People’s hearts often turn to God when they are in trouble, and yet less often when things are going well. We need to count our blessings, not only at Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.
I want to share with you a couple of letters, and they will give you the sense of where I am going in this sermon.
A solder in the American Third Army was sent to a rest camp after a period of active service. When he returned to his outfit, he wrote a letter to General George Patton and thanked him for the splendid care he had received. General Patton wrote back to him and said that for 35 years he had sought to give all the comfort and convenience that he could to his men, and added that this was the first letter of thanks he had received in all of his years in the army.
I want to share with you another quotation. A businessman said, "people are ingrates". It took me 61 years to find that out. I have 175 employees, men and women. At Thanksgiving I sent them 175 choice turkeys. Only four thanked me. Two thanked me by notes, and two said thanks when they happened to meet me in the hallway. Because of their thanklessness, I have decided never to go out of my way to be nice again. Someone has said, if you want to find gratitude, look for it in the dictionary.
One final quote is a story about two angels. There is a legend about two angels who were sent to earth to gather up the prayers of men. One was to fill his basket with the petitions of mankind. The other was to gather their prayers of thanksgiving. Sometime later they went back to the Father’s house. One had a basket heaped high and running over with the innumerable petitions of men. The other returned with a sad and heavy heart, for his basket was almost empty. The thanks of men were heard but rarely on earth, even though the angel had searched diligently. Let us not forget the thanksgiving side of our prayers.
In just over two weeks we will be observing American Thanksgiving. American Thanksgiving can mean many things to many people. It means turkey. It means pumpkin pie. It means a big feast. It means football. It means a day off. It means whatever. Thanksgiving Day sales, one of the biggest day for sales. But will it be a day of thanksgiving for you and me? And another question I have for you, is thanksgiving the only day we should be thankful? It is amazing how many people’s hearts turn to God when they are in trouble, and it is amazing how many people’s hearts don’t turn to God when things are going well. It is my aim to ask you to consider the need to count your blessings, not only at Thanksgiving, but with emphasis on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.
Let’s talk about Thanksgiving just momentarily. The first Thanksgiving dinner in November, 1620, when the first New England colonists had landed near Plymouth, Massachusetts, it was too late to plant any crops. Thus, by the following spring disease and a long, harsh New England winter had killed nearly half of the original settlers. It was after the good harvest in 1621 that Governor Bradford called for a feast of thanksgiving. All the members of the colony, some 40 men, women, and children, and about 90 Indians dressed in animal skins, and gaily colored in turkey feathers, joined in the celebration. The Indians brought deer meat, venison, and wild turkeys. They were cooked on spits turned over the open fires. The colonial women made Johnnie cakes, cornmeal bread, and the men supplied geese, ducks, and fish. Other foods included lobsters, oysters, clams, roast corn, and maple syrup. Rum and cider were the favorite beverages. Long tables were set up outdoors for eating together, and the fires burned, and the food roasted for three days of celebration. Colonists and Indians alike gave thanks for the good harvest, which meant survival and an easier winter ahead. This was the first Thanksgiving dinner on American soil. Today Americans still celebrate Thanksgiving after harvest time. But since 1941 it has been observed as a legal national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.
One more on thankfulness.
Thanksgiving might not be celebrated in the United States today were it not for a patient, persistent woman named Sarah Hale. It is well known that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by pilgrim fathers in 1621 to give thanks for their first winter in the new world. In 1789 President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation to commemorate the first pilgrim celebration. But Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States discontinued it, calling Thanksgiving a kingly practice. After this, Thanksgiving was observed by some individual states, and on whatever date suited their fancy. Then in 1828 Mrs. Hale, the editor of the magazine, Goodly’s Ladies Book, and author of the poem, Mary Had A Little Lamb, began campaigning for the restoration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote letters, sought appointments with national leaders from the President down. Time after time, she was politely rebuffed, sometimes being told it was impossible and impractical, and sometimes being dismissed with "this is none of your business" scolding. Finally, in 1863 President Lincoln listened seriously to her plea that north and south lay aside enmities and strife on Thanksgiving Day. He proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be the official national Thanksgiving Day. This day was finally ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1941.
We need to be reminded from time to time to count our blessings, because it is easy to count our woes, and sometimes it is not so easy to count our blessings. Psalm 103:1, 2. And I have a sermon chock full of scriptures for you, as well as some other quotes I would like to share. Psalms 103:1, 2. We read this. Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits. And how easy it is for us to remember the woes and forget the benefits, and forget the blessings. And I will show you just how many we do forget. Who forgives all your iniquities, and who heals all your diseases.
We read in the scriptures, don’t forget God. Don’t forget the blessings. Don’t forget to bless his name. Don’t forget to reach out and talk to him. And sometimes we do forget them. This year we will be celebrating the 382nd Thanksgiving in the United States. Of course, if it were kept consistently, 381 years after the first one was done. Remember at least some.
Here’s a quote from Moody. He said, When Mr. Moody was once reading the 103rd Psalm, he came to the verse, Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits. He stopped short in his inimitable way, and he said, you can’t remember them all, of course. But don’t forget them all. Remember some of them.
So we can’t always remember every single blessing from God, but we can certainly remember some of them. You know what I have found? When you are a thankful person, it is hard to be mad at people. When you thank God for someone, it is hard to be upset with them. When children thank God for their parents, it is hard to be upset with them. When parents thank God for their children, it is hard to be upset with them. When you thank God for your friends and your enemies, it is hard to be upset with them. There is just something that takes place when thankfulness, which is another word for graciousness too, is a part of our lives.
I want to share with you another quote.
Life’s Small Pleasures. Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes. The Pulitzer prize, the Nobel prize, Oscars, the Tony’s, the Emmys. But we are all eligible for life’s small pleasures. A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Don’t forget. And don’t fret about missing life’s grand awards. Enjoy its tiny delights. Because there are plenty for all of us. But you see, it takes time to stop and notice.
So I would like to share with you three major areas, some blessings we all can count daily, and certainly especially at Thanksgiving, some blessings we all can count. I have divided it into three major areas, nationally, personally, and spiritually.
Here are the national ones. Nationally, we live in a blessed country. How many of you have been abroad to some of the countries of Europe? Let’s see the hands. How many of you have been to some of the third, what we call developing countries, some call them third world countries? Tell me, did you feel like kissing the ground when you returned to America? We spent nearly eight weeks traveling through Europe with the students, and about five weeks in Israel for the Dig. When we finally landed in Boston, I felt like kissing the ground at Logan Airport. It is not because I didn’t have a good time. I had a great time. The people we were with were wonderful. Great experiences. But so many areas that you have to be aware. Watch the food, water you drink. Don’t drink that water. Careful about this water. Careful about this food. Careful about where you go. They don’t understand your language. And the whole aspect. And what you miss. What you take for granted. You go into a rest stop and you walk into a restroom. You assume there is going to be a toilet there, right? You assume there is going to be some toilet paper. My wife and some of the ladies in Israel went into one of the tourist stops and walked in. I heard this shriek. Holes in the ground, and you had to pay money to get toilet paper. If you didn’t have your nickel or whatever, you didn’t get toilet paper. We don’t begin to realize the blessings we have just being in this country. You go to the store, and the produce is so abundant. You have not just one variety of oranges, you have many varieties of oranges. Many varieties of grapefruit. Several varieties, all of the vegetables going up and down. And you know what? You know your vegetables have generally been taken care of in a sanitary way. What a blessing! Some of the areas…you don’t want to eat that. You are going to have Montezuma’s revenge if you eat that down in Mexico. Or if you eat that over in the Middle East you are going to get Pharaoh’s revenge. So you don’t want to be eating this type of food and that. And after awhile, that gets to you, when you are constantly having to be concerned about what you eat. In Israel I anointed so many kids for diarrhea, it is the most I have ever anointed. Practically every student had diarrhea. Something upset their stomach in that period of time. You and I are so blessed to live in a country…we don’t realize when God said, I will bless you, the blessings that we have, the resources that we have. The gasoline that we complain about. But then you go to Europe and you pay $2 and $3 a gallon. You go to Canada and see how much you pay for gasoline versus what we have in the United States. We are so blessed as a country, that you sometimes take it for granted because we live in it, because we have it regularly.
Genesis 22. Let’s take a look at this section of scripture where God promised the blessings to Abraham. And it is not because we are so good. We need to keep that in mind. These blessings are not because we as Americans have been so good. But because Abraham was good, and because God is good. God fulfilled his promises, and we are the recipients of these wonderful blessings. Genesis 22:17, 18. God called Abraham and he said, In blessing I will bless you, in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, as the sand which is upon the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of its enemies. And for years, and years, and years, we truly did. When you look at Melvin Rhodes’ presentation, he has got this awesome presentation that maybe one of these times down here he can do a Bible study for you where he shows on the maps all the areas of the world that the United States and British Commonwealth countries have had. Where they could have blocked people virtually in the oceans all over the world, with sea bases and air bases all over the world. God said, I will bless you. How did they get that? How did they get those? And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice. If you lived in another country, what if this was Iraq you lived in, that had all the power and might of America? What do you think it would do? Saddam Hussein tried to take over Kuwait. What do you think he would do if he had all the power that America has? We live in a country that is blessed, and yet does not flex its muscles over people, that does not try to domineer people. Oh, yeah, there is carnal selfishness. And I am not for a minute going to say there aren’t people who have gone in imperialistically and taken advantage of others. That is carnal, and that is human. But as a country as a whole, we don’t go in and take over somebody when we could have ruled the world. After World War II we didn’t. What did we do? We built our enemies. Because what did Joseph do? He took care of his brothers. He didn’t get revenge upon them. He took care of them. We have been a blessed country. We have natural beauty and resources. We have food, abundant food and produce. We have jobs. Unemployment rates are so low. And the average income. When I was in the Philippines in 1991, I was asking, "What do the people make?" They said about $2800 a year. They have $280 second tithe, about $50 of which they had to use to get a group bus to the feast. That gave them about $230. The one time we went out we took a couple of Filipino students we had known from Ambassador out to dinner. We said, oh, we had better make reservations, because there are probably a lot of people… we were at a small confined area, probably a lot of people going to this restaurant. No, I don’t think so. We got there, and the restaurant was almost bare. I said, well why? They said most of the people here can afford to go out one time, and it will probably be to a family style restaurant where you get lots of food at a low price. I was shocked. $280 second tithe, $2800 average the person made at that time. I don’t think it is too much more than that even now.
We don’t realize that some of us make more in one week than most people make in an entire year. That God has blessed us. He has blessed us abundantly with produce, with food, with jobs, with homes. Our homes to many people, very average. But people come and see, wow, it is like a palace to them. We don’t realize what people all over the world…when we went to the Philippines…our daughter Susie went with us. There were three of us. Jan was married at that time, and she and Mike went to Hawaii, I think, that year for the feast. She said, I will never be the same Dad, after she saw these beautiful people and how they did with how little they had, and how cheerful, happy, clean, and attentive they were. She said, I will never be the same. Because we saw a country that was beautiful, but so underdeveloped, because their whole system does not allow for it. We are blessed in ways we don’t even begin. Education. Our students can go to school and get free education. Transportation. Lots of transportation means. Sanitation. What a blessing that is. That people don’t just do their business in the street. You may have to watch for dog stuff in the streets, but you certainly don’t have to watch for human stuff in the streets. What a blessing. We take those for granted, and it is a blessing God has given.
Deuteronomy 8. God warns us, don’t ever take it for granted. I will read you a prayer of President Lincoln. Still in this area of national blessings. Deuteronomy 8:7-11 we read this. For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks and water. And this is talking about the Middle East, of course, talking about the Promised Land, Palestine. But by extension to God’s people Israel as a whole, a land of brooks and waters, of fountains and depths that spring forth out of the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees. How do you get gold in the ground? Did the early settlers put the gold in the ground for us? No it’s there. How did they put the oil in the ground. How did they put the coal in the ground? How did they put all of the beautiful mountains and lakes in the area? Minnesota, land of lakes. The beauty we have. You can extend it to Canada and many of the Israelitish countries. The blessings that we have are untold. A land of wheat and barley. Look at the grain that Canada and the United States has, and helps people all over the world with it. Vines and fig trees, and pomegranates. A land of olive oil and honey. A land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness. You shall not lack anything in it. And what we call poverty level is probably upper crust in most countries of the world. A land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass. Verse 10. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given to you.
Are we thankful just to be in a country that allows us freedom, that allows us the freedoms that we have? I heard on the news the other night that if you took a Bible into Saudi Arabia and they caught you, you could be decapitated. Or deported, one or the other, hopefully deported. Bibles are not allowed in that country. Women’s rights are none. If you have seen the movie, "Not Without My Daughter" with Sally Field, you realize what type of oppression takes place around the world. The poor women in Afghanistan, what they had to go through. We live in a world of freedom, where you can freely go. Deuteronomy talks about you coming in and going out. You can come in and go out. Does anybody monitor where you go, why you go, when you go, and how you go? It’s not that way in many parts of the world. We are so blessed. You can ask questions. You could even run down your government leader without being shot or hanged. Try that in Iran. Theocracy. Somebody, one scholar is up for being executed. We live in a free country. See, these are things we have grown up with, many of us, that we take for granted, many times fail to thank God for, that we have free course to preach the gospel. That we can preach a message about the need for Israel to repent, the need for America to repent without them coming down on us. We can send the gospel out as we understand it, and we can believe as we choose to believe, and we are not put down for it. We are not executed for it.
Verse 11. Beware that you forget not the Lord your God in not keeping his commandments and his judgments and his statutes which I command you this day.
Verse 18. But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers as it is this day. He says, bless God. Remember him. Remember the beautiful blessings he has given in this country. The freedoms we have, we can come in and go out. If you want that scripture, it is Deuteronomy 28:6.
You’ll also recall that the apostle Paul said how much it meant to him to be free born.
What about peace? We have relative peace in our land, don’t we? Because we have relatively good cops, or police officers, in our land. And I know there are some corrupt cops. I understand that. But try going to countries in South America, where my uncle went, and where some distant cousins down there own a shoe factory or coffee plantation. He wore this heavy leather jacket all the time. And my uncle said to him, it’s hot. Why do you have this leather jacket on all the time? He opened it up…shoulder holster with a pistol for protection. You don’t know it, he said, but when you go asleep, you go in your room, I lock your doors from the outside with my gun drawn. And then I check every door in my mansion, which he had a very nice house, I guess. Every door to make sure it is locked and nobody is there. He takes his kids to school, and he picks them up from school because he is afraid somebody will kidnap them. And when you go too fast or too slow, you just buy off the police. If you have enough, you are free. Bribery is huge in many of those areas. You talk about peace that we can have, peace in this country, what a blessing it is. And that our constitution is based on laws of God. The constitution of America, because it was made when people believed in God. So a lot of it is very fair. You talk about your Bill of Rights, and so on. A lot of it is very fair because they understood some of the scriptures, the basic scriptures of the Ten Commandments so that we could insure peace in our country.
Psalms 33:12. The last scripture I will give in this particular section. I want to allow enough time for the spiritual side of it, I have got several points in there. Psalms 33:12. At Thanksgiving time and during the year, don’t forget to thank God that he has blessed you nationally, to live in a country that he has blessed so much. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance. We are a blessed country.
I want to read to you what Abraham Lincoln said. This was a prayer that he offered during the Civil War. These are quotes from him. This is a book called, "Wit and Witticisms of Abraham Lincoln" that I bought when I was in Washington, D.C. attending one of the memorials to him.
"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day." Lincoln often resorted to prayer. He regarded the Civil War in some respects as a divine punishment visited upon the United States for its accumulated national sins. He also saw it as an opportunity to purge the nation of some of those sins forever, and to achieve a national salvation. Taking office at the beginning of the war, he offered this prayer for the nation. And it is quoted in the "United States and British Commonwealth" booklet, at least the one that Mr. Armstrong wrote.
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand that preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. And we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our own hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power (God), to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
But he recognized the beauty, and the wonder, and the blessings that we have in this wonderful country. Don’t forget to pray for your country, to pray for the leaders, that God will guide them to do those things that are right and proper, and will fulfill whatever prophetic plan he has for us at this time.
Let’s move on to another area that we can talk about our blessings. Personally. Personally we all have many blessings we can give for. Do you ever thank God just that you have life, just that you are alive? I try to remember to thank him every day when I get up. Thank you that I am alive today. Thank you for giving me life. I worried about Mr. Graham, being the age he was, going in for the operation he did. I worried about him. And I was sad to hear he died. I knew him many years ago when I was just a young minister. And it is sad. But you know, life goes on, and we all have life to be grateful for. Every day you are alive you had better be thankful, because little kids and big kids, little people and big people, young and old, die. And every day you have life, thank God for it that you are alive. How precious.
Remember God told us in Deuteronomy, he sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing. And he gives us the key to life. But he tells us to choose life. Life is pretty precious. Deuteronomy 30:15. See I have set before you this day life and good, death and blessing, in that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, keep his commandments, his statutes, his judgments, that you may live, and multiply. And the Lord your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. So in verse 19 he says, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life that both you and your seed may live. And don’t just choose life, but choose quality of life. Choose right life. Choose proper life. Choose decent life. Don’t just choose, I'm alive now to do anything I want. But rather, choose life, and choose it abundantly.
John 10:10. Jesus Christ came to make life more livable, and ultimately we know that will be in the world tomorrow. But you and I can have a foretaste of the world tomorrow by how we act today, by how we live life today. John 10:10. The thief came not but to steal, to kill, and to destroy. And there are some people that are bent on the negative side of life. They look to see how much they can get out of it, how much they can hurt others, how much they can do others in, instead of how much good they can do. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. God wants us to live. He wants us to have life, and he wants us to enjoy life.
In the book of Ecclesiastes he says, what greater thing is there than to enjoy your family, to enjoy food, to enjoy drink, to have those blessings, to enjoy your work. We all have that opportunity to enjoy life. Do you thank God that you are alive? Do you thank God that you have life? What about health?
Psalms 138:14. While you are turning there I will read to you what man is worth chemically and electrically. You may have heard this. Chemists computed the chemical content of your body and estimated your worth at about 98 cents. So chemically, boil you down and you get 98 cents. Not much. Not really. Better than nothing, but not much. Another scientist figured that the atoms in the body would produce 11,400,000 kilowatts of power per pound if they could be harnessed. According to this computation, a man weighing 150 pounds is worth $85 billion. Maybe David did that calculation when he said in Psalms 138:14, I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows right well. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Everything in you strives to live. Everything in me and you strives to stay alive. Not to die. We are made that way. To repair. And God says, I can add that repair. Because in Psalms 23 he talks about who restores our soul when we are sick. God’s wish is for us to be in good health. Remember III John 2. I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health. God wants us to be well. He wants us to stay well.
But you know, it is even a blessing when you have a trial. I know sometimes we don’t think of that. I would like to read you a couple of quotes and give you a scripture. Trials are blessings too.
Beaten Into A Higher Value is this comment. A bar of steel is worth $5. When it is worked into or beaten into horseshoes, it is worth $10. When it is made into needles, it is worth $350. When it is worked into penknife blades, it is worth $32,000. And if it is made into springs for watches, it is worth $250,000. What a drilling that poor bar must undergo to be worth a higher value. But the more it is manipulated, the more it is hammered, the more it passes through the fire, beaten and pounded and polished, the greater the value. Those who suffer most are capable of yielding most. It is through pain that God can get the most out of us. Wasn’t it the apostle Paul who said, When I am weak, then God is strong.
Another trial we may have, I will come to that in a moment, but trials having to do with health. God beats us down sometimes. James 1:2-3. Do you thank God when you have a trial? Most of us don’t. Most of us think God has turned his back on us when we have a trial. But God is actually rooting for you, hoping for you, looking for you, and making sure that trial does not become so great that we cannot bear it. Hoping for you. Rooting for you. And making sure that whatever trial is there is not too great. James 1:2-3. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, difficulties. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. And then in verse 12 he says, Blest is the man that endures temptations. So here is a blessing we can count, trials and difficulties. For when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
I am going to read you another quote.
Wallace Johnson, builder of numerous Holiday Inn hotels and convalescent hospitals said, "When I was 40 years old I worked in a sawmill. One morning the boss told me, you’re fired." Sound familiar? "Depressed and discouraged, I felt like the world had caved in on me. It was during the Depression, and my wife and I greatly needed the small wages I had been earning. When I went home I told my wife what had happened. She asked, what are you going to do now? I replied, I am going to mortgage our little home and go into the building business. My first venture was the construction of two small buildings. Within five years, I was a multimillionaire. Today if I could locate the man who fired me, I would sincerely thank him for what he did. At the time it happened, I did not understand why I was fired. Later, I saw it was God’s unerring and wondrous plan to get me out into the way of his choosing."
Here’s one final one about trials and difficulties. And I know, oftentimes we don’t say, thank you, God, for that trial. Thank you for teaching me whatever lessons I had. Most of us are, phew, I'm sure glad that trial is over. Do we thank God for our trials?
Here’s an attitude. Matthew Henry, the famous scholar, was once accosted by thieves and robbed of his wallet. He wrote these words in his diary.
"Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before. Second, because although they took my wallet, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took my all, it was not much. And fourth, it was because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed."
So again, a concept of being thankful and grateful, and counting not only your blessings that are good blessings, seemingly good blessings, but trials that seem to be difficult ones. God says count those blessings.
What about family? That is a wonderful blessing we all have. Psalms 127:1-5. I don’t know what ritual you go through with your family. We try to call our family once a week and talk to them and encourage them, and cheer them up, and at least ask them how they are doing. Psalms 127:1-5. Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waits but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early and to sit up late to eat the bread of sorrows. For so he gives his beloved sleep. Lo, children are the blessing (or heritage) of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Do we thank God for our families? And this is where I like to say, children do you thank God for your parents? I know it is easy when parents say, "Say thank you for Daddy." "Thank you for Daddy." "Say thank you for Mommy." "Thank you for Mommy." Do you thank God for your parents? Do you thank God for what they do for you? And many times you don’t understand behind the scenes what they do for you. I remember a man whose daughter needed a winter coat, and he needed a winter coat. You know who got the winter coat? His daughter. He didn’t go tell her, I gave up getting a winter coat for me to get you one. He just did it. And many children don’t know behind the scenes what their parents do for them. They don’t realize how much they may give up, and how much they care, and how much they hurt, and how much they ache when their children hurt and ache.
Verse 4. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy (blest) is the man that has his quiver full of them. And remember, everybody’s quiver is whatever size. Not all quivers come with the same amount of arrows. So you can get small quivers or large quivers. And your quiver is determined by how much you can make and support, and also determined by how much love and time you have to give to your kids. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Children are a blessing. Family is a blessing. Parents, do you thank God for your children? Do you ask God to bless them, and watch over them, and guide them, and steer them, and help them, and protect their minds, and protect their lives. God expects us to be grateful and thankful. Family is a tremendous blessing, because it helps us understand a relationship with God. My dad is 94, my mom is 89, going to be, and when I kneel down I thank God. I say, you know God, thank you for helping me know what the ancient of days is like. Thank you for helping me know what you are like, because you have let my dad live so long, and my mom. Thank you for that. It is a wonderful blessing. It is a tremendous blessing.
Malachi talks about the hearts of the fathers to the hearts of the children, right? It is supposed to be a good relationship there. There is supposed to be a relationship there, developing and continuing. So be thankful for one another. Be grateful that you have one another. That is a tremendous blessing that we all need.
What about friends? Proverbs 27. We can certainly throw in animals that are man’s best friend. Horses and dogs, and so on. We need to be grateful for them, that God has given them. Livestock, whatever people have, where they can call each sheep by name, each cow they know. You and I wouldn’t know what the cows were, what the sheep were. They knew each sheep, each goat by name. Because they took care of them.
Proverbs 27:9-10. What about friends? Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart. So does the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel. Your own friend, and your father’s friend, don’t forsake. Neither go into your brother’s house in the day of calamity. For better is a neighbor that is near than a brother who is afar off. Good friends can be just like family, can be just like brothers and sisters to us.
The apostle Paul began many of his letters when he talked to the brethren, and he said, I thank God daily, Philippians 1:3, upon every remembrance of you. I thank God. He called Timothy his son. Timothy wasn’t his son. He talked about, I have no one else to naturally care for you like him. He is like me. He wasn’t his real son. Friends are wonderful to have. They brighten your life. They help you. They strengthen you, as you do to them.
Let’s talk about spiritually. I would like to share with you one quote. It says: Dependence on God, what do you owe God? What do we owe God, you ask? Suppose he sent you this bill. $100,000 for the sun upon the hill. $2,000 for the little brook that runs along the way. $5,000 for the nighttime. And $1,000 for the day. $600 for the little birds that trill and chirp and sing. $600 for the tiny flowers which tell us that it’s spring. These are the bills which everyone of every clime forgets. If God should charge you what you owe, you would always be in debt.
Do you remember God? Do you thank him spiritually? Do you thank God that you can know him? Do you think of a blessing? I mean, I teach Comparative Religion. There are billions of people. Let’s say there are two billion Christians. There are four billion others who don’t believe in the God you understand, the God of the Bible. And while Arabic peoples call God Allah, which is the Arabic name for God, it is not specific God. Their interpretation of Allah is a different interpretation than my understanding of God from the scriptures. Do you count it a blessing to know God, to know Jesus Christ, to know the truth of the Bible? I am reading some books on restructuring of American religion and what are the trends. A lot of Americans believe in God or a higher power, about 95%, one of the greatest believing nations in the world. Yet most of them don’t even know God. And what are they searching for? Meaning in life, purpose in life. And while a lot of them would like to see stronger morals, most of them don’t have stronger morals. Are not inclined to stronger morals. But they would like to see a stronger moral stand. But they don’t want to do the moral side. Do you thank God that you know him and Jesus Christ? That you understand what he was about. That you read his word. That you can understand what God is. Isaiah talks about the ass. Let’s read it. Isaiah 1:2-3. The ass who knows its owner. Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth. For the Lord has spoken, and I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib. But Israel does not know. My people do not consider. My people don’t know me. They don’t understand me. Oh, they pray to me. They talk about a higher power. They talk about God. But they don’t know the God of the Bible. And God has to reach down and call us. And God has to draw us. And he has to tap us on the shoulder and say, I want a relationship with you. And how few are those? If I count every Church of God that is trying to do the right thing, I give it liberally 40,000. Forty thousand people of six billion. Do you know how many that amounts to? You are one out of 150,000 in this world who knows God. Many big cities are 150,000. One would know God. It is a blessing to know God. It is a blessing to know who he is. It is a blessing to understand his character, his plan. It is a blessing to understand he has got good news for the whole world. A message of hope for the whole world. It is great to understand his mercy, his forgiveness. It speaks of him in Micah, that he delights in mercy. Delights in mercy. What kind of a God is this that passes over the transgression of his people, and is willing to forgive them. He said, because you delight in mercy. God delights in forgiving us. Do we thank God that we can know him? Do we thank Jesus Christ that we can know him, that we can understand what he was about, that we can understand what he came to do. Do we understand when he was born? Do we understand, not the exact date but approximately, do we understand it wasn’t Christmas? Do we understand what God thinks of Halloween? Do we understand God and his way? That is such a blessing.
And in fact, John 17, we read this scripture, verse 3, what Jesus Christ prayed in his final prayer. He said, And this is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. And then in verse 20, notice, neither do I pray for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. So Jesus Christ said, I am praying for those down into the twentieth century. I am praying for those into the twenty first century. I am praying for God’s people all over the world at any time.
Psalms 144:15 tells us this. Happy is that people whose God is the Lord. I am reminded of what Nebuchadnezzar said when he finally saw. He said, Daniel’s God is God. He is the God of Gods. Daniel’s God is God. Your God, my God, is God. That is a blessing we have, to know him and his plan and his way.
What about his Holy Spirit? The greatest gift you could ever receive as far as something being given to you, not an act. Certainly forgiveness could be in there as well. Luke 11:11-13. Do we thank God that we have his Holy Spirit? Do we thank God that he has begotten us and given us his precious Holy Spirit? Luke 11:11. He said, If a son shall ask bread of any of you who is a father, will he give him a son? If your kid comes home hungry, hey, can I have a sandwich? Here, have a stone. Put a little butter on it, maybe soften it up a little bit. He doesn’t do that, does he? If he asks for a fish, will he instead of a fish give him a serpent? You want a fish sandwich…how about a snake sandwich? No, he doesn’t do that. Verse 12. If he shall ask for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? Oh, you want scrambled eggs? How about live scorpions? If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, you are not totally giving, totally caring, but you still know how to do it, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him. So he equates the Holy Spirit with a gift.
Then of course, II Timothy 1:6-7 he talks about the spirit of God being the spirit of a sound mind. It is a gift of God. Timothy was urged to stir up that gift which was in him. A spirit of love, a spirit of power, a spirit of a sound mind. God gives that to us. We need to be thankful whether it is working in us, or working with us before we are baptized. We need to thank God for it and ask him to give us more, and strengthen us.
What about understanding yourself? What a blessing to understand yourself. Do you know how many people in the world do not understand themselves? They don’t know who they are. They don’t understand what they are all about. They don’t realize the need to guide their lives according to what God the maker has prescribed. If I take my car and drive it according to me, treat it according to me, I would never get the tires rotated. I would never get the oil changed. Why should I do that? It costs money. Why do it? Because the manufacturer says. Do you want your car to last? Here’s what you do. I listen to the manufacturer. When the Maker tells us what to do, no, I don’t want to do that. I'll do what I want to do. It is a blessing to understand yourself.
Jeremiah 10:23. We read this understanding. Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his steps. You know, God, I can’t do it alone. There is something to understanding who you are and who I am. Something to understanding ourselves. We are not proud. We are not vain. We don’t say, I can do everything. I can only do those things through Christ which strengthens me. But Christ even gives you a pattern to follow. Because he said, I can of my own self do nothing. I need help. I need strength. What a blessing to be able to go to God and say, help me. What a blessing to be able to go to God and say, you know, I need your guidance. What a blessing to understand the difference between giving and taking. What a blessing to understand the tremendous paradoxes in scripture. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Love your enemies. Pray for those that use you. What a blessing to understand who you are, to understand human nature, to understand and resist those things that are wrong. Because there is plenty of temptation out there to pull us the wrong direction. It is a blessing to understand yourself and to be able to look to God and say, please direct my steps. Verse 24. Please correct me. Please direct my steps. It is such a blessing to be able to say, I know who I am. I learn about myself more and more as I look in the mirror, right? Through the scriptures. Understand.
It is a blessing to have hope. Do you know how many people don’t have hope in life? And for life to come? As a counselor, do you know what we were told? The one thing you want to try to do at every counseling session when somebody leaves you is leave them with hope. Even if it is just a little glimmer when you are starting out, you want to leave them with hope. Didn’t Paul write and say, you are not like those in the world who have no hope. I am telling you, when you get to people who have no hope, there’s very little chance of helping unless you can get that hope injected in there. And we have such a lively hope. 1 Peter 1:3. Peter writes about hope. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We can have hope because Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead. That means one person went from physical to spirit. We can go from physical to spirit as well. But it is not just for us that we can have hope. A lively hope involves all people. Your friends and neighbors out there that aren’t necessarily in our church, that are not necessarily converted the way we understand conversion. Your friends and neighbors will have a chance. We don’t have an exclusive religion. Talk about exclusive. You’re either like me or you’re going to hell. Fry forever. You’re born in the mountains of Tibet and never have a chance to hear about the name of Jesus Christ, too bad. You fry. God’s church, God’s religion, gives hope to us. It’s not just for us. You see, the gospel of the kingdom is not about us. Think about how much money we would have if we spent all of our money building buildings for us instead of sending out Good News magazines. Let’s just cancel the Good News and spend it all on ourselves, brethren! We would have a great time. But we don’t. Because we want the world to have hope. We want them to understand that wonderful hope. It is a blessing, brethren, to have hope.
What about the church itself? Do you thank God for the church? Do you thank God for your fellow brethren? Do you thank God for the leadership, ministers who hazarded their lives many of them, on the ropes now because of all the years they have spent beating the pavement to serve God’s people. And now when they are older after doing it for years before, they are asked to do the same thing all over again.
Do you pray for each other? Do you love one another? Do you thank God that you have brethren? Brothers and sisters, a place to come and worship, a place to attend, a place to meet, that you can could come and hear beautiful special music, that you can sing songs together. That you can talk to one another, and pray for one another, and encourage one another. Jesus Christ said, I will build my church. The gates of hell will never prevail against it. God said it is by his spirit he puts us into that one church.
In Mark 10:28-30 he talks about how we feel. I know when we were in Canada so many times our kids didn’t know who their aunts and uncles were, because they were calling Uncle Tony, and Aunt Linda, and Uncle Reynor, and Aunt Claudia, and Uncle George, and Aunt Delia, and they really didn’t know who their uncles and aunts were. I had to finally tell them, you know what, we call them aunt and uncle because they are the closest thing to aunts and uncles. They are not physically related to us. But some of them treated them better than some of their aunts and uncles did, because their aunts and uncles were distances away. We have brethren. Mark 10. We even call each other brothers. We use the term brethren sometimes as a pause word, but it really is packed with meaning, because it does mean brothers and sisters. In Mark 10:28-30 we read then, Peter began to say to him, lo we have left all and we have followed you. What do we have to show for this? And Jesus answered and said to him, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, wife or children, or lands for my sake and the gospels, but that he shall receive a hundredfold at this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, mothers, and children, and lands, with persecution. Yes, persecution will be there. And in the world to come, eternal life.
We have a well-knit group. It can always be improved. We have a well-knit group of brothers and sisters that we see every Sabbath, that we are happy to see when you see each other, meet each other in the mall, or see each other. Isn’t it nice, isn’t it refreshing to see each other? Because we are in God’s church. He has given us a place to meet, to assemble. We are called brethren. I hope you thank God for that.
Finally, a way of life that God has given to us as a way to live, a way to walk, a way to follow. Proverbs 14:12 says there is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death. Man of himself goes a way that will lead him to death. But Jesus Christ said, you enter in at the way, and I am going to show you there is a little special path here that you can go, to go my path. And I know that you wouldn’t normally go there. You would normally not take that path. You would normally go the broad highway. But there is a way, and there is the way of the broad highway. You can go fast, you can go smooth, you could go comfortably, but at the end is death. Or you can go this path, but I have to show you how to get into it, that leads to eternal life. And it is twisting and winding, and it is not easy to negotiate. But at the end is eternal life. God has called us to a way of life.
Matthew 13:15-17. Every time you open your Bible and read it and are willing to submit to it, every time you open your Bible and read it and understand it, you need to thank God. Because many people wished they could and can’t. Matthew 13:15. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, their ears are dull of hearing, their eyes they have closed, lest that at any time they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, your ears for they hear. For verily I say to you,(truly I say to you), many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see and have not seen them, hear those things which you hear and have not heard them.
Think of the blessing that God has given to know his way of life. Because God’s words are life. John 6:63 I think was one of Dr. Ward’s most famous scriptures. John 6:63. It is the spirit that quickens, and the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit. They are life. To understand those words of life is a blessing. To be able to open your Bible and read it and have it have meaning and make sense is a blessing that we all need to thank God for.
Here’s one about the Sabbath, understanding his laws: Man is a seven day machine designed so by the great architect. The greatest blessing ever conferred upon man as a toiler and a laborer is the Sabbath.
Henry George said, "Moses was the first labor reformer, and the Sabbath was his chief labor reform." God’s Sabbath is a blessing. His laws are a blessing. His way is a blessing.
When Jesus Christ healed ten lepers, how many returned to say thank you? One. Did Jesus Christ look for gratitude? Yes. Did he look for thankfulness? Yes. The apostle Paul wrote, in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.
Ephesians 5:20. Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I will read you one quote.
There is so much we have in life for which we cannot pay.
The things we take for granted in our journey day by day.
From early in the morning until the day is done,
We ought to count our blessings and name them one by one.
Health, peace, happiness, love of kin and friends,
Birds, trees, flowers, seas, a list that never ends.
Summer, autumn, winter, spring, each brings something rare,
And we accept what comes our way without a thought or care.
We really ought to think a bit of what we have and why,
There is so much belongs to us, the stars, the moon, the sky.
The very air we breathe each day, and food upon the board,
And the only way we can ever pay is by our thanks to Thee, O Lord.
At this Thanksgiving, yes especially every day too, let’s count our blessings, and let’s give thanks to our gracious God.