Thanksgiving is an American staple, and yet so few people are truly thankful to the one Person Who matters. Even Christians find it very easy to worship themselves with their cranberry jelly than truly offer their feast to God for His honor and glory. Therefore, it’s a perfect time to join AMBrewster as he provides us a plan to keep God at the center of our Thanksgiving celebration.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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I like to share a personal tidbit every ten episodes or so, but I managed to share one of my favorites last time.
Both my wife and I are descendants of William and Mary Brewster, two of the Mayflower pilgrims. And — though we love all Thanksgivings — 2021 will be the 400th anniversary of our family’s celebration of Thanksgiving.
But, since that was a repeat, I’ll share that I have moved 22 times in my life. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that on this podcast. In Chronological order, I have lived in South Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. I’ve lived in multiple houses in each of those states, and — in the case of Illinois, Michigan, and North Carolina, my family and I moved away from the state only to move back to it at a later date.
Currently, my family and I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with my father and mother. We’ve been here a year, and — let me tell you — the multi-generational home has been pretty fantastic.
On Truth.Love.Parent. I plan to cover the pros and cons and opportunities for maturity that multi-generational homes provide. So, if you’re a parent, I would encourage you to subscribe to Truth.Love.Parent., and — of course — if you’re listening today, you should subscribe to The Celebration of God and follow us on Facebook and Instagram so that you can have regular reminders to worship God in our every-day lives.
So, head over to CelebrationOfGod.com, download today’s free episode notes, read past transcripts, and do it all for the honor and glory of God.
On our last episode we discussed the importance of taking time to intentionally Prepare for a different Thanksgiving celebration this year.
The Celebration of God discipleship experience is the result of God working in my life over the course of fifteen years. The biggest conviction I experienced was in regard to my own observation of what were supposed to be “religious” holidays.
And I later discovered that my celebration of the holidays was merely a representative slice of how I approached the normal days. Instead of seeking to give Christ the preeminence, I was wafting through life consuming my experiences for my own pleasures.
In a hyphenated word . . . self-worship.
But I am a terribly puny, impotent god, and I desperately needed to recognize the Lord for Who He is.
I can praise the Lord I am doing much better in this arena than I was, but I still fall woefully short of celebrating God with every moment of every day. However, I love the process! I recognize that I will never be perfect this side of eternity, so I cherish the process . . . one step after another being changed from one degree of glory to another.
And I hope you’re seeing the same growth in your life, and I pray The Celebration of God podcast will be a valuable part of re-tuning our hearts to worshipping God in our feasts and famines instead of self.
That’s why I’m calling all of us to premeditatedly, deliberately, purposefully, intentionally, calculatedly, and willfully plan to celebrate God this Thanksgiving.
And I don’t mean just that we read some of the Bible, share some praises, or sing some hymns. Whether therefore we’re eating or drinking or watching parades or playing football or whatsoever we do, I pray we do it all to the glory of God.
Okay, so, let’s start with a snapshot of typical Thanksgiving elements.
Most American families plan a large meal; we’re going to call it a feast.
Most families also plan some sort of entertainment. It may be watching TV, playing football, playing games, taking walks, baking, and the like.
Many Christian families will also schedule a time to share praises, read Bible passages, pray, and maybe even participate in some service opportunity volunteering in the community or church.
And any and all of those things can be offered on the altar to God. And each of those experiences can be a sweet offering of praise to the Lord.
However, any and all of them can be offered on the altar to self. Participating in those experiences for my own honor and glory is biblical idolatry.
So, how do we take these activities and events and intentionally worship God with them?
I’m going to formulate my answer in a proposed schedule. Please understand, you don’t have to follow this schedule — I just want us to grasp the motivation behind the schedule. The motivation is absolutely key, but the motivation can be practically lived out in various ways.
So, here goes:
1. Pray before engaging in any task or activity.
Prayer is the tissue fibers of The Celebration of God. It’s what holds the framework together and enables us to consciously worship God without ceasing.
What does this look like? For me, let’s say that I’m heading to the kitchen to begin my four hour cooking marathon. It’s incredibly important for me to offer a silent or vocal prayer. It will sound different nearly every time, but here’s an example.
“Lord, I want to please you today. I want my cooking to not merely be for my own pleasure or out of a sense of duty or grudging submission to an expectation; I want this cooking to be an act of worship for you. I pray the Holy Spirit will remind me as I go that I have no higher calling than to please you with how and why I prepare this meal.”
Praying like this before and during all of our Thanksgiving activities helps us remain intentional.
This isn’t some magical incantation that will guarantee all we do to be to God’s honor and glory, but it focuses our motivation.
I’m suggesting we do this because we don’t accidentally glorify God. We need to purpose in our heart to cleave to God.
I love in Acts 11 where Barnabas visits the church at Antioch — in verse 23 we read, “Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”
The King James reads, “and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”
That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m exhorting you to purpose in your heart to cleave to the Lord, to resolutely stay faithful to Him.
II Corinthians 9:7 speaks to the importance of purposeful thought when it speaks to our giving. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
In order to reject grudging compulsion and be cheerful, we need to purposefully determine to please the Lord.
I’m suggesting you “schedule” this before your events because keeping our minds focused on God is our goal.
2. Talk to your community about purposefully celebrating God.
It’s one thing to be intentionally celebrating God on your own, but what about the rest of the people with whom you spend Thanksgiving?
Is it going to be good enough for you to celebrate God on Thanksgiving if no one else is doing it with you? Well, between you and God — that’s great! But remember, God wants us to actively be making disciples. That means that we’ve been purposefully placed in our community’s life in order to introduce them to Him and help them become more like Him.
So, let’s say that my kids and I are cooking. Maybe the family is about ready to start their game of football.
Let’s use that one.
Full disclosure: I have never played football on Thanksgiving. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve every really played football. But I don’t have to have played football in order to know how to glorify God during it.
For example: “Alright, everyone, in a second I’m going to pray and ask God’s blessing on our game, but I just want to remind everyone that God created us to love Him and love others. Even though we have two teams doing their best to win the game, we can still love each other with the words we say and the attitudes we have and the rules we follow. Let’s have fun, but let’s always remember to be kind, gracious, and encouraging.”
And then I can pray and help us all remember that our football game is supposed to be an act of worship to God.
Now, imagine if we just did those two things all day on Thanksgiving. Imagine if we took a little time before our activities to speak briefly about the best way to please the Lord and prayed — asking the Holy Spirit to give us the strength necessary to think right, speak right, feel right, act right, desire right, and believe right.
That alone could transform your holiday!
So, I’m recommending we schedule this element into our holiday because we recognize God’s plan for our relationship with Him and others.
But here are a couple other schedule elements designed to reorient our motivation.
3. Read God’s Word.
If you go to CelebrationOfGod.com and click on the Holidays tab, you can access our Thanksgiving Day resources including our Thanksgiving Bible Reading.
Schedule some time to read and maybe even discuss some or all of the passages. There are so many verses in Scripture that command, explain, or illustrate gratitude, we definitely won’t be sharing them all, but there are various ways to approach this.
You could have one person read. You could have a number of people read different passages. You could ask for people to respond to the passage read. You could do all of the reading and discussion in one setting, but you can also spread it out over the course of the day.
I have found that many Christians segment a portion of their day to prayer, Bible reading, and praises. But, as I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions on Truth.Love.Parent., it’s impossible to separate our lives into the spiritual and the physical. Absolutely everything we do is spiritual because we are spiritual beings. Our minds function on the spiritual level.
Because of this we often send the wrong message to our communities that God is Someone about Whom we speak at specified times.
And I fear this is why so many professing believers find it so incredibly difficult to talk about God if they’re not at church or they don’t have a Bible open in front of them. Whether it’s their feelings or their lack of knowledge, they literally can’t explain what bearing God has on their lives in that moment. Either that, or they can only mention superficial things with no real application to the nitty-gritty of their lives.
My point is, followers of Christ follow Christ. If Jesus were going to walk from where I live in North Carolina all the way to California, and I start following right behind Him, but 20 miles down the road I take an exit to do some sight seeing . . . and Jesus keeps walking, how on earth am I going to catch up with Him? The longer I’m away from Him the more difficult it will be to catch back up and follow Him as closely as possible.
We are to be following Christ all the time, not just when the Bible is open, the preacher is preaching, our parents are lecturing us, or we’re at small group.
So, though I don’t believe it’s necessary to live a monastic life doing nothing more than reading the Bible and praying, spreading those times throughout the day instead of handling them all in a single chunk can help us remember that we are always spiritual beings always making spiritual choices that need to always conform to our spiritual God.
Remember, it’s not the schedule, it’s the motivation. Do it however will best serve your disciplees; just remember the purpose is to give God the preeminence by allowing Him to speak into our day. God talks to us through His Word. Are we going to invite Him to Thanksgiving? Are we going to allow Him to speak to us? Are we only going to allow Him to talk to us for 20 minutes, or are we going to give Him free reign to speak into all of our activities?
So check out our Thanksgiving Bible Reading at CelebrationOfGod.com.
4. Share Praises.
This is a very familiar one, so I’m not going to spend a ton of time with it, but I want to remind us of something we discussed last time.
Praise and thanks times are fantastic ways to see a person’s heart. If the only things for which we’re thankful are the things which we would choose for ourselves, then we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives.
One of the sections on the Thanksgiving Bible Reading page is dedicated to being thankful for all things including the uncomfortable.
In addition to praising God for the comfortable things He allows us to enjoy, engage people in your group by asking them what uncomfortable things they can thank God for.
Now, that might be super difficult for some people to understand, so make sure you read the passages first so they understand the beautiful Truths that should motivate our gratitude.
And be prepared to explain it if there are any questions.
Okay, so we need to pray throughout the day, talk about God throughout the day, read the Bible throughout the day, and share praises throughout the day.
5. Talk about the Gospel.
Now, technically the Gospel encompasses all of life. It’s not just in the moment of justification. When we talk of the Gospel, we’re also talking about our sanctification — the moment by moment transformation into the image of Jesus.
So, any time we’re discussing God and His Word and applying it to life, we’re being Gospel-centered,
However, I’m talking specifically about evangelism — introducing people to Christ who do not already have a relationship with God.
Since we’re not God, we can’t know for sure if a person is truly born again, and it’s possible that there may be people who we think are saved, but who don’t have a relationship with God.
For this reason and more, I’m suggesting we schedule a time to talk about the Season of Mercy and our desperation — our need for salvation.
And one very good way to do this is to . . .
6. Overview the Celebratory Year.
We’ve talked often about Anticipations. Anticipations are when we take time to look forward to two things: A. a future holiday when we are looking forward to celebrating a characteristic of God or one of His deeds, or B. a future event on God’s prophetic timetable like the Consummation.
But the further we get in the year, the more and more holidays we have behind us and there are fewer holidays for us to Anticipate.
But the Celebration of God was designed so that all of the holidays interact with each other. Every one of them grows from the holidays that came before and look forward to the ones to come. They all interact with each other like every point of a spiderweb is connected to every other.
So, when we step back to view the Celebratory year, we get an amazing overview of God and His goodness. It’s a perfect way to talk about the Gospel regardless of whether our community members have a relationship with God yet or not.
Now, I haven’t made it yet, but I plan to create a document that explains how each of the holidays grows out of, leads to, and impacts the others.
I’ve illustrated this on previous shows, but allow me to give you another example.
“Back in September we celebrated God’s mercy and power and majesty when He created the World. We reveled in the fact that He created us in order to have a relationship with us. But then the Day of Atonement reminded us how mankind chose and chooses to sin. It started with Adam and Eve and continues to us. We all choose to reject God by doing what we believe is best. And Halloween very perfectly illustrated some of the terrible consequences that come from sin.
“But today we thank the Lord that — from eternity past — He had a plan to reconcile us to Him. He had a plan to send the Messiah Who would take our sin and gives us His righteousness.
“So, we thank the Lord today for loving us and having a plan to save us even when we were rebelling against Him. And we look forward to Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ coming to earth — the day He put God’s redemptive plan into motion. After that comes Easter when we excitedly anticipate celebrating Christ’s triumph over death and the fulfillment of salvation’s plan. But that’s not all, we’re also looking forward to praising God for His gift of the church, His Word, sharpening relationships, and the coming day when our salvation is completed and we no longer have to endure sin and its consequences. We will finally experience what God intended from the beginning — a perfect relationship with Him for all eternity!”
Again, that’s just one example of how to show the connection between Thanksgiving Day and the milieu of things for which we should be thankful.
How can we be certain to celebrate God this Thanksgiving and lead others in the same? We must intentionally plan to pray, discuss, read, praise, and purposefully live in gratitude and submission to God.
The more we focus on that goal and the more we help each other do the same, the more glorious Thanksgiving will be.
So even if the turkey is too dry and your favorite pie burns and your team loses football and it rains all day and the parade gets canceled . . . you can still joyfully praise the Lord for His mercy and lovingly submit to His will for your life.
We won’t do it perfectly, but — praise God — most of us will be have more opportunities to mature in the future.
As I mentioned before, my family is looking forward to Thanksgiving 2021 as it marks the 400th Anniversary since the pilgrims celebrated the first American thanksgiving.
I believe all American Christians can acknowledge that is a good anniversary, and if you don’t live in America, we encourage you to either celebrate God on your cultures day of thanks or join us on the fourth Thursday in November.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and join us next time as we prepare for Advent.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.