Our family has been known to have some unusual holiday traditions and Thanksgiving is no exception. Most every year while I was growing up my family would make the four hour road trip to Ames, Iowa where my mom’s brother and his family lived. We would usually head down Thanksgiving morning and by Thursday evening our rituals would begin.
First, my cousin and I would make our famous cheese ball (many years back my aunt found the recipe in a Reader’s Digest magazine, but we still claim it as ours). Then my uncle would whip up all the fixings for nachos. Yep, nachos. Not a turkey in sight, at least, not yet. You see my aunt is a nurse and until she built up seniority at her clinic she always had to work Thanksgiving. So, not wanting to have turkey without her we were forced to come up with some alternative traditions.
First the cheese ball, then nachos, then a night filled with Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and the original Pink Panther movies. Perhaps we might play a game of Life in the meantime. Bedtime was us kids passed out all over the house wherever there was room. Good times indeed.
Then on Friday when my aunt was home we prepared the traditional Thanksgiving feast. My brother would hoard the pan of twice-baked potatoes. My cousin would steal all the rolls. We all skipped the cranberry sauce and over time we learned to like Chinese salad. If Grandma was there we had Watergate salad and then pie, glorious pie! Dinner began with my uncle praying over the meal and then going around the table, each person sharing what they were thankful for.
Now we are older and some of my cousins have married and have kids. My brother hit college and realized Thanksgiving is actually on Thursday and not Friday (it was quite a traumatic realization!). We are now spread out all over the country and it is tough to get us all in one place. Some of our quirky traditions have gone by the wayside and yet others remain (still gotta have that cheese ball!), but the essence of Thanksgiving, wherever life finds us, remains the same.
We are a family blessed by God. Blessed to live where we do, to have the resources we do, to have the health we do, to have the support we do, and most importantly, to serve the God we do. It is overwhelming at times to think of all that we have and humbling to be convicted of how little time I take to thank God throughout the year. Thanksgiving is a reminder to us as Americans, but most importantly to us as Christ followers that we need to be a people of thanks.
It is my prayer this week that wherever we are and whatever our holiday traditions might be that we will be a people who genuinely and earnestly give thanks where thanks is due. Our God is an awesome God and we are people awesomely blessed. May we live in constant thanksgiving all year round!
“… Give thanks in all circumstance; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!Read More
To be a good leader means that you have a certain amount of steadfastness and resolution. You wouldn’t want to follow a general who never made a decision on his own. You wouldn’t want to follow a coach who asked everyone’s opinions before making a game plan. A leader needs to be resolute, clear and always conscience of the goal.
I personally look up to those leaders in history who had an unwavering knowledge of what needed to be done: Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Braveheart, etc… In all honesty, I really want to be just like them. I am, however, content to not have to go to war; yet, I still want to be so resolute in my faith that I inspire everyone around me.
One of my all time favorite passages in the Bible comes from Daniel 3. This is where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are on trial for not bowing down to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. Facing a most horrible death they defy the king with these words, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it know to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
The best word to describe these men is cojones. They are facing death and they know that God can save them. But what is even more impressive is that their obedience to God is not contingent upon God saving their mortal lives. They are willing to trust God to the extent of execution. In other words, death or no death, they will trust God.
I want to be like these men. And by God’s grace he has put me in a position to be resolute. I have children who benefit from my resolution. I have friends in the church that benefit from my steadfastness. I have students who benefit from my tenacity.
Who encourages you with their resolute faith? Where is God putting you to show others your resolute faith?
God is calling us to be Braveheart.
In Sunday’s message I quoted from C. S. Lewis, in his book A Grief Observed. He was writing about the death of his wife and his attempts at remembering her. He looked to images and memories to try to keep her close to him but found them woefully inadequate. He came to the sad realization that there was nothing that could take her place; not even the best picture or the most precious memory. He writes, “The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality.”
He goes on from there to talk about how we can let our mental images of God keep us from experiencing the risen and living Christ. “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are ‘offended’ by the iconoclasm; but blessed are those who are not.”
God is God, not my idea of Him. As Thanksgiving approaches, that is one thing I’m thankful for, that God doesn’t let me hang on to inaccurate understandings about Him. Sometimes the “shattering” brings about a crisis of faith, I will admit, but when I emerge on the other side with a much more accurate knowledge of God I am thankful. It’s all part of “knowing God.”Read More
Typhoon Haiyan has resulted in a tragic death toll of at least 10,000. Beyond that, 9.5 million people have been impacted across nine regions in the Philippines. Many of them have lost loved ones and are now homeless and displaced after the typhoon ravaged the country with sustained winds of up to 195 miles per hour.
World Vision assessment teams are on the ground and are rushing to respond with emergency aid and supplies including food, hygiene kits, shelter, and more. But we need your help to respond quickly.
Here are some of the ways your gift can help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan:
As we learn more about the devastating impact of the typhoon, please find it in your heart to help provide relief to children and families in the Philippines. And if you have already given a gift to help aid in this disaster … thank you.
Please pray for the children and families struck by this catastrophe. Any gift you give today will be a blessing as they begin to recover their lives.
This past Sunday, Pastor Mark said something that really stuck with me. He said—to the effect—that since Jesus is in all Christians our role is to be present. In other words, if we want Jesus to show up, we need to show up. We could bring Jesus to the toughest atheist. We could bring Jesus to the hopeless teenager who hates herself. We could bring Jesus to our children every night before bed. We bring Jesus, because Jesus is present in us.
Jesus uses the illustration of Christians being the “light of the world.” He says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…in the same way let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.”
Because we have Jesus inside of us, we bring Jesus everywhere we go. That changes how we view ourselves doesn’t it? Now we see church as a way we bring Jesus to our fellow believers. Now we see going to work as a way we bring Jesus in the midst of the toughest unbelievers. Now we see Jesus among our hurting family members. Now we see Jesus spending time with the sick and destitute. Now we see Jesus paying attention to the neighborhood kids. We see Jesus do all these things because we are with him, and he is in us.
Friends, we are not called to simply pray that Jesus would affect situations and hearts; we are called to accompany him.Read More
Have you ever met anyone who couldn’t stop talking about Jesus? I think many of us know people like that. I certainly do: my mother, sister-in-law and dad. These are the types of people I want to emulate. I want to be that guy who talks about Jesus, not out of something to prove but out of sheer love for Him. I want to talk about Jesus wherever I go and in whatever I do. I want to become so close to Jesus, that I can’t stop talking about him.
What is fascinating to me is that the Bible (God’s chosen way to communicate to us) is so conducive to conversation. Some times we can get frustrated with many unanswered questions that we might find in the Bible. Yet, if we take those questions to another believer, and have a conversation, we stumble into a holy devotional. If we are willing to ask and to probe and to explore the Word of God through conversations, we are getting the equivalent of several Sunday sermons. Conversation centered on the Word is holy and gives life. Remember what Jesus says to Satan, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).”
Having a conversation around the dinner table might be the most holy part of your week. Asking a friend a question about the book of Genesis might give you needed strength. Having a conversation about a favorite passage with your pastor might encourage you more.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
The Word of God is not something we take out on special occasions. The Word of God is to be taken out and spoken of in every occasion. There isn’t a place or moment in this world where God’s eternal truth and abiding love cannot invade. There isn’t a place or moment in this world that God cannot make Holy.Read More