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What Luther Says

Be Thankful: An Attitude of Gratitude On Thanskgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day. As Pastor Charles Henrickson noted in a sermon last year...

The purpose of this holiday is for all Americans to gather in their churches and give thanks to God for his many blessings on our land. That’s the reason this holiday exists. Other things have latched themselves onto Thanksgiving -- football and Christmas shopping, for example -- so that by now the actual purpose of this day has gotten lost in the shuffle. But the reason we have the day off is to go to church and give thanks to God for how he has blessed our nation.

Besides giving thanks to God for how he has blessed us, we also gather to pray to God, that he would continue to bless our country and to amend it where it has gone astray. We pray for the people of our land, that our culture and our way of life would be more honorable and upright. We pray for our country's leaders, that they would govern well, in conformity with God's laws. There is much to pray for.

Thanksgiving and prayer, both. That's why we're here today.

Now some of you may be thinking: "Are you kidding me? Thank God for the mess our country has become? I mean, the economy is stuck in the mud. People are out of work. The national debt continues to skyrocket. We're told we're about to head over a fiscal cliff. Our culture continues to deteriorate. A significant portion of our population is OK with detestable things like abortion and homosexuality, which are abominations in God's sight. On top of that, some of the elections didn't go the way I wanted, and I'm still bummed out about that. And you’re telling me to give thanks!?!"

Well, yes, I am. In spite of all that is wrong with this country -- and believe me, I am well aware there is a lot wrong -- we still have much to be thankful for.

At this time of year, there are two primary texts from Scripture that always come to mind.

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV) 1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (ESV) 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

[emphasis mine]

Beautiful, aren't they?

One of the things I absolutely love about Psalm 100 is that it tells us that thanksgiving is not limited to God's chosen people, but that all creation is to praise Him. Nor is praise limited to singing, but includes joyfully serving Him (Psalm 100:2).

One of the things I love best about that passage from 1 Timothy 2 is how Paul uses four synonyms for prayer, each with a difference nuance. There are "supplications" offered for specific benefits or needs; "prayers" a common New Testament term denoting a wide array of petitions; "intercessions" or appeals for others made to God with boldness and childlike trust; "thanksgivings" or expressions of gratitude for mercies received.

Thanksgiving is a funny thing though, isn't it? I like the observation Pastor Shawn Stafford made in a sermon published at Steadfast Lutherans yesterday...

"Thanksgiving" is an unnatural activity. "Giving thanks" has to be taught and learned. Parents know that. One of the first things you teach children is to say "thank you" when they receive something. "Now what do you say?" you remind them. "Thank you." Saying "thank you" is a piece of good manners, a small but significant sign that we are higher than the animals. We say "thank you."

Thankfulness -- precisely the type of heart condition and mindset we need to be praying for as fruit generated not by own our efforts and self-will, but by the Root Himself that we are abiding in as believers (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12; Ephesians 5:4; Galatians 5:22-23).

Here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving Day thoughts that I've come across over the years...

"For the Glory of God and the Advancement of the Christian faith, and the honour of our King and Country."
*- The Mayflower Compact

"To All Ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with sh and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I...do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather...to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."
*- William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony

"This one is so simple that we miss it. Why aren't we more grateful? There are many answers to that question, but this one is central: we aren't grateful because we've never asked God to give us a grateful heart. By nature we are covetous, greedy, grasping and unhappy. Left to ourselves, we will be just like that rich fool. Generosity isn't our natural impulse. We aren't born giving; we're born getting. Gratitude is not the inborn language of the heart."
*- Ray Pritchard

Then there are several passages of Scripture that exhort us to always be thankful...

Psalms 68:19 (ESV) Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah

Hebrews 12:28 (ESV) Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us o er to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

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

Colossians 3:15 (ESV) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 4:2 (ESV)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

...just to name a few.

I know I referenced it earlier, but I thoroughly enjoyed Pastor Shawn Stafford's Thanksgiving Day sermon and was blessed mightily by it (I encourage you to read it too). It destroys the "Idol of Self" that we have all erected to varying degrees in our lives with the truth from the Word of God (Revelation 3:17).

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Remember, if you feel "poor" it's only because you want more in this life than you've been blessed with already. The problem today is that we're constantly told we need things we never really wanted in the first place, or that our lives are incomplete without them. The problem with these so-called "needs" is that there's never any satisfaction even when you meet them. That's because only Jesus Christ truly satisfies!

Yes, EVERY DAY should be a day of thanksgiving once you realize who Jesus is and what He has done for you. In that sense, Thanksgiving Day should be a day of confession, repentance, and renewal too.

Despite all the sins, through all the anxieties, arguments, disagreements, emotional distress, family issues, fear, heartache, sickness, unemployment, and the general ups-and-downs that are a part of life, He has BLESSED US RICHLY with His grace!

Be content. Be thankful. Thank God.

I heard someone say that "everyone lives in one of two tents -- contentment or discontentment" and thought that such a statement was (sadly) a perfect description of our culture today. Which "tent" do you spend most of your time living in?

Yes, times are tough, but this Thanksgiving Day let's all be thankful for our blessings that are both material and spiritual thanks to Christ alone. Give thanks for the many blessings you have been given this past year.

What is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day? I'll let Pastor Charles Henrickson answer that question for us.

You see, we were on the outs with God. Our sins had separated us from our Creator. Every one of us -- you and I and all the people who have ever lived -- each of us has broken God's law and come under his righteous judgment. On our own, we all would come under condemnation and the sentence of death.

But then Christ came. God is merciful. Christ came, the very Son of God, come in the flesh, true God and true man, sent to reconcile us back to God, to remove the barrier of our sin and to atone for it. This Christ did by his death on the cross. Think of Christ hanging there on that cross, suspended between heaven and earth, dying there in your place, for your sins. He is the mediator, the man in the middle, the one who makes peace in his body on the cross. Now risen and ascended into heaven, this same God-man Savior, Jesus Christ, now ever lives to intercede on our behalf. His holy blood pleads for us before the throne of grace.

Isn't this wonderful good news? It sure is! And God wants everyone to hear it.

Of course, those words merely underscore what the divinely inspired Apostle Paul wrote for us.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV) 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Here's Pastor Shawn Stafford again with the exclamation point...

We live in a rapidly changing world. At the same time, we live in a perishing world. In this world of very few, if any constants, in which we know that we ourselves are perishing, is there anything we can depend on to stay the same? Thankfully, there is, God's enduring truth, His faithfulness. This truth is made known to us in God's Word. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." At the center of God's Word is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the truth. He said of Himself, that He is "the way, the truth, and the life." He is the only way to the Father and the "Truth that sets us free."

By nature, we do not of ourselves know this truth or believe in it. We "cannot by [our] own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, [our] Lord, or come to Him." Yet God our Savior "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4). How we come to know this truth? Through His Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."

God will remain faithful to us, even when we doubt or falter in our faith. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). We can rest securely, placing our trust in God’s enduring truth and faithfulness.

Thanksgiving is the result of right Christian thinking. Joy and gladness, thanksgiving and praise flow naturally from hearts and lips that know the Lord’s goodness. Let us come before Him with joyful songs and pray, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 136:1).

So, take comfort, my dear friends! There is hope; hope in Jesus Christ! There is much to be thankful for indeed!

Finally, what's the antidote to a "bland thankfulness" at the dinner table tomorrow when asked "What are you thankful for?" instead of a response born of genuine humility and thankfulness to our Sovereign Lord?

As always, it's to simply proclaim the glorious truth of Christ crucified for all our sins!

"I am truly thankful that God bought me with the precious, priceless blood of His Son, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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