The Exercise of Thankfulness
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, the USA celebrates a festival called ‘Thanksgiving’. It’s origins lie in the sailing of a ship called the Mayflower in 1620 which left Plymouth harbour in the south of England carrying 120 religious separatists who were looking for a land where they could freely practice their faith without fear of persecution.
After landing and settling in the ‘New World’, the first ‘Thanksgiving’ was celebrated by the Pilgrims in October 1621, after having gathered in their first harvest. Thanksgiving celebrations were practised on and off for over two hundred years until, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, “proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, calling on the American people to also, "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience .. fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation…” (Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, the attitude of gratitude that marked the early Pilgrims has given way to an attitude of ingratitude and sense of entitlement which has permeated not only American society but the society of the Western world and, if we’re honest, much of planet earth. It has become one of the greatest pandemics of our age.
Charles Spurgeon taught that it was “ ‘A heavenly thing to be thankful.’ After all, it was gratitude which ‘ought to teach us the divine object of grace.’ He longed for his heart to burn with the ‘sacred flame of thankfulness.’
Billy Graham preached that ‘nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.’ He also went on to say, “From one end of the Bible to the other, we are commanded to be thankful.” Here are two of these commands:
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." (Psalm 100:4-5)
"Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Elsewhere we read;
“One of the best things about thankfulness is that the more you choose it, the easier it gets. The more you profess gratitude, the more you notice things to be grateful for. The thankfulness muscles respond to exercise!” (www.worldvisionadvocacy.org)
Are there some muscles of thankfulness that you need to start exercising today? If so, don’t wait. Remember that…
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Let’s get exercising!
Weapons of Righteousness
We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defence. (2 Corinthians 6: 7)
Dr Dave Walker is a retired, eminently successful anaesthetist. As an adult, while working in theatres and ICU, he began to seek for God. After his dramatic encounter with Christ which changed his life and, he began to pray with his patients, often seeing miraculous results. Some of these are recorded in the book ‘God in the ICU’.
One fascinating story which he tells in his book actually does not involve a physical healing . He recounts a time when a new chief had been appointed over his department. Unfortunately for Dr Walker and the staff, the new chief was very curt with his new team. He was argumentative, made unkind remarks about others and created a tense atmosphere wherever he went.
Dr Walker, although a Christian, decided to fight back with worldly weapons of criticism and backbiting. In his own words, he embarked upon a ‘character assassination ’ of his colleague. He criticised his relationships with other people. He criticised the decisions he made. He even tried to criticise his surgical skills.
Then one day, as he was reading his Bible, Dr Walker read the following words:
Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse... If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head. (Romans 6:14, 20)
Dr Walker had no desire whatever to ‘bless” the one who was persecuting him, and others, however, reluctantly, out of an act of his will rather than his heart he began to use weapons of righteousness to fight his enemy rather than weapons of unrighteousness.
One day, he saw that his colleague had had no time to go out to buy lunch in-between his cases. Dr Walker bought him lunch and handed it to him.
On ward rounds, Dr Walker asked his colleague what decisions he had made regarding the care of a patient. Dr Walker then recorded these as orders for the staff. He then invited him to lunch and learned that he was married and had a family. He also learned that the man had had a difficult upbringing yet, underneath all the brash exterior he had a soft, caring heart.
In a few weeks the men became firm friends. Their operating times became a pleasure and they developed a mutual trust which enabled them to speak into each other’s lives.
A year later, the chief became terminally ill and, with only months to live, he bade farewell to his colleagues at the hospital. Dr Walker and others gathered around him and prayed for him. One week later he gave his life to Jesus Christ and shortly afterwards died.
As I listened to this story, I became aware how tragically different the ending of this story could have been if Dr Walker had not chosen his weapons carefully. It can be easy to fight back with unkind words, sarcastic remarks, curt statements. It takes effort and, as Dr Walker discovered, a sheer act of will, to choose different weapons, weapons that will heal rather than harm. I wonder what stories in our lives could have had a different ending if we had only chosen our weapons more carefully.
Let this be a reminder to us today to choose our weapons carefully and to make sure they are ‘weapons of righteousness’.
The Gift - Mattan
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)
In his ‘Book of Mysteries’, Johnathan Cahn draws our attention to an ancient Jewish tradition and explains its significance for us today.
Over the centuries, weddings have been very important celebrations. In ancient times in Israel, wedding preparations were rather different from today. During the days of the betrothal, the bride and groom lived in their separate homes with their families, eagerly awaiting the great wedding day. During this time there was limited communication between the bride and groom. However, there was a custom that enabled the groom to send the bride a gift. It was a small token of his love for her. In Hebrew, this gift was called the ‘mattan’. The mattan would assure the bride that her groom had not forgotten her, he was preparing a place for her, and one day he would come and bring her to his home. They would then be together for the rest of their lives.
Interestingly, there is a date once a year in the Biblical calendar when Israel celebrates the feast of Shavuot. This is the time when when they remember the Law that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The children of Isreal considered the Law to be God’s gift to them so Shavuot became known as the Day of Mattan, the Day of the Gift.
In the New Testament, we read that this festival was celebrated shorty after the death and resurrection of Jesus. For Shavuot, as well as other major Hebrew festivals, tens of thousands of Jews from lands near and far, make their way to Jerusalem. We read of a particular Shavuot in Acts 2 when around 120 followers of Jesus were gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem. On Shavuot, the Day of Mattan (also known as Pentecost), we read these thrilling words:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)
This was the Mattan, the gift that Jesus had spoken about in Acts 1:4,5:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4,5)
Jonathan Cahn says:
“It means that the Holy Spirit is The Mattan, the gift that the bridegroom gives to the bride… the Spirit is given as the Bridegroom’s love for the bride, to encourage us in the days of our betrothal and separation, to assure us of his pledge, to bless us, strengthen us and beautify us”
I pray that today, we will all as deeply appreciate God’s Mattan to us, as the bride in ancient days appreciated the mattan from her groom.
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