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Another Reason for Giving Thanks!

 



  For many of us this year Thanksgiving is going to be different than all the rest. A number of us in the church family have experienced a painful and difficult loss over the last year and this will be our first major holiday without that person’s presence, but I would like to make an argument for still being thankful. My heart is saddened by the fact that my mom won’t be with us this year for Thanksgiving, but I am grateful and thankful to God for the 92 years that my mom had to live in the fullness of life, and very grateful that I could be here over the last 19 years to help with her care and prepare her to transition into the presence of the Lord. My heart also goes out to all those who will not have your mom or dad or another loved one with you for the first time this year. That loss will probably be more painful and significant than you’re anticipating, as many times grief comes at us in the form of a sneak attack. But I believe the Scriptures give us many reasons for giving thanks and truly when God is at the heart of our gratitude, we can see him showing up and ministering to our needs in many special ways.

   Thanksgiving in the New Testament signified a thankful attitude and a demonstration of gratitude. When we think of what God has done for us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we have a great reason for Thanksgiving. God has provided for us eternal life through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. What a great source of thanksgiving this should be in the life of those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians when he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Phil.4:6-7 NIV). In this passage, Paul reminds us that an attitude of a grateful heart should always accompany our prayer life. In our personal and family devotions we should have a thankful heart for what Jesus Christ has done and is doing for us and in us. This aspect of our prayer life should be appropriated with praise and thanksgiving. 

   I believe that when thanksgiving is added to our prayers it frees us from worrying over things by reminding us that God is the one who is the giver of all good things. After adoration and supplication should come appreciation for the God who continues to sustain us. I’m especially thankful for God’s provisions in a time of deep loss in our personal lives and church life. I’m thankful for those who came alongside us during our time of deep sadness and sorrow. I especially believe that more people have been reached with the gospel message through our online streaming ministry when I think of the gospel going forth at Changfang and Chris’s wedding and then a month later at Jack’s Memorial service, which was broadcast in China to reach people who we have no other way of reaching. I believe it probably delights the heart of our Heavenly Father when we thank Him for His continued grace and kindness, and the amazing doors He has opened up for us in our service to Him.

   Your Thanksgiving will probably not be what you imagined earlier in the year, but neither will ours. But I hope you will find many reasons to continue to be thankful as you reflect on God’s kindness to you. The second part of the passage that I quoted earlier talks about “the peace of God that guards our hearts and minds”. When the Bible speaks about the peace of God it is far more than the absence of war. “Peace of God” speaks of one’s relationship to God and the harmony that we can experience in our human relationships. Experiencing the peace of God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is really beyond the power of our imagination or thinking. It is far more wonderful than any cleverness on our own behalf, but this kind of peace is always a companion to thanksgiving. 

   The passage says that His peace will guard our hearts and minds. The word “guard” is a military term that speaks of God’s peace being like a sentinel with mounts and guard towers to stand over our hearts. It is basically a picture of a fortress with guards. There are some issues and problems that cannot be relieved by rational or logical approaches to problem-solving or by medication. All the stress in our world can lead us to a great sense of hopelessness and anxiety, but when Jesus Christ is flowing into our lives there is peace with God. This peace is not connected with our circumstances, but it is securely locked in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that there is an absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean that we have a quiet confidence that God, who transcends all of our understanding is working even in the midst of our difficulty. I hope that God’s peace will be a companion to your Thanksgiving this year, because of the gift of salvation that God has provided in Jesus Christ. This is also a great hope and comfort to us as reflect on our loved ones, who have gone into the presence of the Lord before us.

 All for God’s glory,

Pastor Rich Sivo


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