Thanksgiving

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December 1

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 is history. Or is it? That’s like saying Covid 2020 is history or since January 1, 2021 is soon around the corner that all of 2020 will be history. (I wish. But I digress).

Let’s go back to my original statement: Thanksgiving 2020 is history. Or is it? For many it will be. It was a day off work for some. It was a time to get away and visit friends and family- in spite of what the government said. For me it was a time of reflection as we found our plans changed big time; a bike ride; a great meal with the three of us (me, Jo & Tami); a day to work on a jigsaw puzzle (my relaxing, mindless hobby); and doing basically nothing. It was a day of gratitude. 

But the Scripture passage I read today does 2 things: 1) It puts things in perspective; and 2) serves as a warning. Phil. 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” The word disputing can be translated as complaining. So we have the option of going from gratitude to grumbling and complaining. I daresay it seems the latter is much more common than the former. It also serves as a warning of how easy it is to slip into that mode of forgetting how good God is and all we have, to gripe and complain about what we don’t. That tends to be heightened with Christmas around the corner. If there is ever a time where we struggle with contentment it is this time of the year.

Let’s not forget gratitude. Let’s not slip, fall, go tumbling head first into grumbling and complaining. Let’s keep the gratitude going.

“Father, start with me. Remind me of the need to stay grateful.”

November 30

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Stop! Don’t let it get away!! It’s November 30th-four days after Thanksgiving Day 2020 (and who wouldn’t like to forget this year?) – and you have already (probably) shifted modes from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Thanksgiving buzzed by like a speeding Ferrari on a long stretch of lonely, open road. It flashed before our eyes like a strobe light then was gone. Thanksgiving is-to most people-a blip.  A speed bump. A forgotten holiday. I remember as a youngster we would make our way to church on Thanksgiving Day morning. The whole family. We would sing gratitude songs. The pastor would speak. We would pray. Then go home while mom would finish preparing our meal and we waited for Grandma and Grandad to come over. It was a fun time.

We savored the day. We ate. We slowed down. We ate.  We sat at a big table…all 7 of us. We ate. We laughed. We ate. We watched NO football on our black and white TV.  And did I say we ate?

No more. Today is a blip between Halloween and Christmas. It is not commercialized like the other two. What are they going to hype? Pilgrim outfits? Turkey feet? A fake neck comb? Nope. Stores are stocking Christmas stuff as they are taking down the Halloween candy and costumes off the shelves. No space empty there for long.

So before you move on: did you take time for counting your blessings? More importantly: are you still counting them? While shelves may change, our hearts should not.

“Father, help me to live and breathe a heart of gratitude and not let it go the way of Thanksgiving Day.”

November 26

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Remember to give thanks to the ONE who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and every material blessing we have. Take some time today to get away and be thankful.

November 25

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  Maybe I ought to restate that: tomorrow is the official holiday called Thanksgiving. For the Christ-follower everyday should be a day of thanksgiving. Since I’m not sure about posting tomorrow, I thought I would focus on thanksgiving today. I’m going to borrow some thoughts from Chuck Swindoll’s devotion book Good Morning, Lord…Can We Talk? In his November 22nd devotion he quoted I Thess.5:18- “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” He then gave 3 directions we can look. {Commentary following each is mine}

Look up. I use the word “awesome” only when it applies to God or something He has done. I am not awesome; you are not awesome (Sorry to burst your bubble there). Now God? HE IS AWESOME!! His grace, His love, His sovereign control, His majesty, His power…I could go on and on. Spend time simply praising Him for who He is.

Look around. I am a blessed man. I have a faithful wife of 47 1/2 years. I have two fantastic daughters. One phenomenal grandson (no prejudice there of course). I serve a church full of people I love. I live in a small town of nice people. I have friends, both in and out of the church, for whom I’m grateful.

Look within. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. Christ in me, the hope of glory. He has taken this ugly house and made it His home. He has give me real joy. Real peace. Real love.  New eyes to see and enjoy life. So much more.

So…what are you thankful for? Can you take these three directions and use them today?

“Father, all I want to say is thank you.”

September 28

Monday, September 28th, 2020

Thursday morning before we left the hotel to do some running and take lunch to Braden (our grandson), who is doing school from home right now, I sat down and wrote some thoughts. I’d like to share them with you in this devotion.

Not all of life is going to be hunky-dory. To tell anyone it will be is a bold-faced lie and is from the mouth of the father of lies, the enemy himself. But that is not what I want to focus on this morning. Instead, I want to focus on God’s faithfulness through those tough times that have, do, and will come.

I think it is important to remember and recount some of the oh-so-many times God was faithful. I know these will not mean anything to you but they will be a good exercise for me. 

  • In high school I got the Hong Kong flu between Christmas and New Year’s. I was in bed, felt lousy on Christmas Day, missed 2-3 weeks of basketball practice…but no school. Hmmmm.
  • I married my college sweetheart after some rough patches on her part (that would involve me) and here we are 47 1/2 years later.
  • I am the father of two beautiful ladies and the grandfather of one amazing grandson.
  • I was led to an associate ministry position in Akron, OH after graduation where I learned a lot (but not enough). I also cemented a friendship which began in college that has actually lasted longer than my marriage.
  • I’ve lost my job several times-some due to my arrogance; once because I had stopped being legalistic; and once because I could not see myself as a CEO and could not function as one.  I had a stopover where I found my heart again and now I will soon celebrate my 15th anniversary as pastor of OVCF.
  • God has been faithful through tough financial times and provided when I had very little.
  • He has seen me through the loss of family (mother and in-laws) and friends with extra strength and grace.

I could write more but that can be for another time. I’m grateful for God’s faithfulness. Now I’d like to challenge you to do the same thing. How about you? What could you write down?

“Father, thank you for your faithfulness. I am humbled by it all. Help me to never forget.”

September 3

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

In I Thessalonians 3 several important lessons emerge to me. I want to touch on them briefly in this devotion.

The first lesson is a combination. It is a request and a reply. Paul is concerned about the Thessalonians. Life is not easy for them and Paul is wondering how they are doing. His words were “I could bear it no longer.” His desire to know was so great he sent someone as a messenger to learn about their faith. The response that came back made his heart feel good. Timothy brought good news of their faith and love and told Paul that the Thessalonians wanted to see him. Oh, how that must have been a balm to his weary heart!

The power of a good word, an encouraging word, cannot be underestimated. That good news lifted their spirits. So much so he writes, “In all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” Their words enabled Paul to face his situation with strength.

The second lesson is his further response. He chose to pray for them, to be thankful for the joy they gave him. Paul’s most earnest desire was to see them again. While waiting he prayed for them. Want to know what he prayed? Check out I Thessalonians 3: 11-13. This was no mere “Lord, bless them” prayer. No. There was a depth to this prayer that I know is way too often missing in mine. That needs to change.

“Father, thanks for encouraging words. How good it is to hear good words and how someone is doing in their faith. Also, help me to develop a depth to my prayers, one like Paul had.”

August 20

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Have you ever read or heard the story of someone and wondered “could I do that?”  For example, you read the story of someone wrongfully accused of a crime and spends years in prison, only many years later is found to be innocent. When that person is released he/she holds no grudge, no desire for vengeance, no animosity, and no anger. Then you read/hear that person has come to Christ while in prison and then you know the reason. But it doesn’t stop the “could I do that?” from going through your head.

Or how about this? You read the biography of someone who has an incredible life story. You are moved deeply by it and again wonder. For example, Joni, who has been a quad since a diving accident in her teens. It has now been over 50 years and along the way there has been two bouts with breast cancer as well. She holds no bitterness toward God.

Or how about George Mueller? He ran an orphanage for over 300 children. Often times his faith was tested. The story I read this morning was just such a story. He gathered his 300 children for breakfast…but there was no food for breakfast. So they prayed and thanked God for the food. What food? Oh, the bread a baker made when he could not sleep and delivered. And let’s not forget the milkman standing outside the door with milk from his broken down cart. He didn’t want it to spoil.

Talk about faith! Sometimes I’m just downright ashamed of my lack of it. Just the other night I laid awake a good part of the night wondering how I was going to pay for a dental procedure that is going to cost me close to $4k. Oh, me of little faith! I read the story of Mueller and I’m encouraged because His God is my God. The same one who owns the cattle on his hill owns them on mine. I still don’t know how that procedure will get paid for but it will. It’s not a want; its a need, a have-to. Maybe He’ll sell one of my cattle. 🙂

In I Cor. 10 (and I know I’m taking this out of context) it says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Perhaps that story of George Mueller was written down and read by me this morning just for me. For this time.

“Father, no lesson is ever wasted. No challenge is ever lost. Help me not to lose sight of that truth. Help me to keep my eyes open to lessons from You.”

June 22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It turned out to be a right fine day. There was the worship that started it off right. It was good to see some more folks venture out. Each week a new group of people is venturing out.  I came home to a home-grilled meal of salmon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. Some friends stopped by with ice cream (I am their surrogate father/grandfather). I went to the Y then came home and read a novel the rest of the evening. A nice relaxing day. I am grateful.

Gratitude seems to be a dying art these days. We run around so much trying to meet our own agenda that to take the time to be thankful is lost on us. With inspiration from Chuck Swindoll, I’d like to take a few moments to consider how we often take things for granted.

  • There is a light over my head. Thanks Tom
  • There is electricity pulsing through my house. Thanks again Tom.
  • There is an instrument that allows me to talk to someone miles away. Thanks Alexander.
  • I will soon get in my truck to drive to work. Thanks Henry.
  • On my face are glasses which help me to read. Thanks Ben.
  • We will soon celebrate the 4th of July with a waving flag. Thanks Betsy.
  • My life is given over to Jesus. Thanks mom and grandad.
  • I come home each day to a place of warmth, welcome and love. Thanks Jo.
  • I am called father by two beautiful and special young ladies. Thanks Tami and Janna.
  • I am called “grandpa.” Thanks Braden.
  • I serve a group of people who love me, call me pastor and friend. Thanks OVCF.

I could go on but it would take pages and still not be exhausted. Instead of complaining, let’s be thankful.

“Father, thank you for so much, for so many gifts. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to You for it all.”

May 25

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

May 8/Weekend

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “He is a man of few words”? We, of course, mean that he/she is speaking very little. We might also mean that he/she says only what is necessary.

Have you ever considered some of the Psalms? Take Psalm 117, for example. Two verses. That’s all! And all we have to do is go 2 chapters later and we find Psalm 119 weighing in at 176 verses. WOW! Two verses. That is all it took him to record his praise. That reminds me of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Just shy of 300 words. I’m told there was another speech that day by a great orator. I think I remember it going on for 2 hours. Ummmmm, who remembers one word of that speech?  Meanwhile, the Gettysburg Address has gone down as one of the greatest speeches in history.

There is a lesson here. I don’t think God is impressed with our superfluous, flowery words. I don’t think He is impressed by our many words. Some of the most sincere, meaningful prayers are the shortest. The “Help!” The “I need you.” The “I love you.” The “Great are you Lord!” For a good reference point, read Psalm 117.

“Father, may my words be few but sincere and heartfelt. From crying out to praise, may they be to the point.”