“Day of thanksgiving and praise”

Who started Thanksgiving? Well, that is certainly debatable, as people from the Pilgrims to the present day have celebrated special feasts, giving thanks to God for His watchcare and provision.

George Washington, on October 3, 1789, proclaimed that Thursday, November 26 would be a day of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln must have liked that idea, as he proclaimed a national holiday for the purpose of “thanksgiving and praise” for the last Thursday of every November.

In the interim, different states held various special days of thanksgiving.

One of the great things about America is this holiday. Our founding fathers, though many were deists and not true believers in Jesus as Savior, recognized God’s providence in the affairs of men. They understood that a reliance on the Lord was vital for the country’s wellbeing. Our presidents set aside a special day for thanksgiving and praise—to God.

Canada and England celebrate similar Thanksgiving Days.

As many of you know, we lived more than thirty-six years in Spain. They don’t have Thanksgiving, but you can be sure that many Americans in Spain celebrate it the best they can along with fellow Americans and invited friends.

Why is it so important to Americans? Of course, there are the wonderful, traditional foods. It’s our excuse to bake pumpkin pies, roast turkeys, and make green bean casseroles. But, it is much deeper and appeals to the essence of being American. We want to be together and give thanks. Recognition that God deserves our gratefulness is why this day is so important, maybe especially when one doesn’t live in his home country.

I read a decree from a state governor that outlaws people going to others’ homes to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are not in that state, and I’m wondering what kind of outcry will come from his action. How can one outlaw Thanksgiving?

The first president instituted it, and the sixteenth made it a national holiday.

To me, Thanksgiving is also about family. For thirty-six years, my whole family has gathered around tables and celebrated without us. Lord willing, this year, we will not be the missing ones from the photos. We will be with family, praising and thanking God for bringing us together again.

No one can outlaw a true Thanksgiving.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name (Psalm 100:4).

What does Thanksgiving Day mean to you?

The best substitute: thanksgiving

Years ago, I heard a message about the principle of substitution: that every time God instructs us to get rid of something, He provides a substitute. The positive trade-off is always much better than its alternative.

We are getting close to Thanksgiving Day, and people are counting their blessings. That is good.

I wonder how many of us are actually putting away junk and substituting a habit of praise for it. Where do I get this idea? Consider the following passage.

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:3-4).

Don’t get tripped up at the first one: fornication. “I’m not a fornicator. This is for really bad sinners.” Look at the rest of the list: uncleanness—all of it. Well, everyone has sinned. Covetousness—ouch! Ever want something someone else owns? Let it not be once named among you. This steps on toes. A Christian hates sin and he’s content.

It continues: filthiness—you can probably include a lot of rottenness in this—and foolish talking. Did you ever say thoughtless, damaging words? Surely you have. The Bible says, For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body (James 3:2). Perfect self-control means we don’t offend in word and we reign in our physical desires.

Jesting. I had to look this one up. Does it mean playing around, harmless teasing? Does the Bible say that’s bad? No, this word really means “vulgar, lewd, crass, or foul-mouthed humor.”* As you can see, it goes along with filthiness and foolish talking.

What is the antidote for these sins? Praise. Giving of thanks.

I have found that when I have an attitude of praise—when I am actively looking for good and praising God for it—I am a happier person.

Let’s look at a companion passage that talks about giving thanks. The context is prayer, specifically an outline for prayer.

Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Remember the principle of substitution? Here’s another one. Instead of being anxious and uneasy, what are we supposed to do? Well, pray. How? Supplication is asking God for something. We are all very good at that.

What comes next? Thanksgiving. This is the missing element in so many of our prayers. Yes, we are asking, pleading, and interceding—all good things. But, we forget ice our prayer cake: thanking God for listening, hearing, and for answering however He sees best in His infinite wisdom.

What’s the result of this kind of praying? Peace. And not just any kind of peace. It’s the kind that’s a Divine provision, unexplainable. How cool is that?

A habit of praise transforms. It’s the way a Christian is supposed to live.

Negativity and bitterness transforms, as well. It is a sinful lifestyle.

Which do you prefer?

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

Happy Thanksgiving!


Palm Sunday musings

When I was a little girl, Palm Sunday was one of my favorite occasions. Our church was decorated with green potted palms. Our children’s choir sang. It was wonderfully happy. “Hosanna, loud hosanna, the little children sang.”

I suspect our Palm Sunday in an elaborate church with stained glass windows looked nothing like the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem, but we welcomed Him. We praised Him. It was a celebration that culminated the next Sunday with the Resurrection.

So much could be said about all the happenings on that first Palm Sunday, but I want to limit my thoughts to the triumphal entry itself.

Jesus sat on a donkey colt. I have always wondered why. I’ve read that kings rode donkeys in those days, but other biblical accounts don’t have kings on horseback or mules or donkeys at all. They are almost always in a chariot, pulled by horses. So, I am not sure about this.

People put their clothing on the donkey for Jesus to sit on and in the way—to make a clean road for Him. This speaks of the willingness to serve, sacrifice, and loving Jesus. Others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way (Mark 11:8b). It was a symbol of honor.

Multitudes—one wonders how many—went before Jesus and followed saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest (Matthew 21:9).

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out (Luke 19:37-40).

What an occasion!

The multitude introduced Jesus as the Messiah when they called Him “King” and “son of David.” Even the phrases “peace in heaven” and “glory in the highest” remind us of the angel’s message at His birth.

The religious rulers were not happy with this message. It went against their own ideas. They didn’t want to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

But Jesus replied, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. Can you imagine? This message was so important that even dumb, inanimate rocks would be able to speak if Jesus quieted the people.

Hosanna to the Son of David.

As Jesus gets close to Jerusalem, he beheld the city, and wept over it.

Jerusalem—the central city in all of the Bible. It will be the city where the end time prophecies occur and the city that’s completely re-created to be the permanent home for believers. The New Jerusalem with its rainbow-hued foundations, pearl doors, and beauty like nothing we can imagine, where Jesus Himself is the light, and where Hosannas will be sung forever and ever.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:1-4).

So, Jesus’ ride on Palm Sunday was introducing Him as Messiah.

Hosanna in the highest!

Photo courtesy of www.lumoproject.com.

“Sorry for your loss”

When a loved one has passed away, we hear, “Sorry for your loss.” Of course, we understand the phrase and sentiment behind those words. It’s an appropriate thing to say. The people left behind will grieve their loss—each in his own way.

A friend’s wife passed away, and many people said the same thing to him. He replied, “I didn’t lose my wife; I know where she is.” And, it’s true. This woman is with Jesus in heaven. Her husband knows her whereabouts.

Loss and grief, mourning, anger, and feelings of guilt over “what ifs” and “I wish I had” are part of everyone’s experience.

Death is certain. There’s no getting away from that awful consequence of sin. Everyone, sooner or later, will pass on. The Bible says, And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

And, we who are left behind grieve the loss of the people we love. It’s important to allow ourselves to process grief, recognize its phases, and by God’s grace, move forward—though we will always miss him.

I’d like to address the two kinds of loss:

  1. Loss with hope
  2. Loss forever

I personally have been through both kinds, and I can tell you it is much easier to face the loss of a loved one when I know I’ll see that person again. What I’m talking about is the difference between knowing you’re going to heaven and that your loved one is already there, and not being sure where your loved one is.

Let me insert a parenthesis. Only God can judge a heart. If your loved one has heard the gospel, you probably don’t know for sure whether or not he always rejected God’s mercy. Only God knows the heart. We may suppose that someone rejected salvation until the very end, but we probably can’t know for sure if that person cried out to the Lord for salvation in his last moments of consciousness or not. Only God knows.

Someone who’s gone ahead to heaven doesn’t have pain anymore. He’s also sinless, thanks to Jesus. He is joyful, praising, and has no need of anything. Though we grieve the loss down here on earth, we have the wonderful promise that we will see him again. We have the assurance that they’re in a better place and can even rejoice through our tears. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

I’ve attended the funerals of several people who seemed not to have any interest whatsoever in the Lord, who lived their lives in the pursuit of pleasure and chained to addictions, and who—from what we could tell—rejected God until the end of their lives. (One probably never heard the gospel; the others had.) These are the saddest occasions. (Again, we’re not God, and only He knows if those who had heard the gospel responded at the very end of their lives.) As a born again person, I don’t know that I will ever see them again. I grieved profoundly.

The most important thing you can do for your family is make sure you know you’re going to heaven when you die and to help your family know, as well. You can know. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

Do you have eternal life? Have you believed on Jesus? Have you accepted His payment for your sins?

Before your passing, make sure your family knows where to find you. Make sure your new home will be heaven.

Easter memories and actualities

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

The sanctuary is adorned with myriad pots of white Easter lillies wrapped in purple foil, and the organ plays. Our children’s choir, in two-piece robes with ridiculous, huge bows at our necks, walks down the center aisle, singing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. When our choir gets into place up front, our minister floats across the platform in his white robe with the special purple and gold scarf and begins the invocation. “Jesus is risen. Let us rejoice.” And the adult choir begins the anthem.

One very early Easter morning when I was a teen, our family went to a park to hear another choir’s resurrection songs. I remember the trees were lacy with tiny chartreuse leaves, dogwoods were in bloom, and the beautiful voices sang out. Low in the grave He lay Up from the grave He arose! It was thrilling.

Between my participation in the children’s choir and the dewy Easter morning in the park, I was born again. I understood the significance of Easter. No tomb can hold Him. He is God. He is our Redeemer. He’s alive!

The resurrection is the crowning pinnacle of the gospel.

Jesus died on the cross. That’s a terrible and wonderful fact, since His death—the perfect Son of God willingly paying the price for my sins—made it so that I could decide to acknowledge that payment and be saved.

And, even though He died and was buried, He rose.

Jesus told his disciples what would happen. He told the Jewish leaders as well. But his disciples didn’t understand. The leaders did, but they said, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God (John 19:7b).

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

After Jesus’ death, the Jewish leaders paid hush money to those who guarded the tomb, so that the people wouldn’t know what happened (Matthew 28:11-15).

Many saw Him after the resurrection. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me (Paul) also, as of one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

Well over five hundred people saw Jesus alive, walking on the earth, talking to them, even eating food. He stayed around for forty days.

Disciples and angels watched as He ascended into heaven, promising to come again.

Why is it so important that Jesus is alive? Wasn’t His death enough?

Many religions portray Jesus on the cross, in glass caskets, and lying down on slabs—dead. While it’s true He suffered on the cross and was buried in a cave tomb, the most miraculous part of the gospel is His resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

The resurrection of Jesus gives us the way to eternal life. The resurrection gives us hope.

Jesus said unto her (the woman at the well), I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

Have a Happy Easter!