Thanksgiving

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February 17

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

When most of you read this my day of an interesting adventure may either be in progress or about over. As many of you know I have had a rough time since being diagnosed as positive for Covid on December 21. Covid itself wasn’t bad. A week of no smell and no taste and extreme exhaustion. But I had residuals from that which make me what they call a “long-hauler.” I finally stopped losing weight at the 40-50 mark and have actually begun to slowly put it back on. I have been riding a lot inside and have found my strength at the Y returning. It amazes me how much one loses in a short amount of time. Anyway, the symptoms have let up for which I am eternally grateful. The scary words, “I want you to get an MRI because I think I see a mass of suspicious nature” turned out to be what I am calling renegade gall stones (4).  They had made it into the bile duct where I had zero pain but they caused havoc with my digestive system. I was hoping I was out of the woods. But it showed a gravel pit in my gall bladder so I’m having it removed this morning at 8:00.  Your prayers for the surgery and recovery would be greatly appreciated. I am voting for the laparoscopy and not the “Oh we had to open you up” version.

Some have asked me if I’m worried or scared. The answer is NO.  I know where I stand and with Whom I stand. I know in Whose hands I am held. Psalm 28:7 is the verse which came to me this morning as I read: “The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust Him with my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.”

Those are good words for us all. What can be better than knowing we have Someone who strengthens us and also has our back? I choose to trust Him with all my heart.

“Father, my life is in Your hands. I go into this surgery trusting You completely.”

February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 1

Monday, February 1st, 2021

I read an article the other day about the Top 10 songs people turned to during the pandemic. Some of them I was not familiar with because I am not fond of Hillsong or Bethel (Jesus Culture). But a few I was familiar with and have to admit pleasantly surprised. Here are a few that I can remember: It Is Well With My Soul. This was done by a lot of Zoom media. Multiple people all over the globe, the states or a city combined to sing this song. Another was Great is Thy Faithfulness– my favorite hymn. When the young flock to an old hymn that speaks volumes of its timelessness. No Longer Slaves was another favorite. “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” Fear gripped multitudes of people. It knew no boundary, no class distinction, no race, no color barrier, no geography, no nationality, and no job distinction of any kind. There are other songs but I’m at a loss to remember.

One of the many truths which was cemented in my heart over the past year has been the faithfulness of God. I know fear gripped the hearts of many, even Christ-followers.  It is sad I have to write that. We, of all people, should know God will never abandon us. He doesn’t bring us to a crisis only to abandon us.  Someone once said, “If God brings you to it, He will take you through it.”  Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (NLT)  It is unconscionable that God would abandon us during the season of waters and fires…and pandemics. 

“Father, I echo the hymn’s words: ‘Great is Your faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with You/ You never change and Your compassions never fail/As You have been You forever will be.’ ”

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.”