March – Week Twelve – Daily Devos

March 19th – “How Strong Is He?” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 28:16-29:40; Luke 3:23-38; Psalm 62:1-12; Proverbs 11:18-19]

“God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.” – Psalm 62:11

The wording “once” and “twice” is strange, but it is being used to emphasize that something has been repeated and therefore it is very significant. In this case it is the lesson to be learned that “power belongs to God“. The context is that the writer seems to be in a tough situation financially. He is being oppressed and taken from wrongfully. He has played with the idea of perhaps taking matters into his own hands and even turning into a thief himself (verse 10). However, his resolve is to simply wait and trust in the God who can provide for his needs and will ultimately be merciful to those who recognize that He alone is the One with all the real power.

How often I’ve considered taking things into my own hands when I don’t feel God is moving on my time-table. Like this writer, I have heard it said many times that “God is in control“, I know this in my brain, but often fail to truly recognize it in my heart. I’ve been taught that God is ‘omnipotent‘, which means “all-powerful“, but do I really believe it? Do I really believe that if I’ll wait and trust in Him, that I’ll be okay?

“Father, when I am stressed out and anxious about the things happening in my life, help me to remember all that I’ve been taught. Remind me that You are good, and that You are powerful. I am better off in Your care, than anywhere else. Thank You for loving and understanding me the way You do. I love You.” – Michael

 

March 20th – “Jesus’ Mission Statement” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 30:1-31:54; Luke 4:1-30; Psalm 63:1-11; Proverbs 11:20-21]

“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.” – Luke 4:28-29

This tension filled moment took place on the Sabbath, where the townsfolk had gathered in the synagogue, and Jesus was given an opportunity to participate in the service. As an act of courtesy, the ruler of the synagogue invited Jesus to read the Scripture. It was common in Jesus’ day for synagogue officials to invite qualified visitors to read Scripture and make comments. When handed the sacred scroll. Jesus unrolled it to the writings of Isaiah and began to read the text He selected, Isaiah 61:1-2. Everyone in the synagogue understood that the words Jesus read were a description of the Messiah, but as He read, did they know the reading referred to Jesus? Did they know Jesus was revealing the desires of His own heart? Jesus then rolled up the sacred scroll and gave it to an attendant to be returned to its honored place. Then He sat down, which was the custom of someone who was about to deliver a sermon. That’s why the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him(Luke 4:20). Jesus began with a message no one had heard before. He said the reading from Isaiah, which everyone associated with the promised Messiah, was about Him. It was like His personal ‘mission statement’.

Now, when you look at that passage in Isaiah, you can see that Jesus was making a pretty radical proclamation! He was saying that God’s Spirit was on Him. He was saying that He had been anointed to bring hope and healing and grace to all, especially to those who needed it most: the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. At first, people were won over by a sense of God’s grace. It says they were speaking well of Him.  You can picture the townspeople nodding at each other, and you can almost hear them saying, “That’s our boy! Amazing, isn’t it?” But they were also a little skeptical. “Is this not Joseph the carpenter’s son?” Who knew He had it in Him?”

Everything sounded well and fine, until Jesus mentioned that He was supposed to bring this hope and healing to everyone… even the bad guys! Now… do the math: “This Guy was claiming to be Messiah! Messiah was the ‘Sent One’ from God Almighty! God Almighty wasn’t supposed to be loving & kind to the bad guys! The crowd is now completely ticked off!” Notice how they went from “marveling at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” to being “filled with wrath” as they heard these things?

What caused the change? The people couldn’t begin to imagine that God Almighty was like that! They all felt that God should be exclusive, just like they were! They had God all figured out, and when Jesus came on the scene claiming to be sent from God, yet His mission statement was to show love and grace to all people, they couldn’t make that fit into their box. People still have wrong perceptions of God today, and they still put Him in a box that is made up of their wrong perceptions of what He’s really like.

“Father, sometimes I think I’ve got You all figured out, and then You surprise me! I love that! I love that You don’t fit into my little mold. You blow apart the preconceived ideas that I and many others have about You. For example; Just when I think You’re going to be super mad at me, You shower me with kindness and mercy. Thank You for bringing hope and healing and grace to those of us who needed it the most. I love You so very much!” – Michael

 

March 21st – “Nose Ring or Tongue Ring?” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 32:1-33:39; Luke 4:31-5:11; Psalm 64:1-10; Proverbs 11:22]

“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” – Proverbs 11:22 

In Old Testament culture we must understand that a “swine” was an unclean animal. It didn’t matter how much you dressed it up, even if you were to put a solid gold nose-ring into it’s snout, it would still be unclean. Like the old saying, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig“, so too, you can’t make a swine beautiful with a nose-ring. This was a vivid picture the author was painting so that he could get his point across. The point is that a woman can be incredibly lovely on the outside, yet if she doesn’t have discretion, be ugly and flawed. The word “discretion” has two meanings: First, “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information“. Second, “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation“.

I don’t think this tidbit of wisdom only refers to “women”. Truthfully, any man or woman who can’t use their words wisely, should just be quiet. In the New Testament Book of James, chapter 3, we read much about the dangers of the ‘tongue’. James 3:6 declares, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell“. And James 1:6 states, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless“. I can consider myself a “religious” person, but if my words cause offense and hurt others, than I’m a joke.

“Father, guard my tongue today. Convict me of saying anything that might displease You. I want my words to reflect You to all I meet and talk with. I love You and I want to live like it and talk like it!” – Michael

 

March 22nd – “Touching

[Bible reading: Numbers 33:40-35:34; Luke 5:12-28; Psalm 65:1-13; Proverbs 11:23]

“Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him.” – Luke 5:13

Today we don’t hear much about this disease called, ‘leprosy’. Actually, it is a yucky, horrible sickness that is a great picture to you and I of ‘sin’. Like sin, leprosy begins below the surface and then begins to spread and totally wipe out a person. It attacks the nervous system and actually takes away the ability to feel anything. I read where there have been accounts of folks with leprosy who have fallen asleep and wakened to find that there toes… or even their nose… had been chewed off by mice! Leprosy causes a person to lose all sensitivity.

Notice that Jesus didn’t tell this guy to go to some leper-hospital, or some “overcoming leprosy seminar”. He said, “You need to get rid of this stuff. You want to get rid of this stuff. So, guess what… you will be rid of this stuff!” Maybe that is what some of us need too? Maybe… if you are feeling sick with sin today…polluted by something you’ve been doing… affected negatively by some sin that has a grasp on your life – you too need to find out where Jesus is… and go to Him? You see, it’s when we see that we NEED to get rid of the sin… and when we truly WANT to get rid of the sin… that the Lord will say, “I’m willing, be cleansed”. I love how Jesus didn’t just SAY this, but it says that He reached out and TOUCHED him! This is something that you just DIDN’T do… you don’t touch someone with leprosy because of how highly contagious it was! This dude had probably not been touched by another human being in years because of the leprosy that riddled his body. But Jesus… touched him!

So too, Jesus doesn’t hold His nose and look away from you and me with disgust because of the sin we’ve been carrying. Others might do that… perhaps others HAVE done that to us… but I’m telling you right now… JESUS doesn’t do that. He is not irritated with your flaws, or put off by your sin… He loves you. He embraces you.

“Father once again I’m reminded that my calling is to not only LIKE You, but my calling is to BE like You. I too, do not want to hold my noses and look away from those who have messed up – not only because Jesus didn’t do it, but because I have taken a good, long look into the mirror and found that I’m pretty messed up too! I’ve cried out, “I need to be clean! I want to be clean!” And when I did that… I found a God who didn’t hold His nose and look away, but rather, reached out and embraced me…forgave me…loved me… redeemed me…made me feel awesome… and then said, “You WILL BE clean!” I love You, Lord!” – Michael

 

March 23rd – “Hung Up By Sin” 

[Bible reading: Numbers 36:1-13; Deuteronomy 1:1-46; Luke 5:29-6:11; Psalm 66:1-20; Proverbs 11:24-26]

“And the Lord heard the sound of your words, and was angry, and took an oath, saying, ‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the Lord.'” – Deuteronomy 1:34-37

God was upset. He was upset that His people, whom He had taken such good care of and come-through for on so many occasions, did not trust Him. Earlier in this chapter, verse 32, God said, “Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God“. God had heard their words of distrust in Him and so He swore that a whole generation would die in the wilderness, including Moses (verse 37). Only Caleb and Joshua the son of Nun (verse 38) were able to enter. Why? Because they followed the Lord wholeheartedly!

Lack of faith and trust in what God has spoken is sin. When I fail to listen and obey God’s Word, it is sin. All of these millions of people were unable to go into the awesome promised land because they were hung up in their sin. They had put their trust in their own military strength and prowess and when they compared their ‘strength’ to the enemy’s strength, they grew fearful. They didn’t trust that God was their strength, and that no amount of giants in the land would ever keep them from it if He was on their side.

“Father, forgive me when I get hung up by sin. I desire to be a man that trusts You and Your Word at all times. Some may put their trust in chariots, horses, armies, money, soldiers, guns, and their own strength, but I choose to put my trust in You alone. Your kingdom come, Your will be done! I love You!” – Michael

 

March 24th – “How To Find Leaders” 

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29; Luke 6:12-38; Psalm 67:1-7; Proverbs 11:27]

“Now it came to pass in those days that he went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called His disciples to Himself; and from them he chose twelve whom He also named apostles:” – Luke 6:12-13″ 

I find it interesting that Jesus spent a full night in prayer before He chose His twelve disciples. These were not only men that were going to be following Him, living with Him, watching Him, learning from Him and experiencing three years of life with Him. They were also going to be the future leaders of the church!

1 Timothy 5:22 states that we should “...not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure“. Many people want to be in leadership, however, those making the decisions about placing them into positions of leadership should not rush to do so. Today’s leaders in the church should learn this important lesson from Jesus: Before choosing leaders, pray. Pray a lot. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to spend a complete night in prayer to His Father before making this incredibly important decision… perhaps we should do more than read a few resumes and call a couple of references?

“Father, choosing leaders is not easy. Finding those who will stand beside you in thick and in thin, and take ownership of the ministry You’ve called us to, is hard. Forgive me for when I’ve rushed into putting the wrong people into places of leadership. It’s always come back to bite me. I want to be a man that does not “lean on my own understanding”. Thank You for imparting wisdom to those who seek it. Please just remind me to seek it more often. I love You.” – Michael

 

March 25th –  “Hide and Seek

[Bible reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-49; Luke 6:39-7:10; Psalm 68:1-18; Proverbs 11:28]

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.” – Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a beautiful prophecy that will absolutely come true for the Jewish people, and not only for them, for you and me as well. You see, our history parallels the Jewish people’s history and so too does our future. The Jewish people turned away from the true and living God and became immersed in idolatry and materialism. Consequently, in 586 B.C., God allowed the Babylonians to invade and destroy Jerusalem, to burn the temple, and to carry God’s people to Babylon, where they were held captive for seventy years. After that time, the Spirit of God began to stir in the hearts of a small remnant of Jews who would rebuild the city of Jerusalem and, eventually, the temple. But as time passed, so radically did the nation again turn its back on God that they would actually cry out, concerning Jesus (God’s only Son), “Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar“(John 19:15). Therefore, within forty years, in the year A.D. 70, the Romans invaded the city, destroyed the temple and killed one million Jews. When Hadrian became emperor of Rome, the persecution of the Jews intensified further. And as we know all too well, in World War II, the Jewish population was nearly obliterated by Hitler when he murdered over 6 million.

So too, all mankind has immersed ourselves in idolatry and materialism. And like the Jews of old, we too have found ourselves in captivity again and again because of our sin. At times, we can feel scattered and unsure of what is going on in our culture. We can feel as though we are drowning in the darkness that is all around us. But this promise from God is still true today! If we seek Him with all our heart and with all our soul, we will find Him! If we will turn to the Lord and obey His voice, we’ll find that He is still merciful and that He’ll never forsake us! This is the Good News of the Gospel message. I John 1:9 is still true; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness“.

“Father, I thank You that “If we are faithless, You remain faithful; because You cannot deny Yourself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Help me not repeat, over and over, all the sins of those who’ve gone before me. Help me not to be consumed with materialism, like so many others in my culture. Remind me to not ‘idolize’ anyone or anything else, other than You.  I love You.” – Michael

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January/February – Week Five – Daily Devos

January 29th – “What’s In It For Me?” [Bible reading: Exodus 8:1-9:35; Mat. 19:13-30; Ps 24:1-10; Prov 6:1-5]

“Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See we have left all and followed You. Therefore, what shall we have?’” – Matthew 19:27

I think when Peter and the other disciples were with Jesus, and saw all that He was doing, and figured out Who He really was, they began to assume that they’d be those who would be exalted and promoted because of their association with Him. “What shall we have?” shows Peter’s selfish heart. He was thinking with the wrong ambitions in mind.

In Acts 3:6 this same Peter says, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” Something was now different in Peter. It wasn’t about ‘getting‘, but ‘giving‘. The longer a person is with the Lord, and the more they know Jesus’ heart and mission, the more they’ll become God-centered and less self-centered.

“Father, may I be a man that desires to give away all that You’ve given and shown me. Forgive me for always wanting to ‘get’. I want to be a servant and be poured out for others and for Your glory. Less of me… more of You.” – Michael

 

January 30th – “The EYES Have It” [Bible reading: Ex 10:1-12:12; Mat 20:1-28; Ps 25:1-15; Prov 6:6-11]

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because i am good? So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” – Matt. 20:15-16

After telling the story of the workers in teh vineyard and how those who worked all day were selfishly wanting more – Jesus (the landowner) says this, and asks, “…is your eye evil?” This was a Jewish way of asking, “Are you a miser? Are you stingy with your money and so greedy that you are not about others, but only about yourself?”

In Jewish writings “a good eye” represented a generous attitude (Proverbs 22:9 – “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.“) and an “evil eye” represents a man who only cares about riches (Proverbs 28:22 – “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”). Matthew 6:22-23 describes how a man’s “eyes” represents the light or darkness within his whole life! If I am stingy or greedy with my material possessions, it can be a sign of a deeper spiritual problem that I am having.

“Father,I want to be a man who is generous. Forgive me of my greed and selfishness… it’s like I think I deserve anything at all, when truthfully all I have and enjoy is a gracious gift from You. May I be known as a giver and not a taker or a complainer. Thank You for setting the best example for me, by giving me Your all. May I give my all to You today. I love You. – Michael

 

January 31st – “My Sacrifice, My Relationship” [Bible reading: Ex 12:14-13:16; Ps 25:16-22; Prov 6:12-15 ]

“In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones.” – Exodus 12:46

Speaking of the specific ways they were to treat the Passover lamb, Moses declares that the lamb sacrificed would be solely for the residents of the home… not for anyone else outside the family’s immediate household. Beautifully, we’re also told the lamb’s bones were NOT to be broken. This is an interesting little detail that is thrown in that I believe is beautiful because John 19:31-33 states that Jesus’ bones were not broken, as was the custom of the day in which He was crucified. (You see, the legs of crucifixion victims were broken to hasten death. This prevented them from pushing themselves up to open the chest cavity and thus breathe better. Since the victims would now have to pull themselves up by the arms instead, suffocation occurred once their arm strength failed. Jesus escaped having His legs broken since He died so quickly.) This Old Testament passage, then, is a beautiful picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Jesus’ shed blood did indeed cover a multitude of my sin, for He is the Passover Lamb. However, His sacrifice is only for those whom believe and obey, and turn from a life of sin. It is only for our “house“, we can’t be saved by anyone else’s belief or relationship with God. It must be our ‘personal’ relationship with the Lord… not our parents’ relationship with Jesus, our spouse’s, our friend’s, or any other person. We personally must believe, turn from our sin, and accept the sacrifice He paid on our behalf.

“Father, thank You for covering my many sins. I believe in You and I recognize that I can’t ride on the coat-tails of someone else’s relationship with You… it must be my own. The flesh sacrifice is mine alone to accept. I love You. – Michael

 

February 1st – “The Naughty List” [Bible reading: Ex 13:17-15:18; Mat 21:23-46; Ps 26:1-12; Prov 6:16-19]

“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” – Proverbs 6:16-19

God doesn’t beat around any bushes here, He absolutely HATES this stuff! Pride, Lying, Murder of innocent, Those who plot evil, Those who are quick to run towards evil with no hesitation, False witnesses (this is another way to say ‘lying’, which is the second time He’s mentioned it… so it must be a real frustration to God), Those who stir up discord and division in the body of Christ.

Occasionally Scripture can be a bit hard to understand. It takes deep study to really get at what God is saying. However, at other times, God is painfully clear. There is no ‘grey-area’ in this list. Am I a man who is full of pride, etc… If so, I must evaluate and turn from my sin!

“Father, please point out any areas on this list that I may fail in. I absolutely do NOT want to displease You, but rather hear You say, ‘Well done’. I love You!”  – Michael

 

February 2nd – “How To Make Bitter… Better” [Bible reading: Ex 15:19-17:7; Mat 22:1-33; Ps 27:1-6; Prov 6:20-26]

“Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name ofit was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” – Exodus 15:23-25a

God had done so many wonderful things for these people – delivered them from slavery, helped them escape the Egyptians (bad guys) by splitting the Red Sea and taking care of them. Now, however, they are thirsty. They begin to complain… and whine. It’s almost as if they have forgotten all that God has done for them. We do that, right? No matter how good God has been, when we face a hardship… a trial…we tend to forget… to complain… act as if God has forgotten us… like He doesn’t care about us or for us. So they come to this lake. It’s looks awesome at first, but then when they try and drink it… it’s too bitter! They called it “Marah”, because “marah” means “bitter” in their Hebrew language. They’re stuck. They’re thirsty. They’re at the end of their rope… or so they think. Their leader, a guy named Moses, cries out to God and the Bible says, “and the Lord showed him a tree…When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” Moses saw how desperate these people were, he knew they needed to drink, yet would be unable to due to the bitterness of the only water around. So, he prays to the Lord, and the Lord “showed him a tree”. Moses cuts it down and tosses it into the bitter water and in a split second… the water loses all bitterness and becomes sweet!

Approximately 1,476 years later there would be another Tree. We know it as the Cross of Jesus Christ. Galatians 3 and 1 Peter 2:24 talk of the Cross and refer to it as “the tree”. It is the Cross of Calvary… the Cross that Jesus died upon… which still transforms biter experiences, bitter people, and bitter circumstances. How? By realizing that the wrongs done to us, the offenses against us, the disappointments registered by us have all been paid for, dealt with, washed clean by the blood of Calvary.

“Father, when I’m upset and feeling bitter, help me to always remember to ‘toss in the Tree’. Remind me of what You’ve done for me on the Cross. That has a way of putting everything back into perspective. Thank You for Jesus, and thank You for the Tree. I love You!”  – Michael

 

February 3rd – “Hang On ” [Bible reading: Ex 17:8-19:15; Mat 22:34-23:12; Ps 27:7-14; Prov 6:27-35]

“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” –  Matthew 22:40

Jesus is being approached by the Pharisees, who were “testing” Him. Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18 state these two very important commands, but the Pharisees wanted to know if Jesus knew these Scripures or not. He did. Then He threw in this interesting statement, “On these two commands “hang” much of the Old Testament (Law – Genesis-Deuteronomy, Prophets – Isaiah-Malachi). Of course, He meant that we could pretty much sum-up all the Scripture with these two commands… but what if there is another message He was trying to communicate?

We know that Jesus “hung” on the Cross when He gave up His life as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). But I think it’s interesting to think of this statement to the Pharisees in that light. On these two commandments “hang” all the stuff God was speaking in the Old Testament. Jesus’ death on the Cross showed His deep love for His Father in the fact that He obeyed Him, even unto death. He obviously loved His Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. But we also know that He “demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)… so He loved us, His neighbors, as well. So it is on the Cross that I see demonstrated for you and me the greatest of commandments – Love God, Love Others. Whenever I am struggling with ‘sin’… or even the ‘temptation to sin’ by selfishly putting myself first… I must remember that Jesus on the Cross has set the example for me of what I must do. I must pick up my Cross and die… hang there, for it is in doing this that I am authentically loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind and putting others before myself.

“Father, thank You for sending Jesus and loving me as much as You do. When I start to doubt it, all I have to do is gaze at the Cross once again. It’s there I see a love that I can’t begin to comprehend, but shall always be grateful for. I love you… back!”  – Michael

 

February 4th – “What’s At The CORE?” [Bible reading: Ex 19:16-21:21; Mat 23:13-39; Ps 28:1-9; Prov 7:1-5]

“Keep My commands and live, And My Law as the apple of your eye.” – Proverbs 7:2

The origin of the Hebrew word for ‘apple’ is ‘little man’ – it comes from the idea that when you look someone in the eye you can see a reflection of yourself in their eyeball. God’s saying that His Word, His reflection, should be seen inside each of us by others.

When I talk with others, I want them to see Jesus reflected inside of me. To look into my eyes and see Jesus would be the coolest thing ever! However… how does that happen? It happens when I “keep God’s Words and treasure His commands within me” (Proverbs 7:1). His Word must be at my ‘core’ (see what I did there? ‘core’… ‘apple core’? LOL… c’mon, that ain’t so bad)

“Father,  I love You AND Your Word! Today, as I’ve read so much of it, I pray it would really sink deep into my heart and life and change me. I pray it would make me more like Jesus. I desperately want others to see You in me today… not so that I get the credit, but that You’d receive all the glory that You are due. I love You!”  – Michael

 

If anybody is reading these devotions, would you mind leaving a quick comment here on my website. It would greatly encourage me to keep this up. Blessings! – Michael

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THANKSgiving Reminder

It’s always been interesting to me, during this time of year, to hear people speaking of “being thankful”. Newscasters on TV will often say something about “being thankful”. Radio personalities will go on and on about how we all should “be thankful” for our health, our soldiers, our families, etc… But I never hear them say “WHO” we should be thankful to. The very idea of “being thankful” denotes that there is something… or better yet, someOne… we are to ‘thank’, right?

There are actually, numerous claims to the “first” Thanksgiving. One of the earliest recorded celebrations occurred a half-century before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1621. A small colony of French Huguenots established a settlement near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. On June 30, 1564, their leader, Rene de Laudonniere, recorded that “We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching Him that it would please Him to continue His accustomed goodness towards us.” Interesting. Who was it they sang to? God.

 In 1610, after a hard winter called “the starving time,” the colonists at Jamestown called for a time of thanksgiving. This was after the original company of 409 colonists had been reduced to 60 survivors. The colonists prayed to God for help that finally arrived by a ship filled with food and supplies from England. They held a prayer service to give thanks. Who did they pray to? God.

This thanksgiving celebration was not originally commemorated yearly. An annual commemoration of thanks came nine years later in another part of Virginia. “On December 4, 1619, 38 colonists landed at a place they called Berkeley Hundred (in Virginia). One of the instructions in their charter stated: “We ordain that the day of our ship’s arrival… in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Again… it was to be kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.

One of the greatest stories of thanksgiving is a story that began in 1605 when an Indian named Tisquantum, or Squanto, and four other Indians were taken captive, sent to England, and taught English to provide intelligence background on the most favorable places to establish colonies.  After nine years in England, Squanto was able to return to Plymouth on Captain John Smith’s voyage in 1614. Not long after arriving, Squanto was lured and captured by a notorious Captain Thomas Hunt, along with 27 others, and was taken to Malaga, Spain, a major slave-trading port.  Squanto, with a few others, were then bought and rescued by local friars and actually introduced to the Christian faith. He was able to attach himself to an Englishman bound for London, then he joined the family of a wealthy merchant, and ultimately embarked for New England in 1619. He stepped ashore six months before the Pilgrims landed in 1620.  When he stepped ashore he received the most tragic blow of his life. Not a man, woman, or child of his own tribe was left alive! During the previous four years, a mysterious plague had broken out among them, killing every last one. So complete was the devastation that the neighboring tribes had shunned the area ever since. The Pilgrims had settled in a cleared area that belonged to no one. Their nearest neighbors, the Wampanoags, were about 50 miles to the southwest. Stripped of his identity and his reason for living, Squanto wandered aimlessly until he joined the Wampanoags, having nowhere else to go. But God had other plans. Massasoit, the chief of the Wapanoags, entered into a peace treaty of mutual aid with the Plymouth colony that was to last as a model for forty years.  When Massasoit and his entourage left, Squanto stayed.  He had found his reason for living: these English were helpless in the ways of the wilderness. Squanto taught them how to catch eels, stalk deer, plant pumpkins, refine maple syrup, discern both edible herbs and those good for medicine, etc. Perhaps the most important thing he taught them was the Indian way to plant corn.  They hoed six-foot squares in toward the center, putting down four or five kernels, and then fertilizing the corn with fish: three fish in each square, pointing to the center, spoke-like. They would have to guard the fields against the wolves, who would try to steal the fish. By summer they had 20 full acres of corn that would save every one of their lives. Squanto also taught them to exploit the pelts of the beaver, which was in plentiful supply and in great demand throughout Europe. The Pilgrims were a grateful people – grateful to God for the Wampanoags, and also for Squanto.  Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving, to be held in October.

Massasoit was invited and unexpectedly arrived a day early – with an additional ninety Indians! To feed such a crowd would cut deeply into their stores for the winter, but they had learned through all their travails that God could be trusted implicitly. And it turned out that the Indians did not come empty handed: they brought five dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys.  They helped with the preparations, teaching the Pilgrim women how to make hoecakes and tasty pudding out of cornmeal and maple syrup.  In fact, they also showed them how to make one of their Indian favorites: white, fluffy popcorn! The Pilgrims, in turn, provided many vegetables from their gardens: carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and cabbages.  Also, using some of their precious flour with some of the summer fruits which the Indians had dried, the Pilgrims introduced them to blueberry, apple, and cherry pie.  Along with sweet wine made from wild grapes, it was, indeed, a joyous occasion for all concerned.

The Pilgrims and Indians happily competed in shooting contests, foot races, and wrestling.  Things went so well, and because Massasoit showed no inclination to leave, that this first Thanksgiving was extended for three days. The moment that stood out the most in the Pilgrims’ memories was William Brewster’s prayer as they began the festival.  They had so much for which to thank God: for providing all their needs and His provision of Squanto, their teacher, guide, and friend that was to see them through those critical early winters.

By the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving Day had become an institution throughout New England.  It was officially proclaimed as a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863: “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy… I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Triaditionally celebrated on the last Thursday in November, Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the celebration to the third Thursday in November “to give more shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” At this point Congress enacted the ‘Fourth Thursday Compromise’.  Ever since this pragmatic and commercial approach to Thanksgiving was promoted, its original meaning has steadily been lost. During this season… especially this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas… may you and I be those that remember that everything we enjoy comes from our Father in Heaven (James 1:17), and that they are all “the gracious gifts of the most high God“. Let’s all be sure to be thankful this day… to God.

Love you all. Happy THANKSgiving!

 

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