(Image courtesy of http://www.goharvestmarket.com.)
"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
the wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
sing praises to His Name, He forgets not His own. 
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning:
Thou, Lord wast at our side--the glory be Thine! 
We all do extol Thee, Thou leader in battle,
and pray that Thou still our defender wilt be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised; O Lord, make us free!" (We Gather Together, Anonymous).
Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching - faster this year than years prior, it seems.

The Bible tells us to "be joyful always" and "give thanks continually in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18).  But why?

First of all, it is important to remember that thankfulness isn't found in an object; thankfulness, instead, is an attitude; a disposition of the heart.

The question, then, is how do I create this attitude?  The answer is two-fold.

First, we must remember who we are.

We are created beings.  We did not create ourselves, nor do we sustain ourselves.  All that I am depends on Someone else.  I would do well to remember my frailty.

Several years ago, I was driving on the highway, when I witnessed a bird fly into the car in front of me.  In dramatic fashion, the bird rolled on the ground, stopped, and was lifeless.  Immediately I was struck with how quickly that bird's life was ended.  So it is with me.  I am a created being, much like the bird.  I am weak and death awaits me at (possibly) every turn.

Much worse, I am also a natural-born sinner.  Sinners deserve one thing: death.  I deserve eternal evil for the cosmic treason I have committed against a holy God.  While discussing the fear of God, A.W. Tozer says, "[the fear of God is to] be gripped by that nameless terror which results when an unholy creature is suddenly confronted by that One who is the holiest of all."  How small, frail, weak, and wretched am I, seen especially in contrast to the holy God of all the universe.

Second, we must remember who is the Giver of all good things.

God is the giver of all things by His grace.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good.  He causes His rain to fall on the good and the bad.  He causes His Spirit to be given to sinners, in order that they might be born again.  God owns everything!  He made everything!  It is completely up to Him to decide what He does with what He owns.  As a result, He is the only being to have a completely free will.

When we realize who we are and how God treats us, we see that He is gracious, loving, kind, and good - even to unrepentant sinners.  And "since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God" (Romans 5:9).  Paul is saying, "If God shows His kindness to sinners, how much more will He show kindness to His children!"  Therefore, we are a joyful people, for God is not only our Provider, but He is our "Abba!  Father!" (Romans 8:15).

Finally, if you were to ask me for a cup of water, and I were to provide you with one, you would (hopefully) say, "Thank you."  Now, imagine you were in the desert and hadn't had a drink of water for an entire day, and then I gave you a cup of water.  You would not only respond with words, but with an attitude of exceeding joy and heartfelt gratitude.

As we gather together this year, let us remember who we are and who our Provider is truly.  How much different our thanks would be if we did!

Happy Thanksgiving!

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God..." (A Proclamation of Thanksgiving, President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863).