Thanksgiving…to Whom?

Thanksgiving…to Whom?
It’s that time of year again.
The trees have shed their leaves, the cold and frost have settled down on our lawns, the hunters are busy. The cooks in the kitchen are getting their turkeys thawed out, the sweet potatoes ready, the pumpkins prepared for a lavish meal fit for a king.
I love it.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the food, I love the family get-togethers and great conversation. I love the fact that it’s a time of year especially set aside to give thanks.
If you can get past the constant barrage of Black Friday ads, you’ll hear people right now urging us to stop and be thankful for all the things we have.
That’s great; we should.
But the question is not so much what are we giving thanks for, but rather…
Who are we giving thanks to?
Let’s face it: God is not popular in our popular culture today. We’ve become self-sufficient,  we say we don’t need Him, He doesn’t exist, and pushed Him off the side. Or, we’ve reinvented Him, despite the fact that He already tells us who He is, right out of the pages of His word, the Bible.
But the tradition of Thanksgiving, founded centuries ago in this country remains. And we like our traditions. So, if we slow down enough to reflect on our lives, we pause and give thanks, because, well…it’s Thanksgiving…it’s what you do.
Let me ask you a question: Fast-foward a few weeks and let’s say it’s Christmas. You give me a nicely wrapped, meaningful gift. What would you expect me to say?
“Thank you,” of course.
Now imagine this: You give me the same gift. This time, I take the gift, without one word of appreciation to you.
Then, later on, I unwrap the gift. It turns out to be a really nice scroll-saw. I use the saw, create an elaborate piece of woodwork, and boast to my friends about how much time and skill it took to create this masterpiece.
And then one day out of the year, because it was the popular thing to do, I tell my friends, “I thank my lucky stars I was able to create this masterpiece.”
How would you feel?
It would be completely insulting to you.
But, as a culture, this is what we do with God. We have received everything from Him: life, health, resources–the stuff we use to create a comfortable living.
Instead of thanking him for those things, acknowledging that they came from Him, we congratulate ourselves for being clever enough to use the substance He made, again failing to recognize that He gave us the strength and intelligence in the first place to manipulate those raw materials into beautiful, functional amenities.
Thanksgiving must be directed first to the person who should receive the thanks, or it’s pointless.
In the past, I’ve written out thank you cards to people and forgotten to send them out.
Wasted time.
Until I put the address on the envelope, stamp it, and put in the box, it does no good to the recipient.
Sure, having an overall thankful, positive attitude is beneficial psychologically and physiologically; I won’t argue that. But, can I say this? That attitude is selfish. Thanksgiving really isn’t true thanksgiving until it is actually given to one who should receive it.
However, true thanksgiving does us good too. And on the flip side, failing to do it, does us bad. The apostle Paul wrote in his book to the Romans and he said this about the culture at large, “who, although they knew God, did not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Every wrong and wicked thing in this world can be traced back to a lack of thanks to God. A lack of appreciation, a lack of contentedness causes us to wither inside and say and do things that we later come to regret.
Having too much and not being thankful for it can cause us a world of hurt. When we’re comfortable and all our physical needs are met, a spirit of complacency can take hold. We take our blessings for granted. That’s when, if we’re not careful, those blessings can be taken away from us, or even worse, our hearts can grow cold.
Surprisingly, it’s often in the low, dark places that thanksgiving rises up.
Yesterday, at church, I listened to a sound clip from a radio talk show commentating on the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquakes. The talk show host interviewed several doctors that were there in middle of the calamity trying their best to provide some measure of relief. They described feeling worthless as physicians, working over 30 hours straight to help in any way they could. Over 250,000 were dead and over 300,000 wounded. The smell of dying bodies, urine, bloody bandages, and filth assaulted their noses. The picture of mass human suffering was almost intolerable.
Then, during the despair, one lone person grabbed his guitar and started singing a song.
Soon, a few joined him, and then more. It caught like fire, and soon the whole crowd joined in the chorus. It was a song of joy, a song of exuberance.
“What were they singing?” the doctors wondered. “We found out,” they recounted,  “it was a song about Jesus. They were singing, ‘Thank You, Jesus, for loving us!'”
I could hardly hold back the tears as I listened. The song was so celebratory, so joyful. And to think, in the midst of this incredible suffering, people were thanking and praising God–for Jesus loving them!
Now, that’s Thanksgiving!
When you can thank God in the midst of a tremendous trial, that’s a true heart of worship. It’s beautiful.
"God is the Strength of My Heart", a concept sketch by pencil artist Matt

“God is the Strength of My Heart”, a concept sketch by pencil artist Matt Philleo.

The image shown here is a sketch I did that will be used for a future painting. The man is reaching out to God, in the middle of suffering, and offering thanks and praise to God. The idea is: “My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
I love that verse.
You want a good portion of turkey and stuffing this year? I know I do! But even better than that is a good portion of God.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good! says the Psalmist (Psalm 34:8). When you experience the presence of God through a thankful, joyful heart–there is nothing better than that. All the gold in the world seems like the dust you wipe off your shoe by comparison.
So this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks…to God. And then to each other.
It all starts with God.
Every breath, every heartbeat, every morsel of food, every sip of water, and ten-thousand blessings in addition to that, culminating with His greatest gift–the Lord Jesus Christ who came to bear our sins on the cross and restore our broken relationship with God–all have come from Him as a gift.
God has been so good to us!
All He wants, is the same thing we want when we give. Acknowledgment that it came from Him, and a genuine “Thank You.”
This is something we can do. It will touch God’s heart and enlarge ours. Let’s do it!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."

Inscribed6a 500px

"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!

Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!

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