A Thanksgiving To-Do List
What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
Many of you plan on doing some cooking, entertaining some family or friends. You’ve got a menu to plan, groceries to buy, dining rooms to decorate. Maybe you’ve already started, or maybe you’ll wait until the last minute, but either way Thanksgiving will be a busy day for you.
Others of us plan on watching some ball games on Thanksgiving. Maybe you’ll watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV, or scan the ads for Black Friday specials.
Even with gas so expensive, I’ve heard there will be a record number of travelers in the air and on the road this Thanksgiving. Maybe you’ll be one.
No matter how old or young you are, Thanksgiving will most likely be a busy day for you. But with all the other plans and activities, I want to ask you an important question: what are you planning to do with Jesus this Thanksgiving? On your to-do list, is there anything you will do just for Him? I’d like to offer you 4 suggestions to add to your Thanksgiving to-do list for Jesus. They all come from Psalm 105:1-4.
What can you do for Jesus this Thanksgiving? Well let’s begin with the obvious:
1) Thank Him. Oh, Give thanks unto the Lord!
From the oldest to the youngest, everyone gathered at the table for Thanksgiving Dinner were expressing their praise. When they came to the 5-year-old in the family, he began by expressing his thanks to the turkey, saying although he had not tasted it he knew it would be good. After that he began a more predictable line of credits, thanking his mother for cooking the turkey and his father for buying the turkey. But then he said, "I thank you for the checker at the grocery store who checked out the turkey. I thank you for the grocery store people who put it on the shelf. I thank you for the farmer who made it fat. I thank you for the man who made the feed. I thank you for those who brought the turkey to the store." He traced the turkey all the way from its origin to his plate. And then at the end he solemnly said "Did I leave anybody out?" His 2-year-older brother, said, "God." Without being flustered at all, the 5-year-old said, "I was just about to get to Him."[i]
So many people never get to Him on Thanksgiving. On the one day set aside to give thanks for God’s blessing, millions of people will forget to give thanks to Jesus this Thanksgiving Day.
The psalmist begins his song with a call to everyone: Oh, give thanks unto the Lord!
Do you hear passion in this invitation? Let your heart so overflow with gratitude that you give thanks to the Lord from your heart! He’s not just asking for a dull ritual prayer around the table—he is calling us to fervently and sincerely thank God from the bottom of our hearts.
In other words, don’t let your thanks be just a duty, let it be a spontaneous, sincere expression of grateful love for the Lord.
Now you might say Bro. Mike, I just can’t get that excited about Thanksgiving. It’s good to be honest, but let me suggest to you that you can passionately give thanks to the Lord if you are first willing to do some serious thinking.
First, think about how much God has given you.
Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…
How often do you take a break from your hectic schedule and think about every good and perfect gift your Heavenly Father gives you? It’s easier to focus on all you don’t have, all of your problems, what you wish would be different. But what if you took the time—say 15 minutes—to think and to thank Him for all the beautiful, wonderful people and things He gives?
He gave you that spouse who’s seen you at your worse and still loves you. He gave you those kids who think you’re the greatest. He gives you that nice warm home you enjoy on these cold, chilly nights. He gave you that job that pays all your bills. He gave you an appetite to enjoy eating that big meal. He gave you a heart that can love and be loved. He gave you His Son, Jesus, so you can experience abundant, eternal life.
You and I could play count your many blessings all day, but you get the point. Sure you have problems, but for just a little while, can you set aside those problems and take time to think of all the blessings God has showered on your life—and then thank Him?
So many people never stop to think about their blessings until they’re gone. When you reach for that hand and it isn’t there, when you long for that child and they’re gone, when you can’t make ends meet and your health starts to fail---so often that’s the first time a person realizes how blessed they’ve been. How much better it would be to take time to count your blessings now, to tell the Lord how much you appreciate all He’s given you.
If you take time to think, your heart will be filled with thanks, and you can do what the psalmist urges us to do: Oh, give thanks unto the Lord! Don’t offer Jesus a stale, meaningless prayer over your meal this Thanksgiving---take time to count your blessings, and as you do, remember to obey the words of
Ps 106:1 …Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!...
The first thing on your Thanksgiving To-Do List ought to be to thank the Lord. The 2nd thing on your list ought to be:
2) Call Him. …call upon His Name…
How many of you knew there is a special phone number for questions about your Thanksgiving turkey? The Butterball Turkey Hotline—1-800-BUTTERBALL. Over the years, they’ve complied a list of the
Top Ten Questions Received By The Butterball Turkey Hotline
10. "If I put my phone in the turkey, can you tell me if it's done?"
9. "How can I be sure it's dead?"
8. "Transfer me to the gravy department."
7. "Given the current market, am I better off renting a turkey?"
6. "Can I buy an extended warranty for my turkey?"
5. "I've never cooked a turkey before--is it like cooking a raccoon?"
4. "When will the 2009 models be released?"
3. "Did you know your telephone number is one off from the gutter ball bowling hotline?"
2. "What's the best kind of stuffing to shoot from a cannon?"
1. "How big a turkey should I get for 1,500 hungry female cons?"
You may want to call the Turkey hotline this Thanksgiving. The psalmist encourages us to take advantage of another kind of hotline when he says call upon His Name.
Calling someone by name involves a certain level of personal relationship, something like when we say we know a person on a first name basis. Anybody can call on God, but only those in a personal relationship with Him can truly call upon His Name.
Calling on His Name involves an acknowledgement of your dependence on God. Calling on God is a call for help, a recognition you are in over your head, that unless God helps you, you probably won’t make it. One example:
Ps 34:6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
Do you ever feel that way during the holidays? They call it the season of joy, but too often it is a season of stress, headaches, and even depression. Trouble never takes a holiday, and even on a day when you and I should be giving thanks, we can feel as if we are drowning. This is why one of the things on your to-do list for Thanksgiving should be to call upon His Name.
You don’t need a toll-free number to call on Jesus this morning, but you do need to have a personal relationship with Him. Do you know Jesus on a first name basis, or is all your knowledge only second-hand hearsay? If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this needs to be on your to-do list not just for Thanksgiving, but for today.
Ro 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Are you in over your head this morning? Maybe you feel like you are going down for the last time, overwhelmed by your worries and fears. Call on His Name, and He will save you, and rescue you from whatever pit you’re in. The 3rd thing to put on your Thanksgiving to-do list is
3) Praise Him. (v. 1b-3)
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll probably be watching at least one of the bowl games this Thanksgiving. Part of the fun comes after the game is played, especially if your team wins. You know what I mean: you sit around with somebody else and replay the best parts.
Did you see that 50 yard pass Peyton Manning threw for that touchdown? Man, that defense was like a brick wall—nobody could get through. I can’t believe how he made that catch and ran all the way down for the score! That was great!
Sports fans know it’s a lot of fun to marvel at the skills of our favorite players, teams, NASCAR drivers. In fact, what we do is enjoy praising them for what they do.
This is very similar to what the psalmist calls us to do in vs. 1b-3.
Make known His deeds among the peoples….Sing to Him!....Talk of His wondrous works…Glory in His holy Name….
Get noisy about God’s greatness and goodness! Sing songs about all of the great things He has done! Tell other people about what He’s done for you, spend time bragging on your God!
The same church member who yells like a Comanche Indian at a football game sits like a wooden Indian in the house of God on Sunday.[ii]
Why do we talk about everything and everyone else, but for some reason clam up when it comes to Jesus? I’m not advocating screaming and yelling and going crazy---you don’t have to do any of that to praise the Lord.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey the crowd sang and shouted His praises. His enemies called for Christ to make them quiet down, but He told them
Lk 19:40 …I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.
Why don’t we praise Him? Maybe because we really don’t think Jesus is all that great. We think our sports heroes are great because they can throw or catch or dunk or drive, but Jesus never did any of that. We think celebrities are great because they are famous and glamorous, and let’s face it, Jesus might be famous, but He’s not too glamorous. We think people are great because they are cool, or they make lots of money. That’s why we talk about them all the time; that’s why we praise them all the time.
What’s so great about Jesus? Let’s think about that: He is the God Who created everything, the God Who is perfectly holy, without any sin; the God Who will judge everybody, including you and me.
He has the right to send every one of us to hell, but for some reason nobody can fathom, He loves you.
He became a Man just so He could suffer and die to pay for your sins, to offer you a clean slate, because He wants you to enjoy a great life here and an even greater life in heaven when you die. Nobody else has loved you as deeply, as passionately, as sacrificially as He does. Nobody else could ever do for you what He has done.
Does that give us enough reason to praise Him? Does that give you enough reason to bring Him up in conversation, to replay the game for everybody who hasn’t heard, to enjoy repeating the story of God’s greatness and goodness and love?
Put it on your to-do list for Thanksgiving—praise Him. Not only does He deserve it, but you might actually discover the joy of praising Jesus!
The last thing to put on your list is
4) Seek Him. (v. 4)
The World Wide Web makes easy to find almost anything you’re looking for. All you have to do is Google it. Type in what you’re looking for in a Google box, press the button, your computer screen will fill up in with a list of “hits”—every website that even mentions whatever subject you typed in. I tried typing in the word GOD and got 445 million hits.
Google will help you access a lot of information about God, but it won’t really help you find Him. You have to look for Him, or in the words of the psalmist, you must seek His face.
How do you go about seeking the Lord? Well, first you have to look in the right places.
A good place to start is not on the internet, but in the Bible. God reveals Himself in His Word, showing us how He interacts with His people, disclosing what He thinks and how He feels. That’s one of the main reasons He gave us the Bible—to reveal Himself to us. Jesus said to some folks who needed to seek the Lord
Jn 5:39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
The Bible reveals God as He truly is, apart from human theories or speculations. But seeking the Lord is not just about reading the Bible---it is also about looking around in the world to see how God is at work right now.
God is still around today, still changing lives and events, using people just like you and I to do His will on earth as it is in heaven. But we have to seek Him to ask Him to reveal His glory to us in this world, to show us how we can part of what He is doing right now. When you pray, you are seeking God, but when you obey His commands you are also seeking God.
Jesus said when you meet somebody in need and help them---those who are sick, in prison, in need---you are doing the same for Him.
Mt 25:40 …Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.
The truth is Jesus is everywhere, you just have to look for Him. Then you will find Him.
Je 29:13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
A Jewish Rabbi’s grandson was playing hide-and-seek with another child. The boy hid and waited a long time, and finally left his hiding place. His playmate was nowhere to be found. With tears in his eyes he came running to his grandfather. Then the Rabbi also began to weep and said, "That is the way God acts: I hide, but nobody wants to look for me."[iii]
There’s a big difference between that little boy and God---He isn’t the loser when you don’t seek Him, you are. This Thanksgiving, why not take some time to really seek God? You can be sure He wants to reveal Himself to all those who take the time to look for Him in His Word and in His World.
What’s on your to-do list this Thanksgiving?
The day before Thanksgiving an elderly man calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough."
"Dad, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man says. "And I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her." Then he hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "No way they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this." She calls and screams at the old man, "You are NOT getting divorced. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?"
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife with a smile and says, “Well, that worked like a charm. They’ll all be here for Thanksgiving and they’ll all be paying their own way!”
What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Buy the bird, make the meal, welcome family and friends, load the car and head to grandma’s, watch the game, enjoy a day off from work.
But don’t forget Jesus on Thanksgiving.
Don’t forget to thank Him. Don’t forget to call Him.
Don’t forget to praise Him. Don’t forget to seek Him.
In fact, why don’t we get started right now ? We’re already in church, and we’ve got plenty of time. Why don’t you and I take time to thank Him right now? If you need to call on the Lord right now, why not kneel here up front and ask for Him to save you? It’s always a good time to praise Him, and even better time to seek Him.
Let’s do it.
[i] Joel Gregory, "The Unlikely Thanker," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
[ii]Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville:
[iii] Gebhard Maria Behler, "What Is God's Game?" in A Treasury of Catholic Digest. Christianity Today, Vol. 31