The real Thanksgiving

Published 5:46 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. (Romans 1:21)

I know what you’re thinking. That the first Thanksgiving involved pilgrims and turkey and other stuff(ing).

I’ve got news for you: the real first Thanksgiving (on record) happened not hundreds but thousands of years ago. Here’s how it went:

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At harvest time Cain brought to the LORD a gift of his farm produce, while Abel brought several choice lambs from the best of his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering. This made Cain very angry and dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” (Genesis 4:3-6)

One thanksgiving, two men, two offerings, and two totally different reactions. The Lord was looking for both of them to realize who was God and who was not, so He invented the first thanksgiving by asking them to bring an offering to praise Him.

There are many theories behind why God rejected Cain’s offering, but the point is that there was obviously a mind-set problem with him that didn’t set well with the Lord. Abel, however, gave his offering with a grateful heart, which is why God smiled back at him.

This is the time of year where we reflect on life and respond with being thankful, but let’s not forget that God cares very much about the attitude behind the gratitude.

So the main question you need to ask yourself this weekend is: am I more like Cain, or Abel?

Here’s what Thanksgiving would look like for Cain:

He gets up, and is mainly looking forward to completely gorging himself on free food. He is thankful for a few days off from school or work, but mainly because he likes to be lazy. At the table, he wants to be served first, and when it comes time praise God before the meal, his mind wanders to what is going on with the football game or getting together with friends later.

After the meal, his family gathers to have a time of sharing about things for which they are thankful. He is annoyed that he’s stuck with a family that has to do such cheesy things, and wishes he didn’t have to follow any rules.

Eventually the day ends, and finally he utters a quick prayer to God, thanking Him for…what was it again? Oh yeah, all the cool stuff he has.

That kind of thanksgiving is like wax fruit in a bowl my friend. It looks real on the outside, but in reality it is fake and useless, and that is why God rejects it.

Abel on the other hand, remembers that even the very air he breathes is a gift from God. He knows that if there is anything good in his life, it is directly from the hand of God. So his focus this weekend is take the energy he would normally devote to school and/or work, and direct it towards thanking God and serving others. So he is quick to help set the table and clean up afterwards, he is intentional in listening to others, and active in participating in the family traditions. At the end of the day he makes a list of all the blessings of God and thanks Jesus for each and every one of them.

Heartfelt thankfulness has an amazing effect. It gives us hope, turns our eyes on Jesus, and protects us from sin.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with anything, start with this list:

I AM . . .

1.      A Child of God (Romans 8:16)

2.      Redeemed from the Hand of the Enemy (Psalm 107:2)

3.      Forgiven (Colossians 1:13,14)

4.      Saved by Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:8)

5.      Justified (Romans 5:1)

6.      Sanctified (I Corinthians 6:11)

7.      A New Creature (II Corinthians 5:17)

8.      Partaker of His Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4)

9.      Redeemed from the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)

10.     Delivered from the Powers of Darkness (Colossians 1:13)

11.     Led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14)

12.     A Son of God (Romans 8:74)

13.     Kept in Safety Wherever I Go (Psalm 91:11)

14.     Getting All My Needs Met by Jesus (Philippians 4:19)

15.     Casting All My Cares on Jesus (I Peter 5:7)

16.     Strong in the Lord and in the Power of His Might (Ephesians 6:10)

17.     Doing All Things through Christ Who Strengthens Me (Philippians 4:13)

18.     An Heir of God and a Joint Heir with Jesus (Romans 8:17)

19.     Heir to the Blessings of Abraham (Galatians 3:13, 14)

20.     Observing and Doing the Lord’s Commandments (Deuteronomy 28:I2)

21.     Blessed Coming in and Blessed Going out (Deuteronomy 28:6)

22.     An Heir of Eternal Life (I John 5:11, 12)

23.     Blessed with All Spiritual Blessings (Ephesians 1:3)

24.     Healed by His Stripes (I Peter 2:24)

25.     Exercising My Authority over the Enemy (Luke 10:19)

26.     Above Only and Not Beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13)

27.     More than a Conqueror (Romans 8:37)

28.     Establishing God’s Word Here on Earth (Matthew 16:19)

29.     An Overcomer by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of My Testimony (Revelation 12:11)

30.     Daily overcoming the Devil (I John 4:4)

31.     Not Moved by What I See (II Corinthians 4:18)

32.     Walking by Faith and Not by Sight (II Corinthians 5:7)

33.     Casting Down Vain Imaginations (II Corinthians 10:4, 5)

34.     Bringing Every Thought into Captivity (II Corinthians 10:5)

35.     Being Transformed by Renewing My Mind (Romans 12:1, 2)

36.     A Laborer Together with God (I Corinthians 5:21)

37.     The Righteousness of God in Christ (II Corinthians 5:21)

38.     An Imitator of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1)

39.     The Light of the World (Matthew 5:14)

40.     Blessing the Lord at All Times and Continually Praising the Lord with My Mouth (Psalm 34:1)

(Source unknown.)

And by the way, whom does an atheist thank at Thanksgiving?