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Historical Thanksgiving Proclamations to God

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, it's good to remember that Thanksgiving is inextricably tied to our nation’s founding and its times of war, as well as its Christian heritage.

In 1777, the first official Thanksgiving proclamation was issued by the Continental Congress after the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga. The proclamation asked God to "... smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties."

On Oct.3, 1789, eight years after the surrender of the British army at Yorktown, President George Washington issued a proclamation "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

President Washington assigned "... Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation."

It was President Abraham Lincoln who began issuing a proclamation in 1863 for a national day of thanksgiving, when it became the custom of U.S. presidents. During the Civil War, President Lincoln established a permanent observance by calling on the American people "... to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November (to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy). After a storm of protest, Roosevelt changed the holiday again in 1941 to the fourth Thursday in November, where it stands today. It was 1941 when Thanksgiving became an official national holiday. Since then, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation calling for a national day of thanksgiving each November.

The photo image is a copy of a 1789 newspaper that published President George Washington's proclamation of the first official Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Let us know your thoughts about presidential Thanksgiving proclamations by commenting below.

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A Grateful Nation

by R.T. Kendall

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

—Ps. 106:47

God loves a grateful nation. Just as an individual cannot "out-thank" the Lord—for God pours out His blessing more than ever, so a nation cannot out-thank God either.

Just as those individuals who praised God on Palm Sunday possibly did so selfishly, even ignorantly and for the wrong reasons—and God accepted their praise, so God accepts the praise of a nation that attempts to show gratitude to Him. It does not necessarily matter that every single person who participates in such thanksgiving is a faithful servant of God in his or her private life; God just notices a nation overall that makes any attempt to show gratitude to Him.

If this message were to get through to heads of state, even if they are not themselves born again, I believe most of them would still want to lead the nation to show thanks—if only for what it would do for that nation. God inhabits the praise of people. If any nation were to show thanks to the true God—the One who sent His only Son into the world, that nation would be so much better off.

We should be continually thankful to God (and remember to tell Him so) for laws in the land that outlaw theft, murder, and other crimes; for medical people, for the police, for firemen. God's common grace preserves a measure of order in the world. However chaotic things may seem from time to time—whether through terrorism or natural disasters, the truth is that if God utterly withdrew His hand from the world, all hell would break loose and civilization as we know it would end overnight.

It is in the interest of any nation to show reverence to the God of the Bible.

You can read more and purchase R.T. Kendall's book, The Word and the Spirit, which this article is derived from, by clicking here.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, for 25 years. Born in Ashland, Ky., he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University. He is well known internationally as a speaker and teacher. He is the author of more than 40 books, including The Power of Humility, The Word and the Spirit, The Sensitivity of the Spirit, The Anointing, Just Say Thanks! and Total Forgiveness.

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12 Keys to Thanksgiving

Jerry Falwellby the late Jerry Falwell

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, I want to briefly examine how the Bible exhorts us to respond to God's faithfulness. The answer is very simple: to be thankful.

King David thought the virtue of thankfulness so important that he appointed a large group of Levites (priests) who did nothing else in the House of God but to thank and praise Him. As Christians, we must continue to show our thankfulness to God.

Here are 12 things for which we should give God persistent thanks.

1. For creating us in His image

Psalm 100:3, 4: "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."

How wonderful and comforting to know we have not evolved from some ancient muddy glob, but rather have been created by the hand of the Mighty God. Like God, He made us a trinity: body, soul and spirit.

2. For redeeming us by His blood

Revelation 5:9: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."

3. For sending His Son

2 Corinthians 9:15: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."

4. For His holiness

Psalm 97:12: "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." Unlike the cruel, immoral pagans Gods, our God is holy!

5. For His mercy

Psalm 103:1, 8: "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy."

This virtue is so important that the psalmist refers to it no less than 26 times in Psalm 136.

6. For His shepherding ministry

Psalm 79:13: "So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations."

7. For other Christians

That's right. We are instructed not only to pray for other believers, but to actually thank God for them.  Time and again, the apostle Paul did this. Philippians 1:3 is a great example: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you ...."

8. For victory

I Corinthians 15:57: "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." This means we have victory over the world, the devil, temptation, lust, fear and ultimately death itself.

9. For that specific work God has called us to do

Ephesians 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

10. For allowing us to give to Him of our tithes and offerings

Psalm 50:14: "Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High."

11. For Christ's coming millennial reign

We should be vigilantly thankful to God in advance for the story that will ultimately have a happy ending.

12. For anything and everything

I Thessalonians 5:18: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

This is certainly the most difficult of all to do. How can we possibly thank God when financial loss comes our way, or when medical crisis comes to us? During these critical moments we must ever remind ourselves that God often permits these tragedies so that through them we might ultimately be blessed.

He is a perfect God, my friends, and worthy of our constant praise. May we all spend time thanking Him for these essential gifts to us this Thanksgiving.

This article originally ran in Jerry Falwell's November 2006 e-newsletter.

What are you thankful for? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.


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Wholeheartedly Giving Thanks to God

by R.T. Kendall

I have so much for which to be thankful. Do you? Do you show Him how thankful you are for what He has done? How could you best build in a daily opportunity to thank the Lord?

You may say, "He knows I'm thankful. I don't have to tell Him every day." Please tell Him. Do you not appreciate it yourself when people thank you for something?

Even though God can see your heart whereas people cannot, you need to tell Him. God also knows what things you need before you ask Him (Matt. 6:8), but He still wants you to tell Him, and when you pray that is what you should do.

We have a curious way of asking the Lord for what we need (even though He knows the need). We should also remember to thank Him (even though He may well know we are thankful).

How can we be so sure we are thankful if we do not go through the trouble of remembering to say thank you to the One who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3)?

We all know people who annoy us by their lack of gratitude and appreciation. It is surely true that those who remember to say "thank you" are more thankful than the ones who forget to say "thank you." God loves to hear us say "thank You" to Him and to each other. I believe that there are three principles behind thankfulness: God loves gratitude; God hates ingratitude; and gratitude must be taught.

A good parent will teach his or her child to be thankful, to show thankfulness, and to express it. God, the perfect parent, has taught this in His Word. With great care and patience He taught the children of Israel to be thankful. He was grieved when they were unthankful. Jesus taught the same thing, as did the apostle Paul.

The biblical doctrine of sanctification is to be seen as the doctrine of gratitude. Sanctification is the process by which we are made holy. It is becoming more and more like Jesus. But why be sanctified? Answer: to show we are thankful. This is why the reformed doctrine of sanctification has been called, literally, the doctrine of gratitude.

You can read more and purchase R.T. Kendall's book, Just Say Thanks!, which this article is derived from, by clicking here.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, for 25 years. Born in Ashland, Ky., he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University. He is well known internationally as a speaker and teacher. He is the author of more than 40 books, including The Power of Humility, The Word and the Spirit, The Sensitivity of the Spirit, The Anointing, Just Say Thanks! and Total Forgiveness.

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