Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Give Thanks To The Lord

Give Thanks to the Lord

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” - Psalm 100:4

The signs of the Christmas season seem to come earlier every year. Christmas decorations were already out at Halloween this year! While Christmas celebrates the birth of our Savior, we can very easily forget Thanksgiving if we are not careful. The Bible says that whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God. (Colossians 3:17) We should have an attitude of gratitude: a personal quality that molds us and shapes our lives – not just something we do or say. One way is to remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

During the winter of 1610, the settlers of Jamestown were reduced from 409 to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God.

The Pilgrims set sail for America on September 6, 1620 and were at sea nearly two months. When they arrived at Plymouth Rock, they had a prayer service and thanked God for being with them during their journey. Nearly half of them died as they struggled to build shelters and survive the cold New England winter. When spring came, Indian friends assisted them in reaping a great harvest. Because the Pilgrims were thankful, they declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God.Thanksgiving was originally established as a Christian holiday by President George Washington in 1789. Because Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated consistently, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November 1863 for a day of gratitude. He declared: “We are prone to forget the Source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come. . . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.”

Presidents continued to annually declare a national Thanksgiving Day until 1941 when Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of each November as a national holiday.Of course, Thanksgiving is also about gathering with friends and family and having a feast. Some will watch football and parades while others enjoy time off from work and school. But sometimes at this particular time of year, we can forget about how thankful we ought to be. We need to never forget that God has blessed us. After all, God sent His son Jesus to be our Savior! (1 Corinthians 15:57) The Bible urges us to give thanks to the Lord. We are told in Psalm 106:1, "Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
Several things happened this year that could make Thanksgiving tough for you. Maybe you didn’t agree with the presidential election or lost investments in our economic troubles. I’m sure everyone, regardless of your opinion on the war in Iraq, has been saddened by the loss and hurt of our soldiers. Some people have lost their jobs and even their homes. Maybe you lost a loved one and this is the first Thanksgiving without them.

Thanksgiving should be about God, not our circumstances. It’s easy to give thanks in good times, but what about the bad? Instead of giving thanks for our circumstances, maybe we should give thanks to God for being with us in the middle of our circumstances. Sometimes worship and thanksgiving can be a sacrifice, because we are down or depressed or things aren't going all that well for us. Maybe hardship or tragedy has hit your life in some way and giving thanks may seem tough. The Bible doesn't say, "Give thanks to the Lord, because you feel good." It says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!"

What are you thankful for? Do you have an attitude of gratitude? A better question is to whom are you giving thanks? In the busyness of your Thanksgiving holiday, don’t forget the source of your blessings. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reassignment, Not Retirement

"Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said." —Joshua 14:12

You know you are getting old when everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work. Another sign is the gleam in your eye is just the sun reflecting off your trifocals. You might even notice the years adding up if you get winded playing chess or if you sink your teeth into a nice juicy steak and they stay there. In fact, I've heard that there are four ages of man: 1) when you believe in Santa Claus, 2) when you don't believe in Santa Claus, 3) when you are Santa Claus, 4) when you look like Santa Claus.

All kidding aside, God has a great plan for you in your later years of life. Do you recognize these names: Shammua, Shaphat, Igal, Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi, Geuel? Of course not. Why? No one remembers those who give up in life. These were the ten men who didn't have faith in God when the twelve spies were sent into the Promiseland. You'll recognize Joshua and Caleb as the spies who believed in and served God. Lets look at the end of Caleb's life.

In Joshua 14, Caleb is eighty-five years old. He still feels as strong as he was when he was forty. He makes a statement in verse 12 that reflects his desire to serve God wholeheartedly in his old age. He says, "Give me this mountain." Caleb wasn't afraid. He had no thought of retirement. He wasn't headed for Leisure World or RV Town. There was still an unfinished task ahead. Caleb had to inherit the land God had promised him in his youth.

When Caleb was forty, he and Joshua along with ten others were sent as spies into the Promiseland. When they returned, they were the only ones who reported victory and certainty. They trusted God to give them victory. Why would God break His promise to them? The land was promised, thus the name "Promiseland." Everyone else was scared to death of the "giants" in the land.

What kept Caleb living for the Lord those forty-five years? God's integrity. Caleb wholeheartedly believed God's word. Was there ever a reason to give up? Caleb and Joshua both came back and were equally certain of God's promises. We see in Numbers 13:30 it was Caleb who took the lead in trying to convince Israel to go and conquer. Yet, when God chose a leader to invade Canaan thirty-eight years later He chose Joshua. Caleb would have been a fine leader. But there is no record of Scripture of any friction between these two men. Caleb accepted his behind the scenes role and followed. You cannot be a leader in you’re not willing to be a follower. I don’t know why God chose Joshua over Caleb. I imagine that Caleb wondered about that too, but he didn’t make the mistake of growing bitter about the choices of God. Caleb continued to follow God all his life.

Why would Caleb want the hill country? After all, that was the land the giants inhabited years earlier that struck fear in the hearts of the other spies. Caleb refused to suffer from the "Grasshopper Complex," - magnifying the adversary, minimize God. Caleb didn’t minimize the difficulties, he magnified his God.

In Joshua 15:13-17, Caleb did what most did not do. While others compromised and allowed the "giants" to stay, Caleb drove out the Canaanites and inherited the land promised to him. The man with the most difficult inheritance to claim was the one who totally claimed it - all at the age of eighty-five.

There is no retirement from the Christian life or the spiritual battle. In fact, retirement is never mentioned in the Bible. You see the men of God serving Him and working hard until the day they died. God may give us the privilege, like Caleb, of living to be eighty-five or more. Or He may not. We should want the same zeal as Caleb, the zeal to get up every morning and say, "What's ahead? I am available. I am ready. Give me this mountain." That is the way we should live each and every day—not living in the past, not looking over our shoulders at the good old days, but instead looking ahead to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Caleb asked for a treacherous area known as Hebron. He wasn't looking for retirement. He wanted reassignment. He said, "I like this spot right here. It's treacherous. It's rugged. It has formidable foes. This is my kind of place. Give me this mountain. I'm ready." He never forgot it. And Moses promised it to him. But Hebron was also known for something else. It was known as the place where God spoke to Abraham face-to-face and gave him the promise of the land in the first place. The very name of Hebron means fellowship, love, and communion. This is the place Caleb longed for and received.

What mountain has been promised to you? What obstacles stand in the way of obtaining it? What has caused you to give up? While others were looking back, Caleb was looking forward. And that is an essential key to spiritual longevity: you need to always be moving forward, always seeking to grow spiritually—and never looking back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fall Festival

Our annual Fall Festival Halloween alternative was a huge success this year. It was our biggest crowd yet with estimates of over 3,000 people in attendance! We gave away 2,500 hot dogs, 750 bags of candy, hundreds of temporary tattoos, parked hundreds of cars and popped of popcorn and cotton candy. From those playing Bouncy Boxing to kids taking costume pictures, there were lots of new faces in the crowd and I had a blast getting everything ready to serve all those people. Over 250 people in our church served last night. I met one family in a store that day as they were preparing for a Halloween party for themselves. They were purchasing some things and I told them about our alternative. They put their things back and said they would see us that night. I saw them and they had a great time. They said they would see me at church Sunday as well. Last year, we met a new family and now he leads one of our AWANA game times and she is one of our church secretaries.

While events like these require a great deal of planning, preparation, people and time, they are great to reach people and connect them with the church. Not our building, but the church - people who live for Christ. It wasn't about pony rides, cotton candy and inflatable games, although they were fun. The Segways were great, but it was about loving on people. I pray no one who served that night missed out on that truth.

I loved seeing all those kids having a great, safe time at a place filled with loving people representing Christ and our church. Our church did wonderful. They loved on people, stayed late to clean up, and did whatever it took to make it a great night for our community. Thanks to everyone who served and thanks to those who had a great time. I can't wait to make it bigger and better next year to reach more people. It was great to have a place that gave a positive, Christian alternative and reclaim this day meant for fright and fear for the Lord. To be honest, this is the first year I didn't think about fear, haunted houses or anything that represented evil. My thoughts were on making last night full of Christ. I pray we displayed Christ and made connections with them and our church.