Psalm 42:1 tells us, “As the hart (deer) panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” I write these thoughts from a deer stand as I watch the beginning of another beautiful East Texas day. Some folks across the country think that East Texans don’t appreciate nature because we hunt, fish, and cut trees, but for most of us, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am thankful for the natural beauty we are surrounded by every day. Psalm 8:8-9 says, “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” Of course, in a perfect world I could do without so many wild pigs. Oh, and scorpions— and mosquitoes. How can I ever forget waterbugs? My wife said tearfully in her first encounter indoors with a waterbug, “They said everything is bigger in Texas, but that is ridiculous!” Well, you get the picture.
When I first moved to Jefferson over twelve years ago, I struggled with thankfulness. I knew very few people, and I often longed for my old home. My problem was that I tended to only look at the bad stuff. Do you ever struggle with the place God has you? He knows best what you and I need; we just need to trust Him.
We may not have the fantastic fall foliage of areas north and east of us, but we have a lot of beautiful sights here in Marion County. It is worthy of a prayer of thanksgiving lifted from even a hunting stand on a lovely fall weekend. Psalm 116:12 says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” This is a great verse to live by for the believer. During this season of Thanksgiving, we should be thankful to God for all that He has done for us. I want to think specifically about being thankful for God’s mercy.
Psalm 107:1 says, “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” God has shown mercy to me many times. I think specifically about the time when I was in college. I was a typical college kid, staying up late and trying to make the most of my days. I was driving down Interstate 65 in central Indiana to meet my parents for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. I was approaching the exit for Columbus, Indiana—not to be confused with Columbus, TX, Columbus, OH or any other Columbus. How I remember this exit so well is that it is unique with an arch. It is not a huge one like St. Louis, but it still makes their exit very distinct. I was looking at this arch while approaching, and that was the last thing I remember. I would prefer to not mention how fast I was going at this time—my kids will probably read this and I had rather they did not hear! I was driving in the fast lane with the cruise control on when I fell asleep. So sound asleep that I was actually dreaming and thought I was home in bed. What woke me up suddenly was the rumble strips making their “bump-bump, bump, bump” noise. I had crossed both lanes of traffic and was all the way off the road.
If I had stayed asleep a couple of seconds longer, I would have hit the Columbus bridge and probably gone out into eternity. I would have never gotten married, I would have never had children, I would have never moved to Jefferson to have the privilege to minister these past twelve years. I give credit to the mercy of God! Psalm 105 tells us to make known God’s mighty works to all the people, and I give full credit to God for saving my life that day. Since that day, every time I drive past this exit, I bow my head and thank God for His mercy. Of course, when I am driving, I do not bow my head for long! I hope you get the picture—that arch in Columbus is a monument of God’s mercy to me.
What is your monument? All of us have them, and I pray that this will jog your memory this Thanksgiving to revisit your own personal monuments of mercy. Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year, but both commercially and culturally it is the most ignored. It is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, the most lucrative seasons. Turkeys are not the most romantic birds (understatement of the year), so not much appeals to the advertisers and stores. For many, Thanksgiving represents a time to be off work, stuff themselves with food, and watch football or shop. This is most unfortunate, because thankfulness is truly needed in our lives. Because of the hubbub surrounding Halloween, it is my guess that most of my readers have thought very little about Thanksgiving, and I want to spend the next few weeks putting it back into our minds. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Are you thankful? We have so much as Americans to be thankful for. Next week we will go to the voting booths and cast a vote for the party and candidate of our choice, and we have the freedom to do so. We are blessed with a nation of freedom to vote and choose our own way. I am thankful to be an American.
As a Christian, the thing I am most thankful for is salvation. Psalm 34:2 says, The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.” With salvation I get eternal life, a home in heaven, a new body, and a Heavenly Father--all in one package! That is something worth being thankful for. Everything else in my life is secondary to my Christian faith. I John 5:12 says, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
If you are not a Christian, you are missing out on the greatest blessing in all the world. You might disagree, but you only do so because you have never experienced Christ living in your heart. I have a wonderful wife, six great kids, parents that love me, and a job I love, but all of these pale in comparison to salvation. Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”
John Newton penned the famous words, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I am found-- was blind, but now I see.” This enduring truth is what I am most thankful for. This Thanksgiving season, let’s flip the script in our homes, and instead of treating Thanksgiving indifferently, let’s truly show thankfulness for all the blessings that we have.