The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Scripture: Psalm 95

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
— Cicero

The Thanksgiving weekend is one of my family's favorite times of the year. This is one of two times a year our entire family gets together. I look forward to the food, fellowship, and the laughter we share with one another. I feel very fortunate that we are all still here on planet earth and can enjoy one another. Many of us have forgotten the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  It was about the Freedom to worship Jesus Christ and occupy land. Thanksgiving celebrations in the New World begin as far back as 1541 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado orders and participates in a Thanksgiving celebration with his men while exploring the region now known as the Texas Panhandle. History records another Thanksgiving celebration by missionaries near Jacksonville, Florida in 1607. But the history with which we are the most familiar is that of the Pilgrims who left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620 in view of a New Life, New Thing, and a new level of Freedom.

In 1789, following a proclamation issued by President George Washington, America celebrated its first Day of Thanksgiving to God under its new constitution. That same year, the Protestant Episcopal Church, of which President Washington was a member, announced that the first Thursday in November would become its regular day for giving thanks. This was considered a prayerful occasion that included fasting! It probably comes as no surprise that another revolutionary thinker and pioneer of American freedom, Abraham Lincoln, established Thanksgiving Day as we know it during the American Civil War, but it wasn’t until 1941 that it became law. On these three different occasions when questions of freedom arose, Americans chose to give thanks while discovering and fighting for new found freedom.  

In 1789, our nation’s first President, George Washington, issued the following proclamation:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and

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,

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these 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…”
— George Washington

We now live in a world where those words would not only be opposed in the public arena, but would be viciously attacked. It is time for God's people to rise up and for us to give thanks unto the Lord and to make our requests known to God. He is worthy to be praised and longs for intimacy with his children. I believe America is still the greatest country on the face of the earth. Jesus Christ still saves, brings freedom, heals the sick, and is near to the broken hearted. We serve a mighty God and we must remember Him during this season.

David invites the Jewish and Gentile believers to worship God in Psalms 95. He pleads with the people to give Thanks to the Lord for what we have, not what we do not have.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord ; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
— Psalms 95:1-6 NIV

I'm thankful because of His Greatness! I want to give you the characteristics of His Greatness, beginning with His Perfection. The word "perfection" means to be brought to completion. Jesus Christ finishes what he starts and he will complete what he started in you. We serve a perfect God and he can be perfect in us and through us, even during difficult times.

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.
— Hebrews 2:10-11

I am thankful for His Greatness, but I am also thankful for His Power!

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
— Romans 1:20

We have the Power that existed during creation, which manifested during the resurrection, and was present on the day of Pentecost. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! (Philippians 4:13) Gods’ Greatness and Power fills me with gratitude, but it doesn’t stop there! I am also thankful for His Possessions! 

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
— Colossians 1:16-20

Jesus Christ is Preeminent, which means he is above all.  He reigns above your problems, your struggles, your sins, and the atmosphere in which we live. He holds the keys to the kingdom and cannot fail. We serve in gratitude for His Greatness, His Power, His Possessions, but I am also thankful for His Places.

I am blessed to live in East Tennessee where the trees and the streams speak of his majesty and give Thanks to his creation. The United States is truly beautiful from sea to shining sea. God created this for us to enjoy and to preserve. Remember that we are to be good stewards of what he created for us. Being a good steward is a reflection of ones’ gratitude.

In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
— Psalms 95:4-5

I am thankful that God is great, that He is all-powerful, that He Created and owns everything seen and unseen, and I am thankful for His Places. But we must never forget to be thankful for His Position and His People!

He is Lord of All and Lord above ALL. He is the Alpha and the Omega, our Abba Father, our Savior, and he is coming back for unified body of believers. He will not leave us orphans and the word tells us that we win the battle and will live forever.  I am thankful for life everlasting!

We must also be thankful for God's people, even those we may disagree with. We must love other people God created and pray to God for their salvation. It is so easy to focus on the negative, but diversity is a beautiful thing.  It is what makes our God great. It is what makes our country great. It is what makes the kingdom of God significant.

I am thankful for His Greatness, but I am thankful that he is my Guardian.

…for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.
— Psalm 95:7-11

And if we are thankful that God is our Guardian, then let us also be thankful that we are His sheep.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
— John 10:27-28

But we are not just His Sheep but also His Saints! I am thankful that I am His Saint!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
— Ephesians 3:14-19

I am grateful every day of my life that not only are we His Saints, but we are also His sons and daughters.

And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
— Joel 2:28-29

I'm thankful for his Greatness. I'm thankful he is my Guardian, but I am thankful for his Gifts! Jesus promises he will give us rest in Matthew chapter 11. I hope you will take him up on this promise during this season. Come towards him and he will give you the rest you need to stay in the fight.

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:27-30

His Greatness and Guardianship is so complete and powerful that in addition to these gifts, I'm thankful for The Gift of Righteousness.

Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
— Isaiah 57:2

With the Gift of Righteous that can only be given by the Greatness of an all-powerful loving God, I'm thankful for The Gift of Humility.

The thorn in Paul's flesh has been debated for centuries. I have my opinion about what it was, but Paul had so many ailments and so much opposition, that the thorn is not as important as God's promise to us. The promise is that God will give us His power for our weakness and that His Grace is sufficient for us. I pray you will let God's Grace cover you and that you will remember to thank him for his unmerited and undeserved favor.  When we are weak, he is strong!

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I pray that this article has moved you towards intimacy with the Father. I pray that you will be thankful for his Greatness, Guardianship, and the Gifts he has given to each of his children. We are blessed in America and have more than we know what to do with.

Please pray for our mission team and myself, as we are getting ready to make our way to Cien Fuegos, Dominican Republic. We are going to provide Christmas for over 100 children at our Children's Center. I will be preaching and teaching along with mission leaders from the Tennessee Baptist Convention. We will be training 30 pastors and Bible College students while we are there. I believe that Central America is our greatest hope to defeat ISIS and radical ISLAM in the future. These people are not ashamed of the gospel and we will need them in the future.

We have purchased four acres and a fence around the property in Cien Fuegos. We are in need of 117,000 dollars to build a two level church, Children's Center, and medical center. Our kids have no place to call home. We believe the mother church must be built. Our dream is to build 60 churches in that part of the world.  Our pastor is from there and is in his 30's. The dream is real. The kids in this part of the world have very little; many of them have been rescued off the local garbage dump. God has called Abba's House to this part of the world. I pray you will help us fulfill the vision God has put in my heart. Have a


Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Ronnie Phillips, Jr.