Thanksgiving… one week away

Traditions.  Family.  Football.  Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin Pie.

I’m always just a little edgy about this time every year.  When I was pastoring churches, this would be called the “busy” season.  Once Halloween was finally behind me, it was a fast sprint toward Christmas and a brand new year of ministry.  Of all the holidays that we celebrate, it just seems to me that Thanksgiving may be the most misunderstood.

Traditions.

We (my generation) were taught Thanksgiving came about in 1621, in a small town named Plymouth, instituted by Governor William Bradford, to celebrate the very first successful harvest.  The Pilgrims came together because they were grateful they survived their first savage winter in the New World. My elementary teachers told us that President George Washington proclaimed the first national day of “thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789.  But it wasn’t until 1863, when President Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War, that this tradition was celebrated annually across the nation.

Family.

We all want a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, where relationships are always perfect, and everyone loves each other unconditionally.  I’m not really sure I’ve experienced even one year that measures up to this image.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying, right?  Here’s a few topics from which to disengage this year:  politics, old arguments, having children, and table manners.  Does someone’s elbow on the table really constitute a crisis?  This year find a way to walk outside a take a couple of deep breaths, go help someone in the kitchen, or play a game.  Just remember, your words are the key to keeping the day positive, and the solution to family stress.

Football.

Since I’m the author of this blog, I feel somewhat free to talk about my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.  Please don’t stop reading yet.  Another stress-related Thanksgiving activity can be the emphasis on whether your team wins or not.  Why would we do this?  Why is this day so wrapped up into sports, instead of gratitude for life?  I really enjoy watching football, especially when my team is winning.  I learned the hard way, that all the emotional energy I reserve for football, is much better spent investing in the relationships around me at Thanksgiving.

Turkey and dressing, and pumpkin pie.

Well, truth be told, I prefer pecan pie, but that’s beside the point. I really enjoy the actual Thanksgiving meal itself.  I’ve been privileged to eat many different kinds of Turkey preparations, a variety of dressing concoctions, green bean casseroles, and sweet potato (not my favorite) side dishes.  Then as though we forgot about them, out come the desserts to die for… pies and puddings galore.  And just like all the other topics above, I must ask, is the meal itself the essence of “Thanksgiving?”

Here’s the thing.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible about Thanksgiving.  Don’t worry I’m not going to list them all here, although at the end of this article I’ll give you a link to check them out on your own.  I leave you today with just these thoughts…

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 107:1
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, Most High.

Focus on thanksgiving, this Thanksgiving Day.

Link to Thanksgiving verses: https://www.openbible.info/topics/thanksgiving

 

Trust and Obey

Yes, this is the title of one of the all-time great hymns of worship I grew up singing.  What you may not know is the song was written by John H. Sammis in 1887.  It comes right out of two specific scriptures.

Psalm 84:11-12
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Isaiah 50:10
Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light?  Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

My heart still quickens when I read or hear the words to the first stanza of this song:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

The chorus just gets to me:

Trust and Obey! For there’s no other way,
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

How do we do this?

Today, the day after the “mid-terms” it may appear to some that this is just trite and meaningless dribble, when the world at large, and our nation specifically seems in such disarray.  You and I may or may not like who won a particular election.  You and I may not approve the choice for governor in Colorado, the senate selection from Tennessee, or New York’s 14th district congressional selection… but this is where the trust and obey part comes in.

Remember a couple of days ago I suggested that Paul said to the church in Rome that God puts people in places of governing authorities, and no one is there except that God established it? [Romans 13:1]  You might want to take a few moments here to look up Romans 13 and read the whole chapter… it’s only 14 verses, and it might take 3 minutes at the most.  Because if there is one passage of scripture that certainly applies to us today it is this one.

We have to trust in the Sovereignty of God.  We have to know without hesitation or  doubt that God is in control, has plans we don’t know, sees the outcome far beyond what we might hope or think, and has only the best in mind for those who know Him and call Him “Father.”

The only way we can call Him “Father” is through Jesus Christ.  We should then pray as Jesus taught us to pray…

Matthew 6:9-10
“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by Your name.  You kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s a new day.  The political lay of the land is different.  But God is in control.  For those who know and believe this is true, there is only one response must we have.

Trust and Obey.

If you could…

Kevin Costner played the role of Bud Johnson, a beer-guzzling dead-beat dad raising a clever and too-mature-for-her-age daughter named Molly, in the 2008 comedy “Swing Vote.”  On election day Bud’s daughter sets off a series of unforeseen events resulting in the nationwide presidential race being decided by just one vote:  Bud’s.

Now, personally I’m a sucker for flicks like this, so I thought it was funny and poignant, despite the 38% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.  So, I thought about this movie today, and for some reason it stirred up in me a few pointed questions of my own.

If tomorrow’s election came down to one vote, and it turned out to be yours, have you voted yet?  Do you plan to vote if you haven’t yet?  If not, why not?  If yes, do you have a clear path to why you would vote a particular way, or are you like Bud Johnson, waiting to be wooed by the candidates?

What’s at stake here?  Why should I be writing to you about voting in an election where you may have no interest at all?

First, let me just say that this will be my last article about voting, for a couple of years anyway.  I think I just heard an audible sigh of relief from all over the world… ha!  You think I’m making this up, but this blog is being read in 119 of the 193 recognized nations around the world.  So it’s not just you folks in the United States that are ready to move on. It’s also some folks in Canada, India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Brazil… well, you get the picture.

Second, the founders of our nation wrote that “all men are created equal.” This didn’t mean they were ignoring we are in fact all different in terms of appearance, personality, skills, character, morals, etc.  In their minds we are all born with inherent, natural and unalienable rights, which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  At it’s core this means no person is born with a natural right to rule over all the others without their consent.  It also means that governments are obligated to apply the law equally to everyone.

So… here’s the thing.  I’m encouraging you to cast your vote after doing a couple of basic activities.

First, pray for wisdom according James 1:5 (see my previous article here), because this is exactly what God wants us to do.

Second, re-read what the founders wrote above, and ask yourself, “which are the men or women whom I consider best qualified to uphold these ideals, and protect my freedoms?”

Third, do not abdicate your part in the responsibility of preserving freedom.  Your part is to go vote.  It is a right to be cherished for sure.  But not one just to be put on the mantle and looked at, but never touched or implemented.  This is a “messy” sort of right… it has to be handled… this right to vote must be exercised.

If it came down to it… if you could preserve freedom… and it took your one vote to do it…

Well, would you?

54 days ’till Christmas… 5 days until…

Yes, folks, it’s me again.  Mine is the voice of reason and logic for some, but the noise of insanity to others.  Of course the title of this article was just to grab your attention!  It’s what I try to do.  Now let’s be serious, just for a few minutes.

This is not that hard to understand.  The United States of America is approaching the precipice of perhaps the most monumental decision in our history.  On Tuesday, November 6th, our nation will be given once again the greatest privilege of any individual nation.  Each “citizen” of this great country is afforded the opportunity to cast your individual vote for who becomes a lawmaker for our state, and nation.  Given the controversy and divisiveness of mainstream media today, we owe it to ourselves, (not to them), to be informed and wise when we cast our votes.  So allow me just one more time, to give you some words of logic and reason.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

This is simple right?  It’s right there from the Prophet Isaiah, none of us is perfect.  We are not voting perfect people into office, there are none on this planet.  We are not voting for who we think will make flawless choices which are right every time, that person doesn’t exist.  We are only trying hard to get it right, and allow for a scenario which gives America the chance to make less mistakes than in our past.  So how do we choose which way to cast our vote?

James 1:5
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We can’t see five minutes ahead of right now.  I’m writing this and I don’t know how it ends yet.  God does.  You’re reading this sentence, but you don’t know how it ends yet.  I only do, because I wrote it, edited it, then posted it.  But only God knows who will be affected and how.  I don’t.

We can’t see Wednesday morning, November 7th either.  So how about we spend some time between now and Tuesday praying for wisdom.  How about if we ask God to move in the hearts of those who have not gone to early voting opportunities, and ask God to give them HIS wisdom on these matters.  I know I’m a pastor/teacher and some think I’m not even supposed to be writing articles like this, that somehow this violates the “separation of church and state.”

But here’s the thing.

I’m not a pundit, I’m not representing any particular partisan cause, and I’m not saying  who you are to vote for.  I’m saying our nation’s very core fibers are at risk in these mid-term elections.  I’m saying that you have not just a “right” to vote, but a mandate to vote and have your voice count for what happens on Tuesday.  You don’t have to march on the nation’s capital to have a voice.  You don’t have to be an “activist” to have a voice.  You don’t have to become violent to have a voice.  You already have a voice, it is called a “VOTE.”  So use it.

Take the weekend, spend some time just pursuing God and His wisdom on these matters, then do the responsible thing, if you haven’t already done so.

Stand in some line that moves at a snail’s pace, even if it seems meaningless and stupid to do so, and cast your vote.  Lift your voice, by pressing a button, or filling in a box, selecting the people who in your opinion are best suited for the job.

And one last thing.  When the results are in… rest assured that the one who is placed in office during this election process, will be the person God wants there.  I know this is the hard part for some of us.  But believing in the Sovereignty of God means believing this…

Romans 13:1
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

It’s that last phrase I want you to focus on.  It means God is in charge now, just like He has been in charge since time began.  No authority exists that God hasn’t first established for His own purposes and plans.

We don’t know these plans, we don’t see these plans, but they exist, and we must trust.  So align yourself with God’s plans by seeking His wisdom when you cast your vote on Tuesday.

It really is that simple.