Good evening, all. I’m going to do something a bit different tonight. God put this on my heart to do, so here it goes. I’m going to preach about gratitude and love. It seems fitting that I would be doing this just hours from the start of Thanksgiving Day, but that’s His point, I guess.
I’m sure most of you have come to expect informational posts about Islam, so this might come as a bit of a surprise; I am not only able to preach, but I do so from time to time. Just ask my kids, especially when they all choose to act like fools. So, it’s time to bring some Jesus down in here, and see whose hearts are ready to listen, shall we?
I’ll open with a prayer that Jesus come guide my heart, my mind and my hands, that His Truth may flow freely onto this screen. Lord, I ask that you help me to speak with clarity, love, grace and mercy. The same that you have shown to all of us who cast aside ourselves, who died to ourselves, in order to follow you.
I ask Lord that you open the hearts of all who read this message, and just touch that place in their hearts that has lain dormant, waiting for You. I ask that You take all who read these words, and remake them in your image, Lord. I ask it all in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In his famous work, “95 Theses”, Martin Luther opened with these words, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam Agite (Repent or Do Penance), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” What this means is that we, as believing Christians, are meant to live each day with an attitude of repentance, gratitude and joy at the fact that all of our Sin has been taken from us, by the loving sacrifice of our Lord and Savior.
That’s one of the things that has confused me so much about setting aside a single day each year to be grateful for the bounty in our lives. You see, Thanksgiving Day isn’t supposed to be about spending the day overeating, chattering with family we don’t see the rest of the year and passing out on the couch while watching football.
It isn’t an excuse to drink, party and generally debauch ourselves, it’s meant to remind us of what we must be thankful for. Sadly, not only do people out there forget this fact, but they miss entirely the fact that this is HOW we ARE to live EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Every day is supposed to be Thanksgiving Day, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not.
It’s actually rather comical how many sinful acts are committed in the process of celebrating a day in which we’re all supposed to be grateful for what we have been blessed with. It’s devolved into a day of gluttony, avarice, and extreme excess. I know, I used to celebrate in that manner. Now, it holds no value in my life, as I’m simply happy to be alive, and blessed in the multitude of different ways that I have been.
Once upon a time, I worked in the Emergency Department of an urban hospital. Thanksgiving Day and the morning after were always this messy slog of people suffering from pancreatitis (from overeating), alcohol/drug-related accidents, acts of intense stupidity and truly saddening cases of broken families coming together for what seems more like a semi-annual brawl, rather than time to prayerfully thank the God who made us for the gift of His mercy, love and grace.
I have no difficulty with the idea of Jesus looking upon this spectacle with sadness, frustration and anguish, as I know it must affect Him deeply that so many of His children would treat themselves and each other in this horrible manner. I know it must hurt Him deeply to see that so many of us choose to live our lives in a way that spurns that incredibly special gift He has offered all of us. I mean, He chose to suffer what can only be described as the worst death any human being can devise, knowing full well what was coming; that being the full wrath of God the Father.
Throughout His ministry, He made it crystal clear that the only place He was ultimately headed was Jerusalem, and His death. He knew from the very beginning exactly what was to come, and He CHOSE to go through it anyway; in spite of the fact that He could have called it quits at any moment. However, He is the physical incarnation of an unchanging God who never breaks His promises. There wasn’t any way He was going to do that as He made more than 365 of those promises all through the Old Testament. Jesus was the culmination of hundreds of prophesies, all of which were promises from God to send a Messiah to this world, in order to clear away all Sin.
John 3:16, a verse I’m sure many are familiar with, says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Can any of you imagine what it would be like to stand back, and allow your own son to die in indescribable agony? God does, because He did.
It was necessary for Him to do so. In dying, Jesus took the collective punishment for all human Sin, past, present and future. Every bit of it, He took onto His shoulders, allowing the wrath of God for it all to be poured out on Him. He was completely innocent, having committed no crimes, and He CHOSE the Cross. He was to be the final sacrificial Passover lamb.
If nothing else, we have that to be grateful for every day. We are here, we are alive and we have another opportunity to choose Him, to choose to accept His sacrificial payment for our Sin. In fact, He wasn’t just a sacrificial payment for us, He is and always will be the best friend we will ever have. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” -John 15:13
Imagine a love that won’t ever fail you, won’t ever abandon you and that makes you want to spend every single day becoming a better version of yourself. Imagine a love that knows all of your faults, all of your misdeeds and forgives you for those without hesitation. There is no Sin too great, too horrible, for His love. There isn’t a single place anywhere in this universe you can go, that He can’t find you.
Imagine spending every single day free from the guilt of your past, knowing that someone is always in your corner, even when others seek to remind you of that now irrelevant past. Imagine that you’re now free to change into the fullness of His image, into the exact person He wishes you to be. That is what it’s like to live in Christ. That is what it’s like to be made clean and righteous, through His blood.
It’s for this reason we ought to live lives full of repentance, joy, and happiness. It’s for this reason we should be happy to tell others of this gift. As Frank Turek has commented, “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where the food is.” Well, this beggar is telling you where to find the finest food, the finest drink and the best place in which to find the greatest rest of your entire life. All it takes is a conscious decision on your part, as free will still plays a part. God wants your willing, loving submission, not grudging compliance. So, go and lay all your burdens at His feet, and come join the greatest party the universe has ever seen.
“15 Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father, for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:15-21
We should be very mindful of how we live our lives, as our choices can drive us from Him. In all ways, seek Him, find any way you can to become close to Him and allow Him to replace all of you with all of Him. He wants a relationship with each and every one of us. He is there, waiting for us to seek Him out. We don’t have far to look, because he’s always been with us. All we have to do is open up our hearts, and let Him in. Allow Him to judge you for your Sin, allow Him to convict you of it and then allow Him to take it all away, leaving behind no trace. Let Him make you as righteous as He is.
“1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” -1 Timothy 2:1-4
“14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15 Though Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess His name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” -Hebrews 13:14-16
These two passages show that we are commanded to be grateful for Him, that we’re to share His message and His story and that we’re to pray for everyone, especially those in positions of authority over us. All of these things are pleasing in the sight of God, and that is who we must be concerned with pleasing; not our fellow beggars. They’re just as lost as we are.
All of this begins simply with a prayer every morning, as soon as you wake up. If you make a habit of thanking God for giving you the gift of another day, it won’t be long before your attitude towards getting up in the morning will change. After that, take the opportunity to stop and thank Him at various points throughout the day, simply for every blessing He’s given you. Do this knowing that none of it is owed to you, that it’s simply through His mercy, grace and love that you exist at all. Be thankful for receiving blessings you don’t deserve, and you will soon discover just how grateful you can truly be.
This is what Thanksgiving Day brings to my mind every year. There isn’t a need to set aside a single day to remember to be grateful, if you’re already living every day grateful for the love, mercy and grace we’ve already received from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This day, above most others, makes little or no sense to me, because I am already keeping a list of the things I’m most grateful for, beginning with the fact that I woke up this morning with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my belly and a family and God who loves me simply for who I am. Tomorrow morning, I’ll simply wake up and do the same thing I did this morning; thank God I’m alive, and wonder why my back hurts in so many places. Oh well, faith in Christ doesn’t spare one the ravages of getting older…yet.
May tomorrow find all of you well, and may your cups run over with the mercy, love and grace shown by our Lord and Savior. May all of you spend tomorrow and every day after experiencing the rest and peace that can only found in the loving embrace of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you all know from here on out, what it truly means to be thankful. May God continue to bless all of you in every way He chooses, and may you all know that you are truly loved, blessed and favored as His children. Amen.