A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)
Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US. It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
After the harvest, Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).
After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God. This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.
My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today (Deut. 8:17-18).
We believed, as the Bible tells us, that even though my parents worked hard all year, it was the Lord who had given them their strength and ability and created opportunities for them. In these verses God reminded the Israelites (and us) not to forget that. After all, lots of people work hard all their lives and never seem to get anywhere. We weren’t well off, but we gave thanks for what we had because we knew where our blessings came from.
As an adult I got involved in the self-development field and began learning about the “god within”, an internal force I was told I could use to maximize my “creative potential” for success. This appealed to my ego and made me seem like the master of my own fate. I forgot all about the Lord’s admonition to remember Him. When I was born again at age 40 I finally saw that this “god within” was only my own self determination. It was really the “God without” who had been blessing me all along even though I was taking all the credit. In one of my first prayers for forgiveness, I asked the Lord to forgive me for giving myself credit for things that were gifts from Him. As I was praying about this, the phrase “God Without” kept repeating itself in my mind. What was the Lord trying to tell me?
I believe He was saying that the word “without” applies to lots of things where He is concerned, and as I continued to pray several of them came to mind.
If you’re looking for things to be thankful for (even if you live in a country where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated) try some of these “withouts” the Lord brought to my mind. I’m sure He will bring even more to yours as you focus on them.
Love Without Limits … For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Forgiveness Without Question … Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened (Matt 7:7-8). If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Performance Without Exception … All that the Father gives me will come to me and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. And this is the will of Him Who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up on the last day (John 6:37, 39).
Promise Without Equivocation … I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please … what I have said, that will I bring about and what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10-11).
Blessings Without Number … You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country (wherever you are). The fruit of your womb will be blessed (your children), and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks (your work). Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed (you’ll have plenty of food). You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out (when you come home at night and when you leave in the morning) (Deut 28:3-6).
Mercy Without Measure …. It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion fails not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Faithfulness Without Failing … Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands (Deut. 7:9). And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Redemption Without Retraction … “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24). For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).
Salvation Without Merit … But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).
Grace Without Guilt … Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
So in a time when mankind has all but forgotten that the Lord is the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the Author of all our victories, who arranges every opportunity and fashions every blessing, these “withouts” might serve as good reminders to give thanks where thanks is due.
And now may “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26).