Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Impact

Introduction:  Have you been to restaurants where the food may be great or not so great but the service is wonderful and friendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You want to go back. You even recommend it to friends and family. Now, how about restaurants where the service is horrible and unfriendly? What emotions come to your mind when you think about that place? You don’t want to go back. So also with churches, they can make a positive impact on you or a negative impact on you. Today we will see how the Philippian church made a very positive impact on Paul and this is the kind of church Clearview needs to be. The message is titled “IMPACT” in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Paul says in verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” In other words, every time Paul thought of the Philippians, his heart was filled with gratefulness. What emotions come upon people when they think of you? What impact have you made on the lives of those around you? A major reason for the positive impact was that the Philippians were saved. Paul calls them “saints in Christ Jesus.” Are you “in” Christ Jesus? Are you saved?

Context: Unlike the Galatians and the Corinthians, the Philippians had made a very positive impact on Paul and his ministry. His heart was filled with joy when he thought of them. As he says, “every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” What a beautiful complement! In a few minutes, we will be celebrating the Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the opening verses of Philippians are perfect to help us examine our hearts, individually and collectively. Are we Christians who make a positive impact on others? Are we a church that makes a positive impact on others? There are 3 things that stand out in the opening words of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. First is TRUST. Let’s begin in Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ…” Typically Paul would have referred to himself as an “apostle” of Jesus Christ, as he does in Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. He would do that to remind his readers of his authority. Let me give some examples – Galatians 1   1 “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” We find a similar tone in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 1   1 “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…4:15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 2 Corinthians 10:10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” In other words, they were saying that Paul is ugly and he can’t preach!” But not with the Philippians. He knows that they respect him already. Paul trusts them and he doesn’t pull rank on them.

Listen also to how he addresses the Philippians – “…to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…” First, he addresses them as being “in Christ.” It means that they are united with Christ in his death, resurrection, and their new life. He especially acknowledges the bishops and the deacons, the episkopos and the diakonos. Who are these two groups? The episkopos are the same as the presbuteros or the elders. They are the ones who oversee the work of the ministry, give it spiritual leadership, and serve as pastors, depending on the size of the church. The diakonos are the servants who serve by taking care of the needs of the congregation and any other need that might arise in doing the ministry. These are the 2 positions we have at Clearview. Then he says – 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two words he focusses on are “grace” and “peace.” Grace is what you need to get saved. Peace is what happens when you get saved. Romans 3   23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Application: Are you like the Galatians and the Corinthians or like the Philippians? Are you a trustworthy person? Are you full of grace and peace?

The second thing that stands out in Paul’s opening words is JOY. Listen to verse 3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” When Paul wrote these words, he was sitting in a prison in Rome with Timothy his co-laborer, his student, and his son in the ministry. How do we know that? Philippians 1:7 “…both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” 13 “so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.” 14 “most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” More than likely Paul was under house arrest in Rome since Acts 28 tells us that he was able to send letters and receive friends. But don’t misunderstand, this was every bit serious as he remarks in Philippians 1:20 “…as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” Meaning: Paul knew that there was a strong possibility that he will not come out of this prison alive. In the midst of fear, doubts, anger, stress, frustrations, disappointments, when his mind turned to the Philippians, a smile came over his face. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I know several Christian people with whom I would sooner sit in heaven throughout all eternity than sit ten minutes with them on a sofa here below—distance—in their case, might add enhancement to the view.” 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy. The words for joy are found over 50 times in Paul’s writings. In fact, he lists it as one of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does he have this feeling of joy? 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul remembers how they cooperated with him and helped him from the very beginning.

Application: Do you bring joy in the minds of others? Are you fellowshipping in the gospel at Clearview? Are you here to win others to Christ?

So far we have seen TRUST and JOY. Here comes the third thing – HOPE.

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We will look at this verse again but next week but what a complement! The word for confident is “pepoithos.” It is the perfect participle of “peitho.” He uses it several times in this letter. Philippians 1:25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” 2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly. Just the thought of the Philippians inspired hope in Paul as well.

Application: Are you a person that others can look at with hope? Are you a person who inspires hope in others?

What kind of an impact are you making? Are you in Christ? Are you saved?

Thankful for my Church Family

THANKFUL FOR MY CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thankfulformychurchfamilyThanksgiving is upon us and we are told to be thankful for our family, friends, health, nation, and even spiritual things like the Word of God and our salvation. But there’s one thing that we usually don’t hear in this list – it’s our church family. So this weekend I’m preaching a message titled – “Thankful for my Church Family.”

Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

Overall Background: Unlike the churches in Galatia, Philippi, and Ephesus, Paul did not start the church in Rome. We don’t know who did – maybe it was someone on a business trip or someone on a military assignment or maybe it was a family or a group of people but somehow the gospel made it to Rome and the church was born. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to them, he had never even been to Rome as an apostle. But, he heard about them and listen again to what he says in Romans 1   7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul had never even travelled to the church family in Rome but he was already grateful for them!

According to a survey by AAA that came out last Wednesday, this Thanksgiving week 46.9 million people in America will travel about 50 miles or more from their homes to visit family and friends. It’s the highest number in the past 8 years, about 300,000 more than last year. That’s a lot of travel! But, did you also know that according to some estimates as many as 16 million people in America travel to their church every week? Could be more but I’m being conservative. But keep in mind, that’s 52 times a year. So, 16X52 = 837 million trips to see the church family throughout the year! 46 million trips just at Thanksgiving versus 837 million trips throughout the year! But, if you talk to most church going people, not many are grateful for their church family. In fact, most of them are unhappy with their church family. Some are disappointed with their church family. Yet, others look at their church family as a burden, an obligation, and treat it as dispensable/unnecessary. “It’s alright but I can live without it.”

Question: How do you see your church family? Are you grateful for this church? Do you realize what God has done in your life through Clearview? How do you see this place? How do you talk about this place to others? Are you saved? If not, you will never truly appreciate the benefits you are receiving here.

This morning we will learn to be thankful for our church family like Paul was for the church family in Rome. Let the Holy Spirit bring an attitude of gratitude for this church.

I. REASON TO BE THANKFUL – FAITH

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Background: The reason Paul is grateful for the church in Rome is because of their faith, which is being spoken of throughout the world. What does “faith” mean here? The Greek word “pistis” has two implications:

  1. Saving Faith – it means receiving the message of the gospel. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and He is alive today. Later in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul says, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.I can give you many other examples but here’s the point – Faith, first and foremost, means being saved by believing in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s the point – the church in Rome had the reputation of being a gospel preaching, soul saving church.

Churches today are trying to make a name for themselves, such as “contemporary church,” “old-fashioned church,” “young people church,” “missions minded church,” “Bible-teaching church,” “community focused church,” and many other titles. Paul is not grateful for the church in Rome for any of those reasons but for their faith in the gospel. My goal as a pastor of this church has always been and will always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every man, woman, boy, or girl, no matter what they look like and where they come from. That’s why the motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible.” That’s why I’m thankful for this church family.

Application: Are you thankful for Clearview? Are you grateful for the focus we have at this church? Are you saved? Have you placed your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross? The goal of this service and everything that goes on here is to get you saved.

  1. Life of Faith – it means living daily by faith in God and His promises. It means trusting God to guide, provide, and protect the direction of our church. You have to understand the background of this church in Rome in order to appreciate that compliment from Paul. The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. One early historian (Suetonius) tells us that in AD 49 Jewish believers were being expelled/kicked out of Rome because of their faith. More than likely some of these Jewish Christians had family members and friends who were taken away from them. You can only imagine their pain. The Gentile believers in the church were Roman people or other nationalities that also believed in the gospel. What an interesting combination! They don’t have a whole lot in common. Oil and water coming together but blood is uniting them. In spite of all this, the one thing that is being heard about them is that they are a family of faith. Meaning: They are a church that believes in God for great things. They are a church that believes that God will provide and we can trust Him with the impossible.

Almost everything we do here can be duplicated. Good preaching – you can go and listen to a great talk by some great speaker. Good music – you can go to a great concert. Good programs – you can join some club. Good outreach – you can join some relief organization. But there’s one thing the world cannot duplicate – it is our faith in God. Clearview stands today because of our faith in God. People in this community are still scratching their heads as to what is the secret of this church! Rich, poor, black, white, young, old (led by some Indian guy whose father is a Muslim convert) keep coming to this church and it keeps growing! How? It’s our faith that God will do great things. Listen carefully – if we stop trusting God for great things, we begin to make sense to people. Let’s be a mystery! Let us be known for our faith in a powerful God!

Application: Are you thankful for the life of faith in this church? Are you adding to the faith are you taking away? Are you an asset or are you a liability?

II. RESPONSE IN THANKFULNESS – PRAYER

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Background: Paul wants the Christians in Rome to know that because of their reputation of faith, he is not only thankful for them but he is also praying for them. Many times people mention their church but it’s not in prayer. It’s in gossip, criticism, anger, and disappointment. If you have a problem with Clearview, start praying for it and see what God will do. He will not only change Clearview but he will also change your heart towards Clearview. But Paul begins the verse with – “For God is my witness.” Now we’ve all said that to someone at some time – “Praying for you.” “We’ll keep you in prayer.” Paul wants them to know that this is not fluff. So he adds, “For God is my witness.” Meaning: God knows that I’m not lying to you. “…whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Meaning: God knows that I am no hypocrite. I serve Him very sincerely from my inward self. “…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” And what is Paul praying for? I can think of a few things he must have mentioned in his prayer:

  • God build their faith in You.
  • God help them to not lose heart.
  • God make them more like Jesus.
  • God give them a hunger and thirst for your Word.
  • God ground them in your truth.
  • God protect them from the Enemy.
  • God keep them united, loving, kind, and patient towards each other.
  • God help them to keep winning more and more souls in the kingdom of God.

But there’s something more. Listen to verse 10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” Paul wants to visit them. Why? Listen to verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established. Meaning: Paul wants to strengthen them in their faith. He wants them to be established. How will this happen? Listen to verse 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Meaning: Paul is saying, “I will bring my faith to you and we will put your faith and my faith together so that together we will have a stronger faith – first in the gospel of Jesus Christ and then in the power of God to do the impossible. In the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he returns to this. Romans 15   30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

Isn’t it true that when you get around people of faith, your faith begins to grow? They believe in a big God and you start believing in a big God! They believe that God’s gonna do great things and you start believing that God’s gonna do great things! They believe that nothing is impossible to God and you start believing that nothing is impossible to God! As a pastor my heart’s desire is to get you to build your life unhesitatingly on the gospel and trust God with the impossible here and at home. Then, I need my faith to grow. Bring your faith to me so that my faith will grow. Many of you have done that for me time and time again.

Application: Do you fuel the faith at Clearview or do you quench it? Are people trusting God more at Clearview because of you or are they trusting God less because of you?

Conclusion: In our time people look at the church as non-essential, just something extra. In fact, it is looked upon as more of a burden than a blessing. I’m thankful for my Clearview Church Family. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my marriage would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my children would be if it wasn’t for this church.

Same goes for you – many of you still have your life together because of this church. Many of you have your marriage together because of this church. Many of you have your children walking with God because of this church. Are you thankful for this church family? Do you belong to this church family? Are you saved

When It’s Hard to be Grateful

WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenitshardtobegratefulThanksgiving is upon us and we often hear things like – “We have so much to be grateful for” or “There’s always something to be thankful for.” Although that’s true, sometimes it’s just hard to be grateful when you are going through a difficult time. So, I want to preach a message titled, “WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE GRATEFUL.”

Psalm 13 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Overall Background: Psalm 13, the psalm we just read, is known as an individual lament. It is the desperate cry to God of one individual who is going through a very difficult time. Who is this individual? If you take the superscription (the first line) “A Psalm of David” as authentic (which I do), then this psalm was written by David. Apparently, David was going through some great trial and suffering and he wrote this psalm as a prayer and a praise to God. What was David going through that was so difficult? We don’t really know the answer to that. Maybe it was when he was running for his life from King Saul. Maybe it was when David and his men were busy fighting the Philistines and the Amalekites had attacked their base camp and taken their wives and children as hostages. Maybe it was when David was fleeing his own son Absalom. We’re not sure exactly what was happening but one thing we know is that David felt like he was dying and there was no one there to save him, not even God.

Question: Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been in a trial when you felt like God was just not coming through? Have you ever cried – “How long O Lord? How long?” Listen carefully: Just because you are saved doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the fiery trials of life. David was saved and yet he felt as if God had abandoned him. It’s easy to praise God and be grateful when things are great. It’s very very difficult to be grateful when things are not great.

Are you going to a difficult time? Has it been hard for you to be grateful? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this psalm. As Joseph Parker, the great Victorian preacher of City Temple Church in London in the late 1800s said, “The psalm begins with winter and ends with summer.”

I. THE PRESSURE OF LIFE 

1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?

Background: The psalm begins with a series of rhetorical questions known as “erotesis.” It means asking questions back-to-back without expecting any answer. Listen again – How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? The Bible is such a true to life book, isn’t it? Many of us have been in a similar situation when we have cried – “What are you doing God?” “Why are you allowing this to go on?” “Can you not change this situation? “Can you not answer my prayer?” “Why do you let my enemies win over me?” Many times people compare the Bible to other religious books. There is no comparison! This book is so real and applicable.

But there’s something more – there’s another figure of speech here known as “anaphora,” which means repeating the same words at the beginning of a series of statements. 1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul…? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? David is really struggling with the time that God is taking to respond. He’s asking – “Why is God just sitting there and watching me suffer?” “If He loves me, why doesn’t He do something?” By the way, there is no mention of sin and need for repentance. This means that this was not some punishment for sin.

Question: How many of y’all have wondered that at some point in your life? If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t He do something about my situation? If I’m not sinning, why is God delaying His answer?

Illustration: When I was going through pain, I remember asking the same questions.

Listen carefully: It’s not a sin to ask that question. Jesus also did from the cross. As he hung on the cross for sins He did not commit. He was paying the penalty of your sins and my sins and the sins of every human being. He was fulfilling what He had agreed to do even before the foundation of the world. Nonetheless, Matthew 27 says in 45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Application: Are you going through a difficult time? Do you know that God understands? Jesus is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” who sympathizes with us. It’s alright to cry before Him? David did. Jesus did.

II. THE PRAYER OF DESPERATION 

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;

Background: Even though David has been praying for a long time and has questioned God for delaying His answer, yet he does not give up on prayer. Instead, he prays again. Unfortunately, when we go through tough times, we stop praying. “Why pray when God is not even going to hear.” This is the time when you should pray all the more. What is interesting to me is that now David refers to God as “my God.” It is personal. One reason God allows us to go through difficult times is to bring us closer to Him.

What does David pray for? “Enlighten my eyes…” Job said the same thing in Job 17:7 “My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow, And all my members are like shadows.” Our greatest need in times of trials is vision. “God help me to see what you see.” From my perspective, it is hopeless. But then he says, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death.” What is at stake? David is so worn out that he thinks it’s going to kill him.

How many of y’all have said that at some time in your life – “This situation is going to kill me.” What’s the answer? Pray.

What else? 4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. One of the hardest things to face is our enemy doing well while we suffer. It is tough to watch the Enemy winning over our lives. By the way, the first enemy is singular and the second is plural. Meaning: We have one “The Enemy” and then we also have many “enemies.”

Once again, Jesus understands this. Listen to the Messianic Psalm 22 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

Application: Are you praying through trials? How are you addressing God? Are you praying for His vision in your desperation? Are you asking God to bring life into your dead situation? Are you reminding Him how the enemy is mocking you?

III. THE PRAISE OF VICTORY 

5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;

Background: Just when you feel as if all hope is gone and there is no sign of God, answer comes. David prayed for vision and God answered him. He always does! But His answer came in a very different way. It doesn’t say that God just removed the problem or that God vanquished David’s enemies. Instead, God changed David’s perspective. He is able to see life in a wholly different way. Now David is not as concerned with God’s power as He is in His mercy, His loving kindness. He understands that God does not owe Him anything. He understands that all he deserves is God’s judgment. Instead, God chooses to be merciful to David.

Many of us have too high a view of ourselves. Trials have a way of humbling us. They have a way of showing us who we really are and what we really deserve.

What’s more – My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Previously, David’s joy was built upon his circumstances. Now, he rejoices in God’s salvation. What is this salvation? It is salvation from sin. It is salvation from self. It is salvation from Satan. It is also salvation from our circumstances. Maybe it has already happened or David is beginning to see the faint light of God’s intervention in his life. We don’t like to wait on God’s timing – Abraham had to wait for 25 years for Isaac to be born. Isaac had to wait for 20 years for his children. Joseph had to wait for 13 years before he became second in command in Egypt. Moses had to wait for 80 years before He could lead God’s people to the Promised Land. Jesus had to wait 33 years before He could do what He came to do.

What is David’s response? 6 “I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Now David breaks out in a song and says – “The Lord has dealt bountifully with me.” Before prayer David felt that he was falling into the sleep of death. He cries out to God in prayer. There is a change in perspective. Now he realizes how merciful God has been to him and all he can say is that “God has dealt bountifully with me.” Meaning: God is better to me than I deserve!

Question: How do you see your life? Do you feel that God is not giving you what you deserve? Do you feel that God is holding out on His best for your life? That is the Enemy’s greatest lie. He used it against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and he still uses it against God’s people, especially when they are going through a difficult time.

Are you facing a tough time? Are you having a tough time praying? Are you saved? If you are saved, then when you can’t pray, the Holy Spirit is there to pray for you.

Romans 8   26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE

THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

THANKSGIVING - AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFEThis is Thanksgiving week and so this morning I am preaching a message from Romans 1, titled – “THANKSGIVING – AN AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE.” Recently, I asked some people, “What things are uniquely American?” I got all kinds of answers – baseball, BBQ, jazz music, blue jeans, and many more. Yet, there is one thing that tops them all. It is “Thanksgiving.”

Rom. 1:18-25  18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Overall Background:  Thanksgiving is a uniquely American phenomenon. There’s nothing like it in any other part of the world. You see harvest festivals and moon festivals but it’s nothing like Thanksgiving in America. You ask – “What’s the difference?” Thanksgiving in America is not about the harvest. It’s not just the celebration by the farmers in America. Everybody from NASA scientists to construction workers to schoolteachers to hospital nurses celebrate Thanksgiving. This coming week, as many as 40 million Americans will travel on or before Thanksgiving Day in order to be with our family and friends.

  • We will sit together, no matter if we get along or not.
  • We will laugh or cry and eat till we pop. We try to tell ourselves that after Thanksgiving we will go back on our diet.
  • Many of us will bow our heads in thanks for the blessings of loved ones, health, job, freedom, and life itself.

Why is Thanksgiving so important in America? Let me first give you some reasons that people think it’s important but they are not the real reasons.

Don't Taste Me Bro!

#1.Let’s throw out the obvious one – Americans hate turkeys. Not true. Let me make a quick point here. It’s all right to eat meat. Some people think that it was not until after the Fall or after the Flood that God gave us permission to eat meat. Not true. In the very first chapter of Genesis, God gave them to us for food. He told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:29 that He had given every herb and every tree for food. In the very next verse (30), He adds that every beast of the earth, every bird of the air, and every thing that creeps on the earth (and earlier He also mentions fish of the sea) are also for food. It helps when you read it in the original language. If you remember, Abel was a shepherd, who brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. Meaning – Right from the beginning, people understood what was the best meat. When God came to visit Abraham, He ate meat. While it’s wonderful to love animals and have them as pets, it’s not wrong to have them for food, just as it’s wonderful to have a potted plant and then eat salad.

If you don’t eat meat, that’s fine. Just don’t think that it’s nobler to abstain from meat.

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe#2.Some people think that it is because the pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” with the Indians and thus set the tradition for generations to come. Not true. It is quite possible that the pilgrims might have celebrated some form of harvest festival with the Native Americans; but the evidence regarding that event comes from barely few fragments, which are not very clear about any grand thanksgiving celebration. Later writers and painters have embellished much of what we have come to think of the “First Thanksgiving.” They are not strong enough motivators for us to take red-eye flights or drive in the dead of night to avoid getting stuck in thanksgiving traffic.

#3.Some people even think that it is because our government has instituted “Thanksgiving Day.” Not really again. It is true that President Washington issued a proclamation that November 26, 1789 be celebrated as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” It is also true that President Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the National day of Thanksgiving and later the Congress passed a law ensuring the celebration of the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day every year. Nevertheless, our moms and grandmas don’t slave over a hot stove for three days in order to comply with some government mandate. It’s not because it’s a National Holiday. After all, most of us Americans don’t take kindly to state sponsored religion.

#4.So, what is the real reason? Is it the food? Is it the family? Is it the urge for us to shop till we drop on “Black Friday?” I don’t think so.

While there is some truth in all of them, I think the reason is much deeper. The real reason we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is because deep in our psyche we know that all we are and all we have is from above. Somehow we know that we don’t deserve this. Somehow we know that God is the source of all our blessings. Somehow we know that God in His goodness either carried us to the finish line or moved the finish line a little closer for us. Somehow God has brought us through difficult times as a nation and continues to guide us. Somehow we know that there is a divine hand that is guiding our lives and our nation – what Ravi Zacharias calls the “Grand Weaver.”

Let me clarify:

–       This does not mean that every person sitting around the dinner table will be choking back tears of gratitude.

–       This does not mean that every person who is grateful will have the same level of gratefulness.

–       This does not mean that people in other parts of the world are unappreciative and ungrateful.

–       This does not mean that other people don’t recognize some sovereign deity.

–       This does not mean that every American is a Christian.

–       This does not mean that God is okay with our sin and immorality.

What it does mean is that Americans, as a people, recognize that God has been good and gracious towards us, even though we don’t deserve it. That makes God happy. It pleases Him when we are thankful to Him.

Let’s look at Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Background: Some people read that passage and immediately think that every sinner is under the wrath of God. Listen again to that verse – The wrath of God is over all those who suppress (hinder, block, hold down) the truth of God. They know better but they do it anyways. Now don’t get me wrong—we are all born “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are all hell bound. We are all sinners with a sin nature.

David says in Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Paul says in Romans 5:19 “. . . by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners . . .” Every person who comes into this world comes with a sin nature. Every sinner has a judgment waiting for him/her. Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”

But the wrath of God is something much more. Romans 1:18 is not just about any sinner. It’s about the boastful, arrogant, defiant sinner, who shakes his/her fist towards heaven. Listen to verse 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

God has given us enough reasons to know that He is there and He made it all and all that we have is a gift from Him.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Sky for centuries and know that someone made them and put them there. Night Sky1One of the French revolutionaries boasted to a peasant, “We are going to pull down all that reminds you of God.” To which the peasant replied, “Then, you better pull down the stars.”

–       Human Beings have been looking at the Earth for centuries: perfect distance from the sun; any closer and it would be too hot; any further and it would be too cold. Any closer and all the water would boil away; any further and all water will freeze. Any smaller and oxygen will leave and we would have no atmosphere; any larger and poisonous chemicals will stay in our atmosphere. God made it just right.

–       Human Beings have been looking at the beautiful creation around them for centuries—the beautiful trees and flowers; beautiful animals and birds and sea creatures.

–       Human Beings have been looking at each other for centuries. How complex and beautiful are human beings. Our human heart beats 100,000 times a day. That comes to about 2,500 million times over 70 years. It pumps enough blood in a lifetime to fill the Empire State building. The heart is a maintenance-free pump that can function throughout life without replacing any parts.

Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving

We as Americans have recognized this and we also know that the reason we stand as a nation is by the grace of God:

–       Our National motto is “In God We Trust.”

–       The 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner says: “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

–       The 4th stanza of My Country ‘Tis of Thee says: “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.”

–       Our Pledge of Allegiance still says that we are “One Nation Under God.”

Why do I bring all this up? Because as long as we are grateful to the Almighty God for all our blessings, there is still hope for us as a nation. As long as the Spirit of Gratitude towards God abides in us, the Spirit of God abides upon us.

What happens to the people that refuse to acknowledge God? Listen to verse 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,  23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,  25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

When people ask me if America’s glory days are over, I remind them to keep their eyes on Thanksgiving Day. As long as Thanksgiving remains a part of the American way of life, we are still a “shining city upon a hill.”

Application: Are you thankful for the blessing of living in this nation? Are you thankful? For your blessings (material, health, family)?

For e.g. Sometime back I was sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. Suddenly, the door leading to the inside opened and I heard this heavy breathing. I saw a social worker or home healthcare nurse, holding this young man by the arm and leading him. Even though he was walking on his own, he could not control his movements/motor skills. I jumped up and opened the door leading out of the waiting room into the hallway. As I walked back to my seat, the lady sitting next to Nicole and me said – “We have so much to be thankful for. We take so much for granted.”

There is something much greater than material and physical blessings. It is the blessing of hope, forgiveness, and peace through Jesus Christ.

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