Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

ThanksLiving -- By Way of the Puritans. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 27 November 2008

"Thanksgiving begins with thanks Living. Life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God.”
~ Anonymous

God’s Word tells us that one of the signs of the last days is the ingratitude of mankind. The Apostle Paul wrote about it in II Timothy 3:2:

"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, UNTHANKFUL, unholy.”

Without knowing that these words come from God’s Word, you might credit them to a modern-day pundit observing the decline of society. The words rightly describe the hearts, minds and attitudes of many people in our world today.

Makes you wonder when Thanksgiving arrives each November, whether people understand what it even means to be thankful? It often does take an anonymous quote or reflection on somebody’s idea of true Thanksgiving to put THANKSGIVING in proper perspective.

This year in our family, we are going back in time nearly 300 years to understand what it takes to make our lives a reciprocal gift of gratitude to our Creator.

What do we really understand of Thanksgiving as observed and established by the First American Puritans in 1621?

It’s certain we’ve all committed to memory our elementary school version of the story of the Pilgrims. The simple narrative has served as the plot for millions of skits, plays, books, movies, and television shows.

If you’ve taken in enough of these rudimentary renditions of the “Thanksgiving Story” you may have a distorted perception of history. Rarely do these accounts address the appalling circumstances and untold human sufferings of the Massachusetts Colony. . . . Let alone the Christian values that sustained the Puritans through all their heartache!

Do public schools even teach that the Pilgrims were the first American Puritans? Even the famous Jean Louis Gerome Ferris painting (above-top of post) commemorating the first Thanksgiving is misleading. The idyllic scene belies the reality that the Pilgrims faced. Governor William Bradford’s words don’t exactly correspond either with the placid scenes of feasting and merriment that our children have come to identify as Thanksgiving.

The Governor’s own personal tragedy often goes unnoticed. His own wife drowned as they disembarked the Mayflower, leaving him a widower with a one-year-old little boy. What else was there in this New World to “sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?”

They had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weather-beaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to retire to. . . . And for the season, it was winter.What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness?What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and his grace?
~Governor William Bradford - December 1620

What was it about theses first American Puritans that caused them to endure such harsh and profound adversity and still establish and celebrate true Thanksgiving? And what can we borrow from the Puritans to sustain us in today’s world of ingratitude?

Without boring you with a lot of sixteenth-century European history, the Puritans were the breakaway group of Christians who sought to “purify” the Anglican Church – bringing it in line with the simple Gospel presented in Scripture.

As petitioners to King James I put it in 1603, the true church ought not to be "governed by Popish Canons, Courts, Classes, Customs, or any human invention, but by the laws and rules which Christ hath appointed in his Testament."

The Puritans -- by every account -- believed in the Sovereign Creator and the Gospel of Jesus Christ – in Salvation by Grace – and they were truly THANKFUL!

The foundation and source of true Thanksgiving may well be the Puritan values of the first Americans!

Sadly, Puritanism today has evolved into a satirical label for "what's wrong with America." Some think that too much Puritanism survives and that it hinders “free thought” and violates a “separation of church and state.”

There are others who sincerely believe that the breakdowns of our society are the direct consequence of the dilution of Puritan disciplines and ideals. Many Christians believe that in the name of “tolerance,” our Puritan heritage has been censored and effectively edited-out of the history we teach our children.

Regardless of your political view, it is an undisputed fact that no other philosophy or thought has had a more permanent effect upon our nation's government, education, literature, sense of mission, church governance, ethical responsibility, or religious vision than has Puritanism.

What happened specifically over the last nearly-four-hundred years to misshape our nation into a culture of ingratitude?

It’s simple. As a nation, we no longer rely on the significance, the implication, nor the worth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heritage! Our nation is established upon it! There can be no real Thanksgiving unless there is a right relationship with God.

The more we know, accept and welcome his Son into our lives, the more real Thanksgiving there will be in our lives. The measure of one will be the measure of the other; and Thanksgiving will no longer be a holiday in November, but an everyday practice. What better way to make our lives a gift to God. . .

The last Thursday in November can then be devoted entirely to the recognition and appreciation of football. Or, in the case of all you non-football fans, devoted to the good-natured complaining about all the football!

~ Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

Find more "Day of Gratitude" Posts at the Internet Cafe


Barbara said...

This is a wonderful post.

And are you kidding about do they teach this stuff in public school??? One word answer: NO!

My grandson was told by his teacher (who knows he is a Christian) that he could not quote scipture in his Thanksgiving Essay since they will be posted in the school hallway. His dad (the lawyer) has contacted Jay Sekulo at ACLJ, but we're told they are so busy right now. My duaghter in law says we should just shut up and leave well enough alone. I don't know anymore what's worth fighting for.

And the kicker is this-the Thanksgiving break in our school district is known as "Late Fall Holiday." It is infuriating and your article puts in all in perspective. We've totally lost our heritage. I don't see it changing anytime before Jesus comes.

Thank you so much for always standing on TRUTH in your blog. You deserve more awards. God Bless you and your family this Thanksgiving.

Betsy Markman said...

Wow, now I wish I knew more about the real story of the pilgrims. Thanksgiving would mean so much more if we could appreciate the setting of suffering that they were in.

The truth can only be suppressed for so long. Even if we have to wait until Judgment Day, the truth of God's sovereignty and goodness will be confessed by all, as will the lordship of Christ. There won't be any ACLU, any atheists, or any "political correctness" on that Day!

Michelle Bentham said...

"As a nation, we no longer rely on the significance, the implication, nor the worth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heritage! Our nation is established upon it! There can be no real Thanksgiving unless there is a right relationship with God."

It does come back to this each and every time... A conscious decision and an active choice. "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." Joshua (oops I forget the address.)

Blessings and thanks for such a historically accurate and thought provoking post.


Ben said...

You could not be any closer to the truth. AMEN!

I heard on our satellite tv here that your new President Elect hasn't been seen in church since June. This speaks volumes of his leadership. From where does this man's wisdom and guidance come? This scares citizens oversees who see the way America is percieved.

The United States has lost its way. Only the prayers of the true beleivers will bring back health the the U.S.

Wonderful and thought provoking post as Michelle states.

Rachel said...

This was an amazing post!

I didn't have a clue about all the historical background. It really, really puts things in perspective.

Thank you for posting this and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!

sara said...

A really great post, as usual, Esthermay! I am so grateful to be able to personally know and love my savior! I hope to make each day a gift to Him!

Andrea said...

This is AMAZING! I am so glad I visited today. I would love permission to give this to my youngest son to share with his youth group tomorrow night.

It is a sad thing that America has lost its way. Sadder yet that churches often lead the way.


Laurie Ann said...

Awesome post! And no, I didn't learn that in public school, hah hah! Surely you jest, LOL! I loved reading this post, Esthermay!

Denise said...

"There can be no real Thanksgiving unless there is a right relationship with God." That is precisely why too many homes within this nation will be more focused on food and football than graciously expressing their thankfulness! Sadly, even homes in this nation where Christ is professed the concept of "thank-living" is lost among the draw of commercialism and society. While I will be remembering in thankfulness all that God has brought to my life, I will also be praying for revival and renewal of this nation..."if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face andturn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chr 7:14

Blessings to you and your family!

Ava Semerau said...

I always look forward to your posts, Esthermay, and once again, I'm not disappointed. Thanks SO much! The Pilgrims were some awesome folks, and as you pointed out, were basically sustained by faith and the goodwill of the locals. Their legacy does live on in America in a gzillion different forms, including the right to worship freely and directly to God without intermediaries - truly something to be thankful for!

Again, great post.


kalopoieo said...

Do I know Ava? I look forward to your writing too and once again, prove wise and well written. Are you published? You most ought to be. Your church is surely blessed.

Those last 5 - 6 paragraphs pretty much sum-up the problem. I've seen political cartoons poking fun at puritans. It is sad commentary that our government in now in the hands of the party which has made no secret of its hate of our Christian Heritage.

You keep writing!

Denise said...

Such a great post dear.

Susan said...

Just incredible!!

I really learned so much, and I have so much more to be grateful for.

Thanks for taking the time to share these facts with us.

Blessing to you and your family this Thanksgiving.

I'm so blessed our paths have crossed Esthermay♥

writingcanvas said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I've noticed as well, the attitude of unthankfulness. Sad - yet, a sign of Jesus' coming even closer.

Thank you for the depth of your writing today.

Patricia said...

Ok, just call me a Puritan! I wish I had the devotion to purity and passion for living God's way that they had.

I lived within 60 miles of Plymouth, Massachusetts for nearly 2 years...but the congested traffic and my dh's work schedule kept us from going down there. I loved the Boston area...walking in the footsteps of the patriots -- we lived just over a small hill and a bit down the road from where Paul Revere was captured by the British troops. We walked the Battle Road for recreation. We explored Concord and Lexington as often as possible-which was weekly since we lived right in-between them.

But...it is heartbreaking and hard for me to understand how the very cradle of faith in North America has turned so very far away from its founding ideals. There are churches in the greater Boston area that are more than 300 years old. But believers are a minority and there is an attitude of "don't talk to me about your religion and we'll get along just fine." We did attend a wonderful church that was big on outreach. It was a great experience that I am so thankful we had.

Because we had studied history from the puritans to the patriots in our homeschool the year before, our Thanksgiving was so rich. It is still the place I (and my kids) would move to in a snap if the Lord allowed it. (Hubby--not so much, he thought it was too conjested with people and cars.)

This was a fabulous post. Thanks for bringing it all down to the important stuff:

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heritage! Our nation is established upon it! There can be no real Thanksgiving unless there is a right relationship with God."

PS: Sue is not my sister (well, maybe another soul sister)...she found me on facebook and I recommended you two meet...one of those facebook share your friends things. I love her blog, too. I hope to start a Praise and Coffee Night around here after the first of the year.

Lora said...

Greetings Esthermay!

So nice to meet you. I was just stopping by from Michelle's blog and what a wonderful treat to read your post.

I just scheduled a devotional post for Wednesday morning that is so in line with your "...and Thanksgiving will no longer be a holiday in November, but an everyday practice." Amen, amen.

john burreson said...

You correctly write that it must be a "right" relationship with God. The carnal Christian can no more experience Thanksgiving that the lost man.
Incredibly full of truth.
I share this with my wife here and she wants to read it at dinner Thursday.
To echo kalopoieo: you keep writing.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Cindy Swanson said...

Esthermay, what a wonderful--and much-needed--post! As long as there are people like you left in America, maybe there's hope for us! I really liked your quote about Thanks living. Anyway--mega-dittoes. And may you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

samantha said...

Diddo on what everyone just said. You are awsome! Keep it up.

Kate said...

and this is why I love your blog.

I can read and learn things here that you will not even hear in church! AMEN! There can be no gratitude or thanksgiving(no matter how you define it) without God's gift of his Son Jesus. It's interesting the Thanksgiving comes just before the Celebration of His birth.
Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Beautiful, EstherMay. I love this line: "Puritanism today has evolved into a satirical label for "what's wrong with America." Calling what is light dark and what is dark light is a favorite pasttime in popular/academic culture.

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