Thanksgiving

THE WAVES NEVER STOP

Living near the shore has its advantages.

I don’t get to the beach often, but when I do, I usually think to myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?”

My favorite time to walk along the beach is early evening, when the crowds are gone along with the heat.

Although the people have left, the sand bears many signs that swarms of them were recently present. In addition to the ubiquitous footprints in the sand, are the remnants of collapsed castles and abandoned excavations.

Yet, the next morning, all these evidences will all be washed smooth by the ever-flowing action of the waves.

God’s grace accomplishes a similar work in the believer’s heart.

Throughout each day, sin is disrupting our hearts and minds. As we come to the end of our day, we can see abundant evidence of sin’s disturbance.

However, the Cross never ceases to flow with the cleansing grace of Christ.

No matter how often our soul is disrupted, the merciful actions of our Savior have the final say. This is the proclamation of the Prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Child of grace, don’t neglect giving praise and thanksgiving to your faithful Savior.

He never tires of pouring grace upon you, so don’t tire in imitating his attentiveness.

As we develop the habit of recognizing the evidences of his grace, our minds will turn more easily to worship rather than worry. And our hearts will increasingly yearn for the good things that honor him.

The result will be a heart that is clean, and at rest.

AVOID THE AFTER-CHRISTMAS-LETDOWN

 

by Debbie Huber

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday…I had my shopping plans for these special shopping days.  I bookmarked the special Black Friday Deals website to know where all the BEST deals were to be found.  I kept all of my coupons and found all of my Promo codes.  I was ready to have a successful and bargain-filled Christmas shopping season!

Unfortunately, things like this can dominate our lives from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Gift lists are made, shopping days are planned, Christmas parties and concerts are put on the calendar. Somehow we have to wrap the gifts, make the cookies, send in the teacher’s gifts, and find a way to have everyone dressed nicely for a family Christmas picture.  

Our lives are hectic right up until Christmas Day and then on December 26 we have the “Day-after-Christmas-letdown” where we are surrounded by tired and cranky family members, empty boxes, and bags of torn wrapping paper. 

It is easy to allow the hectic schedule and the “planning” to dominate your families’ lives at Christmas.  The buildup and expectation of Christmas and family is a wonderful blessing from God, but without the celebration and thankfulness for what it meant for Jesus to be born, there will be a letdown until next year. 

Jesus is Emmanuel, God With Us!  Our God was born as a baby so He could live on this Earth like us and experience the trials and temptations as we do and yet without sin so He could be sacrificed in our place for our sins. 

Jesus should be the foundation of our plans, our expectation, our celebration, and our joy of Christmas. 

Make it a priority to have Jesus and the celebration of what He accomplished as a result of being born as “God With Us” be the foundation of your family’s Christmas season.  Read about it in the Bible, sing about it at home and in your car, thank God together through prayer, and celebrate with each other about the amazing reality of what Jesus has done for us. 

Do not let a day go by without rejoicing in your heart and thanking God for the wonder of the incarnation of Christ.  Share with the unsaved people in your life about it the glory of Christmas and invite them to church! 

There may be some tiredness after Christmas, but there is no after Christmas letdown because the gospel is a reality in our lives for eternity!

WHY DO WE WHINE SO MUCH?

We complain easily and we complain a lot.

As Christians we complain despite the reality that our life has the proverbial “embarrassment of riches”. The fullest description of our wealth of blessings may be what we find in Ephesians 1:3-14:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

A believer who habitually complains – is somewhat like Bill Gates moaning about his finances, or Michael Phelps whining that he doesn’t have enough Olympic medals.

In addition to what Ephesians describes,

We have God’s unfailing Word that we can read and follow in all situations

We have the Holy Spirit – all that God is – living in us

We have Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords interceding on our behalf

We have the open invitation to cast every burden upon our Lord Jesus

We have the Church which God raised up to bless and support us

We have the wondrous promise that every situation will work together for our eternal good

So how are we using this treasury of ‘riches’ from God?

Yes, our mouths should be open and we should have a lot to say. But let it be praise rather than complaint, thanksgiving rather than grumbling. These are the appropriate responses for all who are in Christ! As the Psalmist declares,

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised”

 

THEY ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Sunday morning as I was walking through our church, I noticed three people praying together

Then several steps further I overheard a young woman discussing how she was encouraging a friend to become more rooted in her own church

Then a reality suddenly struck me

I was surrounded by graces of God

Not just the amazing graces of God toward me, but also the countless evidences of God’s active grace and works in the lives of his people!

My heart easily becomes mired in the discouragements of this world

A world that has turned itself upside down

The messy half-heartedness of many who claim to love Christ

Believers who are under immense burden

My own weaknesses which are ever on display

These realities seem to slap me in the face each day

Yet, these are not the greatest realities in this world or in my life!

God is ever sovereign over all things

Christ has already conquered sin, death and Satan

The Holy Spirit is actively preparing each believer to be glorious images of Jesus

Sometimes these realities are submerged under the flow of events and my own activities. So I must seek them out. Every believer is called to glorify God, which means we are responsible to look for and hold up the evidences of God’s glorious grace at work

The Holy Spirit not only freshly reminded me that he is abundantly at work; he also freshly convicted me that I need to live with greater awareness of his graces around me

God deserves that I do this

My soul needs me to do this

Gospel mission impels me to do this

As God’s people, may we look for and celebrate the graces of God in us and in each other. Although they may seem small and at times mundane – they are actually marvelous evidences of our God wonderfully at work

When we see an evidence of grace – exalt it in your heart and praise it with your lips

But don’t stop there; let’s get in the habit of identifying those evidences of grace to one another as a way of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which instructs us to “encourage one another and build one another up”

Let us exercise faith as we celebrate these evidences of God’s grace, for they are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. For God is working at a level that will eternally display his transcendent standard of glory!

OUR TRUE THANKSGIVING MEAL

Communion-Cross-with-Jesus

 

By all means, enjoy whatever bountiful meal is placed before you on Thanksgiving. God who provides all good things, delights in our enjoyment of them!

However, may all who are in Christ be mindful that our true THANKSGIVING meal is the Lord’s Supper.

 

THANKFULNESS A – Z

School Days

In a sermon a couple weeks back, I mentioned that if we are keeping lists of what we don’t like about people, it is a warning sign that we have a critical spirit.

As an (unplanned) illustration, I mention that several years ago a church member came into my office with an A–Z list of what was wrong with our church.

Following the letters of the alphabet, he read off 26 ways our church had it wrong. Some of his list was on target, some of it was petty and all of it was excruciating!

In response to my illustration, last week Kim Ordile, who is a member at Greentree, sent me an A–Z list of what she loves about our church.

This list was a joy to read, and it pointed my heart toward God by filling my heart with reasons to be thankful for the many ways He is working through his people and creating blessing to many.

If you are from Greentree, I am sure this list will lift your heart.

And if you are from another church, I am sure your pastor(s) would be thrilled to receive an A-Z list of what you love about your church

As you read over Kim’s list, may you be doubly encouraged as you see items where you have been part of how God is blessing people’s lives.

Amazing book store

Biblical theology taught

Children’s ministry full of love

Discipleship relationships emphasized

Evangelism training

Fellowship Mall that promotes unity

Giving baskets that are private

Home Fellowship meetings

Incredible facility

Joe and Jessa love to come (the names of her children)

Kindness to those in need

Love is demonstrated here

Music and musicians that glorify God

Nursery that is safe and organized

Outreach/mission opportunities

Powerful prayer meetings for healing

Quiet Times emphasized

Relationship not religion demonstrated

Servant outreach Saturdays

Testimony times

Ushers that serve with great care

Victorious perspective of all that God is

Wednesday night pizza dinner/program

X-cellent greeters to welcome you in

Youth programs that target the heart

Zealous preaching of God’s Word

A DAY AT THE BEACH

A day at the beach is not just time away from our routines
It involves a gratifying array of sensory experiences

The sound of waves rolling onto the beach,
And the cry of gulls

The warmth of the sun on your face,
And refreshing cool breezes

The tangy smell of salt air,
And the drifting smell of boardwalk fried foods or backyard grills

The satisfying pleasure of cold water in a parched mouth,
And the taste of potato chips with your packed sandwiches

The sight of an endless horizon with miniature sails in the distance,
And little shore birds scurrying after departing waves

Anyone can enjoy these sensations,
But for those who know God – it should be so much more

God is the person, whose mind thought up each of these experiences,
And He alone is the One who created us with the senses to enjoy them

God designed all these things along with “every good and perfect gift”

Next time you have a day at the beach,
Make it a time of wonder and worship, as well as rest and relaxation.

Consider the goodness of God, who brought all this wonder into existence,
And contemplate the love which did this for our joy

This is a Person worth Praising,
Worth following,
Worth trusting,
And worth getting to know better!

WHAT A SACRIFICE!

In the days leading up to Jesus crucifixion, Mary, the sister of Martha, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

It was a lavish display and in financial terms, a significant sacrifice. The ointment was worth approximately 10 months’ salary.

Pause to do the math – that is $30,000 for the average American worker!

There was nothing casual or half-hearted in what Mary did for Jesus.

We don’t know if the decision to make this sacrifice, and to offer this public display involved inner struggle for Mary. The fact that the Bible is silent on the matter tells us it really isn’t important.

What is important is what Mary actually did:

We know she publically demonstrated that she loved Jesus.

We know Mary was thankful to Jesus who had given forgiveness to her and life to her brother.

We know she humbled herself, wiping Jesus feet with her hair.

We know she sacrificed what could have been used in countless other ways.

What Mary did not know:

She did not know that her actions held meaning far beyond what she could then understand.

She did not know that Jesus would soon be on a cross and in a tomb.

She did not know how deeply Jesus would appreciate her actions.

She did not know that her actions had just become part of the most astonishing of all God’s works – the atoning death of His Son!

She did not know that we would be impacted by her actions 2000 years later.

Every believer has as much reason to be thankful to Jesus as Mary did.

We have been raised from spiritual death and we have the promise that even our bodies will one day be raised to eternal glory.

Every believer also has choices and opportunities to show Jesus our love and gratitude.

We all cannot give something worth 10 months’ salary, but we all can be sacrificial with our possessions, and we all can demonstrate thankfulness with our actions.

Every believer who has the heart of Mary will also find that God uses our actions in ways that go far beyond what we anticipated and can currently see.

This is not because we are wise, gifted or wealthy. It is because God is loving, gracious and wonderful.

Every believer can bring the “fragrance” of devotion to Christ into the places that we live, work and worship.

This week, we remember what Jesus did for us.

It is an appropriate time to consider what we are doing for him.

START CELEBRATING NOW

One day I will leave all of the troubles of this world

It gets better.

On that day, I will enter a world perfect to the standards of God.

And it gets better.

On that day, I will see Jesus.

Is it possible, yes it gets even better!

On that day when I see Jesus, I will be like him!

Oh certainly my future could never get better than that – but yes it does

On that day, I will be surrounded by people who ALL have the heart and character of Jesus. Everyone will treat one another and love one another just as Jesus does.

Surely that is as good as it gets. No, there is still the greatest of all realities, and it is higher than even all of these.

From that day and forevermore, all I experience will take place within the astounding love between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!

Let the Celebrating Begin!

AND THEY LIVED THANKFULLY EVER AFTER

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

Thanksgiving Day is now past. However, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, every day is Thanksgiving! All Christians should live “thankfully ever after”.