Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

Seeking Peace

seek-peace-and-pursue-it-2Some people live their lives wildly chasing dreams that eventually leave them feeling empty and hollow.  I thought of this yesterday when I read five words from Psalm 34: Seek peace and pursue it.

As I thought about this verse, it occurred to me that a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction is the result of what we pursue in life.  The writings of Paul validate this statement:

  • Romans 14:19: Pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another
  • I Thessalonians 5:15: See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
  • I Timothy 6:11: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

It’s been said that whatever catches your attention, catches you.  Have you been ensnared by the false hopes of groundless dreams or have you captured the peace of God that is beyond human reasoning?

As you start a new week, I hope the words of Peter will encourage you to focus your thoughts on the peace of God. He said: Seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer (I Peter 3:10-12).

Less and More

evaluation3-copyWe are living in the digital age, and we are being aged by the frenzied pace of the world.  Technology promises to make life easier; however, these promises are often just empty and hollow distractions.

Most everyone is looking for peace and fulfillment, and they try to find it in the promises broadcast through their radios or the marketing slogans plastered on billboards.  These messages promise you fresher breathe, whiter teeth, or a newer car as the answer to all of your problems.

Money may provide momentary happiness, but nothing this world has to offer can iron out the wrinkles of a stressed-filled life.  The solution is not found in consuming a larger piece of the world, but in possessing a larger than life peace that’s found in Jesus.

The answer is less of the world and more of Jesus:  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).

The best way to keep your life from falling apart is to keep it together through the peace of God:

Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.  ~Romans 5:1-5 ~J.B. Phillips

Together Again

togetherWhen I’m writing an article, I can get a little frustrated with my typos.  These little gaffes can be the source of large misunderstandings or they can be a bit humorous. A case in point is a verse from a song that was misprinted:  Let Us Break Bread On Our Knees.

If a group of people were going to come together to break bread to-gather, they would soon have a pile of crumbs. Togetherness is a theme of Scripture, and more often than not, we’re promised blessings instead of crumbs:

  • Paul urged people to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose (I Corinthians 1:10).
  • David said, it’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in peace . . . the Lord gives His blessing of life forever (Psalm 133).
  • Paul worked hard to comfort and encourage people, so that they will be knit together—that many hearts would become one through His love. I do it so they will be rich in understanding and have full knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Jesus (Colossians 2:2).
  • David said God will bless the righteous and surround him as with a shield (Psalm 5:2).

Let me encourage you take a minute to reflect on God’s goodness for it is “He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100).”

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. ~ Psalm 33:12

Words and Worms at Sunrise

rooster-early-birdIf it’s true that the early bird gets the worm, then the authors of the Psalms must have harvested plenty of them.  Many of these poetic proclamations suggest the writers were early risers: My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up (Psalm 5:3).

Henry Ward Beecher may have been thinking of this verse when he said: The first hour of waking is the rudder that guides the whole day.

Whether it’s morning, noon, or night, I encourage you to set a time to reflect on the four verses below and use them as rudders to help guide your life:

  • Relax in His peace: “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).”
  • Refresh yourself in His mercies: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made (Ps. 145:9).”
  • Rejoice in His love: “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Ps. 13:5).”
  • Remain in His presence: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91:1).”

 

I’ll close with this thought that’s worth thinking: Remember that it’s, “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:2-23).”

Goodbye to the Prince, the Princess, and the Greatest

armedandsexyleia-officialpixAmong the many events that have happened during 2016, the most important to some people was the death of the idol they adored; for some it was a singer named Prince, for others it was the death of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and boxing fans had to bid farewell to The Greatest—Muhammad Ali. There was also the death of an author who was less heralded than these whose obituaries were printed in newspapers from the East coast to the West.

While he was well-known in some circles, Jerry Bridges, the author, did not have the notoriety of the Prince and the Princess, but he did know The Greatest One who is greater than any other; and, Bridges had found what proves to be elusive to some—the secret of peace and contentment.

Bridges was a prolific writer who said: “The Bible is full of God’s promises to provide for us spiritually and materially, to never forsake us, to give us peace in times of difficult circumstances, to cause all circumstances to work together for our good, and finally to bring us safely home to glory. Not one of those promises is dependent upon our performance. They are all dependent on the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ.”

The words of the Princess are a stark contrast to those of Bridges: “I knew better than I knew anything that what happens with stardom, with fame, is it goes away, and it leaves you in a humiliated space (Carrie Fisher 2006).”

Fisher’s assessment on life, reminds me of Solomon’s wisdom: Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Lord should be praised above all others. ~Proverbs 31:30

It’s a simple truth that this world offers nothing akin to genuine contentment.  Your health and wealth can vanish in a moment; fame is fickle; and the bright lights of Hollywood and Broadway fade away.

“Real contentment,” Warren Wiersbe said, “must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.”  The “within” that Wiersbe spoke of is “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

If you’re restless, and feel as though there is a void in your life, I encourage you to give God’s peace a chance.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

Fireflies At Night

fireflyPeople rarely partner stubbed toes and skinned knees with moments of pleasure . . . unless you’ve been a carefree child who chased the sentinels of light through the darkness of July nights. Even though those carefree days of bare feet and childhood innocence are long gone, I still enjoy the nocturnal dance of fireflies as they flutter across the night sky.

The waltz of the firefly reminds me of an old quote by Beecher:

If I were made a firefly, it would not become me to say: “If God had only made me a star to shine always, then I would shine.” It is my duty, if I am a firefly, to fly and sparkle, and fly and sparkle; not to shut my wings down over my phosphorescent self because God did not make me a sun or a star.

Regardless of person’s station in life, there seems to be a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.  Solomon commented on this in Proverbs 27:19-20:  Just as water reflects a person’s true face, so the human heart reflects a person’s true character. As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.

From their teenage years forward, people engage in an unending search for that elusive person, place, or thing that will satisfy the desires of their heart. The trivial pursuits of this world’s pleasures will never provide lasting satisfaction; you simply cannot find fulfillment in empty promises

Lasting peace and satisfaction is not found in the creation, but in the Creator:

  • Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
  • God satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul is filled with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
  • Notice the promise of Psalm 16:11: God You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

The next time you see a firefly at night, pause and think about what it means to be content in and satisfied through Jesus.  When you do this, it might help to reflect on these words of Paul:

 I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. ~Philippians 4 (The Message)

Dumb Kid or Racist

IMG_0009I was just a dumb kid from Kansas when I enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. Like all new recruits, I was sent to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio for boot camp.  This was the camp where all new recruits learned the Air Force way of doing things.

One of the requirements of boot camp was to have a spit polish on your boots that would reflect the ugly mug of the drill sergeant. During the first inspection my boots didn’t pass muster, and I suffered the consequences; I decided I had to do something before the next inspection.

Since the recruit next to me had polished his shoes to a high sheen and the drill sergeant had praised him, I offered to pay him if he would polish my boots. This dumb kid, a white boy from Kansas, never thought his request would be considered racist. I simply wanted to benefit from the skill of the person next to me, and I didn’t see him as a black man—just another guy trying to get through boot camp; but, he thought I was looking for a “boy” to shine the Master’s shoes.

Our difference in perspective, due to history, and culture, led to a flash of anger that had its roots in the riots of the late 60’s. The events of this past week rekindled the memory of that experience from 1971.

Was I a dumb kid from Kansas or a racist?  I can undoubtedly confirm that I was dumb, but just as certainly I can say there was no racism in my request.

It would be naive to think that racism did not exist then or that it does not exist today. Sadly, the hideous face of racism has been present since the early days of man’s history.

Paul spoke of the ethnic and racial divide between Jews and others when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  He said Jesus “brought an end to the commandments and demands found in Moses’ Teachings so that he could take Jewish and non-Jewish people and create one new humanity in himself. So he made peace.  He also brought them back to God in one body by his cross, on which he killed the hostility.  He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near.  So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit.~Ephesians 2:15-18 GW

After the multiple tragedies of last week, I think most of us are looking for healing.  If you only look to the past and the many failures of social engineering, you might through your hands up in despair.

The answer is not more government, it’s more God and the hope of becoming one in Jesus Christ.  We need to “Try to live peacefully with everyone, and try to live holy lives, because if you don’t, you will not see the Lord.  Make sure that everyone has kindness from God so that bitterness doesn’t take root and grow up to cause trouble that corrupts many of you.”  ~Hebrews 12:14-15 GW

As Reinhold Niebuhr said in The Irony of American History:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

A Parade of Smiles

doggyWith the exception of Sunday, my morning routine includes a little java and journalism.  On Sundays I still drink the coffee, but I skip the newspaper.

Tuesday morning, I was enjoying my morning combo, when a stranger engaged me in some meaningless banter.  As he rose to leave he said, “Well, you know we all look alike.” Then he smiled and left.

As he walked out the door, I quickly concluded that I looked nothing like him:

  • He was covered in tattoos, but I have none.
  • He had a full head of hair that glistened with grease, and my head looks like a hairless Chihuahua.
  • He didn’t have a tooth in his head, and I still have most of mine.

I smiled to myself, but before I could shake my head in disbelief, I had a Kodak moment of comprehension: I got the picture.  I saw how much “we all look alike,” and I realized the similarity is in the smile.

Your face is the canvas on which your attitude and emotions are painted.  Is your face painted with the broad strokes of angry red, the depressing colors of a frown or with the bright hues of an inviting smile?

Solomon captured this thought when he said: A person’s anxiety will weigh him down, but an encouraging word makes him joyful. ~Proverbs 12:25

Is it easier for a person to see Christ in you when you’re smiling or frowning at them?  Think about it:

  • Paul said, “I am filled with joy, and I share that joy with all of you (Philippians 2:7).”
  • The Psalmist said, “Smile on me, and teach me your laws (Psalm 119:135).”
  • David said, “When I trust your mercy, my heart finds joy in your salvation (psalm 13:5).”

When Paul prayed for the Christians at Rome, he said, “I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

When your life is abundantly infused with God’s joy and peace, you can’t help it—you just have to smile!

Death:  The Common Denominator

your-destination_0In 2005, Stanford University asked Steve Jobs to give the commencement address. During his speech, he made an interesting comment about death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

I find it interesting that Jobs, the founder of Apple, made a comment about death which is an apple-associated event.  To be fair, no one knows what Adam and Eve actually ate, but people generally think of the apple when they think of the Garden’s forbidden fruit.

Steve Jobs was right; death is the destination we all share.  Like it or not, death is the train that carries it passengers to destination death.

When Paul discussed death, dying, and the resurrection, *he said we all die due to Adam’s disobedience and sin in the Garden, but through Jesus all of us can live again.

While Adam’s way is the Path of Death, the way of life is the Am-Track Way or the Am-Way of Jesus: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When you get on board with Jesus, you experience the wonder of salvation, and its benefits:

  • You are justified by faith.
  • You have peace with God.
  • You have access to God.
  • You have a relationship based on the grace of God.
  • You can rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When you consider your final destination, you should also, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure (I John 1:1-3 ~The Voice).”

Death may be the common denominator, but Jesus is the uncommon Mediator, and He is the only way you should travel to your final destination.

*Read The Message for an interesting rendition of this passage of Scripture.