Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Abraham Lincoln and the Meaning of Thanksgiving

NOTE: This is such a powerful Thanksgiving message, we are reposting it again in 2017.

A note from interlinc President Allen Weed: My long time friend and co-laborer in youth ministry Ron Boehme sent me his Thanksgiving post this morning. His insights on President Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation blew me away! With Ron’s permission and our editor’s kind readjustment, Ron’s thoughts are here as a Guest Blog Post.

These thoughts and application points will be foundational for our family discussions over the next couple of days. I hope you will find them equally as helpful. Jesus Christ is the same – 1863, today and forever! Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and the kids in your youth ministry.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely biblical holiday (should we go back in time and rightly rename it a “holy day?”).

It is not simply a day off, with turkey and trimmings, time with family members or a good football game. Yes, it can involve all these elements, but it is much more than that.

Thanksgiving is a “reality reminder” day: There is a God. He is awesome, loving, and just. And everything we have and hope for comes directly or indirectly from him.

At least once a year we should “re-center” our lives and spend a day giving thanks to Him.

Abraham Lincoln, our most respected president, understood that truth. Here is his reminder, during a grim time in American history that can help us navigate our own.

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Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Lincoln has been out for over a year and is currently ranked at number two on the New York Times best-seller list (amazingly his new book Killing Kennedy is number one–and both are excellent reads).

Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring David Day-Lewis, is also out in theaters this week and is getting excellent reviews. I am looking forward to seeing it as my “movie of the year.”

What made Lincoln a great president was his clear, uncompromising faith in God and his view that history is being guided by a Being who is worthy of our prayers, devotion, and thanks.

Here is his text for an 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. I would encourage you to read it slowly to get the depth of his thinking. In between paragraphs, I will comment on his wisdom.

Washington, D.C., October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Lincoln reminds us that we tend to “forget” about God. Do you forget him in your daily life and struggles? Lincoln rightly reminds us that God is our “source” of everything good in our lives. He says that our gratefulness to God should “soften our hearts” and make us aware of God’s watchful providence in our lives. Is your heart soft toward God and his blessings? Do you realize that a Loving God is watching over your life as well as guiding the affairs of nations?

“In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.”

Lincoln is grateful that even during our nation’s darkest war, there was a peace and harmony in the world that only God could create and maintain. If left to ourselves, everything would explode or fall apart. But God keeps the world together with his ever-wise and loving care.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.”

Despite the war and national travail, Lincoln is grateful that America is a fruitful, growing nation in which he expects a “large increase of freedom.” Do you expect same? Does your faith go beyond the horizon of your personal circumstances and national problems to thank God for his abundance?

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Abraham Lincoln understood sin–and God’s anger against it. If you love people and truth then you must hate evil and its destructive forms. But he also knew that God was gracious–and that ALL the great things in America have come via his grace and mercy. Do you consciously realize that truth? Do you give God credit for all the good things in your life?

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.”

I love Lincoln’s word choices here. Solemnly–don’t joke away Thanksgiving or fail to give God serious thought. Reverently–with respect, prayer, and admiration. Gratefully–it only has meaning when it is directed toward someone. Gratefulness in general is just pleasant feelings. Gratefulness to God grows a loving relationship with your Lord and Savior.

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, 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.”

Lincoln asks all Americans to observe Thankgiving day–whether they are atheists, pantheists, or believers in God. It will benefit all because, whether they believe it or not, God is there. You may not see the sun for the clouds, but it is there and you couldn’t live without it. Even more so with God in whom you live, breathe and have your being (Acts 17:28). He exhorts all Americans to the double barrels of joy–thanksgiving and praise. One recognizes what God does and the other, who he is. He is our Father whose home is in the Heavens (the ultimate destination of his children).

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

Lincoln finishes his Proclamation with three distinct admonitions:

1. That we have repentant hearts over our “national perverseness and disobedience.” What would Abraham Lincoln think of the evolution of those sins today? Do you care? Do you grieve over America’s perversion and turning away from God? In 1863, the president of the United States encouraged our citizens to repent.

2. That we reach out to the needy, hurting, and unfortunate in our society. God cares–so should we.

3. That we pray that God would heal and restore us to Him. Have you personally prayed today beyond bowing your head before the turkey is served? Were your prayers passionate for your family and nation?

“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.”

“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.”

“By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”

There’s no mention here of the phony definition of separation of Church and State. Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, calls all Americans to repent, thank God, praise Him, and serve others.

Will you act upon his timeless words?

Happy Thanksgiving–in the year of our Lord 2012 and of the Independence of the United States the Two-Hundred and Thirty-Sixth.

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We’re Thankful for You …

It’s Thanksgiving week, and one of the things we’re most thankful for is that we get to serve alongside so many amazing youth leaders, volunteers and pastors. THANK YOU for everything you do for students! Tobymac sums up our feelings pretty well with this song!

Editor’s note: This discussion starter for “Thankful For You” was written by Dan Schewe from Faith Lutheran Church in Rogers, Minnesota

Teaching Point
We can do nothing on our own; be thankful to those who have helped us.

Opening Questions
What is something you have done that you are proud of, or that was important to you? Who helped you or made it possible? Who are you thankful for?

The Song
Explain that TobyMac has learned something about gratitude. Ask the students to listen carefully to see what he communicates in “Thankful 4 You.” Play the song.

Just like Toby, everything we have or have done is possible because of the efforts of others.

Bible Study
The great leader Moses wasn’t always so great. When he was a baby he got a lot of help that allowed him to become a great man. Take a look at the familiar story of his birth in Exodus 2:1-10. Without Pharaohs’ daughter, her servants, his sister, and his mother he would have perished as a child. Do you think Moses was thankful for them?

Most of us are not famous, and neither was an unnamed man in Luke 5:17-26. He was paralyzed.

His friends heard about Jesus and decided to take him to Him. Unfortunately they couldn’t get in the front door to the place where Jesus was because it was too crowded. Instead of giving up, they went on the roof and made a hole to lower their friend down. Obviously this man was thankful for Jesus’ healing, but do you think he was thankful for the actions of his friends?

Ultimately, we are all dependant on what Jesus has done for us. He came and died to make things right between God and us. Paul helps us see a wonderful aspect of this in Philippians 3:12-14. We all should try to live a life of love and follow the model of Jesus.

But Paul admits that he has not yet achieved this, but as he strives to live this life the wonderful thing is that Christ has already taken hold of him and is drawing him into this very life he is striving for!

Everything we are and do is possible because of the people who support us, and really because of God. Take a moment this week to thank the people who havehelped you get where you are. Also, think about who you know that might need a hand. Remember, you are blessed – and are to be a blessing.


Write Group: Ideas for Thanksgiving

Editor’s Note: We asked some of our Write Group members — the youth leaders who write the Bible studies and articles for our Resource Books — to share some of their favorite Thanksgiving ministry ideas. And we want to hear your ideas! Share them in the comments.

We do an all-youth Thanksgiving worship time on a Wednesday night before the holiday, bringing together all youth, 6th-12th grade. We meet in the front part of our sanctuary mixing in a lot of worship music led by our youth band, scripture readings, Thanksgiving video clips, quick devotional by one of the leaders, communion and add what we call “stool time.” We set a stool up front, give youth the opportunity to come up, sit on the stool and tell about something for which they are thankful.

— Doug Ranck

Pancake Breakfast: I know it sounds strange, but we used to cook pancakes and sausage that morning. Our students cooked and served the breakfast. It was always a huge success because people don’t want to cook 2 meals that day.

Turkey Bowl: The day after Thanksgiving we have a flag-football game. We order 3 color shirts — Red, Blue and Black (for refs) — and do a school yard pick ‘em then pass out the “jerseys”. We serve hot cocoa and pizza after the game. We also have a camera man and repeater doing pre-game and post game interviews. The video is then edited (interviews and highlights) and then show the following day.

— Todd Pearage

I’ve always had a Staff vs. Students football game after church on the Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend.

I’ve also used the week of Thanksgiving, which many of our kids have off of school, to take teams of kids to the local Salvation Army facility to help prepare, serve, and clean up dinner for the homeless folks that depend on the SA. I take one team of 7 or 8 kids per evening on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

— Ken McCoy

Ours was a Turkey Bowl football game on Thanksgiving morning: Old Guys (29 and up)  vs Young Guys (13-29). Old guys won of course :)

— Paul Turner

Serve Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless.

Take boxed dinners to parks, downtown, and other areas where homeless people are.

— Cindy Engøy

Chris Tomlin: I Lift My Hands video and study

Here’s another song and video resource idea for Thanksgiving.

Download the PDF of our Bible study for the video (from MVL74).

How To Hang Out With Family and BLESS THEM This Thanksgiving

Guest post by Ken McCoy and Rick Bundschuh

Okay, we all know what the holiday will be like. Lots of food, football on television, odd ancient relatives with more hair coming out of their ears than on their head, and, between the kisses from over-perfumed aunties, lots of boredom.

But did you ever think that maybe this holiday YOU could make a difference on the enjoyment meter?

We know that the tendency is for you to disappear into your own world on your smartphone or portable computer thingy, or just hang with your dopy cousins and be bored together. So, these ideas will help make your Thanksgiving the best one you’ve ever experienced and endear you to your family members.

  • Ask older people to tell you stories about their life. What was living on a farm like? What was life like for you during the war? What was it like to use a pay phone? How was being a teenager in those days different than today? Did you really see the Beatles play live? etc. You might find hidden treasure sitting on your living room sofa!
  • Be the designated photographer. Shoot photos of family members – especially the ones you don’t see often. Get everyone’s e-mail address and email copies of your photos to everyone.
  • Clear the table, do the dishes, take out the trash – but do it intentionally. Recast yourself as the “Busboy” – you’re trying to BLESS the adults, so take the initiative and get things cleaned up before anyone can even ask to do it. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have doing these kinds of chores with a go-for-it attitude!
  • If someone beats you to the Busboy job, then you choose to be the “Waiter” or “Waitress.” Refill people’s drinks, bring out more appetizers, ask whether anyone needs anything… all the actions that good waiter or waitress would do to earn a tip – but you do it to bless everyone else!
  • If people will be watching football, volunteer to make things a little more interesting. Here’s an idea to try: take “bets” on the game (not just win/lose, but maybe point spread, or will this next play be a run or a pass, etc.) Figure out a way to track the standings of the participants. The grand winner gets his or her car washed by you!
  • Organize some Thanksgiving games for the little kids. The adults will think you’re a hero! Here are some ideas: Pin the Tail on the Turkey; Turkey Trivia (You can find Thanksgiving trivia or quizzes online); Create a flag-football game with the little kids that you play in the backyard.
  • Play “Marco-Turkey” – it’s like “Marco Polo” that you play in a swimming pool, but you play this in the garage or smaller roped off area. Blindfold one “Pilgrim” who has to tag the “turkeys” (the other kids who are crawling around on all fours.)

When you do some or all these ideas, you’ll transform your Thanksgiving experience. You’ll probably discover that the best part of the holiday has nothing to do with feasting, turkey, football, or cranberries. You’ll discover the joy of blessing others, of connecting with family, and of making lifetime memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!

NOTE TO YOUTH LEADERS: Use what you have here to encourage your students to turn their Thanksgiving experience into an opportunity to bless their families. You can copy/paste these ideas into a series of texts that you send your students or post this whole thing on your youth ministry website, or even use the text to create a cool flyer that you hand out to the group. Click here to download these ideas as a PDF.

Music and movies worth giving thanks for

I was reading this post over on the I’d Laugh…But All This Happened To Me! blog. It’s a great (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) list of things we could do to reclaim the Thanksgiving Holiday. And I think he’s right. So often it seems Thanksgiving has been relegated to nothing more than a minor holiday stuck between Halloween and Christmas. Or the long weekend to kick off the beginning of the shopping season. Or a great day for a parade.

But whatever happened to pausing to give thanks? Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to remind our students that we should have a thankful heart … not just at Thanksgiving but all the time. Yes, it’s cliche. But it’s still true.

So I started a list of movies or songs that might help us connect with students and remind them to be thankful. Here are a couple of my favorites:

And from our resident movie expert and contributor Mark Pittman, here are some of his favorite student-ministry-approved (translation: lots of laughs and more than a few gags!) movies we should be doubly thankful for this holiday.

  1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  2. Addams Family Values
  3. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

So help me out. Use the comments and let’s compile a list of the best thanks-themed movies, media and music for the holiday. Go!