"Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'...You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." - Psalm 16:1,11
"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." - James 1:16-17
Thanksgiving for many is a time of great celebration as we feast on savory food, enjoy close and not-so-close family, and take comfort in a few days of rest. I'm praying we don't squander it and spend the day - and holiday season - living as "christian" atheists. A christian atheist could be defined as someone who says they "believe" in Jesus and who does outwardly religious things like "going" to church, while showing no sign of real heart transformation or affection for God, the Bible, prayer, and His people - the Church.
The origin of Thanksgiving, despite what you may be reading from your activist friends' social feeds, was truly a time of peace and Thanksgiving to our Creator, for both their life and their sustenance. Times were hard for early pioneers of this country where extreme lack of shelter, food, and comfort were always on the table. These pilgrims gathered together in the autumn of 1621 to celebrate and give thanks for their summer's bountiful harvest. They gathered to enjoy and recognize their Creator for the very specific ways He cared for them.
They knew they had responsibility to do the work that led to their harvest, yet they also knewwhat they harvested did not come entirely from their hands, but rather from God's Hand. To say it another way, every good gift they took pleasure in originated in the mind God and in His creative love and care for them (James 1:16-17).
Further, Psalm 16 says in the presence of God "there is fullness of joy and at your (His) right hand are pleasures forevermore." God alone is the God and the Innovator of joyful celebratory feasts. He is the one who prescribed them for His called out people, Israel, and He is the one who in whom the most lasting pleasure can be found. Every splash of taste on our tongue's this week are evidence that God cares for you and for all people everywhere. Every smack of good drink and good food that we take pleasure in this week presents us an opportunity for worship. Not just private worship, but bold, gracious, and winsome public worship.
Every relationship, each laugh, each loving glance, and every way that you patiently bear with those you find difficult and tiresome is our opportunity. All the bonding over board games and football games, tryptophan induced naps, and every other pleasure we experience this week (and Christmas season) is our call to worship. The Holy Spirit is calling us to grateful worship in each of these "seemingly" small environments. Every one is a massive and sacred opportunity to worship the One who bestows His good gifts to men and women. Without Him, it would be utter and black darkness. But with Him there is Life because He is the Light of men (John 1:4).
No matter the ideological and cultural differences we feel in the various places where we find ourselves on Thursday, 11/24, I encourage you to live as a participating, joyful, worshipping creature of a Great, Generous, Joyful, Kind, and Pleasure-Filled King. At His right hand (which means "at the ready") are pleasures forevermore.
Here are some ideas to help you cultivate honor and Thanksgiving directed to God this Thursday, and beyond (From Don Whitney):
(When answering the questions, don’t forget to explain the “why” for each answer.)
- What’s the happiest Thanksgiving memory of your childhood?
- What do you enjoy most about the Thanksgiving holiday?
- Who is the most consistently grateful person you know?
- What’s the one experience for which you are most thankful this year?
- What’s the one thing you’ve learned this year for which you are most thankful?
- If you could thank one person today—near or far, living or dead—for their influence on your life, who would that person be?
- What is the effect when you are around thankful people often?
- What do you hope will happen in your life this coming year?
- Who’s one person you’ve never thanked for their contribution to your life, but would like to?
- For what do you feel most grateful to God today?