person who ever lived, what a horrific shame it is, that even one solitary human being ought to go to their death without having had the opportunity to know about it, and choose to receive the benefit of it. If they reject it, that is their prerogative, but for me as a beneficiary of that kind of grace, generosity and love, to take my lovely “gift” and keep it all to myself and not extend it to others, well that is the most ungrateful act any Christian could ever do. It is a slap in the face of Jesus in return for what He did.
I am not promoting the movie “The Passion of the Christ” one way or another. I know it has “doctrinal issues” but it moved me greatly.
There are two parts of that movie that are burned permanently in my memory. I was a mother of young children when I watched it, and the scene where Mary sees them leading the wounded and bleeding Jesus to Golgotha, and she flashes back to his childhood, when he would get a boo-boo and her mere hugs and kisses could take away his pain, OH how my heart squeezed. To be the mother of Jesus? To have raised him from a baby. Surely, blessed are you among woman, Mary. Though human and not to be worshipped. And the most moving part was really a tiny segment. Jesus has uttered “it is finished” and given up the ghost. And the camera pans from above, away, up up up, and we are viewing the scene as through a water droplet. Then the droplet falls and a deluge of rain splashes over the entire scene. That effect was lost on a lot of people because of the rain. But that first droplet wasn’t a rain drop, and symbolically neither was the rain itself, meant to be rain, but God’s own tears as He sacrificed His only son. To recognize the world through a falling tear, you have to have spent some time crying. I have. Have you?
I have mourned my own sinfulness. I have mourned the evil in this world and I have mourned and grieved in weeping and tears and pleadings with the Lord over this nation. And others have as well.
But the loss of freedoms, and even the loss of the greatness of the good old U.S. of A. is nothing, when laid alongside the tragedy of millions who will spend eternity in hell unnecessarily because we didn’t give them the gospel, or because they chose not to receive it. Your free will is intact. You can take it or leave it. But I give you Jesus. He died for you. He did not die to give you a better life. He is not interested in turning you into a “saint” who must forsake all fun and freedom and change everything about your life. What He has to offer, is completely free and there is nothing you can do to earn it, only believe it and receive it. That means faith.
“But I just can’t believe all that stuff in the Bible, I mean, Noah’s Ark, a worldwide flood?”
That’s okay. You don’t have to “know” it for a fact, you can choose faith and take God’s word for it.
“Oh, come on, there are a million and one religions in this world, don’t you think it is just a tiny bit arrogant and closed-minded to think yours is the ‘right’ way?”
This is not a religion I am talking about. Religion is man reaching, striving, to reach God. Christianity is not a religion. It is the only belief system wherein God seeks YOU, comes to YOU, and accomplishes the mending of the breach, the divide that is between you and Himself.
A lot of people will say “God is a gentleman” He won’t force you. No, God is not a gentleman. What He is not, is a beggar. And frankly because of that fact, I don’t believe I ought to be either. Nor should the preacher be. Nor should the evangelist. We are not responsible for what anyone chooses. We are responsible to extend only the truth and the invitation. The choice is yours, but there will come a day of winnowing. A day of judging and sorting. On one side, will go those who acknowledged Jesus as Lord. On the other, those who did not. When we are gathered at that judgment bar, there is only one matter that will be weighed, and that matter is, what did you do with Jesus. Those who remained in their sinful state, reconciled with God via the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, will hear “depart I knew you not”. But those who are reconciled with God through Jesus will have the blood on their hands, of the lost whom they personally had opportunity to reach, and the agonizing realization that that soul is condemned to hell for EVER, when that Christian might have prevented it.
I don’t want to ever experience that moment. It is not fair to Jesus.
And so, for my many Christian friends who do not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, who have questioned me “what will you do when the tribulation starts and you are still here, then what will you do” I say this: I deserve everything that I have coming. I do see the pre-tribulation rapture in scripture, and I expect it, not because I am under any delusion that I have earned an escape, any more than I deserve the salvation Jesus so graciously has given, or the eternity in His presence I look forward to. God’s nature is love, and that is why He loves us. Not because we are so darn loveable, because anyone who is honest will admit we are not. I don’t know why He loves me, but I know He does. I don’t know why He saved me, but He did. I can’t explain everything about salvation and God and how He operates any more than I can explain to you the ins and outs of my car’s engine and transmission and drive shaft, torque, combustion, and all of those principles. But I don’t have to know all that in order for my car to get me from here to the grocery store. I just have to have enough faith in my car to get in, insert the key, start the engine, put it in gear and go.
That is how it is with being a Christian. Like the funny videos I reblogged, we like the Pharisees of old, make things much more complicated than they really are. It is the faith of a child that saves us. At Christmas, a 5 or 6 year old kid doesn’t deal with “oh, but I didn’t get YOU anything, and that makes me look like such a loser”, no, he sees a package with his name on it and is immediately filled with excited anticipation and wonder. When the gift is offered, he receives it eagerly and tears into the wrappers with gusto. How simple is that? How pure?
Giving the gospel to others is also as simple as that. It is our own pride that prevents it being as simple as God made it. I must not look foolish. I don’t want them to think me a kook. To be honest with you, I have never had anyone react to the gospel that way. Even if people disagree, they generally appreciate the thought behind my sharing. The recognize it as concern and genuine, even if their opinion is that it is a misplaced or unnecessary concern. The only people who react negatively are the churched. Pride rears up in them. “Don’t tell me about Jesus, I have been teaching Sunday School for Thirty Year, young lady, so you just take your tract and give it to someone who needs it”.
Oh boy, those are the ones I pray for the hardest. Because even if they are saved, they still have not come to terms with just why they needed a Savior. Because when you fully realize your own defilement and stench when compared to God’s own Holiness, all pride is obliterated.
Some of us have been “Saved so long” we begin to believe by now we have earn some credit for our own goodness. We give Jesus credit for the initial redemptive act, but we intend to retain unto ourselves ”credit where credit is presumably due” for “all that we have done for the Lord” since then.
I hate to break it to you but I don’t care if you are D.L. Moody himself, YOU have done nothing. God has done it all. You have merely been permitted the privilege of being a vessel. Or perhaps you have so thoroughly fooled yourself that God has gone on without you, and you’ve been building houses of straw on foundations of sand and will be among the shocked an appalled who will cry “I healed the sick and cast out demons in your name”, but will hear “depart, I knew you not”.
My friend, I am no one special. I am a 48 year old mom who has broken all of Gods law. In me is no good thing. Like Paul, I am the chiefest of sinners. I have contributed to the statistics that reflect poorly on Christianity, by divorce, but the words of my mouth, by actions unbecoming. I am not better than you. The fact it is likely you are more gracious, more selfless, more charitable, more trusting, more forgiving, and nicer than I am. Maybe. Or maybe you are sitting in a prison, guilty of murder or rape or worse. We are the same, you and me. The difference between us as far as “how good or bad we are” is as negligible as the physical differences between identical twins. The difference that makes the ultimate difference, lies solely in whether or not one of us has embraced the pardon freely offered in Christ, and the other has not. I have received that pardon. Have you? I am 100 % positive that like my Dad, when I close my eyes in death here, I will wake up in Heaven with Jesus, or go up to Him in the rapture if that comes first, regardless of it ‘s timing in relation to the tribulation. Are you? Do you have that peace? You can. If you see the truth in what I have said, you see it only because God has witnessed the truth of my words by way of the Holy Spirit and your own “answering” conscience in your heart. If that is the case, then you need merely to admit that you understand you are a sinner, and ask Him to save your soul by applying His righteousness to you, in exchange for guilt. You’ll still be a sinner but your sin will no longer be accounted against you. You will be “reckoned” as righteous by virtue of Jesus having already borne that guilt on the cross and fulfilling the due sentence. You see, for infinite guilt, you must either have infinite and eternal punishment, or a once and for all punishment must befall an infinite being, in order to be sufficient atonement. God is your judge, your jury, your executioner. God has pronounced your guilt and the penalty, which is death, but then He did an amazing, unimaginable thing. He took off his judges robe, stepped down off the bench, and received the indictment, and served the sentence for you.
But don’t think “well, then I’m covered, there’s nothing more to be done”. No, it doesn’t work that way. By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not “of yourself” (doesn’t come from within) but is a gift of God, lest any man should boast. Even the faith to believe what I have told you, comes from God Himself. That’s why you “can’t believe it”. That’s why it seems “too good to be true” and “too easy, there has to be a catch”. If you are unsaved, God does not even hear your prayers. There is only one prayer of the unsaved man which God will listen to. That is the prayer asking to be saved, or the prayer asking for the faith which is needed in order to entertain the plausibility of His offer of Salvation.
If you don’t pray that prayer, you will go on being blind to these truths. And your literal ticket out of hell will sit at the “will call box” unclaimed and tragically and needlessly wasted, while you spend eternity in hell, literally having had to walk around Jesus to get there. Not His “dead body”, for He rose back up from the dead, and that is the other difference between Faith in Jesus, and “religion”. We don’t worship a dead prophet. We serve a living Savior and God.
And for that, I am most thankful of all!
As you sit around the table this Thursday, celebrating “Thanksgiving” ask yourself this: “Who am I thanking?” Our Holidays don’t need to be hollow and meaningless. When you sit there on January 1, after partying it up yet another year, or after crying yourself to sleep, at the futility of it all, facing the futility, wishing there was “more to life”, I want you to remember this. Because there IS. Jesus is real. God is good and He cares about you personally. He knitted you together in the womb, He picked out your eye color, deliberately put those dimples there and that freckle here. He gave you your personality, and your gifts and abilities and has a purpose for you life. It’s all true. Do you have the courage to believe it? Don’t take my word for it. Ask Him yourself. He speaks your language. May you truly be blessed to meet my Savior and discover you are not a random accident of “nature” with no purpose and no hope. Even in face of these troubling times, my heart overflows with hope.
This world is not my final destination, and death is not the end but the beginning. Praise Almighty God, Elohim, the great “I AM”, the Alpha and Omega, JHVH Jireh, my provider, JHVH Nissi, my banner, JHVH Rapha, my healer. He never leaves, He never forsakes or abandons, or abuses. Praise my wonderful Savior!