A Thanksgiving Reflection


Today is Thanksgiving Day in America.  A day that is for the most part a celebration of our history as a nation, (although very dimly remembered) and all that is good and right about America.  This is not to say that America is without blemish for we surely have fallen in many instances, and continue to fail to uphold the ideals which our forefathers envisioned.  Nevertheless today is a day of giving thanks for the lives we have and the many attendant blessings, whether we use that particular word or not.

In the midst of this time of reflection I wonder though about the many Americans who increasingly disavow God.  If current studies are accurate and the latest statistics can be believed, Americans are becoming more secular and less religious in significant numbers.  This has a direct bearing on our ability to see life as precious and worthy of our best efforts.

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A Thanksgiving Prayer – Prayers of John Wesley

John Wesley

“Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them for His sake- not choosing nor refusing, liking or disliking, anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will.”

John Wesley, How To Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer

The Dying Prayer of St. Athanasius

The title of this prayer of Athanasius notwithstanding, here is a prayer for all the days of our lives.  May the Lord bless you all today.


St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

Thou art Jesus, the Son of the Father, Yea, Amen.

Thou art He who commandeth the Cherubim and the Seraphim, Yea, Amen.

Thou hast existed with the Father in truth always, Yea. Amen.

Thou rulest the Angels, Yea, Amen.

Thou art the power of the Heavens, Yea, Amen.

Thou art the crown of the Martyrs, Yea, Amen.

Thou art the deep counsel of the Saints, Yea, Amen.

Thou art He in whom the deep counsel of the Father is hidden, Yea, Amen.

Thou art the mouth of the Prophets, Yea, Amen.

Thou art the tongue of the Angels, Yea, Amen.

Thou art Jesus my Life, Yea, Amen.

Thou art Jesus the object and boast of the world, Yea, Amen.

A.W.T. Budge, Coptic Homilies in the Dialect of Upper Egypt, The Dying Prayer of St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, pp. 1012-1020. 

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service

So then, each one of us shall give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:12

Although not as prevalent as they once were, I still occasionally see signs posted in store windows that say, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.”  The meaning is clear – please dress appropriately when entering this establishment for the purpose of conducting business. This idea is carried to lofty heights in finer restaurants that proudly display signs that proclaim, “Jacket and tie required.”

Reminders of requirements are not a bad thing and I think Christians and churches could learn something from this principle.  Perhaps churches could display a sign that reads, “No riding on coat-tails allowed.”  For those unfamiliar with the phrase “riding on coat-tails”, it is a simple way of saying you must do things for yourself and not expect to meet requirements based on someone else meeting them for you.

The Apostle Paul told the Christians residing in Rome that each one of them would give an account of himself to God.  This is a good reminder that each individual must enter into a saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  No one is saved because their father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandfather, or grandmother was or is saved. There is no such thing as coattail salvation.

Since salvation is an individual issue, a number of clear implications arise. (1) Church membership does not save you.  Salvation is the result of an individual profession and possession of faith. (2) Baptism does not save you. Since it is something engaged in after profession and possession it cannot be responsible for that which it is a demonstration of. (3) Each person will give an account of their life and will be fully responsible for how they lived. (4) No individual will be permitted to play the “blame game” before the throne of God. Blaming your parents or employer may work in this world but it won’t work in eternity.

Friends, it is important that you take full responsibility for your life.  The day is coming when every person will have to do that. Don’t get caught attempting to ride someone else’s coattails into eternity.

These are transforming truths.

Use The Law

“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” 1 Timothy 1:8

Modern techniques for sharing the Christian faith utilize a wide range of approaches.  Unfortunately, the one approach Christians should use is largely ignored. I want to believe this oversight is out of ignorance, not knowing that the biblically prescribed method for evangelizing is to actually share with the unbeliever what God’s Word has to say about their spiritual condition, and the standard by which they will be judged if they remain in that condition.

Sadly I don’t think that is the case in far too many instances.  Instead of sharing the biblically prescribed method of sharing God’s mercy and grace in salvation, many Christians think it best to present the Gospel in a beautifully gift wrapped package comprised of exhortations to understand that God loves them so much and wants to bless them with a bountiful, abundant life. This well-intentioned, though misinformed advertisement for God is usually accompanied by a smiling “God wants you to have your best life now” promotion. Is this the biblical method of evangelism?

Friends, it is not.  The starting place for any conversation with an unbeliever is God’s Word and what it says about unbelief and eternal judgment. From there you must address the truth that apart from faith in God every unbeliever is trying to earn their salvation by their own deeds.  Finally, the unbeliever must understand that God’s Word says no one is righteous by their own deeds (Romans 3).

So how must we go about sharing the Christian faith with unbelievers?  What does the biblically mandated method include?  For one thing it includes telling the unbeliever about God’s Law.  Why the Law? The great reformer Martin Luther said this of the Law of God: “In its true and proper work and purpose it humbles a man and prepares him – if he uses the Law correctly – to yearn and seek for grace.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy to “use the Law lawfully.” What does that mean? It means that we are to use the Law for its intended purpose.  What is the intended purpose of the Law? The Bible tells us that the Law is meant to be a tutor, leading us to faith in Christ. Other passages speak of the Law as a mirror that shows us what sin really is and having performed that task to shut up every mouth that tries to justify sinful behavior (Romans 3).

The problems with forsaking the biblical method of evangelism are myriad.  First, what will you do when the “God offers you happiness” approach comes up against someone who professes happiness already?  What will you say to the one who already has a good marriage, well-behaved children, a fabulous job, and a general sense of well-being with their life?

Second, how does offering someone happiness if they will believe in God cleanse them of their sin?  And how can anyone possibly be forgiven of their sin without repentance? The “God offers you happiness” approach to evangelism is simply unbiblical and results in false converts every time.

Friends, too much is at stake to be worrying about offending anyone with the truth of God’s Word concerning unbelief.  We should not become so preoccupied with how people will respond to our concern for their eternal destiny that we attempt to soften the biblical description of their predicament.

The Law of God was given to identify sin and to make the sinner understand that they are personally responsible before a holy God.  In the understanding of sin’s nature however come a broken heart and a repentance that leads to the cross of Jesus.

It is at the cross where transformation occurs. Oh what a glorious truth!