Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Are We Afraid of Thanksgiving?

     I know what your first reaction to that question is.  "I'm not afraid of Thanksgiving.  I love it!"  So why do we jump across it like a narrow stream in the forest?  Summer ends and we set our sights on Halloween.  Then the next thing you see are commercials for Christmas.  Christmas trees start showing up in the stores.  Santa is on television.  The radio starts playing Christmas music.  the listings are given for all he Christmas movies to be shown on your favorite television stations.  And all the new movies come out when  At Christmas!
     A friend of mine teaches 4th grade music.  She recently said this on Facebook:

"...I think these 4th graders deserve to be heard.  My intention was just to teach them "Over the River and Through the Woods," but that led to a discussion of what families used to do together during holidays before television.  I was not prepared for the anger.  Student after student described begging their parent(s) to turn off the television on Thanksgiving so they could do something together.  Some of these were kids who like to be seen as tough.  They said that their begging did no good, and that their parents replied, "This is what we do on Thanksgiving."  They started talking together about ways to sabotage the TV watching, including unplugging it, smashing it, and setting it on fire.  When I asked them what they wished their families would do on Thanksgiving, here is what they said:  1.  Play games together.  2.  Go around the room and say nice things about each other.  3.  Give thanks for the things we have.  Food for thought..."

     Admit it.  Most of us are excited for Thanksgiving for two, maybe three reasons.  Reason #1.  Food.  We could make a list right now of what we'll be eating for the Thanksgiving meal.  Turkey, possibly ham, dressing, cranberry salad, green beans, corn casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pecan or pumpkin pie...or both.  We eat until we can eat no more.  Then we eat the leftovers fir the next several days.

     Reason #2.  Time off.  Time off from work or school.  A long weekend.  Naps.  Between meal snacks.  Another nap.

     Reason #3.  And this one isn't for everyone, but I'll say it in one  My wife and I ate with a family one time who would eat and then not eat dessert until the Dallas Cowboys scored.  (Lately, that's been a long time!)

     But why are we afraid to verbalize our thoughts and feelings?  Why can't we look our family, our friends in the eye and sincerely thank them for what they mean in your life?

     Part of this, I think, is an admission that I need you.  That we need each other.  We live in a "pull yourself up by your bootstrap" mentality that says, "I am strong.  I am tough.  You can't bring me down."  To be thankful is to admit that the score isn't even.  Someone pays for something that is your expense.  You nearly get into a brawl because you don't want them paying for your meal or your car repair or the labor costs you have incurred.

     My brother-in-law tore out a deck on the back of my house once when I couldn't help.  When I asked him what I could do to repay him, he brushed it off and said, "You don't understand.  I LIKE doing this."

     I had one of my elders who would compliment me on something I had done...a program, a sermon, a speaker I had invited in.  I would deflect the praise as best I could.  Then he would look at me and say, "Just say, 'thank you.'"

     Don't try to do anything this Thanksgiving holiday except to say, "Thank you."  Thank God.  Thank your parents if they're still around.  Thank your children.  Thank your friends.  Don't do anything else.  Just say, "Thank you."

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful."  Colossians 3:15

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Lord's Prayer

     By reading the title of this blog you might think that the subject of the day is from Matthew 6 which begins, "Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."  Really this prayer should be aptly named the Model Prayer.  When Jesus' disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray, He used that example.
     However, in John 17 I think we find the real Lord's Prayer.  Virtually, within hours Jesus will be taken as prisoner and crucified.  His thoughts in this prayer are truly phenomenal.  I don't want to spend a lot of time in this post in the first part of this prayer.  It's the last seven verses I want to spend the bulk of our time.
     At the first He told us that knowing God was eternal life.  He really doesn't talk of Himself much, but really the success of the mission He has come to fulfill and what lies ahead for His disciples.  He spends the next part praying for His disciples.
     What strikes home in this prayer is the last part.  He says, "My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message."  I wrote this in my Bible.  "My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for Jim."  You should do the same.  Write your name in there.  Jesus prayed for you.  What's remarkable is Jesus prayed for you over 2000 years ago.  Perhaps that prayer is just now being answered by God.  It's fulfillment is coming in your life today.
     This is a good lesson for us.  Our timeline is much shorter than God's.  We want results.  We want to see an answer and see it NOW!  But can we pray a prayer that will have an effect in another 2000 years?  Are you willing to make a commitment to pray for those whom you will never know.  Perhaps it's a great grandchild or a nation searching for their God.  Maybe it will be a plea for someone on a spiritual journey many years in the future.  You keep praying the prayer.  Our God is faithful.   His answer may come long after we're gone.
   He prays for our unity.  "That will never happen," you might say.  Why not?  If Jesus prayed it, it can happen.  Perhaps if we stopped worrying about everyone else and what they are doing and concentrate on our mission, maybe we might achieve some unity.  I've noticed that most people who want to complain about my work are really not doing anything in the kingdom.  Or maybe we should be praying for those who complain about what you're doing and complaining that you aren't doing things their way.  I try to work by the Gamaliel rule.  I've written about this before.  Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin.  When some of the apostles were brought in and told not to preach in the name of Jesus, Gamaliel told his colleagues to leave them alone.  If their work was of God, there was not stopping it.  If it was from somewhere or someone else, it would die out.  Good advice.
     Finally, Jesus prayed that the love God had for Him would be in us.  He asked us to be the love in this old nasty world.  When there is hate, he calls us to love.  He called on us to carry out His mission....the mission of God's overwhelming, unfailing love.
     If Jesus thinks these thoughts, this prayer is worth praying, shouldn't we be doing everything within our power to fulfill His thoughts?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Dreaming Big

     I preached from John 14 yesterday and there are so many things that could be said from that chapter.  It had to have been abundantly clear that something was about to happen to Jesus.  He told them He would die in Jerusalem.  He told the He was leaving.  He told them one of them would betray Him.  Yet they still didn't seem to get it.  But Jesus pressed on anyway.
     He told them He was going to prepare a place for them.  Not a place with mansions as we often sing.  But a place where there were many rooms.  It really fit the culture of the day when the groom would go to his father's house and add on some rooms where he and his bride could live.  His first message to His apostles in this chapter was "Don't worry, trust God."  Their future would be secure if they just trusted God.
     Of course, Thomas asks where Jesus was going.  I truly think he thought he was going to another town, another district, another province...somewhere away from them.  Thomas wanted to know the way.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  The way is not Mary.  It's not some saint.  Jesus is the ONLY way.
     The outlandish part of this chapter is found in the latter verses.  Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  John 14:12-14.  Jesus told them they would do greater things.  Think about that for just a moment.  Jesus healed the blind, raised the dead, cured all kinds of illness, healed lepers, cast out demons, and many other miraculous works.  He just told the apostles they would do even greater things!  You might say this charge was for the apostles.  Was it?  Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 3:20.  He said, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work with us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen!"  "Throughout all generations" he said.
     What does this mean?  I think He calls on us to dream big dreams.  To realize that God is in control.  We should pray outlandish prayers for phenomenal results.  Then we trust Him to see what He accomplishes for His glory.  You may ask, "How is this going to be accomplished?"  Through the Spirit that He left with us.
     I told you there were so many things from this chapter.  And I didn't even scratch the surface.  Perhaps I should dream bigger.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine..."