by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Thanksgiving: Time for Family and Friends
The day before Thanksgiving, an elderly man in Phoenix called his son in New York and said to him, “I hate to ruin your day, son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. 45 years of misery is enough. We’re sick of each other, and so you can call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”
Frantically, the son called his sister, who exploded on the phone. “They are not getting divorced,” she shouted. “I’ll take care of this.”
She called Phoenix immediate, and said to her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t you do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing. DO YOU HEAR ME?”
The man hung up the phone, smiled and turned to his wife. “Okay, honey. The kids are coming for Thanksgiving and paying for their own flights.”
Thanksgiving: A Time to Love One Another
For most of us we look forward to Thanksgiving Day with joy to see family members that we may not get to see often. It’s a time for those who’ve moved a way to come home and see their loved ones. We get together, eat, laugh, watch football, catch up with one another, and have a good time. As we celebrate Thanksgiving we demonstrate love to one another.
Wait! Love one another? Even the cranky busybody? What about that person that made us mad earlier in the year and we stopped talking to them? What about the mother-in-law that constantly criticizes? Jesus said in John 13:34-25, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” So yes! We have to love all our family members, just as Jesus loved us. Loving one another is always better than fighting, bickering, and hating.
Particularly as COVID continues to claim lives, there will be many families with an empty seat at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year. So, if you are fortunate enough to be with family, thank God and love even the most difficult of family members.
Thanksgiving: A Time to Recognize How Rich We Are in Blessings
It is said that Arnold Schwarzenegger is worth about $800 million dollars. It is also said that he loves his toys. He smokes $4000 cigars, wears shoes that cost as much as $5000 a par, wears $3000 Italian suites and has a $12.5 million Gulfstream Jet. He and his family cruise in style on a $4.5 million 88 foot yacht. Arnold also is fond of Hummers and has a total of 9 of them. Each one cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 for total worth of $1 million. The first one he purchased at a cost of $117,000.
It can be easy to allow ourselves to become jealous and wish we had more than we do – more money, a bigger home, a nicer car, etc. But we seldom acknowledge just how rich we are in the blessings that God has given us. Being rich isn’t always about money or possession. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”
We Can Celebrate Thanksgiving Because The Richest became the Poorest for Our Sakes
Jesus as the pre-incarnate Son of God had everything. He was rich in power. He could do anything with the universe He had created. And He was rich in glory which He had with the Father (John 17:5). The angels were “constantly bowing down” to worship Him and crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). As the Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus was rich in “the actual and constant possession of all divine prerogatives” (Charles Hodge). Even though in Him was the fullness of the Godhead with all of its rights and possessions, He chose on His own to become poor. It was His own volitional choice. He chose to do the Father’s will.
Jesus gave it all up. Instead of being worshipped, “He was despised and rejected by men . .. we esteemed Him not… he was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3-4). Jesus was obedient to death. There were “no reserves, no half-measures, no conditions, no holding back.” Jesus gave His all. Jesus poured out everything He had in a demonstration of His love for the sinner. It was a demonstration of His love for His enemies. He freely gave all that He had, not expecting anything in return. He descended from highest heaven to the grave. No one was richer than He was; none became poorer than He did.
Why did Jesus give up all the glory of heaven to come to earth to die for us? John 3:16 is the answer: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” He did it for you. So no matter our circumstances this Thanksgiving, we can give thanks to Jesus who gave his life for ours.
America is a nation rich in blessings with much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving
America is truly a nation that has seen blessing after blessing. To many other nations, we are a rich nation yet instead of being thankful and sharing our abundance with others, we turn our eyes away from those who are starving, homeless, and alone.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 and in verses 35-36, he said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; and I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.” Then as he explained the meaning of the parable, we find that he said in verse 40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
Perhaps that starving, homeless, lonely person you encountered was placed in your path because Jesus wanted you to meet their need out of the abundant of blessings He gave to you. In verses 41-45 of the parable, Jesus plainly says that when we ignore these people, we are ignoring him. When we refuse to feed them, clothe them, or meet their needs, we do the same to Jesus.
The Attitude and Action of Thanksgiving
So some will dread spending time with family at Thanksgiving or any other holiday or family gathering. They will be miserable, complaining people who make everyone else miserable. Instead of being thankful for everything in front of them, they will not even consider the people who will go hungry. Thanksgiving has both and attitude and an action that should be a part of our lives – not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that we are to be joyful, pray always, and give thinks. This is both the attitude and action of Thanksgiving.
Joyful: The attitude of Thanksgiving
A thankful person is a joyful person and a joyful person is generally a thankful person. Joy is a short word that packs a lot of punch. Dictionary.com defines joy in this way: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. When I consider that definition and others that are similar it makes me wonder if this is what it means to have true joy or did God have something different in mind? If you will indulge me let’s unpack this whole idea of what it means to have true joy not from how the world sees it but from how God defines it.
There is a story of two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. One of them looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His firend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”
The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me $40,000 dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money, his friend replied.
The said man then said, “But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me $85,000.”
The friend, still confused over why the man was so said said, “Sounds like you’ve been blessed.”
“You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million.”
Now his friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?”
“This week… nothing!”
This is often the way we are. We are blessed in certain ways and expect more all the time. No matter what blessings come our way, our attitude is still, “What? Nothing this week!” We’re not as joyful as we should be and that’s because we don’t recognize what we’ve already been given.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
Everything we have we received from God. Our jobs, incomes, cars, houses, land, food, clothing, you name it. We have no right to boast as if we provided everything for ourselves. EVERY GOOD GIFT IS FROM ABOVE! There should be no boasting or indifference on our part. Never. Instead we should count our blessings, name them one by one, and be joyful to see everything that God has done for us.
Counting Your Blessings
Theologian Leslie Weatherhead told about eating with a couple in northern England right after WWII. Food was still scarce, but the wife managed to prepare a fine meal of fresh trout from a nearby stream and some fresh vegetables cooked in a delightful way.
He enjoyed the meal greatly and when it was over, he thanked his hostess for it. She blushed rather shyly and said, “Oh sir, my husband never thanks me when I prepare a fine meal for him.”
Weatherhead said that he felt a little embarrassed for the husband. But he discovered that the husband was not embarrassed at all. He said that he could still see the man sitting there, saying, “Hey, Love. I would have told you if I didn’t like it.”
Isn’t that the way we are so much of the time? Instead of being humbled, thankful and appreciative, we are quicker to complain if our blessings are not just the way we want them or the amount that we want.
Similarly, a young man was feeling very proud of himself. As a brand-new college graduate he had taken the C.P.A. Exams and passed with flying colors. Now he was a full-fledged Certified Public Accountant. His father, however, had been an immigrant to the U.S. and now owned his own little business.
Filled with self-importance, the young man began to criticize his father’s way of keeping books. He said, “Dad, you don’t even know how much profit you’ve made. Over here in this drawer are your accounts receivable. Over there are your receipts and you keep all your money in the cash register. You don’t have any idea how much you’ve made.”
The father answered, “Son, when I came to this country the only thing I owned was a pair of pants. Now, your brother is a doctor, your sister is an art teacher, and you are a C.P.A. Your mother and I own our home. We have a car and we own this little business. Now add that up, subtract the pants, and all the rest is profit.”
Adding Up Your Blessings
ADD IT UP. That’s exactly what we need to do at Thanksgiving. Add it all up. We came into this world with nothing but the eternal soul that God gave us. Everything else is profit. We all have profited quite well. BE JOYFUL.
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is based on your circumstances and what is happening around you, but the Bible tells us that joy comes from the Lord! We can be joyful even in the hard times when God fills us with His joy!
Paul wrote in Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
In Nehemiah 8:10, “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 19:8, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” And in Psalm 33:1, he said, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.” Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You because You have redeemed me.” And in Psalm 126:5, we find that “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”
Solomon tells us in Proverbs 10:1 that “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”
Jeremiah tells us, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and heart’s delight.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
James tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind.” (James 1:2)
Joy is accepting what God has blessed you with and living for him. Someone that possesses joy, is kind and loving. They look at life as a mission field to tell others about God. Joy flows from the inside out. Something inside you bubbles up and it flows or erupts out of your heart.
Based on what the Bible says about joy, we can create a new Biblical definition of joy: an internal reservoir or well that bubbles up inside you eventually expressing itself in shouts of song, praise, and great delight. This kind of joy cannot be contained. It will spill over and spread to all those you come in contact with.
Pray Always: Both and Attitude and Action of Thanksgiving
Prayer is an attitude of our hearts. When we pray, do we realize we are approaching the Creator and Lord of the Universe? Or do we treat our prayers casually, as if we were simply talking to a neighbor? Perhaps our prayers treat God as a genie in a bottle that grants our every wish.
Do we truly realize the great privilege God has given us by allowing us to come into His presence — a privilege that cost God His only Son? And because Jesus gave his life for us, we can joyfully but reverently come into His presence as we pray. The Bible says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Attitudes of Prayer:
As we examine the Scriptures we can find the following attitudes that we should have when we pray:
- Acceptance. Let us pray in acceptance that God knows better than we do what our needs are ( Matthew 6:8, Romans 8:26, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
- Faith. James 1:5-7 tells us to pray without doubting. We can trust in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and trust what they say.
- Persistence. We are to keep on asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking (Matthew 7:7-8). And in Luke 18:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and Acts 16:23-25, we are to pray and not give up.
- Right Motives. “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). They were not wrong to ask, but their asking was wrongly motivated. Example of wrong motives, James and John (Mark 10:35-37). Example of right motives, young Solomon (1Kings 3:3-15).
- Harmony with God’s Will. 1 John 5:14 tells that that if we pray anything according to God’s will he hears us and grants that prayer. So when God clearly reveals His will, we can have confidence in the answer. However, when God’s will has not been revealed, we can pray like Jesus, “If it be possible…nevertheless not my will but Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39)
- Desire to Obey. Only “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful” (James 5:16). We receive from God what we ask only when we show ourselves willing and eager to keep God’s commandments and do the things that please God (1John 3:22).
- Thanksgiving. We are to make all our requests to God with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). God loves the grateful soul. He is not much interested in whiners (Daniel 2:23, Hebrews 13:15, Colossians 4:2, Ephesians 5:20).
Action of Prayer
In Luke 18:1, Jesus said, “men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” During World War II, when the bombing was so intense on the city of London, a sign appeared in front of one of the churches in London that read, “If your knees knock together, kneel on them!” That is practically a restatement of what our Lord has said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
It is the same thought that Paul put a little differently, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This does not mean you are to go to an all-day or all-night prayer meeting. Prayer is not only an attitude; it is also an action of the lips. Remember that Paul said to the Romans, “…the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). That is, they cannot be put into our words. And many times we do not have the words to pray, but we are praying nonetheless. And it is the entire life that is behind the words which are spoken that makes prayer effective.
There was a famous preacher, years ago in the state of Georgia, who had many very unusual expressions. One of them was this, “When a man prays for a corn crop, God expects him to say Amen with a hoe.” You can’t just stay on your knees all the time and pray for a corn crop. That’s pious nonsense. But to pray for the corn crop and then go to work is the thing our Lord is talking about in days when men’s hearts are failing them. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
With prayer, there is also action.
Give Thanks: The Action of Thanksgiving
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” A thankful person is quick to give thanks to God in all circumstances.
One day, a lady pulled up to the drive-in window at a bank. The teller inside was facing the hot afternoon sun, so he pulled down the large window shade, making it impossible for his customers to see him through the window. He could see out but they couldn’t see in.
As this lady pulled up to the window he pushed the button and the drawer moved out to meet her. She put in her deposit and the drawer withdrew. A few moments later the drawer came back out again with her deposit slip and the money she had requested. She counted it and then put the money in her purse.
She looked at the window, but unable to see anyone inside, said, “I suppose you’re totally automated, but I just feel I ought to say `thank you’ anyway.” Today, it is rare that people say think you, even when you can see them. More of us should be like the lady in the drive-in window at the bank. We should be thankful to God and to all people who bless us in life. We should be thankful to God for those who serve us even though we may not know them or see them.
1 out of 10 were Thankful
Jesus went about doing good wherever he went. He made the lame to walk, the blind to see, and he fed multitudes with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. On one day, Jesus encountered 10 lepers. Let’s read the story in Luke 17:11-17.
“While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed. But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”Holman Christian Standard Bible
It’s important to note that the only one who returned to say thankful was a Samaritan because in Jesus’ day, the Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans. They were the hated, outcasts. After Israel’s fall to the Assyrians, they began to intermarry with the Assyrians, which went against God’s commands in Deuteronomy 7:3-5. So the Jews saw the Samaritans as unclean dogs. But of all 10 that were healed, this is the only one who returned to say “thank you.”
As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, will you be the one to say “Thank you” to God, or will you be one of the 9 that never returned?
Give thanks in all circumstances
The apostle Paul didn’t say to give thanks “for” all circumstances, but “in” all circumstances. All our circumstances in life are not good, but there will always be something in those circumstances for which to give thanks.
When Robinson Crusoe was shipwrecked on a lonely island he thought of both the good and the bad. He was cast onto a desolate island, but he was still alive, not drowned as all of his ship’s company was. He was divided from mankind, but he was not starving. Robinson had no clothes, but he was in a hot climate where he didn’t need them. He was without means of defense, but he saw no wild animals. He had nothing to speak of, but God had sent the ship so near to the shore that he could get out of it all things necessary for his survival. So he concluded that there was not any condition in the world so miserable but that there was something positive for which to be thankful.
That’s the attitude that we need to have. Crusoe could give thanks in all circumstances. He found some things for which to give thanks and we can too, no matter how bad our situation or circumstances might seem to be.
We Can be Thankful Because we have Everything
A little eight-year-old named Christina had cancer of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finally said, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!”
My friends, we all have that great cancer of the soul called sin, but when we asked Jesus to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, He took our sin away. He removed it as far as the east is from the west. Because of him, we have forgiveness of sins. We have eternal life. WE HAVE EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF HIM!
So this Thanksgiving, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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