Thanksgiving

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January 24

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I may be wrong in my assessment (I have been known to be wrong a time or two) 🙂 , but I think one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is practicing the Scripture which says, “Be thankful in all things.” (I Thess. 5:18)

“In everything give thanks.” Seriously? Does the Bible really say that? Does it really say to give thanks when my heart has been torn apart by a wayward child? By a health crisis? By a domestic crisis? By a financial crisis?

The short answer is Yes. Notice it does not say “Give thanks for the event/crisis.” But it does say, “Give thanks in the crisis.” Let’s substitute during for in. While the crisis is happening, or even after it, I am to give thanks.

I can remember a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. She and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp and her sister told her they needed to give thanks for the fleas-the fleas that were in their hair, their clothes, their bedding. Sounded strange to Corrie until they came to realize the guards left them alone because of the fleas. They were free to have Bible studies and talk to other prisoners about Jesus because of the fleas and without fear of the guards.

Giving thanks in the situation NOT for the fleas. We are not asked to go all stoic as though nothing is bothering us. No, we are being told by Paul that while we are in the crisis, an attitude of gratitude and faith can change our perspective.

We can also see God working…even though we don’t understand. I don’t have to say, “Father, thank You for this cancer” (or whatever the crisis is), but I can pray, “Father, I thank You for Your presence and peace that is within me in spite of this crisis.”

Be thankful in all things.

November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 23

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

As I said on Monday, this will be my last post this week. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day so I’m going to take my own advice, to practice what I preach, and take time to be thankful. The church is serving a meal for the community at noon and there will be plenty of preparation leading up to that, but I still want to take the time to be thankful. For this post I want to do what I have suggested the folks at OVCF do: make a “gratitude list.” Here is mine (at least in part):

But first, I want to show you something. I just finished reading Romans 16 this morning and Paul does exactly what I have recommended we all do: make a list. Have you ever read Romans 16? You ought to right now. Hint. Hint. He lists names. Lots of them. Names I have no clue who they belong to. Some yes-Prisca and Aquila. They are mentioned in Acts 18. Gaius (v.23). He is mentioned in 3 John by the Apostle John. Erastus (v.23). He is mentioned in Acts. Timothy (v.21). But the others? Clueless.

But what a list! Name after name. So, I’ll take a cue from him:

  • Always at the top: my Lord Jesus. No one is like Him. No one is worthy of His praise and honor. (See Paul’s words, his benediction, in verses 25-27)
  • Jo. For almost 50 years she has stood by me. Believing in me even when I had trouble believing in myself.
  • Tami and Janna. My 2 daughters. I was blown away at their births and they still put a sparkle in my eyes.
  • Braden, my only grandchild. I marvel at God’s goodness when I think of him.  Smart (4.0 student…and I can guarantee he didn’t get it from me).  Funny. Athletic. May he always strive for the right things. (And he just passed his driver’s test yesterday. Yikes!)
  • OVCF. The church I have had the joy of pastoring the past 17 years. I started #18 this week.
  • For friends throughout the years. My life is much richer because of them. Doug, my college friend whom I still get together with upon occasion (for pizza and laughs). Jim, a past cycling buddy, who has moved away. Jim is a cancer survivor. Ryan whom I met when he and his family moved here in 2008 when they started attending OVCF. We quickly became friends and our families became “Sunday eating out” groupies. 🙂 Hardly a Sunday went by that we didn’t go out to eat together. Jo hated that! NOT! He has moved away, but not so far that we can’t see each other (and even ride bikes together).
  • For my blogging friend, Martha. Blogs are almost passe’ now, but some I still read and comment at. Martha and I have stayed in contact through our blogs for a lo-o-o-n-g time.  For other blogging friends: Linda. Gail. Glynn. Pam.
  • So many more. I could fill page after page, but I won’t bore you. 🙂

Now…it’s your turn.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone. To God be all the glory, great things He has done.

November 22

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

James 1:17 speaks truth. Good truth. Much needed truth. Truth to be reminded of. 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (emphasis mine)

Notice those first few words again. “Every good and perfect gift.” We can readily agree with that can’t we?

But what if what has happened is not a good thing (at least in our eyes)?

  • This past Saturday morning, a neighbor of a family in the church I pastor, watched as their two-story log home burned to the ground. They got out with the clothes on their back and their dogs (they lost their cats).
  • I visited someone recently who could lift hundreds of pounds of weights, was as strong as an ox, but over the past year health challenges have made him a shadow of what he used to be.
  • As I have aged, I have noticed my own strength wane and knee and back issues play havoc with my active lifestyle.

Does this mean God is not good? Do these example and the countless others mean God does not care? Is He absent?

No…it does not. God has not promised a trouble-free life, no matter the false teaching by the hucksters and shysters who pretend they speak for God. In spite of the trouble, there are some things I KNOW about God.

  1. He is near.
  2. He is at hand, but is not immobile like hands of a broken clock.
  3. He is a listener, but never distracted.
  4. He never sleeps or slumbers.

What do you know about God that you can add? One more thing: be thankful for this God who is always good. Praise Him in the good and in the storm.

November 21

Monday, November 21st, 2022

It is going to be a short week here at the “Shadow.” I’m going to post Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then take Thursday off to do what I have encouraged the church I pastor to do-give thanks.

Here is Post #1 for this Thanksgiving week.

It is not a secret than what is in our heart is what will spill out. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what is in the heart.” Proverbs tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what is in us will come out.

So…consider this scenario. You are walking along,, let’s say you have a glass of Dr. Pepper Zero in your hand. No lid. No straw. Then you get bumped, and when I say bumped I don’t mean tapped on the shoulder. What will happen to your drink? Most likely it will spill out-all over your hand and possibly onto the floor.

Let’s suppose that drink is you. Life gets tough. Someone bullies you, says something very unkind. Life throws you a curve. What comes out? Well, if we take what Jesus and Proverbs said, there is no question. Anger. Vitriol. Harshness. Jealousy. You get the drift.

But what if, instead of those ugly things, your heart is filled with gratitude to God for all He has given/blessed you with?

Big, big difference.

Thankfulness becomes the overflow of the song in our hearts. Instead of thinking how we got slighted, we focus on what we have.

My challenge for me-and for you-is to rid ourselves of all ingratitude over what we think God hasn’t given us or done for us, and allow gratitude to take up root in our hearts. then the overflow will be…

GRATITUDE

November 8

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

I hope to answer Ryan’s comment on yesterday’s post tomorrow. I had planned it for today but something else is on my mind. (And my other mind would be upset if I didn’t write this).

A dubious anniversary.

That is what I would call it. Usually anniversaries are celebratory occasions. We call them birthdays. We call them golden and silver (speaking of weddings. Fun fact: Jo and I will celebrate, Lord willing, #50 this coming June 16th).  We call them holidays. All days or moments of celebration. A highlight. A star.

So why do I write “a dubious anniversary?”

Yesterday, my daughter, Tami, texted me early in the morning to tell me I had an anniversary. More specifically, her memory feed on FB said it was the 6th year anniversary of my hit-n-run accident. Not me hitting and running, but someone using me as their personal practice dummy by using the mirror of their SUV to see if they could hit me and put me down. They succeeded. (Yay for me). Then I laid on the road watching him drive on, not even slowing down or using a brake light. November 7, 2016 around 1:15 in the afternoon. Clear day. Sun was out. Bright clothes. Day ruined. A trip to the ER. It was followed by a couple of weeks of pain and a huge hematoma on my left hip. A trip to a clinic about a week or so later due to a swollen leg. Gradual healing.

The first time out riding after that I was very cognizant (translated: highly alert) of every vehicle that went by me. Still am to this day. In the summer of ’17 I was buzzed by a car and when I stretched my arms as if to say, “Why?” he made a not so nice gesture out of his window. Yeah…it was on purpose. It happened a year or so later when a Jeep got real close, gestured and sped along. But it wasn’t so funny when two days later I was coming on an intersection, saw that same Jeep, pointed and he took off like a “bat out of you-know-where.” (Sorry for the rabbit trail).  Anyway, that first ride past where it happened, I rejoiced and prayed a prayer of thanks. Even to this day, I remember it when I ride past it.

It is a dubious anniversary. But it was also an awakening time. A realization that my life could been snuffed out that quickly. A spiritual awakening that began that day, was reinforced 3 months later when I went over the handlebars while going downhill (I still don’t remember what happened).  I broke my collarbone, 3 ribs, and split my helmet in 3 places.  That accident was like the exclamation point on the spiritual awakening which had begun on November 7.  It climaxed in spiritual awareness, repentance from drifting and taking things for granted, relaxing boundaries, and a new appreciation for life.

It is a dubious anniversary, but one I look back on with gratitude. My life was spared. A 16 pound bike with a 205 pound rider has very little chance against a 3000 pound machine at 60 mph.  That is simply no contest.

More importantly though, God used it to say, “Wake up Bill! You are relying to much upon yourself.”

“Thank  you Father, for your gracious heart toward me. For the lessons taught (and hopefully learned) I thank you. Take whatever days I have left and let me use them wisely for You.”

July 27

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

I’m back!! It’s been a couple of days due to travel. I know…you have been waiting with baited breath.  🙂 So I’ll start with an update:

  • Jo’s sister, Vicki, was given a chest X-ray, which actually turned out clear. She had a cough so they decided to test her and she tested positive for COVID.  She has had it once and been vaxxed and boosted twice. Gotta wonder… Anyway, that was a surprise so they have her in jail for a few days. Her dementia is progressing and there are some other health issues. Thanks for praying for her.
  • Our short time away to Ohio went ok. The glitch was on the way there. We were bebopping along when we came to a screeching halt. Not from a near accident but because all traffic was stopped. For 2 hours. When we finally got to the place of the bottleneck, we saw a burned out truck-cab and load. I’m not a rubbernecker so I drove while Jo looked. What we did see was the truck was unrecognizable. Of course, the pastor part of me hoped all were okay.  Needless to say, that put us 2 hours behind so we missed eating supper with Janna, Mike, and Braden.  But that sure beats the 4 hours we once sat still a couple of years ago.

It is easy to get bummed out over events that derail our plans. Robert Burns once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” My way of saying that is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go down the tubes.”

In times like that, my mind flashes to an idea. All timing is God’s timing. Then this morning I read Isaiah 25:1- “Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Reading that verse cemented that thinking for me. We left about 10-15 minutes later than we had planned wanted to. Could that wreck have involved us? I’ll never know-nor should I worry about it- because my time is in His hands.

I won’t understand everything. I’m not supposed to. Nor is God obligated to tell me. I simply need to trust that my time and my times are in His faithful and loving hands.

July 5

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

The day after. There are a lot of those. The day after Resurrection Sunday. The day after Thanksgiving. The day after Christmas. The day after New Year’s Eve.

Consider:

  • The day after Resurrection Sunday we encourage people not to forget the new life we have because Jesus is alive.
  • The day after Thanksgiving we encourage people to remember to be thankful, not just one day, but 24/7/365, for all God has given.
  • The day after Christmas we encourage people to remember that the spirit of Christmas doesn’t die at 11:59 p.m. on December 25th.
  • The day after New Year’s Eve (NY Day) we encourage people to start anew, to consider the new year as a new time to start over.

The day after Independence Day. It was a bloody 4th in many places. The most tragic a deadly shooting in Highland Park, IL. Chicago. LA. NYC. Hollywood elites calling for us to cancel the 4th, to cancel America. I can’t even repeat what some said it is so vile.

I have another reason for celebrating the 4th. Two reasons actually. It reminds of the following:

1.The freedom I enjoy as a citizen of this country. America isn’t perfect; nothing is. To the naysayers I say, “Take a hike. Go Where you think you will have the freedom to speak out against what government. See what it gets you. And I won’t be visiting you in prison.”

2. The freedom I have in Christ. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Free from from the power of sin. Free from the chains of sin. Free from the slavery the enemy wants to hold me under.

So my day after today is celebrating my freedom of living in this nation. But my greatest celebration is living in true freedom found only in Jesus Christ.

And you?  What are you celebrating this day after?

June 2

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Revelation 22. I ought to have a sense of relief. It is finally over! But I don’t. I began this venture on April 18th and every “Shadow” post since then has been on my reading through Revelation.  I have been writing about 4 devotions a week on Revelation.  Never, in all my college days or in the almost 50 years of being a pastor, have I ever spent this much time in Revelation. While I’m still not too sure about the interpretation of it with all its twists and turns, I have enjoyed- and actually learned 🙂 – from my daily foray. Today, I come to the end…Revelation 22.

My original intent was to tell you, “Just read it,” but I can’t. There is more here than I thought. So here is my attempt to draw your attention to some of the meaningful lessons in this chapter.

1. Eternity (new heaven and new earth) will be s-o-o-o-o different.  Our forever home will be unlike anything we have experienced or can imagine. I’m going to capsulize verses 3-5 by saying Jesus will be all we need. Being in His presence will be beyond the pale.

2. John’s reaction was to fall on his face at the feet of the angel who has been his guide, the messenger who showed him all things. John was immediately told to get up and worship only God. No man-cult leader, religious teacher, huckster, or dare I say Pope- is to be bowed down to and revered. Only ONE deserves that. (Verses 8-9)

3. Jesus, as the Alpha and Omega, the first the Last will return to reward His followers. He will also judge those who are not. (Verses 12-13)

4. Special privileges (entering the city by the gates) will be granted to those whose robes have been washed white. Only the holy can enter the city. (Verse 14)

5. Another name Jesus gives Himself: “I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  (Verse 16)

6. And finally, the words which should be on the lips of every Christ-follower: “Come, Lord Jesus.”  Maranatha. (Verse 20)

“Father, I am ready to see Your face in all its glory, up close and personal.  I echo John’s words: ‘Amen. Come Lord Jesus.’ ”

May 19

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Do I call Revelation 15 the song of the saints or the calm before the storm? For this devotion, let’s go with both for that is what it is. Chapter 16 unleashes the bowls of wrath and Armageddon (I looked at the headings preceding the paragraphs. I have yet to read it).  🙂 But rather than try to put my stamp of interpretation of chapter 15, let’s just meditate on the song in verses 3-4. I wish I was a musician who could sit down and put this into song. What a powerful praise song it would be. But since I’m not…

Just a couple thoughts/highlights of chapter 15:

1. God’s works are great and marvelous.

2. His ways are righteous and true.

3. We will fear (adore, honor, worship) the Lord and glorify His Name.

4. God’s righteousness will bring worship from all people.

The consummation of this worship was the majesty and glory and power which filled the temple (not earthly but heavenly). The angels were being prepared for what was to come.

“Father, may my praise fill the temple. May my praise be that which flows from my heart of adoration to You, the One worthy of it.”