LET'S GIVE THANKS
Dear Christian friends,
When our national independence was won, the thirteen colonies declared a national thanksgiving to celebrate the freedom that God had given to this land from the British. King George, the king ofEngland, a man who thought of himself as a pious man, did not want to be outdone. He also declared a day of thanksgiving to celebrate the restoration of peace to his disturbed empire.
King George had a friend who lived nearby. After losing the 13 colonies, the friend asked the King, “Your Majesty, for what are you giving thanks? Is it because you lost the thirteen fairest jewels in your crown?
“No, not for that!” answered the king.
“So are you giving thanks because so much money was spent on the war and millions have been added to our national debt? Is that why you are giving thanks?”
“No, not for that either!” replied the king.
“Are we giving thanks for all the men who poured out their blood in this unnatural and unhappy struggle between people that seemed so the same and were of the same religion?”
“No, not that either!” exclaimed the king for the third time.
Then, why are you giving thanks?” asked the friend.
After pausing a little while, the king finally replied, “I thank God that things aren’t any worse!”
I guess that’s a glass half full thanksgiving. But it is that time again for Thanksgiving Day – a national holiday that has an interesting and long history. I wonder if this holiday like others that really have their roots in our good Lord will suddenly be wiped off the calendar by brazen unbelievers and wrong minded politicians who suddenly think that Christianity had nothing to do with the establishment of our nation. “Let’s Give Thanks” by seeing 1) the source of gifts and 2) the scope of gifts.
This is a simple passage but the implications are mind-boggling. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” All good things come from the Father of the heavenly lights. The God whom we praise and thank today and everyday is the creator of the sun and moon and stars and all that vastness we can’t understand.
Yet, the book of Genesis says on the first day God created light. He created it by the power of his word. Whether he said it out loud or simply thought the words “let there be light,” it came to pass. There was light. There was something strange about this light. When we think of light we know the sun is the source during the day, and the moon and stars are the source in the sky during the night. God did not create them until the fourth day. But there was light.
The sun is by far the biggest object in our solar system. It contains 99.8% of the mass in our solar system. Jupiter makes up for most of the rest. The Lord made it all. The earth on which we live has such a minute presence. Yet God placed us here and made a mountain inIsraelthe most important place in all of his creation.
We think of the sun as something so huge and yet there are, according to science 100 billion other suns in God’s creation. Yet there is something greater. While we couldn’t live without the sun, heaven awaits us. In heaven, the home of all believers the book of Revelation says, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.” Even the sun is such a small work of his incredible power.
Judy and I felt the rolling ground of a small earthquake that was centered inNorthwestern Alabamaas a shock wave rolled under the foundation of the parsonage. It was disquieting. I can’t imagine what it is like to be right on top of an 8.1 earthquake on the Richter scale. Millions have and do know what it is like.Washington,Illinoiswas struck by an F-4 tornado a couple of weeks ago. Some of the video on the internet is truly mindboggling. An F-4 tornado has winds between 166 and 200 miles an hour leaving death and destruction in their path. They are here and then gone. Hurricane Andrew that hitSouth Floridain 1992 was not here and then gone. It was here and here and here and didn’t seem to go away. And he was vicious. An anemometer broke clocking the wind at 185 miles per hour. I saw the destruction first hand up close. God spare your people. But you know something? Sometimes he doesn’t. Yet someway and somehow he makes it all work for good.
Someone once made this observation that the microscope and the telescope were invented fairly close together. By using one with the other you can see just how vast the creation really is. Through one we see how small the world really is compared to all the other parts of the universe. Through the other we see a brand new world inside a tiny particle called an atom. God’s power, the source of all our blessings is truly incredible, isn’t it?
While he is the giver of all our gifts and so powerful, why does he bother with us? That question would seem to be unanswerable but the simple fact is that he truly did, and does, and will always love us whom he created. We don’t ever need to worry about that promise since he doesn’t change like shifting shadows.
God’s promises are sure and constant. James uses an illustration that can be seen from the moon and sun. As the earth and moon and sun keep moving we see different phases of the moon. It goes through twenty eight of those phases – from new moon to full moon.
God is always the full moon. He is not a fleeting shadow. He would never get up on the wrong side of the bed. Monday mornings are the same as Tuesdays and Wednesday and Saturdays. He is not moody and doesn’t need caffeine in the morning. “I am the Lord and I change not,” he says.
That means everything to the thankful child of God. When Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest;” When the Holy Spirit says through the apostle, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you; When the Lord promises through the psalmist, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me;” When God promises all kinds of other wonderful things, don’t even consider for a millisecond that he won’t keep it. He doesn’t change like shifting shadows. Give him thanks.
Life has changed so much in the years that people my age have lived on this earth. When I was a child, most things were made in theUnited States. I remember seeing the notation when something was made inJapan. Chinawas a closed society until the early seventies when under President Nixon the Chinese began allowing people to enter the land. We had a member in my first congregation who was invited to demonstrate heart and lung machines to be used for complex surgeries. I will always remember when he told me the story about the going away party they gave to him and his team. They had a bear paw in the middle of a table and everyone stuck a fork into it and pulled. That’s what you got to eat. Now it’s hard to find items made inAmerica. Now so many things are made inChina. Yet a better designation is that all things are ‘Made by God.’
Without the hand of God all the scientific knowledge and skill of people could not produce one widget or single slice of bread. The formulas, the ingredients, the processes that go into making anything, all come from God.
Every spring the farmer and the gardener plant those seeds in hope of having a record harvest. The seeds that are planted are absolutely necessary to grow the food to nourish our bodies. The farmer must prepare the soil – God’s soil; the farmer must plant the seed – God’s seed; he has to wait for the rain – God’s rain, and count on the sun God’s sun to warm and supply all that is necessary to make the seed grow. Without God’s soil and God’s seed and God’s rain and God’s sun, nothing would happen. Nothing could happen. No bread, no vegetable, no meat could be produced without God’s hand in it all.
Last Thanksgiving Day, we gave thanks for a year that was really tough on many. The summer of 2012 was drought-filled.
The 2012 drought rapidly increased in severity from June to July and persisted into August. As of September 12, over 2,000U.S.counties had been designated as disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly due to drought. Statistics were alarming.
- Based on the 2011 value of production, at least 70 percent of both crop production and livestock production was in areas experiencing at least moderate drought as of August 14.
- Severe or greater drought in 2012 impacted 67 percent of cattle production, and about 70-75 percent of corn and soybean production.
- More than 80 percent of the acres of major field crops planted in the United Stateswere covered by Federal crop insurance, which can help to mitigate yield or revenue losses for covered farms.
A comparison of maps showing the drought of 2012 to 2013 is so drastically different. Except for Central California and parts of Kansasand some ofSouth Carolina, there is really no comparison. In a few months the difference between the depths of Lake Lanier to some of the lowest water depths to some of the highest water depths is nothing less than astounding, even miraculous. God hears the prayers of his people. God sees the dilemmas of his people. God changes those dilemmas.
But it doesn’t stop there. Thanksgiving is not just about that. King David a man who had been blessed in so many ways – even with the ability to write poetry wrote about the scope of the way God blesses. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” He divides the blessings. He said he forgives my sins and heals my diseases. He heals the heart and heals the body. The blessings are physical and spiritual.
Years ago a four young people decided to go hiking inGlacierNational Park. As I was told, three were not believers, one was. They came to a snow field on a trail with a steep slope below. They decided to cross. One slipped and slid down the slope and was impaled on a rock and died. Of the four he was the one who was Christian. The other three were shocked and shaken. I had contact with one who was particularly bitter and angry at the God who should have saved him. How can there be a God who is so cruel and takes the life of someone so young? Perhaps it is a logical question and one that we would expect to be asked. While I did explain the best I could that God’s ways are not our ways, nor our thoughts his thoughts, this was the thought that was going through my mind. Maybe I should have said it more directly like I was thinking. Thank you, Lord, for taking the one who knew you. Thank for giving the three who don’t more to time to do so. The college student died, but he knew that God forgives all sins. Thanks Lord for everything, but most of all for your love in Christ.