By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.

Well. it’s sad to say, but Thanksgiving seems to be going the way of Christmas and becoming more and more a secular (non-religious) holiday. Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, or even atheist, I think we could all agree that God is being ushered out of our contemporary world. God has been taken out of government, schools, textbooks and the national holidays, as being deemed “too controversial.”

Just this week, I heard that one well-known local restaurant is promoting “Friendsgiving” meals. If you’re not familiar with “Friendsgiving” (first time I’ve ever heard of it), it’s a blend of “friend” and “Thanksgiving,” just without “thanksgiving” to God. It refers to a large meal eaten with friends either on or near Thanksgiving and has been around since 2007.

How did things get so messed up? That’s not at all what George Washington meant when he made the Thanksgiving Proclamation on Oct. 3, 1789. He states, “A day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Or what President Lincoln meant when he made his Proclamation of Thanksgiving on Oct. 3, 1863. He proclaimed “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…. Furthermore, we should fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine Purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

And more recently, what President George Bush meant when he proclaimed “a National Day of Thanksgiving” on Nov. 23, 1989. He said, “I call upon the American people to gather together in homes and places of worship on that day of thanks to affirm by their prayers and their gratitude the many blessings God has bestowed upon us and our Nation.”

I wonder — how did a small minority of atheistic malcontents ruin Christmas and Thanksgiving for the rest of us? In Scripture, “no God” equals “no hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Perhaps that’s why more and more Americans are taking antidepressants. Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Zoloft (to name just a few) are being taken in record numbers. According to the CDC website (September 2020), during 2015-2018, almost one-quarter of women aged 60 and over (24.3%) took antidepressants. Among men, use was lowest among those aged 18-39 (when they still had hope) and highest among those aged 60 and over (12.8%).

Perhaps one of our problems is that we tend to have what theologians call the “anthropomorphic” concept of God. That is, viewing God as a man. So, we seek to understand God. We’re always looking around for God rather than looking up for God. It’s because man has always sought to bring God down to his own level. i.e., a man’s god is really a projection of himself.

I have often heard people say, “I don’t know why God allowed this to happen to me.” What they are really saying is, “If I were God, I surely wouldn’t have made this mistake. If I were running things, I could have done it much wiser than that. I would have had a better plan. If only I were governing the universe, what a different world this would be.” You see, they sought to bring man down to their level.

They do not glorify Him as God. And for me to try to order Him around is to fail to glorify Him as God. For me to come and demand, “You’ve got to do this now, God. I command in Jesus’ name.” Or, “I confess this is what You’ve got to do, God.” When we try to lay demands upon God that He’s got to do a certain thing, that’s not glorifying Him as God. That’s trying to reduce Him even below your level.

God is not a genie. He’s not some magic amulet. He doesn’t come out of a lamp and grant you three wishes. The Bible says, “We are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) What right has the clay to say to the potter, “Why have You made me like this?” In other words, we have no right to challenge God. God doesn’t owe us any explanations, though we’re constantly demanding explanations from Him.

God has a much broader vision than I could ever have. He can see the end from the beginning. He can see much more than I can see. I do know that my vision is very limited. I also know that the spectrum that I can see is very small. Not only is His vision much broader than mine, but His wisdom is much expanded from mine. I am finite, God is infinite.

This is why it is important that you have certain foundational truths upon which you stand. You see, there are certain things that I know, i.e., foundational truths. In spite of what I might experience, I know God loves me. So as long as I understand that God loves me, that my life is in His hand, and He is working in me according to love and His wisdom, I rest upon these truths.

So the true purpose of prayer is not to get your will done. The real purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done. And He knows so much better than I will ever know. Thus, It would be a good idea to stop ordering God around. So the wisest prayer I could ever offer is: “Heavenly Father, Thy will be done in my life, in these situations, Lord. Your will be done.”

This Thanksgiving, I would like to make a recommendation — remember who to thank! For it is not just the cooks and those who provided the food for our meal that we thank. It’s not just the Thanksgiving dinner or the family that is gathered. Our focus this Thanksgiving Day is to thank Almighty God, our Provider and Sustainer, the God of the Bible who has given us all things.

I want to conclude this Thanksgiving article with some “old-time religion,” not the watered-down version you might hear on TV asking for money (God is not broke). So here’s a 1952 Thanksgiving message from Billy Graham I found on YouTube:  

“You know the American people this year ought to be on their knees right now, thanking Almighty God for all the tremendous and glorious blessings we’ve received during the past year.
I have a verse to give to the American people from the Bible. I want to read it to you — here it is: Luke the 12th chapter in the 48th verse: ‘Under whom so ever much is given, of him shall be much required.’” These are the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said to whom much is given, much is required.

I heard about a plane that nearly crashed the other day, an airliner. And as the plane was going down the pilot maneuvered it in such a way that the plane landed safely. And there was one very wealthy man on board and a few days later he sent the pilot a check for $5,000. He said, “I want to repay you because my heart is thankful for saving my life.” The pilot refused the check.

But you know God has done far more for us than any pilot has ever done. Because God has given to the American people more blessings than we have ever had in our history. And I wonder if we think to thank God. Remember the 10 lepers who came to Jesus Christ. Ten lepers came to Christ and He healed them all. But only one came back and said that he was thankful.

We have much to be thankful for — the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat, the shelter over our head, all of that comes from God. Because the Bible says that “every good and perfect gift cometh from God” (James, 1:17).  

It’s all a provision from His hands. And the Bible says that “the goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4). As a result of the mighty goodness of God, instead of going to the nightclubs and the brothels, instead of going to all these places of wickedness, Americans ought to be on their knees thanking God.

No other nation in the world has the spiritual and religious freedoms that America has. I’m thankful for that. To worship God according to the dictates of my conscience. I may be Catholic or Protestant or Jew. What difference does it make? I have the right to worship God the way I want to worship Him. I thank God for the freedom we have in preaching the gospel.

Did you know there’s no other nation in the world that you can preach the Christ on television as an American? There’s no other place that you can preach Christ on radio, as you can in America. There’s no other place in the world that we have freedom of the press as we have in America. To give the gospel by the press to the American people. I thank God this year for all that God has poured out upon us this year.

I wonder if you’ve stopped to thank God for the blessings that you have. I wonder if you’ve stopped to thank God for just existing, for living this year. There are many people who have died during the past year. There are many people in hospitals and you’re not. Many people on crutches and you may not be. You have a thousand things to thank God for this Thanksgiving. It all came from Him.

And then Jesus, “to whom much is given, much is required.” God first of all requires repentance of sins. Have you repented of your many sins? Have you turned from your sins? To whom much is given much is required. Do you know that God requires more of us than He does of Russia? God requires more of us than He does Sodom and Gomorrah. We’ve had more chance; we’ve had more opportunity than any nation in all the world. And God requires more of us as American people.

God requires first that you repent of your sins. Secondly, He requires that we have a righteous nation because righteousness exalteth any nation. And then thirdly God requires personal faith in His son Jesus Christ. God requires that. He’s given us much, all these blessings and these bounties that have come our way this year should drive you right now to your knees to pray. Thanking God and accepting His son Jesus Christ, which is His greatest gift of His love. Will you accept Him? Will you trust Him? Will you take Him into your heart right now? If you will, I want you to bow your head. Pray with me, I’m going to pray for you right now. Shall we pray?

Our Father and our God, we’re deeply grateful and thankful to Thee for all of the blessings that we have received during the past year. But most of all we thank Thee for the great gift of salvation that is in thy Son Jesus Christ. And we pray that just now many shall accept the gift of Thy love by saying “Yes” to Jesus Christ. For we ask it in His name, Amen.

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Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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