95 Reforms for Reformation, Then and Now

Does the number 95 mean anything special to you… Especially in the light of the month of October?

When you think about what happened just 500 years ago in Germany – 95 points of discussion were posted on the community bulletin board, a church door – a lowly monk unintentionally set in motion a sequence of events that changed the world more than any other single action by a human being since the resurrection of Christ. 

 My missionary friend in South Africa, Dr. Peter Hammond, has provided for us profound insights that can impact our priorities for generations to come if we’ll take them to heart. 

Unprecedented

Western civilization has been blessed with the greatest freedom, productivity and prosperity ever known in history. The liberty, standards of justice and creativity enjoyed in Western civilization is a direct result of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century.

First Things First

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught:

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

The Question of Authority (more…)

Reclaiming Your Legacy of Thanksgiving

by Dennis Petersen

reagan-1st-congress-prayerMuch has been researched and written lately about the proven personal benefits of expressing genuine gratitude.  It turns out that thankfulness is not typically a result of being happy, but rather the opposite is true.  People who deliberately and openly confess their thankfulness to others are the happiest of people.  And isn’t it interesting that those who recognize that their lives have a purpose are the ones who are prone to give thanks to their Creator and to those around them.

Have you discovered your purpose?  Do you have a clear reason why you’re excited to get up in the morning?  If you have a mission to drive your daily goals, you’re a much happier person than those who are just being driven by survival mode.

We’re a nation of people that has a centuries-old tradition of celebrating annual solemn days of Thanksgiving.  Yet, it seems that our current generation has almost no concept of the deeply personal conviction of the importance of gratitude.  And it’s pretty obvious that that gratitude should most deservedly be directed to the Almighty Giver of every blessing and perfect gift in our lives.

It seems like everybody is scrambling frantically to demand that their comforts and material desires be accommodated.  How often we see people so ungrateful that complaints and cynical dissatisfaction has become society’s normal?  Things haven’t changed much in 2,000 years have they?

Remember The Sin of Ingratitude in Luke 17:7-19?
Jesus healed ten men of leprosy.  One of them was a Samaritan man.  He was the only one of the ten who came back to Jesus and humbly thanked Him for healing him.  Jesus asked him: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  Sadly, my missionary friend in Africa reports that barely 10% of those they help will bother to express their gratitude with even a word of thanks or a note card.  Gratitude may be rare, but those who express it discover the most enriching lives on earth.  Instead of loneliness, poverty and depression, they are the ones most inclined to be enriched, energized, inspired and transformed

Gratitude goes counter to the ‘victim mentality’ that has deceived so many who think they are entitled to everything at the expense of others in our culture.  When we give thanks sincerely, we acknowledge that we have received a benefit that is unearned.  We can’t help but look beyond ourselves.

When you are stunned with the reality that you survived what could have been a fatal event, how does that make you feel?

After the victory of the Battle of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Day of Thanksgiving, November 1, 1777.  How did they express their feeling?  Here’s what they wrote in the proclamation:

“The grateful feeling of their hearts… join the penitent confession of their manifold sins…  that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance… and… under the providence of Almighty God… secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace.”

If we want to reclaim our true history, we are going to have to work at telling our children about our real history.  It isn’t being taught in most schools and colleges today.  Thomas Jefferson was the governor of Virginia in 1779.  What did he chose to proclaim for his State after Admiral John Paul Jones captured the British ship HMS Serapis?  The Continental Congress declared a Day of Thanksgiving, which

“Congress… hath thought proper… to recommend to the several States… a day of public and solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God, for his mercies, and of Prayer, for the continuance of his favour… That He would go forth with our hosts and crown our arms with victory; That He would grant to His church, the plentiful effusions of Divine Grace, and pour out His Holy Spirit on all Ministers of the Gospel; That He would bless and prosper the means of education, and spread the light of Christian knowledge through the remotest corners of the earth… I do therefore… issue this proclamation… appointing… a day of public and solemn Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God… Given under my hand… this 11th day of November, in the year of our Lord, 1779… Thomas Jefferson.”

 

Hear what that same Continental Congress proclaimed after Benedict Arnold’s traitorous plot to betray West Point was thwarted.  It was a Day of Thanksgiving, October 18, 1780:

“In the late remarkable interposition of His watchful providence, in the rescuing the person of our Commander-in-Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution… it is therefore recommended… a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer… to confess our unworthiness… and to offer fervent supplications to the God of all grace… to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.”

After British General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Congress proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving, October 11, 1782:

“It being the indispensable duty of all nations… to offer up their supplications to Almighty God… the United States in Congress assembled… do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe… the last Thursday… of November next, as a Day of Solemn Thanksgiving to God for all his mercies.”

After the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, Congress recommended that the States declare a Day of Thanksgiving.  Massachusetts Governor John Hancock, the former President of the Continental Congress, proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving, November 8, 1783:

“The Citizens of these United States have every Reason for Praise and Gratitude to the God of their salvation… I do… appoint… the 11th day of December next (the day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate… that he hath been pleased to continue to us the Light of the Blessed Gospel… That we also offer up fervent supplications… to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish… and to fill the world with His glory.”

After the U.S. Congress passed the First Amendment, it requested President George Washington issue a National Day of Thanksgiving, which he did, October 3, 1789:

“Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness; ‘Now, therefore, I do recommend… Thursday, the 26TH DAY of NOVEMBER … to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be… That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble Thanks… for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government… particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed… to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”

On January 1, 1795, President George Washington proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving:

“When we review the calamities, which afflict so many other nations… the great degree of internal tranquility we have enjoyed –    the recent confirmation of that tranquility by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it – the happy course of public affairs in general –  the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens; our circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence towards us.  In such a state of things it is, in an especial manner, our duty as people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience…  I, George Washington, President of the United States, do recommend to all religious societies and denominations, and to all persons whomsoever, within the United States,  to set apart…a Day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer: and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great Ruler of Nations.”

 

the-first-prayer-in-congress-september-1774After hearing those inspiring proclamations from national leaders – which, by the way, were entirely inspired by the attitude of profoundly committed preachers in the churches of the American colonies – doesn’t it seem about time that the pastors of our Bible-believing congregations lead the way for reclaiming our lost legacy for the current generation?  Should they not humbly call for days of contrition, repentance and sober thanksgiving?  We have such excellent Biblical and historic precedents to guide our way.

 

Taking God’s Blessings for Granted
Dr. Martin Luther observed: “The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded.”   It seems that the blessings of life, health, freedom and food are not really appreciated unless they are lost, or threatened. Sunrises and sunsets occur daily so they are taken for granted aren’t they?

Consider the Stars
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that “If the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they are there every night, we barely give them a look.”

The Blessings of Being Hungry and Lonely
Have you noticed that the blessings of rain are barely appreciated unless one has been through a drought?  A hungry man is more thankful for a tiny morsel than most affluent Americans for their table full of choice foods. A lonely woman in a nursing home will appreciate a visit more than a rock star with a crowd of fans. A Christian who has suffered under persecution for decades and receives his first copy of the Holy Scriptures is more thankful for one book than we are for all the Christian books, Bible translations and magazines that overflow our shelves.

You Should Experience Blindness for a Few Days
Helen Keller said: “I have often thought that it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days for some time during his early adult life. It would make him more appreciative of sight and of the joys of sound.”

A Biblical Command
There are at least 138 passages of Scripture that deal with the subject of thanksgiving. We are commanded: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His Name.” Psalm 100:4.

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” Psalm 107:8.

“Give thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:12.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15.

“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.” Philippians 4:6-7.

Joyful, Prayerful and Thankful
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Plainly it is God’s will for us to be joyful, prayerful and thankful.

A Sacrifice of Praise
“Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Hebrews 13:15.

What makes praise a sacrifice?  Could it be that when the blessings we are thankful for have not yet manifested themselves in God’s providence?
A Good Habit
“It ought to be as habitual for us to thank as to ask.” C. H. Spurgeon

The Parent of All Virtues
It has been said that a thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.

What is the Root of Sin?

“The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… for although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Romans 1:18-21.  Look!  The failure to give thanks to God is the root sin that leads to futile thinking and foolish, darkened hearts.  Think about that.

One of the Worst Sins
In 1 Timothy 3:1-5 the apostle Paul gives a list of some of the most terrible sins including: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, traitorous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.”  Did you see that ungratefulness is listed in the middle of a list of horrible sins?

A Fruit of Character
What’s one of the first lessons good parents teach their children is to say? “Thank You”. It takes character and courage to admit being in debt to others. It is humbling. However, those who cannot admit their indebtedness to others cannot learn, nor can they seek forgiveness.

Maturity
Failure to express gratitude is more than immaturity and rudeness, it is ungodly. We are commanded to honour our parents, our elders and our leaders. It is a sign of maturity to acknowledge indebtedness.  Have you learned anything?  Then you’re in debt to somebody else, aren’t you?  We are all in debt, first, and mostly, to God Himself, for our life, health, food, talents, family, friends, opportunities and for our salvation itself. We are also in debt to past generations who have sacrificed for the freedoms we now enjoy: Reformers, martyrs, pioneers, missionaries, soldiers, parents, teachers, pastors and so many others have sacrificed for our benefit.
An Attitude of Entitlement
Instead of the Christian character of gratitude, our present culture prefers to promote an attitude of entitlement. This is the very opposite of gratitude. It builds on pride and covetousness. It is fuelled by bitterness, greed and envy. All too many in the present humanistic society take things for granted, demand to get, rather than seeking to give.  It is sheer wickedness, and is a sure road to being led astray by all sorts of empty promises and destructive ideas.

An Attitude of Gratitude
A grateful mind is a great mind. “Be thankful, therefore, for the least benefit and thou shalt be worthy to receive greater.” Thomas a Kempis.  Start giving thanks to God and the humblest of servants like your garbage man for the little blessings in life.  Start today to write notes of sincere gratitude to people who have blessed you in any small way.  Ask God to guide your thoughts.  Partner with a friend to hold one another accountable in your new habit of expressing gratitude.

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning and Your faithfulness every night.” Psalm 92:1-2.

Pride, Ingratitude and Unteachability
Those who do not take advice do not think they have anything to learn. They are often the same people who have a problem expressing a genuine heartfelt gratitude to others. It is a sign of pride to be ungrateful.  It reveals an unwillingness to acknowledge a debt to others.  By God’s grace, when we are humble enough to admit our wrong, He is powerful enough to enable us to change.  We can be a thankful person.

 

Let’s Make this season a Turning Point for expressing Thanks-giving.

List 7 things you are thankful for in your personal life today.

Call 2 people who you can honestly thank for something they contributed to your life.

Privately talk to God about the gratitude you have for His saving grace.

Take 2 minutes to begin pondering the incredible blessings you have to live now.

Promise yourself you will thank the next 10 people you encounter for something they did for you, even if it’s just a common courtesy.

The results of gratitude?

You will become healthier.  Recent studies suggest that gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep quality, and reduces inflammation in the body.  Grateful people are also more inclined to eat better and exercise which obviously increases your wellness.

You will become a more compassionate person.  When you make a routine of expressing gratitude to God and to others for tiny courtesies, you are looking beyond yourself.  You will be kinder.  You will be more forgiving. You will find joy in serving others and be willing to bear others’ burdens without expecting anything in return.

 

When you appreciate what you have, it’s impossible not to share it with others.  On the other hand, you can’t give something away when you’re empty yourself.  When you don’t know how rich you really are, you can’t take delight in sharing little insights with others.  The more aware and thankful we are of the good things in our lives, the more we are able to give to others.

 

Your relationships will deepen.  When you relate more gratefully to others you will draw closer and bond more deeply to the people in your life.  When you express gratitude to the people you love, you become more satisfied with your relationships.  You will reach out to others more easily.  You’ll be more generous.  You’ll be more forgiving and less judgmental.

A grateful heart is more content, more happy no matter what his circumstances are like.  And a happy heart focuses more on the really important joys of peace and little blessings that make life worthwhile.  That’s like a healing ointment to restore your health even when modern medicine can’t do it.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known among the nations what He has done… Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:8,34.