As we gather together for another Thanksgiving, sale unhealthy it seems that this sacred holiday which began over 200 years ago will be celebrated in a shroud of world terror, looming foreign wars, salve and an ever changing and unsure economy. Our present time is filled with challenges similar to the overpowering circumstances George Washington faced in his bid to lead our nation to freedom. I mention George Washington because he is one of our greatest leaders and the man responsible for establishing our Thanksgiving Holiday. It was Washington’s purpose, by proclaiming Thanksgiving as a national holiday, to give gratitude to God for all that He had done to bring about America’s freedom. Washington wanted all Americans for generations to come to remember just where real victory and blessings come from, and, according to his own testimony, that was from God and Him alone. According to Washington, he never personally won a single battle, fashioned a Constitutional amendment, or achieved any political position without the full knowledge and providence of God. This attitude and dependence is something we (Americans) in the 21st Century need to once again embrace as we face a troubled world.
It is amazing, with all that George Washington said in the course of his life, that some historians paint George Washington as a deist. A deist is one who only accepts God only on the basis of nature and reason, one who would not accept the supernatural revelations laid out by Christianity, one who would certainly reject the Bible as God’s revelation, and one who would never pray to Christ. This is the view taught by so many public schools about George Washington. I was succored into this thinking myself when I attended public school. It was not until I visited Mount Vernon (Washington’s home and burial place) many years later that I realized what a false view of Washington I had. As I walked from one point to the next at Mount Vernon, I was quite impressed with the words he left behind for all to read. Words about God, the Bible, and His proclaimed savior Jesus Christ. It inspired me to study further and to read more about this man who was supposed to be a deist. The following are some quotes from George Washington when he was a young man of 23 years. These words actually come from his own personal prayer journal which was found in the late 1800’s. You will never see these quotes in any American public school history book, nor will you find some of his other addresses to Congress. They were eliminated because, according to educators, there were too many religious overtones.
George Washington the Christian by William J. Johnson
“Thou gave Thy Son to die for me; and hast given me assurance of salvation, upon my repentance and sincerity to conform my life to His holy precepts and example. O God, pardon me for Christ’s sake, instruct me in the particulars of my duty, and suffer me not to be tempted above what Thou givest me strength to bear. Bless my friends and grant me grace to forgive my enemies as heartily as I desire forgiveness of Thee my heavenly Father.”
O blessed Father, let thy Son’s blood wash me from all impurities, and cleanse me from the stains of sin that are upon me. Give me grace to lay hold upon His merits; that they may be my conciliation and atonement unto thee, that I may know my sins are forgiven, by His death and resurrection. (Page 28)
So does George Washington sound like a deist? Hardly! Washington was truly a man who trusted God implicitly, and did it in a very perilous time, much like the one we face today. Because of his faith, along with over fifty-five other founding fathers (John Adams, Daniel Webster, etc.) who professed Jesus as Lord, America received God’s protection and blessing. As the Scripture states, “I will honor those whom give Me honor.” (1 Samuel 2:30).
When your family sits down for Thanksgiving dinner this year bring God to the table as never before. Before you lift a fork, read George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (at the conclusion of his article). Then enter into a meaningful time of prayer where the whole family can participate. Picture how George Washington must have celebrated the first Thanksgiving with his family. Do something you may have never done before. Have your entire family kneel for prayer; it is a great sign of humble dependence on God. I would not be surprised if George did not do this with his family since he regularly knelt for prayer before any great event. While you are kneeling, do not rush; give thanks to God for all that He has done for your family and America. Expressed gratitude given to God is very honoring, an act that stirs His heart. Then openly pronounce your family’s commitment to the Lord, and pledge to pray for America everyday. As you finish, recognize Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, something Washington exclaimed often (John 14:6)
After you have finished your dinner have your entire family work together on a poster that represents your gratitude toward God during this Thanksgiving. Hang it on your front door for the day, so that the entire neighborhood can see. Here’s an example of a poster you could make:
|T||Transforming power of God (Psalm 40:2)|
|H||Holiness (Rev. 4:8)|
|A||A present salvation (Romans 10:9-10)|
|N||New Life (2 Cor. 5:17)|
|K||Keeping Power (John 10:28)|
|S||Shelter from the stormy blast (Psalm 61:3)|
|G||Gift of His Son (2 Cor. 9:15)|
|I||Inner peace (John 14:27)|
|V||Victory (I Cor. 15:57)|
|I||Inheritance (Col. 1:12|
|N||Nearness to God (Ephesians 2:13)|
|G||God’s goodness (I Chronicles 16:3)|
Before I leave you with Washington’s Thanksgiving proclamation, there is an event in his life that is spiritually very defining. It was a battle Washington fought when he was a very young man, the battle of Monongahela (1755). This battle took place during the French and Indian War almost 20 years before the American Revolution and it should have claimed Washington’s life. At this time the colonists were still apart of the British Empire and were engaged with the French and Indians for control of North America. George was a commander under the British General George Braddock, who was one of the premier generals in the British army. During this battle Braddock made some big errors in judgment, and because of it the battle was soundly lost. In order to stop an entire massacre, Washington’s responsibility was to cover the retreat. He did such an incredible job that many lives were saved because of his unparallel wisdom and bravery on the battlefield. Of the 86 officers that sat on horseback only Washington escaped with his life. He was the tallest of all the officers and should have been the easiest target to hit. He did have two horses shot from underneath him, and there were four bullet holes in his coat when the battle concluded, but not a mark on him. What was so defining about Washington was his own assessment of God’s sovereignty during the course of this battle. He wrote his brother after the battle these words:
“As I have heard, since my arrival at this place (Fort Cumberland), a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you, that I have not as yet composed the latter. But, by the all -powerful dispensations of God’s providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horse shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me”
In addition to his view of God’s sovereignty in his life, the enemy chief in this battle caught up with George Washington 15 years later, and stated these words to him through an interpreter. As you can see, even those who were spiritually lost in Washington’s time recognized God’s will and purpose in his life.
“I am chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes and to the far Blue Mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I may see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief (Washington). I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior. He is not of the red coat tribe, he has Indians wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do, himself is alone exposed. Quick let you be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you know not how to miss, twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you. I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man (pointing at Washington), and guides his destinies, he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battled.” (Washington would began fighting for his country 6 years later)
It is too bad this chief put his future into a great spirit, because according to the Scripture there is no great spirit (Indian or otherwise) that can bring anyone into heaven, other than Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18). My hope is that this chief continued to follow Washington’s life and testimony, and that he finally realized Jesus Christ as his own personal savior.
Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Declaration
(Official Holiday Declaration October 3, 1789)
“Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Sovereignty of almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and, whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me 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 (signs) of Almighty God, especially to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November to be devoted by the people of these States to be the service of that great and glorious Being (God), who is the Benefit Author (Creator) of all the good that was, that is, or will be.”
I Samuel 2:30 the Lord declares, ‘Far be it from Me for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him
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