Thanksgiving Is …

Thanksgiving
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Thanksgiving is so much more than a one day holiday for people to express thanks. God’s Word describes thanksgiving in ways that suggest it be an on-going occurrence, an attitude of the heart, a way of life.

According to the Bible, Thanksgiving is . . .

  • an offering to the Lord (Lev. 7:13, 15)
  • an accompaniment of praise (Ezra 3:11; Neh. 12:24, 46; Ps. 69:30; 100:4)
  • a means of glorifying the Lord (Ps. 69:30; 2 Cor. 4:15)
  • a melodious refrain (Neh. 12:8, 27, 46; Jer. 30:19; Isa. 51:3)
  • a way to come before the Lord (Ps. 95:2; 100:4; Phil. 4:6)
  • a reaction evoked in others to your good deeds (2 Cor. 4:15; 9:11)
  • a character trait in His people (Eph. 5:4)
  • a form of prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)
  • a response to the Creator for His goodness (1 Tim. 4:3-4)

Giving thanks is so much more than words of gratitude. We can express our gratitude and appreciation to God in a variety of ways that include our words but also our attitudes and actions.

“Thanksgiving” in the Bible

Thanksgiving in the Bible

The Bible uses the word “thanksgiving” only 25 times (in the NIV), although you will find many other instances with the base word “thank.”  Below is a recap of the 25 uses with the Scripture references provided.

In the Bible “thanksgiving” is not about a meal with all the trimmings in which we indulge, although there was a “fellowship offering of thanksgiving” (Lev. 7:13,15) in the Old Testament and a “cup of thanksgiving” in the New Testament of Jesus’ blood shed on our behalf. (1 Cor. 10:16)

“Thanksgiving,” in the Bible, is not a holiday celebration, although joyful singing, shouting, and praising God accompanies it. (Ezra 3:11; Neh. 11:17; 12:8; 12:24, 27, 46; Ps. 42:4; 69:30; 95:2; 147:7; Isa. 51:3; Jer. 30:19; Jonah 2:9)

The biblical use of “thanksgiving” is not a once a year occurrence but rather a regular expression of praise to God, a way of life. (Eph. 5:4; Phil. 4:6)

In the Bible “thanksgiving” is not merely sitting around saying what you are thankful for but also being used by God to cause others to overflow in thanksgiving.  (1 Cor. 14:16; 2 Cor. 4:15; 9:11)

Nor does the Bible describe “thanksgiving” as mere expressions of thanks for what or who you are glad for but rather is to be made for everyone and everything.  (1 Tim. 2:1; 4:3-4)

The Bible does not describe “thanksgiving” as a time to get together with family and friends but even better an opportunity to go into the presence of the Almighty God.  (Ps. 95:2; 100:4)

The holiday rendition of “Thanksgiving” has merit but falls short of the biblical use of the word.  Let’s remember to give thanks at all times (Eph. 5:20) and in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).  And let’s remember to top the list of that for which we are grateful with Jesus.  — “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

How interesting that the Greek word for “thanksgiving” is “eucharistia” from which we get the word “eucharist” which is used of communion wherein the bread and wine remind us of that indescribable gift.

Prepare for the Holidays: A Time to Reach Out to Others

Happy Holidays

The holidays are a good time to reach out to people.  Though outreach efforts should extend throughout the entire year, the holidays do present unique opportunities.   According to Ephesians 5:15-16 we act wisely when we make “the most of every opportunity.”
Reach Out to The Unsaved:  A Good Time to Share the Good News

Prepare for people to visit your church who rarely attend church and do not have have a personal relationship with the Lord.  They could be unsaved family or friends of regular attendees.  They could be people who respond to an advertisement to a special program at your church.  Make sure the Gospel message is clearly presented.  Extend a warm welcome and invitation to return.  Develop some form of follow-up that is unobtrusive yet shows you care.

Christmas Outreach Ideas and Resources

Reach Out to Those Who Struggle:  A Good Time to Show the Love of Christ

Prepare to serve one another.  As you approach the holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas, remember that there are those in your midst who can’t be with family and are lonely.  1 Peter 4:9 says we should offer hospitality to one another.  Make sure these people aren’t left alone.  Others who have lost loved ones frequently find the holidays to be a depressing time.  1 Thessalonians 4:18 says we should comfort one another.  Some people may be unemployed or in financial distress and need a helping hand.  Galatians 5:13 says we should serve one another, part of which may be helping to supply their needs.  Finally, there are those who are suffering extraordinary stress at this time due to overtaxed schedules, increased demands at work, or any variety of reasons.  James 5:16 says we should pray for one another.  Let’s not get so self-absorbed over the holidays that we forget to show the love of Christ to others.  Build margins of time into your schedule so you can be available.

Helps for People Who Hurt During the Holidays (scroll down in About tab on that page)

Reach Out to Children:  A Good Time to Set Understanding

Prepare your children for understanding the real meaning behind the holidays.  Getting gifts quickly tops their list of why they like the holidays.  Help them focus their attention on Jesus who came to give, not to take.  Help them see Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.  Realize, however, that a few well-spoken words during the season will have minimal impact if they are not backed up throughout the year.

Ideas and Resources for Teaching Children about Thanksgiving

Ideas and Resources for Teaching Children about Christmas

Reach Out to Ministry Leaders, Teachers, & Other Workers:  A Good Time to Say Thank You

Prepare to show appreciation to those who labor among you.  The holidays can be especially busy for people in ministry.  This can therefore be a good time of the year to encourage them, to let teachers, leaders, and other workers know they are valued.  Remember, however, that they need affirmation and appreciation throughout the year as well.

Helps for People in Ministry During the Holidays

Prepare for the Holidays: Dealing with the Effects

The Effects on The Heart

How easy it is in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to neglect or become distracted in our walk with the Lord. We can get so consumed with meal planning and preparation, decorating, parties, shopping, church activities, and the like that it preoccupies our thought life, builds anxieties within us, leads to stress, and pulls us from normal routines.

Prepare your heart. Before you get in the throes of it all, make a plan for how you will keep on track.  Commit now to keeping Him first, to making time for Him regardless of how busy you get.  Take time to read Matthew 6:33-34.  What will you do to nurture your walk with God?

Article:  So Much of … Everything but Jesus Over the Holidays

Prepare your people.  Hebrews 10:24 exhorts us to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  The holidays are no exception for exercising the “one another” passages of Scripture.  You could help by using a curriculum over the holidays intended to keep us focused.  Click on the titles below to read more about two published by Ministry Tools Resource Center for adult classes.

Curriculum:  Christmas Reminders
Curriculum:  May Jesus Help Our Christmas

The Effects on Church Life

Prepare yourself as a teacher or ministry leader.  Be ready for the effects of the holidays on people.  Remember that people need you to be there for them, not just physically but relationally as well.  During the holidays it is easy to get distracted and self-absorbed and neglect important relationships.  Remember the effects of  holidays on attendance, giving, and other areas.  Be prepared for it but don’t get discouraged.  Make the most of the season.

Article:  Holidays and the Church
Worksheet:  Intruders in the Classroom: Holidays & Other Special Events

A Thanksgiving Acrostic

God’s Word exhorts us to give thanks for everything (Eph. 5:20) and everyone (1 Tim. 2:1), in everything we do (Col. 3:17) and in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18).  We are to be overflowing with thanksgiving (Col. 2:7).  — Really, it’s easy when you start thinking about our great God, His unfailing love, and wonderful deeds (Ps. 107:8; 136:1-3).

Here’s an acrostic using the word THANKSGIVING to help us reflect on reasons God’s Word gives us to be thankful.

Truth as it is found in God’s Word
(Ps. 119:62)
Harvest, physical and spiritual
(2 Cor. 9:10-11)
Answers to prayer
(Ps. 118:21; Jn. 11:41; 2 Cor. 1:11; Phil. 4:6)
Nature
(Rom. 1:20-21)
Kingdom of God that is unshakable
(Heb. 12:28)
Strength from the Lord
(Ps. 28:7; 1 Tim. 1:12)
Goodness & Grace of the Lord
(Ps. 106:1; 1 Tim. 4:4; 1 Cor. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:15; 9:14-15)
Identity in God
(Ps. 95:2-7; 118:28)
Victory over Sin through Jesus Christ
(Rom. 7:25; 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 2:14)
Inheritance yet to come
(Heb. 13:14-15; Rev. 11:17)
Name of the Lord
(1 Chron. 16:35; Ps. 69:30; 75:1)
God Himself
(Ps. 95:2-3; 100:4-5; 118:28)

I encourage you to take some time to read the Scripture in the above acrostic and reflect on these blessings this Thanksgiving.

What Are You Thankful For?

The intent of Thanksgiving is to express gratitude.  So, what are you thankful for?  — A home?  A job?  A family and friends?

This thanksgiving, be mindful of the fact that not everybody has a a place they can call their own.  Not everybody has a reliable source of income.  Some have lost people they love.

And, just because you now have a home, job, family and friends, doesn’t mean you will tomorrow.    What will you be thankful for then?

As I read through the psalms I noticed how the psalmist’s thanksgiving went beyond material blessings.  Notice in the following verses how his praise or thanksgiving was wrapped up in the person of God –who He is and what He has done.

Ps. 75:1 – We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks, for Your Name is near; men tell of Your wonderful deeds.

Ps. 92:1-4 – It is good to praise the LORD and make music to Your name, O Most High, … For You make me glad by Your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of Your hands.

Ps. 97:12 – Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise His holy name.

Ps. 107:1 – Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Ps. 107:8 – Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men.

Ps. 118:29 – Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.

Ps. 119:62 – At midnight I rise to give You thanks for Your righteous laws.

Let me put out the challenge that this Thanksgiving we keep our focus our great God, on the fullness of who He is, instead of looking at what we do or don’t have.  When we are most thankful for Him, we will, like the Apostle Paul, learn to be content “in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”