Calvary Chapel 1996-11-29 - Thankfulness

Thanksgiving Day - 1996

About 350 years ago this year, a small group of Christians gave thanks to their Lord for a bountiful harvest that meant they would probably not see the ravages that had dwindled their ranks during the previous two winters. They had seen friends and loved ones, one after another go home to be with Jesus after suffering terrible cold, hunger and sickness. They were thankful for their very lives and the lives of their fellows and loved ones who had survived. They were thankful for the native people who had shown them how to plant and where to fish. They had shared what they could with the Pilgrims. The record shows that the native tribes arrived with abundant quantities of food and drink to add to the meal.

The Pilgrims had left Europe to find a place where they could worship God as they wished. They had lived a life of hardship and privation in Europe as well. They were the outcasts in many cases, only able to find the most menial and demeaning jobs. They did them to the best of their abilities and without a word of complaint. They were faithful witnesses to their employers. These Christians were thankful for the provision their Lord gave them. The names of their groups, Baptist, Methodists, etc. were given to them as objects of scorn and they took them as their own willingly. They went to the new world as they felt they were called by God to do. They were not seeking riches or power. These Christians went in search of God and the right to worship Him as they felt He required of them.

The previous winter had been a stream of hunger, sadness and bitter cold. At one point their rations where reduced to five grains of corn per day. Through all this, going back to England was not an option. They followed the call they had heard in their hearts. They had now seen the blessings of the Lord in the form of adequate food and shelter for the coming winter. Their neighbors had come to celebrate the fruits of hard work, perseverance and prayer.

Over the next few decades, this relationship that had gone from these auspicious beginnings, would erode to war. The Pilgrims moved away from their accountability to each other and God by moving out further and further from town and the protection of their congregation. They began to take more and more land without concern for their neighbors. There were instances where the native people where mistreated badly. In the end, members of both sides were laid to rest after a war over material things and anger, started by pride and forgetfulness.

In order to be grateful we have to be mindful of our need. The privation of the first few winters had left the Christian Pilgrims broken and humbled before God. The abundant blessings mistaken as earned or deserved through their own efforts, spacious homes and farms generated a self centered pride. The separation from the fellowship of the church, which had been the center of the community,and its protecting influence allowed forgetfulness to filter in to their hearts and minds.

There is a saying that more saints are born out of the valleys than are from the mountaintops. While hearts are broken and mindful of their needs, dependence on God is all we have. When hearts are full and content in accomplishments, dependence on God is easily lost. When we are surrounded by the silence of a mind with no more answers of its own, God's voice is easy to hear. While the noise of a busy life filled with our own agenda is present, the voice of God is drowned out by the roar. These saints born out of the valley of hunger and cold had gone to the mountain top in a generation. But the valley had been God's and the mountain top was the world's.

Today in America, most of us have no basic needs that are not easily met. We live in luxury that only the very wealthy knew only 100 years ago. The noise level in our lives is about that of a jumbo jet at takeoff. Keeping our Christianity simple and some part of lives kept aside for quiet is important. Our "Yankee Independence" flies in the face of dependence on God. The Christian foundations of this nation have been periodically subverted by affluence and pride and restored by revival over the last 225 years.

We as a nation are far from God and actually thumbing our nose at His provision. The claim that God is not fair, if He even exists rings out. But the perspective is from our finite point of view, not from the perspective of eternity. As Christians, I see hearts learning humility and dependence one heart at a time. There are still many Christians who have hearts that need to be reawakened, but there is a quiet move of God underway. Add to your prayers that your heart will be prepared. God has promised that in the last days He would pour out his spirit on His children in a final effort to reach this world that is so proud it refuses to see it has any need at all. God will use the hearts that are prepared as channels that He direct His final outpouring. He will also prepare the hearts of this world to receive what He sends.

And so, we return to thankfulness. We are blessed with physical and spiritual gifts beyond the wildest imaginations of our recent ancestors. Let's not become like Solomon, so full of potential and leaning on our own wisdom. And I remember Demus, who left Paul drawn away by the lure of this world. It takes courage to look inside of ourselves with the honesty to see our needs. But the reward of knowing that we must depend on God and turning to Him far exceeds the pain of our that look into our hearts. It is that need that drives us to Him and humbles us allowing us to be channels for His love. Thankfulness is born our of this dependence and humility.

By they way, at the corner of every place set at the abundant table that was set for the Pilgrims was a small plate. On each plate, there were placed five kernels of corn.

Happy Thanksgiving. Peace to you and yours.

Grace & Peace,

[email mike]