Monthly Archives: November, 2015

Verizon, Abraham Lincoln and Our ThanksGIVING

“Happy Thanksgetting from Verizon.”

Can you think of a more American sentiment than that?  I heard that on the radio earlier today—the day before Thanksgiving.  I was struck this week by how we are bombarded each holiday season with the idea that we shouldn’t forget to buy more stuff for OURSELVES.  Yes, we should buy others gifts for Christmas, but we mustn’t neglect to pamper ourselves either!  We deserve it.

So we are told.

Did you grow up buying gifts for yourself at Christmas?  I sure did not.  Christmas was about receiving gifts from others and giving gifts to others.  The thought never crossed my mind that I should make sure that I satisfy some of my own cravings in the process.  It would have been quite odd to have my parents or siblings show us what they bought for themselves.  But that practice is becoming more and more the norm in our materialistic society.  Our wants become our needs and we take advantage of every opportunity to accumulate them.

We are the fool that builds the bigger barn rather than to choose to bless others out of our abundance.

Tomorrow we are encouraged to be thankful to God.  This day was set aside each year that we might pause and thank God for His many, many gifts.  Although Thanksgiving was practiced in the States prior to 1863, that was the year President Abraham Lincoln issued the official proclamation.  As a nation, we were in the middle of a Civil War to which there was no end in sight.  Our nation was weary.  Our soil was bloody.  Yet, Lincoln proclaimed:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea 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. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Don’t you love the President’s understanding of the fallen nature of mankind – “we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”  Indeed we are.  Thus, Abraham Lincoln encouraged us to set apart a day for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  His hope was that all Americans would observe a day of giving thanks and praising God for His grace and mercy.

Thanksgiving is to be much more than family, food and football.

Thanksgiving should be a worship service, a day of glorying in God more than the gifts God gives.

Did you also notice that Thanksgiving was to be both God-centered and others-focused?  Lincoln asked the nation to pray for those suffering the effects of the war (widows, orphans, mourners, sufferers).  What a great reminder for those of us being lured to consider that Black Friday’s deals trump Thanksgiving’s intent.  Give thanks.  Praise.  Pray for the suffering.

What’s your plan tomorrow?

God gives us gifts to enjoy.  Family, friends, food, football and movies are blessings from the hand of an Almighty God and beneficent Father.*  Let’s not forget the Source from which they come this year.  Be sure you and those at your table verbalize your gratitude.  Spend some time in praise as well.  Worship God for Who He is, what He has done, is doing and will do for His great glory and your great good.  Finally, take a moment to pray for those in our country and around the world who are experiencing very different circumstances from your own.  You will most likely have a feast spread before you.  But many will suffer the pains of starvation.  You will have the opportunity to do whatever you desire to do.  But many are imprisoned unjustly, some for the faith you have the freedom to practice.  Many of you will enjoy being in the presence of those who love you on this holiday.  But many will find themselves deeply saddened due to a variety of reasons, including the loss of a parent or spouse or the realization that another year of unplanned singleness is coming to a close.  Commend them to “His tender care.”  Ask the Lord to draw them to His side.

Happy Thanksgiving (not “Thanksgetting”)!

For the full text of Lincoln’s proclamation, see:

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

*Please note that the Scripture is clear that while God is indeed the Creator of all mankind, He is not the Father of everyone.  We experience the reality of God as our Father through adoption.  Have you been adopted?

Casual Christianity

When I taught Sunday School this past Sunday, I shared the story of the first time I preached a sermon.  It was Spring of 1991.  The occasion was a chapel service at Bryan College.  I don’t remember the text.  What I do recall, however, is my passion for my subject and a particular song I played during my conclusion.  Let me share the words of the song.

It’s more than a wish, more than a daydream
More than just a passing whim
Yes, I’ve said this all before
A thousand times or more
I don’t wanna waste my life in chains of sin

Chorus

I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be a casual Christian
I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna live a lukewarm life
Because I wanna light up the night
With an everlasting light
I don’t wanna live the casual Christian life

This life is filled with strong distractions
One pulls from the left one from the right
I’ve already made up my mind
Gonna leave this world behind
Gonna live my life a living sacrifice.

This song, “Casual Christian”, was performed by the Christian contemporary duo Degarmo and Key.  From the moment I heard it, I was struck by how consistent the lyrics were with the concept of discipleship mentioned by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament.  I was a young believer at the time, zealous for Christ and the things of Christ.  I was also disturbed by so many of my fellow students who seemed to have only a passing interest in the Lord.  My goal had been clear:  To motivate my fellow students to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33).  To this day, I doubt that message made any lasting difference to those in attendance. (How many sermons actually do?)

Check that.  I think it made a difference in the life of the preacher.

This past Sunday I taught Philippians 3:1-17.  Paul’s admission that he had not yet arrived spiritually (3:12) has always stood out to me.  His desire to press on (3:12, 14) also encouraged me.  As a new Christian, I was instructed* that I was commanded to make progress in my faith.  One example of this was another first in my life.  The first time I taught the Bible was at a Bible study in Misawa, Japan.  Cadence International missionaries Ray and Char Hauser hosted a singles’ Bible study on Wednesday nights.  One fall they decided that we would study 2 Peter 1:2-11.  Each of the singles was assigned one of the character traits listed by the Apostle Peter.  I was asked to teach on the subject of brotherly kindness (2 Pet. 1:7).  I should have been required to study self-control (1:6)!  While I may not recall what I said nor how it went (I was scared and felt very ill-equipped), I do remember that I enjoyed studying God’s Word.

I still do.

My 31st spiritual birthday is rapidly approaching.  I’ve matured a bit since that first Bible study in the late 1980’s and that first sermon in the early 1990’s.  Though often half-heartedly, I have attempted to “forget what is behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13).  With Divine assistance, I have tried to be diligent to make certain about God’s calling and choosing me (2 Pet. 1:10).

What was true of me almost twenty-five years ago remains true of me today.

I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be a casual Christian
I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna live a lukewarm life

What about you?

Let’s not settle for the status quo!  This axiom is true:  If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards.  If we are not increasing in godliness (2 Pet. 1:8), we will become useless and unfruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:8).  Without a doubt, I do not want to be described as either blind nor someone who has forgotten that he is forgiven (2 Pet. 1:9).  If you are a believer, you don’t want to have this said of you as well.

Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14)!

Casual Christianity is not for us!

*How grateful I am for Ray and Char Hauser, the Protestant chaplains in the Air Force, the brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan and during my college years who spoke truth into my life.