November 22, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him
and praise his name.
If you’re not from the United States, I should explain that on the fourth Thursday of November, we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Theoretically, this is a time for all Americans to be thankful for our many blessings. Gratitude happens more on Thanksgiving Day than on normal days. But, for most Americans, the main features of this holiday involve getting together with relatives and friends, eating a lavish meal, usually featuring turkey, and, dare I say it, watching football (by which Americans don’t mean what we call soccer). If you’d like more history on Thanksgiving in the United States, see “A Brief History of Thanksgiving” in a series of essay I’ve written on thankfulness.
With so much of Thanksgiving filled with travel, conversation, eating, and watching television, we might easily miss the “thanking God” part of the holiday. That’s one reason I like to think of Thanksgiving as a week, not just a day. If we go about our Thanksgiving business without actually thanking God, then we miss out on the most precious part of the day.
And we miss out on something more. You see, thanking God isn’t just a required duty, an activity required by tradition. Rather, thanking God is one effective and wonderful way to come into God’s presence. Yes, yes, I know that, strictly speaking, God is always present. But we are often unaware of his presence. The act of thanking God not only reminds us of God’s presence, but it often draws us closer to God.
Psalm 100, one of the classic biblical psalms of thanksgiving, invites us: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (100:4). The psalm writer is picturing the temple in Jerusalem, with its mighty gates through which worshipers passed in order to enter the courts of the Lord. Thanks, therefore, is a starting point, a point of entry into worship.
Today, as you enjoy holiday traditions, conversations with relatives, delicious food, and even some televised football, be sure to take time for God. Give him thanks for all of this goodness to you. Even if you’re going through a hard time, you can step back and see God’s grace at work in your life. As you offer thanks, allow the Spirit of God to open your mind and heart, so that you might truly know the presence of God today.
Something to Think About:
Can you relate to the power of thanks to lead you into God’s presence? If so, talk about how this happens in your life.
How can you be sure to pay attention to God’s presence today?
Something to Do:
Often in the last few years, my family and I have set aside time on Thanksgiving Day for shared gratitude. We simply go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Nobody is required to share. Some people have more to say; some have less. But it’s a precious treat to share in gratitude together as a family. Whether you’re with your actual relatives today or not, perhaps you can find a way to share your thanks with others. And if you can’t do it in person, digital technology can help.
Gracious God, indeed we thank you today for all of your good gifts to us. In the midst of so much activity, may we have time to tell you how thankful we are. On this day, we thank you most of all for your grace poured out for us in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The First Thanksgiving?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.