Thanksgiving

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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.”

March 24

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

When things are going well it is easy to say, “God is good.” But then…

  • …An unexpected event requires life-threatening surgery.
  • …A car accident happens that leaves us paralyzed.
  • …A bike wreck happens with no known cause that leaves our body broken and bruised.
  • …A serious long-term diagnosis leaves our memory jumbled, our body trembling and at the mercy of family or worse, a home.
  • …A loss of job happens when the plant closes down.
  • …A virus comes that paralyzes a nation, shutting down all we know and life screeches to a halt.

Is God still good? The answer is a nutshell: Yes. God’s goodness is not determined by circumstances. One of the phrases I dislike a lot-by unbelievers and by Christ-followers- is “I’m so lucky.”  No.  You aren’t lucky because in God’s economy, there is no such thing as luck.

In spite of how hard it is to see, God is still good.  In spite of cancer;  a car accident;  a bike wreck;  Alzheimer’s, MS or Parkinson’s;  a job loss; or a coronavirus, God is still good.

“Father, no matter what happens in my life, help me to always remember You are always good.”

February 10

Monday, February 10th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Prayer: Posture vs Attitude.

I had a different kind of weekend than I normally have, and definitely different than I had planned. An upsetting weekend. An interrupted weekend. A tearful weekend. An angry weekend. A heart-wrenching weekend. A praise-filled weekend. An encouraging weekend.

Sounds a little schizophrenic doesn’t it? At times I felt like it. See…it wasn’t all at once. Obviously. If it was you probably would be visiting me in a facility. No…it came in waves. To be more specific would be to give away confidences so I can’t do that. Just suffice it to say the weekend was one that tested my stability, my emotions, my foundation, and even my faith. But I learned this:

Tears are a language God understands.

Hopes. Fears. Disappointments. Joy. Laughter. Reality. Emotions. Highs. Lows. Good. Bad.

I learned again that like worship, prayer is 24/7. I wasn’t formally on my knees all weekend long but, I was on my knees. I didn’t have my head bowed all weekend long, but I did have my head bowed. As I read recently:

Prayerfulness is not an event; it is a way of being in relationship with God.

I preached yesterday on worship, emphasizing how worship is not categorized as a 1-2 hour block during the week, but a 24/7/365 commitment where God invades every part of my world. Prayer is to be the same way. I may have not been in prayer “formally” this weekend, but I can say I was in prayer this weekend. And there will be more.

“Father, thank you for being with me this past weekend. Through all events You were there. I sensed it. Help me to continue learning to practice Your presence in all things, even if that does not include a formal stop-and-pray action.”

February 4

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Miraculous vs Mundane.

There has been and always will be a battle between seeing and believing the miraculous and being so jaded that even the miraculous is seen as mundane. Skepticism seems to rule so many peoples’ thinking.  Over the past 45+ years as a pastor I have had the blessing of seeing the miraculous. I’ve seen God work in ways that astound. I know some question the use of the word “miracle” and want to confine it to the NT days, but I’m going to use it to describe some recent events I have been privileged to witness:

  • A 13 y/o healthy young man finds himself suddenly fighting for his life. In just a matter of  days, he goes from healthy to life support. Prayers bombard heaven endlessly. “Miraculously” he goes from death’s door to home in a matter of weeks. He still has a haul but there is much to marvel at. Aslan was on the move!
  • A 20 month old boy born with a heart defect (left artery totally closed) has another surgery as a “last ditch” to get some blood flowing. Not only are the doctors able to open his artery 2mm (needs 10-12), but-and here is the absolutely incredible, “miraculous” element-he goes home less than a week after surgery! There is no other explanation except God’s hand. Aslan was on the move!
  • A man who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible has health issues. Heart. Feet. Heart supposedly has bacteria on his valves but surgery is risky because of infection in his foot. A cath late last week shows his valves are clear with no bacteria; his foot is healing; and he has heart surgery to replace two valves this week. The whole scenario is nothing short of incredible. And even though his idea of God is warped, prayers have been said on his behalf. I’d like to believe it is so he can hear about and respond to the true God of the Bible. Aslan was on the move!

Those are three recent examples. It is easy/common to write them off as “the doctors did this” or “modern medicine did that,” but I believe differently. I’d rather say it is-if I may borrow Paul’s words from Ephesians 2: “But God.” Man may have knowledge (ironically given to him by God) and may even acknowledge it is limited; man may say, “If it hadn’t been for the doctors;” but it goes much, much deeper. Man’s limited knowledge shows God’s limitless power.

“Father, skeptics can be cast aside. They will never accept nor understand Your unlimited-dare I say miraculous?-power. Limitless. Powerful. Able to astound. Help me to never take that power for granted, nor take your wonder working power for granted.”

November 29

Friday, November 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is God-speak vs Me-Speak.

Okay, so it is Friday, November 29, 2019.  Thanksgiving Day is over. Many spent the day enjoying family; laughing and joking; playing games; most importantly, speaking gratitude to God for His grace, goodness and provision. Words of good. Words of gratitude. Words of praise. And rightly so.

But those good words should not end-neither for God nor for others. But for many they will. It is like a switch is flipped the day after Thanksgiving which says, “Okay, that’s enough!” If only we could learn more completely that gratitude should be a part of us, something that flows from our heart, joints, ligaments and out of our mouth. Words.

That is why my Scripture reading hit me this morning with full force.

Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the wise man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’  (Jer.9:23-24)

We have spent this past week hopefully in gratitude to a magnificent, awesome God. Why stop? Why suddenly be self-centered? Rude? Self-enamored? All about me?

“Father, may my heart and may my speech be filled with gratitude to You. May it continue on and not end just because Thanksgiving Day is over. May my speech be God-speak and not Me-speak.”