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Still Reasons for Giving Thanks!

As we approach what will likely be our strangest Thanksgiving, I would like to make an argument for being thankful. When we look at all the death and destruction that has been brought about by Covid 19, when we consider the deep political divisions in our country and look at the racial tension that has been happening over the last six months you may think I’m a bit off my rocker in suggesting that we should still be thankful. Our plans for Thanksgiving weekend have been greatly changed by the new set of lockdowns and restrictions taking place here in New Jersey. I will greatly miss my mom’s presence with us on Thanksgiving day. My mom who has been living at an Assisted Living in Edison since April of 2019 will be staying put, as they have all kinds of new restrictions in place now that would prevent her from joining us on Thanksgiving day. I am however still very thankful that I have a mom to miss this Thanksgiving. Many will be missing a mother or father not because they are someplace where they can’t join them, but because they are no longer here. I’m thankful that I can call my mom and talk with her on Thanksgiving Day, and hope that maybe we’ll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving next year together. My heart goes out to those of you who will not have your mom or dad with you for the first time this year. That loss will be much more painful and significant than any restrictions that have been put in place by the state.

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 the 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 an appreciation for the God who continues to sustain us. I’m especially thankful for God’s provisions for New Durham Chapel over the last 8+ months. I’m thankful for the staff that God has allowed me to be part of and that in fact more people are being reached through the gospel message that is being declared through our online streaming ministry, which is helping those who cannot be here. As a parent, I love to hear my children thank me when I have blessed them and I believe it probably delights the heart of our Heavenly Father when we thank Him for His continued grace and kindness.

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 before 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, 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.

All for God’s glory,

Pastor Rich Sivo

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