Thanksgiving—Not Just Thanksthinking or Thanksfeeling

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Yes, today is not the official one that comes every year on the fourth Thursday of November.   Sorry, no aroma of turkey in the oven.  No pumpkin pie lathered with whip cream.   If it’s Friday for you like it is here for me, give thanks, no frenzied shopping!

And I hope we’re giving thanks today.  I hope every day.

These days more than any others, blessed are the flexible—for they shall not be bent out of shape.

It looks like we’re going to have our big family gathering on Tuesday so our oldest daughter who works Thanksgiving can join us.  On Thursday we’ll be eating leftovers!

We need this annual reminder

It prods us to add it all up and recognize how much we have to be thankful for and where it all comes from.

Out of all the Thanksgiving messages I have heard in my 67 years, one thought sticks out more than any other: This is Thanksgiving Day—not Thanksfeeling Day. Not Be Thankful Day. Not ThanksThinking Day.

If Christ is living in us, thanksgiving should be coming out of us.   Who doesn’t appreciate a “Thank you!”  Gratitude has been called the mother of all good virtues.

Steve Martin joked that you can’t play a sad banjo song, and made us laugh while he plucked happy strums that just didn’t go with his woe-is-me lyrics—and it’s hard to be in a bad attitude when you are feeling thankful.

Trouble is, “in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be … unthankful” (2 Tim. 3:1-2).

It’s been said there are three ways to fail at everything in life:
1. Complain about everything
2. Blame others for your problems.
3. Never be grateful.

Two men looked out of prison bars. One saw the mud, the other the stars.  Same situation, different view chosen!

Do yourself a favor, follow this link and carefully consider an amazing poem written by 17-year-old Chanie Gorkin, “Worst Day Ever.”   Chanie said she “wanted to show how your day is really based on how you look at things.”

We must choose to give thanks in all circumstances!

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:14).  This is one place in the Bible where we are told specifically what the will of God is.   Even in what looks like thankless situations!

Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates how she and her sister Betsy  were penned up in the worst German prison camp they had seen yet:  Ravensbruck.   The barracks were extremely overcrowded and flea-infested.

Betsy finally convinced Corrie to thank God for every detail of their living quarters, including the fleas.   During the months spent at the camp, they were surprised to find that the guards did not interfere with their Bible study and prayer meetings.   Months later they learned the reason:  because of the fleas!

Neuroscience

is learning more and more about how being thankful actually programs the neurons in our brain to physically induce us to be habitually more thankful.
We need Christian neurons!

How amazing that we can make the right spiritual choice to be thankful, and physically alter our amazingly created brain, and it then promotes us making the right spiritual choice next time!

And research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that cultivating an attitude of gratitude reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%!

Is Thanksgiving based on the Feast of Tabernacles?

The Pilgrims spent several years among Sephardic Jews in Holland.

In fact, it is widely believed that the Puritan settlers, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot” (God’s Appointed Times, 1993, p. 92).

Those who keep God’s Holy Days (Lev. 23) get to be thankful at the Feast of Tabernacles when it occurs in September or early October, and then again at Thanksgiving!

The Bible encourages giving thanks

In the New King James Version “thankful” occurs only three times, “unthankful” only twice.   However, “thanksgiving” appears 31 times, and “give thanks” or “give you [God] thanks” 43 times.

“Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God … the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).   Not just thinking it or feeling it!

Have you seen the Facebook post:  What if all you have when you wake up tomorrow is what you gave God thanks for today!

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”—John F. Kennedy

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Forgetting Those Things Behind & Reaching Forward to Those Ahead!

The Apostle Paul urged that.  And lived that.

A member of the Sanhedrin?

Since Acts 8:1 says Saul was “consenting” to Stephen’s stoning, since Saul says in Acts 26:10 “I cast my vote against them” which the Sanhedrin did with a colored stone, and since he went to the High Priest Ananias for the special assignment to hunt down Christians in Damascus and had “authority and commission from the chief priests (v. 12), some believe Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin.

Lots of sources say members of the Sanhedrin had to be married.  One said only people who were over 60 years of age, married and with children could be members of the Sanhedrin.  Other sources say you can’t find any such requirements in official writings.  At this time, Saul is pegged to be in his late 20s, about A.D. 35.

Paul said he was unmarried in 1 Cor. 7:8 because of approaching persecution (v. 26). Could he have been married earlier in his life and become a widower? Paul was proud to be a Pharisee of Pharisees (Acts 23:6). Pharisees usually married, which was probably a good idea because a good mate can help one be less self-righteous!

If not a member of the Sanhedrin, Saul was associating closely with it.  He had “advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceeding zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:14), and perhaps was being groomed for the Sanhedrin.

Where in the world is Tarsus?!

When Paul proudly proclaims “I am a Jew from Tarsus” (Acts 21:39), I can hear him singing duet with Merle Haggard!  Paul said he was “a citizen of no mean city.” Chicago, we know, but Tarsus?  Cilicia?  Another translation says it was no ordinary city. It was a cosmopolitan Roman city on the south coast of what today is modern Turkey where Greek Hellenism flourished with poets and philosophers. Paul had the prestigious pedigree of being a Roman citizen by birth—not just by purchase—which means he probably came from a well-to-do family.

Paul spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, probably Greek and likely Latin.   Anybody who can speak all those languages is one smart gifted cookie!  And learning all those languages programs and connects the brain to be even smarter.

Education is one of the 7 Laws of Success.  Abraham Lincoln wisely said “I will study and prepare, and someday my opportunity will come.”  Action creates momentum and leads to opportunities.  Read his letters, it’s obvious Paul was a man of action!

He studied at the feet of Gamaliel, the most renowned rabbi. Gamaliel required his talmadim to learn a trade, so Saul learned tent-making.

Paul’s calling

After being struck down by blinding light on the road to Damascus, Saul miraculously received his physical sight but more importantly, he was baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit and received spiritual sight (Acts 9:2).

Actually Paul would later say God “separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace” (Gal. 1:15). “God called Paul before he was born” is how the Good News Bible puts it. Sounds like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5). Looking back, perhaps we can see that God was working with us from early on.

Amazing that God would allow His called man to persecute and kill His Christians!   As part of his training and preparation to become the most influential Christian ever second only to Jesus!  Do we ever trouble our brothers and sisters in Christ?

In Arabia Saul said the gospel preached to him “came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” rather than the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:12).  He said he saw the resurrected Christ (v. 8).  I haven’t.  I’m guessing you haven’t.  But “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).

Saul and Barnabus taught one year in Antioch before they were ordained and Saul, now using his other name Paul, probably to better relate to his audience (1 Cor. 9:22), became the apostle to the Gentiles.

At Paul’s conversion, God said “I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).   Paul called himself “chief” sinner (1 Tim. 1:15) for how he had persecuted the Church.   That drove him on in zeal, courage and endurance!  Each of us rightly feels the same way for what we’ve done and maybe struggle to forgive ourselves.  God doesn’t!  He still knows exactly how far east is from west (Psa. 103:12)!

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul writes, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me

A thorn in the flesh

the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”  Gal. 4:15 indicates that the problem may have been deteriorating eyesight.

“See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (Gal. 6:11).   Although some argue that “large letters” refers to a long epistle, the original Greek denotes sprawling, untidy letters.   Also, the letter to the Galatians is only six chapters.

Three times Paul asked for healing of the infirmity.  This is the only time in the Bible, along with David fasting for his son from his adultery with Bathsheba, that God didn’t heal somebody who asked for it.

In 2 Cor. 10:10 Paul noted that his critics say “his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”  A secular and unflattering tradition has it that he was bald, bowlegged, short, strongly built, with eyebrows that met over a large nose.   He was probably scarred from his beatings (2 Cor. 11:23-27) which were too many to count but it looks like he did!  His Roman name Paul means “little” but Paul was a spiritual giant!

Paul rightly noted that if anybody could boast about his heritage, he could.

Building the Family of God adIn the Lion King movie, Pumba advised Simba:  “You gotta put your behind in the past.”  Timon could only mutter “Don’t hurt yourself!”

We do unless we do as Paul said:  “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I

Press toward the goal

for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Php. 3:13-14).

Joy looks up, out and forward!

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