Attitude of Gratitude

Attitude of Gratitude

When we read the teachings of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, we see how different they are from any other religious teaching in the world. Following those teachings would benefit all of the inhabitants of this planet. Jesus taught an essential attitude toward possessions and wealth. I have always enjoyed the phrase “attitude of gratitude.”

Americans have moved from an attitude of gratitude to an attitude of entitlement. There is no reason to give thanks for something if it was owed to us in the first place. We seem to jump from one “gimmie festival” to another as we go through the holidays. The result of this is stress, worry, anxiety, and all of the physiological disorders that go with this self-induced pressure.

Many years ago, Dr. Stephen Post, a physician at Case Western Medical School, shared some data on how people benefit from an attitude of gratitude in Guideposts Magazine (November 2007, page 78):

  • Just 15 minutes a day focusing on things you’re thankful for will significantly increase your body’s natural antibodies.
  • Naturally grateful people are more focused mentally and measurably less vulnerable to clinical depression.
  • A grateful state of mind induces a physiological state called resonance that’s associated with healthier blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Caring for others is draining. But grateful caregivers are healthier and more capable than less grateful ones.
  • Recipients of donated organs who have the most grateful attitudes heal faster.

How do Christians develop a natural gratitude that affords them these benefits? In the Psalms, the Hebrew word for thanks occurs 31 times. Psalms is a worship book that concentrates on praise to God. Thanksgiving is a vital part of the praise and worship of God. In the New Testament, there are 50 occurrences of the word “thanks.” The Hebrew word “towdah” and the Greek word “eucharista” convey pure worship and are translated “thanks.” Giving, being thankful, feeling gratitude for our blessings is pure worship, and it culminates in service to others.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Materialism is a serious source of pollution to our spiritual living. An attitude of gratitude can help to clear that pollution.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

This post is adapted from an article in the Does God Exist printed journal in 2009. You can read the entire article HERE.

Blessing of Turkeys

Blessing of Turkeys

Turkeys are native to North America and live in the wild in every state except Alaska. They got the name “turkey” when Turkish merchants brought them into Europe. Since they were very abundant and easy to kill, indigenous North Americans domesticated them by around 800 BC. Many native American tribes considered turkeys to be a gift from deity. Ben Franklin thought that the turkey instead of the bald eagle should be the national bird of the United States. The blessing of turkeys is that they seem to be designed uniquely to meet the needs of humans.

Biologically, turkeys are of the order called Galliformes, which are ground-feeding birds that include chickens, grouse, guinea fowl, quail, and pheasants. Turkeys have large breasts, are poor fliers, and can adapt to almost any environment. They are omnivores that will eat just about anything they find on the ground.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is hard to imagine how turkeys have survived. The only defensive weapon they have is the spurs on the feet of the males. Those of us living in areas where there are large numbers of wild turkeys have learned to be careful when around them. A turkey will attack anything it sees as subordinate. Recently in the spring mating season, a turkey flew through the open window of a pickup truck and attacked the driver, who required more than a dozen stitches. But a turkey is no match for a wolf, bear, or eagle.

When God blessed Noah and his family in Genesis chapter nine, He told them that all living things were delivered into their hands. He said that “every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” The ease of domesticating chickens and turkeys comes from the planning and wisdom of God. The blessing of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner is a special reminder of God’s creative wisdom. It also reminds us that we are responsible to care for the wonderful blessings of food God has provided.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Heifer.org and World Ark, Holiday 2019, pages 5-7.

Jewish Feasts and Thanksgiving

Jewish Feasts and Thanksgiving
There are seven feasts that God told the ancient Israelite nation to observe. What is interesting is that the purpose of each one of these is similar to what Christians engage in and for the same reasons. You can see the connection between the Jewish feasts and Thanksgiving.

Take a look at these seven feasts and how we have the same needs:

1-The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Or Passover). Leviticus 23:5, Exodus 23:15, and Numbers 28:16-25. This feast celebrated the historical deliverance from Egypt. Our 4th of July originally had a similar purpose. The Lord’s Supper also remembers deliverance from sin – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

2-The Feast of Weeks or Harvest. Exodus 23:16 and 34:22 and Numbers 28:26. It was later known as Pentecost because it was celebrated on the 50th day from the Sabbath beginning the Passover. It was a time to remember the blessing of having grain crops. By the way, our first Thanksgiving occurred on the same date as Thanksgiving 2018 – November 22. The Plymouth Colonists and Wampanoag Indians celebrated it on that date in 1621. First Corinthians 16:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 express a similar joy at the blessings of God.

3-The Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths or Ingathering). Leviticus 23:34-43, Deuteronomy 16:13-15, and Numbers 29:12-38. This feast celebrated the harvesting of fruit from trees. Our Thanksgiving had a similar origin. (See number 2.)

4-Feast of the Sabbath – or Sabbath of Rest. Leviticus. 23:2-3 and Isaiah 58:13. It was a solemn assembly of thanking God for the nation of Israel. Our Independence day is similar.

5-Day of Blowing Trumpets. Numbers 29:1 and Leviticus 23:24. It was a sabbath and a memorial to celebrate the nation. Our Veterans Day and our Memorial Day are similar.

6-Day of Atonement. Leviticus 23:26-31 and Exodus 30:10. On the 10th day of the 7th month observed once a year a day Israel focused on individual personal sin and making atonement for that sin. Our Lord’s Supper has a connection to that concept every week, and 1 John 1:5-10 tells us that as Christians our atonement is continuous.

7-Feast of Purim. Esther 9:18-32 – This was a celebration established by Mordecai to celebrate the deliverance from Haman similar to our Memorial Day.

Israel had specific feasts to lift and remind their thinking to have an attitude of gratitude for all the blessing they had received. Shouldn’t we have that same spirit as we celebrate Thanksgiving? Romans 1:18-22 describes the enemies of God, and one of the indicators of their antagonism to God was that they were not thankful.

The connection between the Jewish feasts and Thanksgiving are evident. Make Thanksgiving special this year by expressing your sincere thanks for all the blessings God has given.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Holiday Season and the Black Friday Kickoff

Holiday Season Black Friday
We are at the beginning of the so-called Holiday Season which is supposed to be a time of religious significance, good will, love for others, and gift giving. The chances are that you have had some kind of reaction to “Black Friday.” In 1952 Black Friday was the name given to the day after Thanksgiving because it was the day when shopkeepers balance sheets turned black (positive) from red (loss) for the year.

What began as a commentary on business profits and margins has become a time of greed and in a few cases, even violence. In 2008 a crowd of shoppers at a Walmart in Valley Stream, New York, broke down the door to the store and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death. On the same day, two people were shot to death in an altercation over a toy in Palm Desert, California. In 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin, police arrested a woman who threatened to shoot other shoppers who objected to her cutting in line. In 2011 a woman at a Walmart at Porter Ranch, California, used pepper spray on fellow shoppers to get to the front of a line to buy a discounted Xbox. The list of abuse and violence on Black Friday is long and tragic.

Some of us can remember a time when gifts at Christmas were hand-made or involved food. Thanksgiving was a religious day recognizing how blessed we are individually and as a country. Christmas was a time of Christian celebration in song and art. Our emphasis on things has pushed us to compete for whatever is the current toy of the year. Television ads show us how important it is for us to give our mate or child a new car or an expensive piece of jewelry. For many people paying for holiday gifts goes on for months or even years,

Christians should reflect on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33, “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or drink or even for your body and what clothes you shall put on. Is not life more than meat and your body more than your clothes? Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow and they do not reap or gather into barns. Still, your Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your height? Why do you worry about clothing? Take a look at the lilies of the field, how they grow, and they don’t work at it… And yet even Solomon in all of his splendor was not arrayed like one of these… So take no thought saying what shall I eat or drink or what shall I wear. Your Father knows you have need of these things, but you should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added to you.”

Don’t allow atheistic materialism to rob you of the great joys that come from times of thankfulness, helping others, and spending time with the Lord in thankfulness and joy at the opportunity you have to be a Christian and to bring blessings to others. Let’s make this holiday season a holy season.
–John N. Clayton

Thankfulness and Being Human

Thankfulness
We had just left a sandwich shop where we ate lunch. A woman with a smile on her face came up to our car window holding a sandwich. I rolled down the window to see what she wanted. She said, “Are you the ones who paid for my sandwich?” She said the employee in the store told her that a person ahead of her had paid, so she didn’t owe anything. I told her that I was glad for her, but we were not the ones who had done this generous act. As she went away, it was obvious that the small kindness had made her day, but she was disappointed that she didn’t get to express her thankfulness to her benefactor.

We have many people to thank, such as soldiers, police, firefighters, and teachers; but most of all our thankfulness should be directed toward God. There is something about humans that makes us want to express our gratitude. It’s part of what makes us different from the animals. Our pets are loyal to us because we feed them, and they get excited when they see us open the food container. But only humans are motivated to express true gratitude. The Psalms often express thankfulness to God for the things He has done. Reformer Martin Luther called thankfulness “the basic Christian attitude.” G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”

We often show thankfulness toward each other, but our greatest debt of gratitude is to God. One evidence of God’s existence is that not only does He give us many good things, but He also has given us the desire and ability to say, “Thank you.” In Romans 1:21 the apostle Paul wrote about godless people, “…they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thank you for reading our daily posts. We hope that you will express your thanks to God who has given us all good things.
–Roland Earnst © 2017