"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Psalm 106:1, NIV).
We have just celebrated Thanksgiving. I hope you and yours had a blessed one. You know the history. After a bitter two-month sea journey the Pilgrims landed in the new world. Setting foot in the new land, they immediately gathered for a prayer service before setting out to build shelter. They were severely unprepared for the harsh New England winter that was approaching.
The winter (1620) wreaked havoc on the new colony. Nearly half of their population died; the Pilgrims were befriended by members of the Wampanoag Tribe. The Indians taught the naive colonists about fishing, planting and hunting, thereby ensuring their survival. When the fall of 1621 began to set in, they had reaped a bountiful harvest and preserved enough food to allow them to survive the coming winter, thanks to their Indian neighbors.
As an expression of their thanks to God, the colonists hosted a three-day feast to celebrate the harvest and the transformation of their fortunes from the previous winter. This meal today is thought of as the first Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving day finally became an official holiday when in 1841 Congress set aside the last Thursday in November to mark the occasion.
We in America truly have a lot for which we should thankful. We enjoy a higher standard of living than any where else on the face of the globe. We have freedoms that I fear too often we take for granted. Our health care system is the best in the world. Most enjoy electricity and indoor pluming in even the remotest sections of our land. We have heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. We have one of the most extensive and developed roadway systems in the world and the availability of vehicles to get us where we want to go. We have been and continue to be a great land of opportunity. For all these things I am thankful.
But in our celebrations it is imperative that we remember the source of our blessings. Our first President George Washington wrote, "Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor ... Now, therefore, I do appoint Thursday, the 26th day of November 1789 . . . that we may all unite to render unto him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind care and protection." I want to remind you that he also said, "Do not let anyone claim to be a true American if they ever attempt to remove religion from politics."
Today there is a concerted effort to shut out of the public life the very beliefs that made this nation great, the beliefs that have resulted in the great benefits we enjoy. We are a nation that has been blessed by God. We dare not presume upon those blessings. Past blessings do not equate to future blessings. Just as surely as God has blessed us in the past, he can and will curse us if we continue in our efforts to remove him from our public lives. The Bible says, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known" (Deuteronomy 11:26-28, NIV). And, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail" (Lamentations 3:22, NIV).
I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for my family. Most of all I am thankful for the love of God demonstrated for me and for you on the cross of Calvary. The Bible says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NIV).
This Thanksgiving I hope you will stop and give thanks to the Lord for his love, mercy and grace. May we say with the Psalmist, "Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me" (Psalm 103:2, NLT).
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA, 30016. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org