Tag Archives: prayer

The First Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720When I mention Thanksgiving, what thoughts come to mind? Are there memories of a family gathering, or a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings? At my parent’s house we watched football games on TV (before and after our meal).

According to my smart phone, the word Thanksgiving is defined as an “expression of gratitude, especially to God.” When I looked up the definition of gratitude, my phone said, it is a quality of being thankful. Notice how the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” describe each other. Thanksgiving is showing gratitude and gratitude is being thankful.

When was the first thanksgiving? Most people would say it happened several hundred years ago in Plymouth, Mass. when the first pilgrims came to America and gathered around a table with their Indian guests. Was that really the first thanksgiving, or did one occur much earlier in history?

According to David Mathis in his article, “The True Story of Thanksgiving,” the first thanksgiving began thousands of years earlier. Genesis 1:27 us that God created man and woman in his own image. God created us to show Him gratitude, to give Him thanks and to worship Him. The first thanksgiving occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve thanking and praising their Creator.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created perfect. Death had yet to come into existence. They had everything they could ever want provided for them in the Garden of Eden. That is, until the tempter, began spreading his venom around Eden. Satan, being full of pride and love of self, showed ingratitude towards God. Ingratitude is a form of rebellion. It is through ingratitude towards God that sin abounds. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:21 puts it this way, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude would lead Adam and Eve into sin.  Satan brought to their attention one thing they did not have.  They began to believe his lie that God was holding something back from them. God must not care about them. They began to covet the one thing they couldn’t have, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They stopped being thankful for God’s provision and gave in to rebellion. When they ate the fruit, God’s judgment fell on them. Sin separated them from God and death followed sin.

From that day forward, humankind has been self-centered and materialistic creatures believing they can do a better job than God at providing for their needs. We want to determine what is right and wrong in our own minds. People are concerned more with their deprived physical needs than about their spiritual, eternal well-being. What people fail to realize is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Isn’t it reassuring to know God didn’t abandon us to our foolish darkened hearts? God sent his son Jesus into a thankless, ungrateful world. Here on earth he lived a flawless life, showering God with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. Jesus exemplifies the word “thanksgiving.” The Gospels are filled of examples of Jesus giving thanks to God:

When Jesus fed the 4,000, “he took the seven loaves and the fish and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. (Mark 8:6)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41).

The “Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way after supper he took the cup, saying this the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eukaistos, which actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus didn’t just model thanksgiving for us. He died on the cross for our ingratitude, for our failing to exalt God, to praise him and worship Him as Lord. When we place our faith in Jesus, he redeems us from a life of ingratitude and restores us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to be thankful and grateful to God.

This is why it is important for us to be constantly striving to be more like Jesus, the only person who lived a perfect life of gratitude, honoring his father, God.

When we pray we need to remember to be thankful.

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  

When we worship God we need to be thankful. The book of Psalms is full of thankful worship verses.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

When we walk with God we need to remember to be thankful.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

But we’re human aren’t we. There are times we fail miserably at being thankful, like when things aren’t going well for us. We can easily be overcome by hurt and tragedy. When we face trials we have a tendency to blame God.

When we face those trials we need to remain especially thankful.

But how do we do that? First, we can remain thankful by standing on the promises of God. Second, we should remember past and current blessings God has bestowed on us. Yes, count your blessings name them one by one!

My wife visited her family in North Carolina recently. When it came time to fly home, I prayed God would give her an uneventful and safe return. Her fight home, which should normally take about 3 hours turned into quite an ordeal, lasting well over 9 hours. I thought I had covered all my bases with my prayers and found myself having a tough time coping with her having to change planes, miss a connecting flight, and endure hour after hour of delays all caused by bad weather.

The ordeal continued to spin out of control at a time I needed God most. It became increasingly difficult for me to believe God was listening to my prayers. Thoughts like, “Does he really care about my wife and me” crept into my head. It wasn’t until she and I were safely together again that I learned just how involved God was guiding her every step. I felt ashamed when I considered my feelings of ingratitude. My heart turned to repentance and thanksgiving.

From now on I will always think of this incident in my life when I come across the verse:

“And we know (there’s a promise in those three words). And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My wife will likely remember the promise I texted her in the midst of her ordeal :

“Be still and know (the word “know” is a promise) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

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May this Thanksgiving be a special time of blessing for you. Remember to give thanks to the God who created you, to the One who sustains you, and to Him who will never leave you or forsake you.

Worry less, be thankful more

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On my way to work this morning, I heard an interesting statistic; 92% of the things we worry about never materialize.  The statistic came from a radio program by Dr. David Jeremiah who is currently doing a study on the book of Philippians.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 4:6-7

According to Dr. Jeremiah, when we pray we must be prepared to want the answer we receive and not pray with the mindset that God will always give us what we want.  

 

Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

Finding peace: Philippians 4:6

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“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 CSB

If you are like me, there are incidents in my life where worry rules the day.  Philippians 4:6 says, “don’t worry about anything.” Count me among those who wonder, how is that possible?  

For starters, I need to remind myself that God is sovereign, He reigns over everything.  He never gets distracted. There is never an incident in my day when God is not present.  Those who believe these things handle anxiety by praying.  In my conversation with God, I pour out my heart (help me, please!).  While I’m talking to Him, I also must remember to thank Him for all he has done, for listening to me presently, and for what he is about to do. God’s answer to my prayer might not be how I envisioned it, but I need to remember to thank him regardless of the outcome.

It is through prayer and thanksgiving that, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding can be found.”  This peace (that I cannot explain) guards my heart (faith in God) and my (worrisome) mind.

Peace be with  you!

Psalm 119:137-152 Are you perfect?

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This stanza of the 119th Psalm highlights the righteousness of God.  He is righteous (137) and so is his word (138).  His righteousness is everlasting and true (142) and is unchanging (144).

How can anyone measure up to this standard of perfection? The psalmist’s approach is one of an all out pursuit of holiness (139). He recognizes his lowly and despised condition (141), yet he has an unwavering desire to understand God’s word.

The second stanza reminisces, considering the time and manner of the psalmists pleadings with God.  Charles Spurgeon summarizes it this way…He prayed with his whole heart (145).  He prayed, “God save me!” (146). He prayed before dawn (147) and all through the night watches (148), He cried out, “Preserve my life!” (149).  God drew near in response (150).

“He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace.”  C. Spurgeon.

1 Peter 3:12 ties the two stanzas of this psalm together.  The eyes and the ears of the Lord focus on the righteous and listen to their prayers.

Annie and Willie’s Prayer

IMG_0561Twas the eve before Christmas. “Good night,” had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed;
There were tears on their pillows and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs,
For tonight their stern father’s command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven
Instead of at eight – for they troubled him more
With questions unheard of than ever before:
He had told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such creature as “Santa Claus” ever had been.
And he hoped after this, he should never more hear
How he scrembled down chimneys with presents each year.
And this was the reason the two little heads
So restlessly tossed on their soft, downy beds.

Eight, nine, and the clock on the steeple tolled ten,
Not a word has been spoken by either till then,
When Willie’s sad face from the blanket did peep,
And whispered, “Dear Annie, is ‘ou fast as’eep?”
“Why, no, brother Willie,” A sweet voice replies,
“I’ve long tried in vain, but I can’t shut my eyes,
For somehow it makes me so sorry because
Dear papa has said there is no ‘Santa Claus.’
Now we know there is, and it can’t be denied,
For he came every year before mamma died;
But, then, I’ve been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear everything mamma would say,
And maybe she asked him to send Santa Claus here
With that sackful of presents he brought every year.”
“Well, why tan’t we p’ay dest as mamma did den,
And ask Dod to send him with p’esents aden?”
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor,
And four little knees the soft carpet pressed,
And two tiny hands were clasped close to each breast.
“Now, Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we’re sure to receive;
You must wait very still till I say the “Amen,”
And by that you will know that your turn has come then.”

“Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favor we are asking of thee.
I want a wax dolly, a teaset, and ring,
And an ebony workbox that shuts with a spring.
Bless papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us as much as does he;
Don’t let him get fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie. Amen.”
“Please, Desus, ‘et Santa Taus tum down tonight,
And b’ing us some p’esents before it is light;
I want he should div’ me a nice ‘ittle s’ed,
With bright shinin’ ‘unners, and all painted red;
A box full of tandy, a book, and a toy.
Amen, and then, Desus, I’ll be a dood boy.”

Their prayers being ended, they raised up their heads,
With hearts light and cheerful, again sought their beds.
They were lost soon in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in dreamland were roaming in sleep.

Eight, nine, and the little French clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again:
He seems now to hear Annie’s half-suppressed sighs,
And to see the big tears stand in Willie’s blue eyes.
“I was harsh with my darlings,” he mentally said,
“And should not have sent them so early to bed;
But then I was troubled, my feelings found vent,
For bankstock today has gone down ten percent.
But of course they’ve forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied then their thrice-asked-for kiss:
But, just to make sure, I’ll go up to their door,
For I never spoke harsh to my darlings before.”
So saying, he softly ascended the stairs,img_0849
And arrived at the door to hear both of their prayers;
His Annie’s “Bless papa” drew forth the big tears,
And Willie’s grave promise fell sweet on his ears.
“Strange – strange – I’d forgotten,” said he with a sigh,
“How I longed when a child to have Christmas draw nigh.”
“I’ll atone for my harshness,” he inwardly said,

“By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed.”
Then he turned to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing gown,
Donned hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street,
A millionaire facing the cold, driving sleet!

Nor stopped he until he had bought everything
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring;
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store,
That the various presents outnumbered a score.
Then homeward he turned. With his holiday load,
With Aunt Mary’s help, in the nursery was stowed.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree,
By the side of a table spread out for her tea;
A workbox well fitted in the center was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had prayed,
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled,
“With bright shining runners, and all painted red.”
There were balls, dogs, and horses, books pleasing to see,
And birds of all colors were perched in the tree!

While Santa Claus, laughing, stood up in the top,
As if getting ready more presents to drop.
And as the fond father the picture surveyed,
He thought for his trouble he had amply been paid,
And he said to himself, as he brushed off a tear,
“I’m happier tonight than I’ve been for a year;
I’ve enjoyed more pure pleasure than every before;
What care I if bank stock falls ten percent more!
Hereafter I’ll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve.”
So thinking, he gently extinguished the light,
And, tripping down stairs, retired for the night.

As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
put the darkness to flight, and the stars one by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep opened wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied;
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts prayed for were all of them found.
They laughed and they cried, in their innocent glee,
And shouted for papa to come quickly see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night
(Just the things that they wanted,) and left before light:
“And now,” added Annie, in a voice soft and low,
“You’ll believe there’s a ‘Santa Claus’, papa, I know”;
While dear little Willie climbed up on his knee,
Determined no secret between them should be,
And told him in soft whispers how Annie had said
That their dear, blessed mamma, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down by the side of her chair,
img_0851And that God up in heaven had answered her prayer.
“Den we dot up and prayed dust as well as we tould,
And Dod answered our prayers: now wasn’t He dood?”
“I should say that He was, if He sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf,
‘Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.”)

Blind father! Who caused your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
‘Twas the Being who bade you steal softly upstairs,
And made you his agent to answer their prayers.

-Sophia P. Snow (c) 1884