Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Devo

Wars. Uncertainties. Fears. These aspects of everyday life haunt us. The U.S is at war with terrorists and our country struggles with a low economy. As individuals we are at war with ourselves. We struggle to figure out what is right everyday while battling with our own uncertainties and fears. We are unsure what tomorrow will bring or how uncertain situations will work out. Whatever our fears, we are at war.
I read William Bradford's proclamation for Thanksgiving. Governor Bradford and the Pilgrims were also at war physically and spiritually. Through their first winter in 1620, after they arrived in America, they suffered a harsh winter loosing more than half of their people. As spring was approaching, they had many uncertainties and fears concerning their new life because of the brutal circumstances they had already faced. They were also at war with the Native Americans. The very moment the men reached land, the Natives were there to defend their land. Things were not looking good for the Pilgrims. But the example Bradford showed dealing with his fears and uncertainties revealed through his reflection on thanksgiving of God’s mercy.
On March 17, 1621, God was merciful to him and the Pilgrims with a Native American named Squanto. He too experienced war in his own life by being taken away from his family and becoming a slave. When Squanto returned 10 years later his family and entire tribe was gone. But by the mercy of God, through being enslaved and being away from his family, he was able to meet a nice British family who took him in and taught him English. He also was sold to friars, but they told him about Jesus and then let him go. Because of his interactions with many European people, while also holding onto his Indian ways, Squanto was able to save the Pilgrims. He showed them how to plant corn in an effective way, how to build better houses, and how to communicate and trade with the Natives. Bradford and Squanto were able to celebrate their thankfulness of God’s mercy through their times of uncertainties and fears. As Bradford stated, “and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as leading him with our complaints in the time of pressing afflictions.” Through our life of war, we too can be thankful for God’s mercy. 

There is a passage about God’s mercy in Psalm 136. The author, David, states that God’s mercy endures forever. As I continue to read God’s Word, I can see how numerous parts of the Bible connect to each other. Psalm 136 does too. The first three verses say:
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
    For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
    For His mercy endures forever"
These verses give us the reason we celebrate Thanksgiving, which is to give thanks to our God for His goodness. Verses 4-9:
"To Him who alone does great wonders,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who made great lights,
    For His mercy endures forever—
The sun to rule by day,
    For His mercy endures forever;
The moon and stars to rule by night,
    For His mercy endures forever
These verses refer to the beginning in the first book of Genesis, praising and reflecting on how God is our Creator and how His mercy holds the world together.
In God’s chosen nation, Isreal, the story unfolds in verses 10-22. In summary, these verses start at the beginning in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, where God’s “strong hand and outstretched arm” struck down the Egyptians and brought His people out of Egypt into the wilderness. It continues telling us Pharaoh came after the Israelites, but God’s mercy saved them with the parting of the Red Sea. God mercy is shown when Isreal is able to “strike down great kings” and gain their Promise Land.
The last 4 verses of Psalm 136 show us concerning God’s mercy.
"Who remembered us in our lowly state,
    For His mercy endures forever;
24 And rescued us from our enemies,
    For His mercy endures forever;
25 Who gives food to all flesh,
    For His mercy endures forever.
26 Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!
    For His mercy endures forever.
We have fears and uncertainties which bring us to lowly states and cause us to fear our enemies, but in these verses God’s mercy endures forever.
 So, today we should reflect on giving thanks for God’s mercy in our own lives. Let us give thanks knowing we don’t have to fight this war of uncertainties and fears alone. Psalm 136 shows us a God who takes care of the ones He loves. And as William Bradford quoted from Romans 12:2, “…by the mercies of God we may all…offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable service unto God by Jesus Christ”. That’s it! By the mercy of God, we can say yes to Jesus and no longer fight the battles of knowing when to do right or wrong. We need to let go of our fears and uncertainties, giving ourselves to Jesus who came and died, not because we earned it, or even deserved it, but because of His mercy and love towards us. Let us give thanks that His mercy does endure forever.

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