Thanksgiving

Happy 4th of July Citizens of Heaven!

Happy 4th of July Citizens of Heaven!

About five years ago I became a U.S. citizen. I will give you five seconds to look at the picture. Go ahead. I will sing the jeopardy song on my end. Good friends from church came out to support me, I was wearing a stunning red tie, and smiling like a kid in a soccer store. It was an amazing day! As I enter this 4th of July, I find myself thankful, honored, blessed and all those kinds of feelings used to describe the story of a bare-footed little kid who grew up around slums in Northeastern Brazil and now is a father of five living in this great land of the free and home of the brave.

O, say, on this day can you see the millions of happy grills preparing one of America’s greatest inventions: hot dogs. But beyond all the fireworks, parades, and the good and healthy national festivities, we also remember that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.

Sovereignty is good. It is right. And I believe there was much wisdom in that threefold pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. By and large, this country provides the best and most excellent environment for the pursuit of this trinity of virtues. It is also true that we have not followed those principles too well in this nation. We have despised life by disposing of unborn infants, we have forgotten that God set us free from ourselves and the tyranny of sin, and instead of using our liberties to worship the Three-and-One Creator, we have used our liberties to chase after speechless idols. Washington has become a place of secret handshakes, unwarranted transactions, political elitism, sophist rhetoric, and cowardice. We have traded happiness and found contentment in a pot of stew. We gave up the perilous fight to amuse ourselves to death.

On a day like this one, it is important to give thanks for this nation, but keeping things in right perspective is even more critical. We are first and foremost heavenly citizens planted in this bright stars country to proclaim allegiance to one true King. The intrinsic value of this nation does not grant life, liberty, and happiness; it is the inherent perfection of a heavenly country that urges us to such pursuits. And we should pray as visibly as the bombs bursting in the air that this nation would join that divine proclamation. After all, we are Americans. We are not pessimists. We know that even in the darkest moment of this country’s history, God is still on the throne, and He does not hit the pause button to the advances of his kingdom.

Happy 4th of July! Be good citizens of this nation. With every juicy bite of watermelon, with every patriotic song, with every red, white and blue decoration, give thanks to God. But don’t forget your first love. Don’t forget to sing psalms so loudly that the enemies will think there is an army of giants coming at them, to speak the truth so firmly that Washington will be unable to shut her ears. Love so convincingly that godly marriages would be honored. Obey the Lord your God, petition his mercy that God would spare us in doing evil and bless us in doing good. And may good triumph over evil in this land.

Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Four Lessons for our Thanksgiving Family Gatherings

Let me provide a few practical lessons from Philippians as you all will soon gather with loved ones for Thanksgiving and have dominion over one of God’s greatest gifts to us, food.

First, beware of a contentious spirit. It has been said that the most contentious table in America is the Thanksgiving table. My expectation for myself and for you is that you treat others with dignity and disagree respectfully. I have said before that our example and our children’s example are the best and most convincing marks of our worldview. Whether we are dealing with fellow believers or unbelievers, we are both called to love them and know when the limit of a conversation has been reached. Paul says that as much as it is possible live in peace with all men. Do not become the one that everyone fears around the table; the one who will turn a question on the weather into a discussion on the teleological necessities of an epistemic self-conscious worldview. Learn to discuss something besides that which everyone knows is the only thing you talk about.

Secondly, keep your eyes open to those who are in need when you gather this coming week. There may have been much pain and sorrow that have transpired in the lives of family members in a space of twelve months. Paul says in chapter two of Philippians: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love…” You may have the opportunity to be a good counselor to those grieving in your family or to a friend.

Third, practice lots of thanksgiving. Use your traveling this coming week with your family to remember the good things God has done for you. And if you happen to be in a difficult time in your life, give thanks for what God is going to do in your story. Your story is not a one chapter book. It is filled with drama and joy and glory. And if you think our Triune God is done writing your story, you need a bigger view of the God we worship.

Finally, rejoice in a way that would make pagans jealous. A pagan looks at a bottle of wine and says: “I drink for my own satisfaction.” A Christian looks at the same bottle and says: “I drink to the glory of God!” Set a good example of moderation and festiveness. Thanksgiving–not only because of its glorious Christian history in this country– but for many other reasons, is a distinctly Christian celebration. We have reason to rejoice and to give thanks. Let’s feast like Christians!

How Thanksgiving and Happiness are Linked

How Thanksgiving and Happiness are Linked

The results are in! Gratitude wins the day by a landslide. In fact, as a result of this monumental victory, psychology departments are developing entirely new areas of study on the little known fact of gratitude. According to Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.” a There are measurable benefits. Did you hear that?

Linked to this discovery is the helpful suggestion made by Michael Hyatt that keeping a gratitude journal can be immensely beneficial as we build an arsenal of gratitude pages. Ending the day by listing the reasons for thanksgiving, however small, can actually serve as a rich spiritual exercise.

Of course, we are aware that psychological journals are behind the times. Gratitude has always been a Christian virtue. St. Paul had already broken the news. Later, in the 20th century, Bonhoeffer alluded to this in his remarkable little book Life Together. There, he takes us back to the glories of gratitude in community life. For Bonhoeffer, if you don’t know where to start in the gratitude journey, start with thanking God for your community. He writes:

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

The Christian faith is a food religion. The heart of it is found in the death/resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. He became for the world the bread of life. This bread then becomes the food for hungry souls to feed. In the Christian tradition, it is articulated most clearly in the table of the Lord. The table is a table of joy and gratitude; so much gratitude that it is usually referred to as the Eucharistisc Table. The word eucharistia means “thanksgiving.” Emmons says that “when we feel grateful, we are moved to share the goodness we have received with others.” b It is this sharing of food that forms this table of thanksgiving.

Gratitude builds us in love and compels us share in the shalom of God with others. To whom much is given much is required. To those of us who partake of God’s goodness often and daily, we are called then to compel others with our own lives and words to share in this community of gratitude formed by the God who gave us His own life.

  1. Thanks! page 2  (back)
  2. Ibid. 4  (back)

An Exhortation for Mother’s Day

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We cannot begin to think of mothers without speaking of our first mother, Eve. Eve was given the task of beautifying Eden. Her duty was to make Eden a place where God would dwell forever. The first task of a mother is to consider her actions in light of the future. In other words, in what ways am I preparing my home, my labors, and my offspring to exalt the name of Yahweh? The problem of Genesis 3 can be defined as a problem of a poor eschatology. The first lesson mothers need to understand is that the future matters. This is why mothers are called to live in such a way that influences her children and her children’s children.

On this Mother’s Day, Children must bless their mothers! Husbands must praise their wives! A good queen beautifies the home, and makes the king look respectable and honorable in his kingdom, and at the gates of the city. A good queen makes the name of Yahweh known in her garden. A good queen awakens to hear her children call her blessed!

As mothers get older and gain more and more biblical wisdom, they become wise matriarchs in communities. People begin to say: “Go to her. Seek her counsel.” But this does not come easily. Mothers need to be good theologians. They need the rhythm of resurrection to grow in wisdom. They need to be constantly reminded that God’s grace is strengthening and building them up in their darkest moments; when they are overwhelmed by their duties. Mothers as a New Eve need to embrace the resurrection as a model for life. They need to so cherish the empty tomb that they realize that their perspective on life now and the future is shaped by it.

Christian mothers in one way set the rhythm for the rest of the world. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“To be a mother is a woman’s greatest vocation in life.  She is a partner with God.  No being has a position of such power and influence.  She holds in her hands the destiny of nations, for to her comes the responsibility and opportunity of molding the nation’s citizens.”

Mothers, do not ever allow someone to say that your role is not valued. You are co-heirs of grace. Your children are arrows that pierce the kingdoms of darkness, because you trained them to be great warriors. For every diaper you change, for every alphabet letter you teach, for every kiss, for every song, for every meal you make, for every joy you instill in your children and others in your community, therein is the testimony of God’s grace in the world. So on this day,

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss this year through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, we walk with you.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

And to those who are pregnant with new life, we anticipate with you.[1]

Moms, you are God’s gift to the Church, and to your families. Be encouraged in your calling. We need your wisdom, and the world needs it also. Happy Mother’s Day! And may the God of all peace sustain and nourish you with His grace now and forever. Amen.

Exhortation: A Life of Thanksgiving

Spurgeon once wrote:

Before you go out into the world, wash your face in the clear crystal of praise. Bury each yesterday in the fine linen and spices of thankfulness.

We are a people skilled in the art of complaining. We complain while driving, we complain at home, we complain everywhere because everywhere is convenient for complaining. The corpse of the old man clings to us. But God expects differently. God has clothed us with a new armor. He has marked our foreheads with His Name. And the more we live a life of complaint the more faded that name looks. But when we truly find our refuge in Christ, the Name of Yahweh becomes clearer and brighter.

Jesus says: “Come all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” The paradox of that famous statement is that the way to find rest in Jesus is by working hard to pursue him.

And nothing is more tangible in our pursuit of Christ than words of thanksgiving. The more grateful and thankful we are, the more rest we find in Him.

In what ways are you grateful to God this morning? Have you pondered that question lately? If not, why not? Is the mark of God a mark that is fading or is thankfulness causing his mark on you to be visible to the watching world? If your week has been a reflection of a complaining spirit, and if it has offered little to no thanksgiving, you are in need of confession. We will soon confess our sins before a holy God, and during that short time of silent meditation I exhort you to confess the sin of ungratefulness, because our God—the One who rescued us from bondage, sin, and damnation—has given His Only Son to die and be raised for our justification. Thankfulness is the appropriate response to the God who gives and gives and gives to His children.

Prayer:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise that you have again fulfilled your gracious promise, that while the earth remains, seed-time and harvest will not fail. We bless you for the kindly fruits of the earth which you have given for our use. Teach us, we pray, to remember that we do not live by bread alone; and grant that we may always feed on the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. AMEN.

The Ecclesiology of America’s First Calvinist Pastor

…someone or few must needs be appointed over the assembly (for)…determining of all matters, so in this royal assembly, the church of Christ, though all be Kings, yet some most faithful and most able, are to be set over the rest…wherein…they are…charged to minister according to the Testament of Christ.

John Robinson, Pastor to the Pilgrims

Five Kernels of Corn

by Hezekiah Butterworth

‘Twas the year of the famine in Plymouth of old,

The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled;
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o’er the seas,
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees;
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare,
and dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air.
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn;
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn!

“Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn!”
So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill,
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still.
“Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring,
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing,
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow,
And the pleasant pines sing, and arbutuses blow.
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn!”

O Bradford of Austerfield hast on thy way,
The west winds are blowing o’er Provincetown Bay,
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill,
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners’ Hill!
“Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come,
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm,
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone,
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn!

“The raven’s gift eat and be humble and pray,
A new light is breaking and Truth leads your way;
One taper a thousand shall kindle; rejoice
That to you has been given the wilderness voice!”
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave,
And safe through the sounding blasts leading the brave,
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born,
And the festal world sings the “Five Kernels of Corn.”
Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn!
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn!

To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!

{Thanks to Todd Leonard and Rusty Branch for bringing this poem to my attention}

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Douglas Wilson’s thoughts on Thanksgiving

So get this straight — the children of light should be overflowing with thanksgiving because the wrath of God is coming…Read the Rest