The History of Thanksgiving


"One of my favorite times of year is Thanksgiving. What a great tradition – where we gather together to recount the Lord’s blessings. I love the statement from columnist Mark Steyn: “Speaking as a misfit unassimilated foreigner, I think of Thanksgiving as the most American of holidays.” Consider its history as a holiday.

A year before the Pilgrims even landed, in 1619, Jamestown (the first permanent British settlement in North America) had the first Thanksgiving celebration.

Capt. John Woodlief declared on Dec. 4, 1619: “We ordain that the day of our ship’s arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

That colony, begun in 1607 had “starving times,” so that by 1610, says historian John Eidsmoe, “of the more than 500 colonists who had come to Jamestown, only 60 remained alive.”

But, eventually, providentially, Jamestown survived, and because of its permanency, the Pilgrims, a small group of Christian separatists, decided to settle in what they called “the northern parts of Virginia.” Hence, the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, which they said was “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” (Mayflower Compact).

Providentially, they were blown off course and were hindered from going south of Cape Cod.

Of course, our American tradition of Thanksgiving goes back to these hearty souls, who in 1621 celebrated a time of thanksgiving to God, despite all the problems they had seen. They invited the Indians, with whom they had made a treaty of peace (that lasted 53 years).

The Pilgrim’s longtime leader was William Bradford. He wrote a great book that tells us all the details about the Pilgrim saga, entitled, “Of Plymouth Plantation.”

In his First Thanksgiving Proclamation (1621), he wrote, “Therefore, I, William Bradford (by the Grace of God today, and the franchise of this good people), governor of Plymouth, say – through virtue of vested power – ye shall gather with one accord, and hold in the month of November, thanksgiving unto the Lord.”

Some people today don’t like the idea of Thanksgiving as a national holiday because it is inherently religious. (Thanksgiving was indeed when the Pilgrims gave thanks to God.)

But consider this fact: The same Congress that gave us the First Amendment (which is often twisted today to drive out any religious expression in public) suggested that the new president declare a national day of thanksgiving to celebrate the peaceful establishment of our government.

The president agreed, so on Oct. 3, 1789, from the city of New York, George Washington issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving.

In it he said, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence 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’ …”

Dr. Peter Lillback, with whom I had the privilege to co-write, “George Washington’s Sacred Fire,” noted that to his hearers, our first president mentioned Jesus in this line from that proclamation:

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national … transgressions. …”

Jesus is the Lord and Ruler of the Nations, as seen in Revelation 12 (based on Psalm 2).

While Washington was the first president to declare a national day of Thanksgiving, President Lincoln was the first one to make Thanksgiving an annual holiday. (And during FDR’s days, Congress fixed the date as the fourth Thursday of each November.)

At one of the darkest periods in American history, on Oct. 3, 1863, President Lincoln (in conjunction with Congress) looked for good things to thank the Lord for: “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 theater of military conflict. …”

And he added, “I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, 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.” As Americans, we have much to be thankful for."
- Jerry Newcombe

P. Roman & Albina Grodz - Kyiv, Fall Newsletter


Today I received this inspiring newsletter from the Grodz's - some of my heroes of the faith!

Enjoy their Fall Newsletter as they walk by faith with a renewed church-plant in Kyiv, Ukraine! - p. Christian

Greetings  from Kyiv!

Planting a local church in Kyiv is an amazing process that we all (me, my wife Albina and our son Samuel) are experiencing. As a family we moved here in July this year. Since then God is working very deeply in our hearts. He is teaching us to trust Him in everything.  Primarily He is teaching us to trust Him for building the church. It’s His will and His great desire to see how His children are growing in the unity of the spirit and in praise.

Our church isn’t big. There are about 10 people. Twice a week we meet at our home for the church services.  On Mondays we have soulwinning and Bible lesson with discussion at the Pedagogical University.  On Saturdays we share the Gospel of Christ with people in the center of the city.

Recently Vitaliy Melnikov came back to church, he use to be a part of our church 15 years ago.  He shared great testimony of his life and how God very clearly told him to go back to the church and when he asked which one, God answered: you’ve got Greater Grace church.

Two weeks ago one man sent me sms: “Pastor, I got confused in life, please, help”.  When we met we had long conversation about Christ and Sergiy trusted his heart to Him. Sergiy lived and had his business in Warsaw, Poland. He believed he can do everything and fortune is following him. He helped other people and taught them how to live this life. One day his wife left him. Life started cracking. Drugs.  Deportation from Poland. He decided to start everything from the beginning in Ukraine. He found some job in Kyiv, substituted drugs with alcohol, found some woman, but  he wasn’t happy at all. He was thinking about suicide and remembered that someone gave him telephone number of some pastor. Praise God for His Faithfulness in the lives of broken people. Now Sergiy has new life, new family, new friends, new job. Please, continue to pray for him.

Every soul  is priceless to God. He will never despise a person. Church is a great provision from God for people. The place where we all are hidden, fed and warmed. The place we grow in the knowledge of the Father.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

With love,

P.Roman and team

The Bema Seat Judgement for the Believer


Sunday we dealt with the Bema Seat Judgement, the Throne of Rewards and Recompense for the Believer. This is a message that is part of our Last Days Series.

Here are the notes posted from that sermon. You can hear the sermon here:

THE BEMA SEAT DEFINED: 2 Cor 5:9-10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (Note: In this second verse, the Greek word that is translated into English as “bad” is probably better understood as “worthless” or “useless to God’s kingdom”.)

Now the word Judgement here is not "krino" verb or "krima" which means condemnation, or even "katakrima" which is even a stronger word.  It is not damnation, condemnation, judgment, or punishment.  But, the word is "bema."  And it is the "bema" that was speaking of a reward. 

The Judgment Seat of Christ is reserved for the judgment of Christians only--born again believers in Christ Jesus. If a person is unsaved and dies in sin, he will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment following Christ's millennial reign on earth. Many times the Judgment Seat of Christ is referred to by Biblical scholars as “The Bema Seat”. The reason for this is that the phrase “judgment seat” is taken from one Greek word, “bema” which translated from Greek means "judgment seat". During the time of Christ, this word could refer to the platform on which a ruler or judge decided if a person was guilty of a crime. But in light of Paul’s many references to athletic competition in the New Testament, he was likely using the term as it applied to Greek sports. If the winner of a particular contest had followed the rules of competition and won, he was honored at the bema. There he was crowned with a laurel wreath.

In the city of Corinth, a stone platform was constructed to support the Bema seat (judgment seat) of the local officials. The seat was used to give out awards to athletes for their competitive performances (usually a crown wreath of leaves), but also to address legal charges brought against individuals. Seen used: Acts 18:12;   The bema was also a place to hear court cases and make legal decisions. A Roman magistrate, acting as judge, sat in a designated chair on the bema or tribunal, with the defendant and plaintiff standing before him. Paul stood before the judgment seats of Festus in Cæsarea (Acts 25) and Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:12-17). Archaeologists have unearthed the bema in Corinth, and it can be seen today. In numerous places the bema was located, not in the region of the forum, but at the place where the Roman official decided to execute justice. In those cases, temporary platforms were erected with ceremonious chairs placed upon them (see Josephus, Wars 2.14.8). The most well-known biblical example of the bema is when the Lord Jesus stood before the bema of Pilate, placed in front of the Prætorium (Mt. 27:19; Jn. 19:13).

The Roman tribunal was not just a place to mete out judgment. It was also a place to distribute rewards. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus set up his tribunal, commended all of his troops, and rewarded those soldiers who had served with valor (Josephus, Wars 7.1.2-3)
  • The Judgment of believers will occur immediately following the rapture:
  • The rapture which includes our glorification/resurrection bodies
  • Exaltation into the heavens with the Lord
  • Examination before the Bema
  • Compensation or reward 


2 Tim 4:8; " Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. & 1 Cor 4:5 " Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." These two verses refer to rewards That Day

It is important to emphasize that the Judgment Seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ's sacrifice on behalf of the blood bought believer (1 John 2:2), and the believer's faith in Him (John 3:16). All confessed sins are forgiven and believers will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). To say otherwise would deny the completeness of the death of Jesus Christ, and nullify God's promise that "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). 

The Bema Seat is a place of reward only - 2 Cor 9:4-27; 2 Tim 2:5 Paul tells us, in his letter to the Corinthians, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The Greek word translated as "bad" in this phrase, is based upon the Greek word Phaulos. According to Strong's dictionary (#5337), the primary definition of Phaulos is "easy, slight, ordinary, mean, worthless, of no account.


Key Verses on Rewards: Rom. 14:10-11; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 3:11-12.  3 Basis For Reward:
  • This things done motivated by God's Agape Love
  • Those things done by faith
  • Those things done in obedience to the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says that: "12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

1 Cor 4:5: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts:and then shall every man have praise of God.”

12 Things we will be rewarded by:
  1. How we treat other believers:  Hebrews 6:10, Matthew 10:41-42
  2. How we exercise our authority over others: Hebrews 13:17, James 3:1
  3. How we employ our God-given gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:4, 12:12, 12:2, 2 Timothy 1:6, 1 Peter 4:10 Add to these Scriptures Jesus' teaching of the parables of the ten pounds (Luke 19: 11-26) and the talents (Matthew 25:14-29). Each believer has at least one talent (1 Corinthians 7:12, Ephesians 4:7, 1 Peter 4:10). There are 18 of these gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
  4. How we use our money: 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  5. How we spend our time: Psalm 90:12, Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5, 1 Peter 1:17
  6. How we suffer: Matthew 5:11-12, Mark 10:29-30, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Peter 4:12-13
  7. How we run the particular race God has chosen for us: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 2:16, 3:13-14, Hebrews 12:1
  8. How effectively we live in co-crucifixion with Christ: 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Corinthians 16:3, Philippians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4
  9. Our heart and vision to reach the lost: Proverbs 11:30, Daniel 12:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
  10. How we react to temptation: James 1:2-3, Revelation 3:10
  11. How much His Appearing means to us: 2 Timothy 4:8
  12. How faithful we are to the Word of God and the flock of God: Acts 20:26-28, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 1 Peter 5:2-4 
Also our motives will be rewarded: Mat 6:1-6: Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them:otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly

  • Ephesians 5:16-17 "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." 
  • 2 John 8: Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward  
  • 2 Corinthians 9:6 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”.  
 Thanks to Tom Steward for some of the content in this article