I am currently in the midst of my church’s annual 21-day consecration in which we dedicate ourselves to fasting, increased prayer, and study of the word of God. As is always the case when it comes to fasting, it brings to mind what you can and can’t eat and sometimes puts the fastee in danger of over-indulging on that which they can eat in order to substitute for that which they can’t. I know this too well because I am living it. I am forever tempted to overdose on broccoli, cashews, oatmeal and the other healthier options since I can’t have my Tostitos, cookies, and cupcakes. But this fast is about self control for God’s sake. It has been said that obedience is better than sacrifice, but in this case, I feel that sacrificing IS what is necessary in order for me to be obedient to God. This season leading up to Thanksgiving brings into view the concept of self control. There will be food and drink flowing like water in 3 week’s time and it will take everything in us to eat and drink in moderation. And this isn’t just about food. We can be in danger of being excessive in many areas of our lives, but all of those areas will affect us in some way. So today’s Thanksgiving prayer is for self control.
We thank you for this season of harvest that you have us in. A season that will be full of delicious food and drink. A season that will be full of wonderful family and friends. A season that will be full to the brim with the possibilities you set before us. But in all of these things I pray for self control. Self control while we are enjoying are enjoying the delicious foods of the season. The turkey, the pecan pies, the pumpkin lattes, the egg nog and every other seasonal food that you will put before us. Let us remember to eat and drink in moderation and do it all to your glory. Self control in the way we spend money so that we will not live outside of our means. Let us be good stewards over our financial resources. Let us trust in you and your hand of provision and remember that you supply all of our needs according to your riches in glory. Even as we look toward the day after Thanksgiving when every store will have deep discounts and sales to draw us in, may we be controlled in our spending and in our behavior remembering that our ability to control ourselves can affect someone else’s life. This is a season were excess can tempt us, but help us not to be lead astray. Let us be controlled in all we do remembering that self control is a fruit of the spirit. Give us the spirit of self control from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
There are many crazy stories – some actually true – about Rick Henderson, the Hall of Fame baseball player. Here’s one: Months after Henderson was paid his first one million dollar salary, his team’s accounting team couldn’t locate the withdrawal. When they asked Ricky about this, he calmly told them that he’d framed the check and hung it on his wall… Uncashed and undeposited.
Don’t laugh. Sometimes we do no better. As followers of Jesus and sons and daughters of the King, we have been endowed with a great treasure. Yet often we neglect to make use of it. We don’t cash our checks!
This month as we head toward Thanksgiving I’m going to highlight some of the benefits that are already ours. All we need do is pray with thanks for what is ours, then employ our faith the activate the account.
There’s a great song in the Old Testament that relays this message. It’s Psalm 103. It begins: “Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” Not forgetting the benefits that are ours by right is the first step toward true Thanksgiving. In the days ahead I’ll sketch out some of these privileges that we can enjoy simply by recognizing them and deploying our faith.
“God, we acknowledge that you not only own all things; but you are generous with your bounty. You have title to all that we need, not only materially, but also relationally, and emotionally, and spiritually. Teach us first, Lord to understand and rightly assess your own assets, and then too to understand and accept the love that you have for us, giving us access to your benefits. We begin by saying, ‘Praise the Lord.’ We tell our own souls to praise you and to never forget what is rightful ours, what you have died to pay for. We will not forget; help us remember! In Jesus!”
I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t it a bit early for a Thanksgiving prayer?” But in actuality, Thanksgiving, as we know it, started well before it was a national holiday associated with turkey, football and lethargy. Thankgiving was and is a state of mind in the Bible. There are many scriptures throughout the Bible that speak of thanksgiving. There are songs of thanksgiving, offerings of thanksgiving, praise and thanksgiving and other conglomerations of thanksgiving that are meant as an act of devotion, adoration and worship of God. One of the most popular references to thanksgiving in Christianity is from Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving in your heart, and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise His name.” We’ve all seen or sung that verse at one point in our lives, but maybe we’ve never really stopped to think about the real meaning behind the words.
We “enter” his gates with thanksgiving in our heart, which means that before we even set foot in the sanctuary, we have already been overflowing with thankgiving in our hearts. It’s a state of being that lives deeply within us. No one has to prod us to be thankful for God’s grace and mercy, we should already be there. We don’t have to wait for a specific day such as Thanksigving or a Sunday to express our thanksgiving, we walk around with it in our hearts.
And so, as we enter this season of thanksgiving, looking toward Thanksgiving, Mark and I wanted to start this series on Thanksgiving Prayers. From now until Thanksgiving we will be offering prayers on different topics, particularly those topics relevant to this season. Today we start the series with a prayer for expectancy so that we can look forward to God blessing and keeping us throughout this season.
First and foremost I thank you for this day. It is the first Monday in the 11th month of the year and I thank you that you have allowed us to make it to this day. We thank you for all that has gone before us in the months that have passed, we thank you for the present moment and we thank you in advance for all that you will do on our behalf. We look forward to this new season that you have brought us into with great expectation. Let it be a season of revelation, a season of clarity, a season of generosity and a season of change. Let it be whatever season you need it to be in our lives. Let us look forward to the work you will do in us and through us and let that change be everlasting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
What are you expecting this season?
What we call “Halloween” has origin in an ancient Celtic festival to remember the dead called “Samhain.” By the 800s the Celts had become Christian and they “converted” their pagan celebration into a Christian holy day honoring those who had had died and now continued their life in heaven. They called this new synthesized celebration All-hallowmas or All-hallows, meaning All Saints. The night before – the old Samhain – began to be called All-hallows-eve, then finally Halloween.
From ancient times, pagan and Christian, this day commemorates the memory of those who have died. Death of course is a universal human experience, both dealing with the passing of those we love and finally with our own final demise. Death happens.
The difference for Christians, and the fundamental distinction between pagan Samhain and Christian All Saints Day, is that Christians claim evidence for the death of Death. Many religions have myths of gods who die and come back to life. Christians claim that the myth happened in history, that Jesus of Nazareth suffered actual death at the hands of Romans, then three days later in a real time and place returned to life in the same body, now transformed into a new form. For Christians this isn’t myth, it’s myth made history.
A Christian celebration of the Dead (All Saints) is always rooted in hope anchored in history. We really believe. Yes we do. Death for us is still filled with uncertainty and sadness and even grief. It hurts. But it does not terrify or lead us to despair. Paul, the Apostle puts it this way: “Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?”
Christians have redeemed this ancient time for grief and fear and turned into a time for remembrance and hope. In that form, Thank God for All-hallows Eve.
“God, we thank you for life. We thank you for those who have lived with us and now because of your goodness live in a new way in a new place. This is a season of grief and remembrance and sadness. But because of the victory of Jesus over death, it is not a season for fear or despair. We have hope, because of Jesus’ resurrection that we too will live forever. That fact of faith allows us to rest here and now and enjoy our moments with you here while we have them here. After all, we have forever to enjoy the rest! Remove fear of death in our lives and lead us to trust you for every moment. Thank you God for a Holy All Hallows Eve.”
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