Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - God Loves Us

In just a couple of weeks, families and friends will be gathering together to celebrate a day that we set aside to give thanks for all of the blessings we have received. That day, Thanksgiving, gives us an opportunity to reflect on those wonderful gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us and continues to give us.

Thanksgiving Day and the days leading up to that day are steeped in tradition. Families will be invited to attend plays put on by their children re-enacting the first Thanksgiving celebrated by those who came to America seeking religious freedom. Children will dress up like Pilgrims and Native Americans and come together to enjoy a feast celebrating the bountiful harvest that God had provided. Children will make funny little paper turkeys by tracing their hands on brown construction paper. Each will be unique like the little hand that was its model. Each will be decorated and proudly displayed on refrigerators.

Upon that glorious day, people will be roasting turkeys and cooking pumpkin pies, green bean casseroles, stuffing and all sorts of other goodies. After the meal, many will gather around the television to watch football games. Many will begin preparations for the sales on Black Friday which is the official kickoff for the Christmas season shopping.

From growing up in a small home in Texas, the memories and traditions of Thanksgiving Day and the days before it flood my mind and heart. But, as the years have worn on, I have seen the day change. We sometimes forget the first feast and its true meaning. We have turned the day of reflection and giving thanks into a day of gorging on food and buying. More and more retail stores open earlier and earlier so that they can capitalize on the buying frenzy. There will be stories of people trampling and fighting others in order to purchase a video game or yet another cheap television for another room in the house.

The memories and traditions that we used to share have become socially unacceptable and have led us away from unity as a people that shared everything when things were bad. We have given up our desire to be thankful for what we have and replaced it with lists of things we want and desire. What happened to the true reason of that special day?

We seem more like spoiled children rather than people who should be thankful for the blessings that we have received. We have forgotten the sacrifices of those who have struggled to provide for their posterity and the generations to follow a land of milk and honey. The acts of those people have been relegated to the backwater of history and, in some cases, denied as being politically incorrect.

One tradition that my family still follows to this day is the remembrance of the five kernels of corn. Although there is no historical basis for this tradition, it is still a wonderful way to teach our children about the true nature of Thanksgiving Day. We are to be thankful for everything and to remember the struggles of those who came before us to seek the freedom to worship. 

According to tradition, the Pilgrims had to ration their food. Each received a meager daily ration of five small kernels of corn to eat. Each was thankful for those small kernels. With the help of their new friends, the Native Americans, the Pilgrims were able to harvest a crop and have more than enough food. They shared their bounty with their new friends and thanked God not only for their new friends but also for His blessings and His love. 

During the course of the feast, tradition or myth tells us that five kernels of corn were placed on their plates to remind them of their struggles, love for one another and, most importantly, their love for God. Each kernel was given a meaning.

The first kernel reminded them that God loved them so very much. It was only through His love and watchful presence that they were able to live through the long voyage and harsh winter. No matter how hard they struggled, God was there to love them and see them through the darkest of times.

In the book and prophecies of Nahum, the prophet, in chapter one, writes, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.

The Lord is good to those who seek Him and He remains close to those who place their trust in Him. Nahum also reminds us that God will destroy those who scheme against Him. We can either trust and obey Him or we can suffer the consequences of our disobedience.

The psalmist writes, in chapter twenty-three, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

Everything we receive comes from God and out of His love for us. Even when we have become disobedient, ungrateful children, God still loves us and provides a way back to Him. When we decided that we didn’t need God, He still remained there ready to receive us back like the one lost sheep that strayed from the fold. 

It is not enough to just be thankful for a single day and then go about our daily lives. We should be thankful that God loves us each day of our lives. We may struggle and have to make sacrifices, but God is there to show us the way out of that valley of darkness. He will never forsake us or leave us. 

When I feel overwhelmed by life and feel beaten down, I remember the words of the apostle Paul. Paul, writes in his second letter to those in Corinth, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

As my family and I look at the first kernel and remember that God loves us, I know that His grace is sufficient and that it is only through my weakness and reliance upon His strength that I can make it through the valley of darkness. It is only through His love and bounty that I know my cup will overflow and that I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

These simple, yet powerful, words guide my steps daily. I am thankful for each beat of my heart, breath that I take and for those that God has brought into my life. It is hard to believe that one simple yellow kernel of corn can teach us a valuable lesson. 

There is another small seed that also teaches us a lesson. Jesus, in chapter seventeen of the Gospel of Matthew, tells his disciples this after they were unsuccessful in driving a demon out of a small boy, “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

Let both seeds teach us the lessons of God’s love for us and about our faith. Do not allow this season of thanksgiving to be just another holiday. Start with this one seed and allow it to grow in your heart. As it grows and yields its harvest, you can rest assured that you can stand firm in His grace.    

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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