Thanksgiving: Caring, Daring, and Sharing

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I have been busy preparing for the occasion.    I am an eager goer because I know my going provides my wife with the ingredients she needs to be the skillful “doer” in the kitchen.  She prepares the list and I go for turkey, ham, yams, apples, or whatever she needs to make one of her delicious meals.

I also think about goers and doers in the context of our Forefathers and their many sacrifices.  Daniel Webster commended the sacrifices of these faith-filled and hardy Pilgrims when he said: Our fathers were brought here by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.

Webster’s words are the “secret sauce” that Kirk Cameron wished for when he began a project that focused on the Forefathers Monument. The sacrifices of these hardy souls is memorialized in this monument that stands an imposing 86 feet high and weighs 180 tons.

Lady Faith is at the center of the monument, and she is seen with her right hand lifted towards heaven as her left hand holds the Bible of the Pilgrims, the Geneva Bible.  

Standing 36 feet tall, Lady faith reminds us of the perseverance of our Forefathers.  Their faith was the source of their strength as they struggled to realize the liberties and freedoms they envisioned; it sustained them and guided through times of heartaches and trials.

Daniel Webster also reminded people of the need to, develop the resources of our land, call forth our powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests, and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered.

When Webster spoke of his day and his generation, I think he was comparing it to what the Forefathers had done.  Webster knew that if he and his generation were going to doing something worthy to be remembered, their lives had to be more than a selfish existence.

Isn’t this the message of Thanksgiving:  Sacrifice, remembering and giving thanks?  The Pilgrims were not content to just live; they wanted religious freedom for both themselves and future generations. They cared for others and dared for others, so they could also share with others.

…For this I give thanks.

Loving God Because . . .

becauseIt was the insufficient, one word answer that I used as a kid to explain why I had done something:  “Because.”  It never made a bad situation any better, and in exasperation, Mom would say, “Because!  Because?  Because why!?

It may be “because” is in the 116th Psalm that its one of my favorites.  This Psalm begins with a four word statement:  “I love the Lord.”  Then “because” is the fifth word, and it states the condition or reason that the Lord is worthy of love.

I love the Lord because:”

  • He has heard my appeal for mercy (1)
  • He has turned His ear to me (2)
  • He is gracious and righteous and compassionate (5)
  • He guards the inexperienced and saves the helpless (6)
  • He is present in times of sorrows and trials (8)

When you get to verse 15 of the Psalm, you find one of the most tender verses in the Bible: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  What I’m about to say is poor English; however, it emphasizes the truth of this verse:  “He be the cause of our hope in the time of death.”  Its because you’re so precious in the eyes of God, that He gave His Son to die for you, to provide salvation for you, and to make a place for you in heaven.

After reflecting on the goodness of God, and why he loves the Lord, the writer says. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  May God be the cause that motivates you to say, “I love the Lord,” and to give thanks for His goodness.

Is That Prime Rib or Reheated Hash?

PrintHow many times have you pulled up to your favorite restaurant, and you think you’ve found a choice parking spot close to the door only to discover it’s posted with a sign:  RESERVED.  Be honest, you hate it when this happens don’t you?

The last time I pulled into a spot like that, I realized the sign is a good commentary on our lives.  Either we reserve the best for God, or we re-serve Him the leftovers.

It’s easy to find verses that emphasis the reserved life:

  • Honor the Lord with your substance and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
  • Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
  • Present your body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

When Proverbs 3, challenges you to honor the Lord with your substance, it means with the essence of your being.  It means body, soul, spirit, gifts, talents, abilities, and all earthly possessions.

Are you honoring God with your substance by living a life that is reserved for Him, or are you giving Him a life that is a re-served bowl of lukewarm hash?

Honoring the Sacrifice & Service of our Veterans

burdenToday is the day for  the fine  people of El Dorado, Kansas to kick off their week-long activities that begin with the annual Celebration of Freedom Parade.  This is the week where we pay homage to those who have served this country.memorial

The names of many of these are etched in stone at the Celebration of Freedom Memorial.  The brick-paved sidewalk reflects the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the price of freedom with their lives.  Many veterans will pause here today, and they will see their names beside their feet, and they will remember what they can never forget–the faces of those who fought beside them and the battlefield scars that still mark their bodies and minds.  brick

Regardless of whether they served in a time of peace or a time of war, this memorial has a special place in the hearts of those who pledged their sacred honor to defend this great nation.

As a tribute to all veterans and as a reminder to everyone, I am including this brief video clip of one of President Reagan’s stirring speeches:  A Soldier’s Pledge

Are You A Giver or a Getter?

Helping Hands against blue sky

The life of some people can be defined by their focus on giving or getting:

  • Givers ask: What can I do to help you?
  • Getters ask: What can you do to help me?

When I think of giving and getting, I think of the words of two wise men:

  • President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
  • Solomon: “A giving person will receive much in return, and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs (Proverbs 11:25).”

Think about the people you know.  Are there some among that crowd that sap you of strength due to the demands they make?  Are there others who are a delight to be around because they refresh and re-energize you?

This was the topic of discussion when Paul wrote his second letter to the church at Corinth:

In the midst of all that has happened, though it has been difficult, we are comforted and encouraged. When we saw the relief and joy on Titus’s face, we celebrated even more because his spirit had been totally refreshed by you. Now if I have bragged in the past about you to Titus, I have nothing to be ashamed of. Just as we’ve spoken the whole truth to you, I’m glad to know that our boasts to Titus about you have proven true as well.  His love for you overflows even more as he recalls your obedience and how you respectfully and somewhat nervously, with fear and trembling, took him in.  I have great joy now because I have great confidence in you.                     ~2 Corinthians 7:13-16

Titus isn’t the only person who has been refreshed by a friend.  Paul said that Philemon was a source of joy to him: “Because you are out there encouraging and reviving the hearts of fellow saints with such love, this brings great joy and comfort to me (Philemon 7).”

Think of today as your day to be the giver who makes a difference in the life of another.  Give someone an encouraging word; share an act of kindness; and, revive someone who is struggling through life.

Friday: A Day of Signifiance

6187141-crown-of-thorns-hung-around-the-easter-crossIf you could travel back in time to history’s most important Friday and relive that day in 33 AD, what would you hear as you walked the streets of Jerusalem? The city had swelled in size because it was Passover, but the conversation was not the annual rites at the Temple.  No, that significant sacrifice was overshadowed by the crucifixion of Jesus.   As people contemplated the events, they exclaimed:  Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you have been following has been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer with Messianic aspirations, and your dream has ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you wonder:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair hangs heavily on your doubting heart as you try to make sense of the disaster that has disrupted your life.  Friday has been an arduous day, but at least there has been a lot of activity.  When you woke up Saturday morning, you hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream; however, when you looked into the sunken eyes of your fellow disciples, reality buckles your knees:  Your Hope has been crucified; Jesus is dead; and, Saturday drags on and seems like it’ll never end.

From that Friday of 33 AD, to the Friday of today, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  All the disciples of 33 AD had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death, but you have the benefit of history.

You know the story doesn’t end with that dramatic death on the cross. You know there is an encore to what the disciples thought was the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the mobilizing power of the resurrection and the proof of what can happen when a group of people are infused with hope . . . people just like you.

I encourage you to share the hope and live the message as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday.

Are You Brusque, Pushy or Condescending?

pusypeopleYesterday, I posted in this blog about a principle from Philippians 2. Since then, my thoughts have centered on the word “condescending.” This is due in a large part to some work done by Nic Subtirelu, a linguist at Georgia State University.

The idea behind the word “condescending” is this:
• A person with authority is abusing his/her power
• A person has an attitude of superiority in the way he/she interacts with other people.

Jesus did not think He was superior to others—He knew it; yet He willingly humbled Himself. Through His actions and attitudes, Jesus paints a stark contrast in bold strokes and with the vivid colors of humility and service.

His humility is seen in Philippians 2: “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave.”

In a loving act of humility, Jesus “emptied” Himself. He laid aside all prestige and praise, and left the fragrance of heaven to be born in a stable thick with the pungent smell of dung.

This King of kings and Lord of lords was born, not to be served; but, to serve others. Alive in Him was the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:8-9); yet, He walked down the ladder of glory, so He could be hung up on a cross. This was no display of condescension—it was an act of redemption.

Condescending people are full of themselves, and deep down inside there is a gnawing emptiness. The redeemed are full of God, and deep within them is the knowledge Christ’s love. In which group are you?

TGIF

good_friday_1000004443-120613intToday is Friday, and across the nation people write or shout TGIF—Thank God It’s Friday. An ordinary Friday comes once every 7 days, but this extraordinary Friday comes just once a year. The story of this Friday began in the Garden of Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

The moment Adam broke the rules established by God, he ran from his Creator. Before Adam was even out of breath, God began pursuing him; and, this was a game of hide and seek that Adam wasn’t going to win.
While Adam and Eve hid in fear, God pursued them in His mercy. Freshly embarrassed by his awakened conscious and bare body, Adam tried to cover himself with fig leaves, but this wouldn’t do. God extended His grace and clothed the first couple with animal skins.

The very first ounce of blood that was spilled on creation in its infancy was by the eternal hand of our holy God. He did not withhold His grace because of their sin; instead, grace was given in spite of their sin. Years later, Paul wrote: “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because Adam and Eve had sinned innocent animals (probably sheep) had to die.

Year after year, the significance of this day was hidden in shadows and symbolism until about 33 A.D.—Good Friday. This day was announced 3 years in advance by John the Baptist when he said: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Today is the Friday that we remember His death, and this Sunday will be the day we celebrate the resurrection and the hope of Easter.

Yes, TGIF is an appropriate expression for today.

When Freedom Gets Personal

To some freedom is thought of in terms of the number 07-04 or a specific date on the calendar—July 4th.  There are politicians who try to balance the wishes of their constituents and measure freedom in dollar$, but the cost of freedom cannot be measured in terms of military budgets, tanks, jets, or ships.  The true cost of freedom must consider the human spirit and the willingness to sacrifice.

The hidden costs of freedom are outside of the awareness of the public in general because they have never lived the military life.  When their children were born, the father was not fighting terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan.  For most families, parents are present to join in the celebration of the major life cycle events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and marriages.  This is not the case for military families when one or both parents are deployed.  Then, there is the ultimate cost of freedom that is seen in the flag-draped caskets of heroes that return home to be met by their heart-broken family.

As I write this column, my heart goes out to the family of Hal Neukirch, Jr.  Young Hal was serving in Afghanistan when he was stricken by a deadly enemy in a form of brain cancer known as Glioblastoma Multiforme.  The request of Hal Jr. is to leave his hospital bed in Texas, and to come back to El Dorado to spend his last days in the place he has called home.

I ask you to join me in helping the Neukirch’s bring their son back to Kansas.  Due to Hal’s condition, an air ambulance must be used at a cost of $15,000.  An account has been set up at Intrust Bank, 100 S. Main, El Dorado, KS 67042. If each of us will give a little, we can make a big difference in the life of this wonderful family.  Please make your check payable to the Hal Neukirch Jr. Benefit Fund.