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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple Tree
This majestic maple is about 2 miles from our home at the corner of Colebrook Road and Rock Point Road. Most of the trees in our area have lost their leaves but many of the most colorful maples are still displaying their beauty along with the oaks whose branches are filled with dark red leaves in our front lawn.

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"Magnify Him With Thanksgiving!"

"I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30).

My mom was very persistent in teaching her children basic manners. Even as she aged she continued to reinforce what she had taught her four children many years earlier, but she did it somewhat prudently through her grandchildren.  I got the distinct impression when she was reciting the manners poem to Ester, "Hearts, like doors, swing wide with ease to very, very tiny keys, and don't forget, that two of these are "Thank you, sir" and "If you please" she did it in my hearing so I would be reminded once again that good manners are important at every age. At the time I found these reinforcements a bit annoying but I sure do miss them now!

Road expressionsDue surely in part to her teachings on manners I may tend to err on some occasions in being overly thankful, especially when it comes to my driving which both annoys and humors my family. For instance if someone kindly defers to me I don't just gesture with a slight wave; I'm more prone to roll my window down, stick my head out and yell out, "THANK YOU!"  (As well intentioned as I am this could also be mistaken for road rage!)

I suppose in a spiritual sense if I'm in error I'd rather error in being heartily thankful to the Lord rather than giving an occasional gesture of thanks. This week's messages have been on thankfulness. Here in the USA tomorrow is Thanksgiving; a wonderful holiday reminding us to be faithful in giving thanks to God for our blessings.

Many years ago my pastor asked, "What do they call Thanksgiving Day in the rest of the world?" I suppose we were wondering what term was used to describe the holiday elsewhere and we were stumped.

Then he answered: "Thursday!" Only the US and Canada have a national day specifically set aside for Thanksgiving. (International readers, by all means correct us we are mistaken on this point.) But for many reading our messages in other countries this is just another week and Thursday will simply be another day with no special emphasis on thankfulness.

Yet even as so many have denigrated the true meaning of Christmas, it seems the same is being done to Thanksgiving. It began by changing the object of our thanksgiving toward God to others (such as the Pilgrims simply being thankful to the Indians).*  Many also just express a generic thankfulness without a focus on God but rather in the sense of having good fortune.

And then there are those who greet others with "Happy Turkey Day" (since we customarily have turkey), though you won't hear Brooksyne or me wishing people Happy Turkey Day, not when we have opportunity to honor the true meaning of this holiday by blessing with a reminder "Happy Thanksgiving Day!" as we did to many people yesterday in our chaplain visits.

Whether or not we have a special day set aside for giving thanks we have so much to be thankful for don't we? We are blessed in regard to many things. The size of our homes and the amount of our accumulations may vary. Some have a loving and supportive family, while others have not enjoyed this blessing. Some have had far more heartache in life than others.

But above all the variances of our haves and have nots, we urge you to focus on this great truth – all we that have trusted in Christ equally share in the greatest blessings, specifically our great salvation through Christ!

In the daily Scripture portion the Psalmist makes a strong declaration, 
"I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving."  The Hebrew word for magnify is translated throughout the Old Testament with words like advance, lift up, promote, increase, and boast.

I like the word "magnify" and here we are told to "magnify Him with thanksgiving."  Let us indeed magnify the Lord by our thankfulness each day and in all circumstances.

Many songs have been written that express thanks to God. I remember in my early days singing a gospel chorus with the line, "O, magnify the Lord with me." In fact I can still picture being in that church on 23rd Street in Independence Missouri with Pastor Howard leading us in that song! (I think it was his favorite chorus.)

The Westminster Catechism declares, "the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." The daily Scripture verse declares I can glorify God today and everyday with thanksgiving.  That is what I will do!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we praise You in song; we testify of You in our words and deeds, and we magnify You when we express words of thanksgiving.  All we have needed Your hand has provided; great is Your faithfulness, Lord, unto me! In the name of Jesus we give You praise. Amen.

* Thanking others is certainly meritorious as my Mom's persistent lessons taught me, but the real focus on Thanksgiving should be for God's blessings and history teaches us that this was the case at the first Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth in 1621. This is an occasion that many attribute to our modern observance although it certainly has a Biblical basis as well.

Brooksyne's note:  When we lived in New England I became keenly interested in learning about the Pilgrims since we lived only 25 miles west of Plimouth and visited the Plimouth Plantation often. Since then I have given many presentations on the subject and had the opportunity to share yesterday with a group at the Willow Valley Retirement Community here in Lancaster County.  I concluded the history lesson with the specific causes the pilgrims had for giving thanks based on my studies of this very special day:

The governor declared a Thanksgiving celebration over a three day period in the middle of October 1621 and invited Chief Massasoit who brought about 90 Indian friends.  The 50 pilgrims (half the original number who made the voyage) gave thanks for:
  • Abundance of corn and plenty to eat
  • Seven houses finished with others started, four public buildings
  • Imminent danger of sickness and death was over
  • Peace treaty with the Indians and for the help they provided
  • Most importantly that they could finally worship God according to His Word and their personal convictions.
The Food – Wild fowl (not known whether this included turkey), meat pies, wild geese, wild duck, lobsters, eels, clams, oysters, fresh fish of all kings. The Indians brought five deer, popcorn, corn, carrots, cucumbers, turnips and onions, radishes, beets and cabbages.  Berries were picked in the spring and dried to eat later.
Activities – Men and boys played games, had contests, shot bows and arrows, hand wrestled.  They had jumping, running and racing competitions.
Parade – Myles Standish, the army commander, held a parade where soldiers marched and fired their guns.
Women and girls – Constantly cooked and prepared the meals. (This tradition continues nearly 400 years later.)
Time of Sharing  - For all the pilgrims it was a time of sharing and giving thanks to God.

Resources: Information pulled from "Saints and Strangers", "Stories of the Pilgrims" "If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620" "Of Plimouth Plantation" and other readings.

A reader sent us this note:

As I ponder what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I find many things, yet when I ask myself, what one thing am I most thankful of all for; three words from the Scripture tell it all.
Three words that God gave us that have eternal meaning; three words that, without which, this life would have no meaning, no significance, no purpose, and no value.

"It is finished."

Oak tree in our front lawn
Here's a photo of one of the oak trees in our front yard. These trees tend to hold their leaves all winter and drop in the spring, making for some nice late season color.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Thank You Lord!"  Video  Acapella version Video (Hillsong version)

"Thank You, Lord"  Video  Don Moen

"Be Magnified"  Video  I am not sure I ever heard this song prior to research for this message, searching for songs with a theme of magnifying the Lord. It has a great message and this version also include the lyrics.

Here's the chorus we sang back in the early seventies I referred to in the message.  I wonder if some "old timer's" are familiar with the words.

Magnify the Lord with me! Blessed Lamb of Calvary!
For His Grace so rich and free, Magnify the Lord with me!
Magnify the Lord with me! Blessed Lamb of Calvary!
Jesus gave us liberty, so Magnify the Lord with me!

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
(We will post these resources through Thanksgiving.)

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table (printable webpage) The Thanksgiving celebration includes family coming together along with the turkey and trimmings. Often there's a lot of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in this link
"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: (written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago.) Webpage  For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

The Pilgrims Come to the New WorldWebpage  

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony: This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)  Note: Although we spell it Plymouth today the old spelling was Plimouth.

CD label for "Stories of Great Hymns""Hymns of Hope" Brooksyne has compiled eleven hymns that deal with the recurring theme of loss and ongoing trial and titled it "Hymns of Hope" based on Romans 12:12,  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Amber Martin plays the hymns on the keyboard and Lauren Gingrich accompanies her on six of the hymns with the viola. Tracks 12-22 play each hymn softly in the background while Brooksyne shares a personal devotional thought, the biographical setting of the hymn text, and an intercessory prayer. We recorded this in the very modest and limited computerized recording studio of Daily Encouragement so that we could make this ministry project available to all who are in need of such encouragement.  Thus we realize the audio quality is not what most are accustomed to. You can go to this site to listen to the songs. You can download one song at a time if you find this to be of special blessing or know someone whose spirit might be lifted by listening to these meditative hymns.

"ThanksLiving" Bob Southard, a friend of ours shares a weekly online sermon. Here's a pdf version of his thanksgiving sermon.

Resources used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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