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Why Thanksgiving is my Favorite Holiday

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Thanksgiving

Just saying the word conjures up special images and memories for each of us.

Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie and Pilgrims. Football and family. Tryptophan and nap time.

In our home it goes without saying that Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. My wife Debbie is an amazing cook, and usually Wednesday evening will find me getting anxious to smell the wonderful things she will prepare for our family. As always, we will have turkey and all the trimmings along with just about anything else one would expect to see at a Thanksgiving feast. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve already asked her 3 or 4 times if she has everything in the house for the big day.

Of course, she teases me that the only reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I love all the great food on our table. I’ll admit to the food being a very special part of the day, but there’s much more to it than that for me.

Thanksgiving is a Heart Thing

As a young boy growing up in rural Ohio, Thanksgiving was a time for family. My family would spend days in preparation, making sure of every detail, right down to drying the bread for my mom’s stuffing. Once the big day arrived, our home would be packed with relatives who had made the journey from as far away as 50 miles (no small sacrifice in the early 60’s).

All my aunts and uncles, cousins, and even people who I had never heard of before would gather in our home. No one even thought of watching TV, even though if the weather cooperated we could bring in two and a half channels. No, Thanksgiving was for catching up on each others lives around our huge dinner table.

Instead, all of us kids would be sent to play outside until it was time for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to show off to my city cousins a life they didn’t know existed.

For instance, we used to stand corn stalks up to make what is called a corn shock. These were made in the shape of a teepee and were wonderful hiding places from my girl cousins (and annoying sisters).

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From there I would take them on an adventure that rivaled any zoo they had ever seen. At our home we had cows, pigs, and chickens, none of which my city cousins had ever seen up close and personal. Boy, my cousins sure seemed to scare easily when they would hear a made-up story of how dangerous those animals were.

Back then, the men in my family always went hunting in the morning, returning just in time to eat dinner. How well I remember when I was deemed old enough to tag along with them. I had no gun, but it didn’t matter a bit because I got to be with my dad and uncles.

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When at long last my mom would announce that dinner was ready, we would all head towards the kitchen. Since there were so many of us, the grownups would fix our plates and we would then sit at the “little table”.

I really disliked those little card tables because the only people sitting there were us kids, and all of us knew that the “big table” was the place to be. I remember every year asking if this was the year I finally got to sit at the big table. I got used to being told “NO”, but still I had to ask.

I can still see what had to have been the biggest turkey in the store resting on a huge platter. Spilling all around it was the stuffing that we had prepared all that dried bread for. A gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes, along with an even larger bowl of chicken and dumplings sat on one end of the table. Bowls of green beans, cranberries, gravy, and other yummy things I can no longer remember filled the rest of the table.

I can remember eating so much food that my relatives would tease me that I was going to blow up. I didn’t care because being a skinny kid I could eat as much of anything I wanted and never gain a pound (oh for those days!).

After we had finished eating our dinner it was time for dessert, and I’m here to tell you that I could eat some dessert, especially my aunt Laura’s chocolate pie. I can remember there being apple pies, peach pies, blackberry cobbler, raisin pie (my dad’s favorite), and of course aunt Laura’s chocolate pie.

Those wonderful memories are tucked safely away in my mind. Those carefree days of family and friends are never far from me, and at this time of the year I think of them often. Though the years have created separation and distance in my childhood family, those are some of the best years of my life.

I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy more of those years, but as fate would have it my dad passed away when I was 12 years of age, and for all intents and purposes life was never the same after that. Therefore, those memories are indeed precious to me.

Today, of course, things are much different. Thanksgiving is largely thought of as a day off from work and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. What a shame, because in the rush to buy someone something a lot of memories are not being made around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

It goes without saying that I am one of those that has a really hard time with seeing Christmas trees showing up in October, and as we get later and later into November the inevitable deluge of advertisements for Black Friday start showing up, as if we needed one thousand reminders a day.

Around my house I’ll be the one asking a hundred times “wait…what about Thanksgiving? Why doesn’t anyone think of Thanksgiving like they used to? Why is it so hard for us to celebrate the idea of thankfulness”?

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So, while I am grateful for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrating the very 1st Thanksgiving way back in 1621, I can’t say that it was that event that sparked my love for Thanksgiving.

Neither was the Congressional resolution that resulted in President George Washington proclaiming Thursday, the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” instrumental in instilling my love for Thanksgiving.

Even President Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would become a federal holiday and a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” isn’t responsible for my fondness of all things Thanksgiving.

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While all those events are important in our nation’s history, the real reason that I love Thanksgiving is because in my mind I get to be that kid again. I get to be surrounded by the people who mean the world to me, and I get to add more memories to an already overflowing basket of thankfulness and gratitude gifted me by our Lord.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Sorry Chick-fil-A, this isn’t your fight

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By now most of America and beyond has heard the news about Chick-fil-A issuing a statement saying they will no longer support certain charitable groups such as The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

According to the press release from the company the restaurant chain has decided it “will deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger”. Noticeably absent is any mention of faith-based groups, long a recipient of Chick-fil-A’s generosity.

Almost immediately after this press release, Christians came out of the woodwork accusing Chick-fil-A of caving in to the relentless pressure from the LGBT community. On the surface, that is exactly what it looks like has happened.

Reading the entire press release however leads one to believe otherwise. As any company has the right to do, Chick-fil-A says it has decided to go a different direction with it’s philanthropic endeavors by contributing $9 million dollars in more specific ways. [1]

Only time will tell the whole truth. Personally, I would like to believe that they did not in fact cave to external pressure, and are simply changing their course in mid stream.

The pessimist in me however believes that the company grew tired of the constant fear of boycotts and picketers,(along with an unending stream of negative publicity) and decided they had had enough.

Seriously, who could blame them if they did?

Now, all of this fuss over chicken nuggets (granted, the tastiest chicken nuggets on the planet) has always been blown out of proportion. Of course, it is no secret that the LGBT community would rather see every Chick-fil-A restaurant go bankrupt then continue to operate it’s business on Christian principles.  This is after all a spiritual battle, not a fight over who has the best chicken sandwich.

Just as obvious is the fact that had Chick-fil-A and Jesus never been mentioned in the same breath, they would have been thought of in the same manner as KFC,Zaxby’s, and Popeye’s. Just another chicken joint.

I think we all get that.

What concerns me far more than a systematic attack on a Christian-based restaurant chain however is the fact that Chick-fil-A has been forced to the forefront in defending Christianity. Why is that a concern you ask?

It is a concern because it is NOT the responsibility of Chick-fil-A (or any other business)to defend Jesus, Christianity, or the Church.

That responsibility falls squarely and solely on the shoulders of the Church, the Body of Christ. That’s you and me beloved.  Yes, the very same ones who couldn’t wait to criticize Chick-fil-A. Who, by the way, were noticeably absent when they could have used our support.

Yep, that’s you and me beloved. Quick to judge, so slow to defend.

How sad is it that a national restaurant chain is forced to defend not only it’s foundational operating beliefs, but the whole of Christianity itself while the church sits by silently? Aside from a recent post by Franklin Graham, I am unaware of any Christian leaders taking up the fight to proclaim the gospel alongside Chick-fil-A in the face of unbelievable hostilities.

Am I the only one that wonders when the famous TV preachers are going to remove their hand from your wallet and get back to preaching the WHOLE counsel of God? [2] As the days draw darker shouldn’t God’s anointed rise up in power and authority to confront the sins of our day? After all, that is exactly what our spiritual predecessors did!

Defending the faith is of course a very unpopular thing to do. It always has been. It cost eleven of the twelve Disciples their lives. Additionally, history has recorded that defending the faith has cost millions of believers their lives through various persecutions, inquisitions, and genocides. Sadly, this continues unabated in many parts of the world today. [3] [4]

The Church should be fearless and tireless in its efforts to proclaim God’s word to this generation. All of God’s word, not just a selective few “feel good verses”. She should not be hiding behind the counter of a chicken restaurant, afraid to declare what “thus says the Lord”.

These are dangerous days, even hostile days for Christians everywhere. Whether fighting over the right to operate a business based upon Christian principles or simply desiring to live one’s faith in a peaceful manner, the cost to do so is increasing daily.

I have said for many years that the day would come here in America when Christians would be largely on their own in the fight against the forces of darkness because the institutionalized Church would not have the courage to do so.

Don’t look now, but that day is at hand.

Be encouraged, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] The complete news release from Chick-fil-A can be read here.

[2] Acts 20:27

[3] Read the 11th chapter of Hebrews (verses 35-37) for a detailed description of what many have been forced to endure while defending the faith.

[4] https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/

 

Sometime’s your vision just needs to be cleared

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Have you ever given thought to how easily we can become complacent in just about every aspect of our lives?

For example, how many times on our jobs are we simply going through the motions? We’ve done it the same way so many times that now we don’t even have to think about it. We just do it, giving no thought to any new ideas or methods that may help to make the job easier or more productive. Along the way we miss things that are right in front of us, but all that matters is the doing.

Or have you ever considered the daily route you take to school or work? How many of us can remember the 1st time we took that journey? We were careful to stop when we were supposed to and turn at the right intersection, all because it was new to us. Fast forward a year and how much thought do we give to that same task? I dare say not much, if any at all. We could get there with our eyes closed.

This is what happens when complacency sets in. It clouds our vision. It destroys the anticipation of what might be. We miss new and exciting things that are right in front of us because our senses have become dull.

Did you know this very same thing happens to us in our service to the King? If we’re not careful, church becomes routine. Just another mindless task that we could simply mail in if we chose to do so. And we can definitely miss some incredible things that He has for us.

In his address to the seven churches of Revelation, Jesus confronted the apathy and complacency that had infiltrated the church near the close of the first century. No less than five of the seven churches had serious internal concerns that Jesus called attention to. [1]

  1. The church at Ephesus had lost its first love
  2. The church as Pergamos harbored those that taught false doctrines
  3. The church at Thyatira permitted false teachers to deceive God’s people
  4. The church at Sardis had become weakened to the point of death
  5. The church at Laodicea had become lukewarm to the point of being rejected

Apathy, coldness, indifference, and complacency marked these five churches. Though they all had different specific issues, they all shared a common malady: their vision of who Christ was had become dim and cloudy. They no longer saw Him for who He was.

Today, many of us are in a similar situation such as the churches of Revelation were. We do not love like we did when we first came to know the Lord. Gone is the zeal and enthusiasm for the things of God. Gone also is Christian love for one another. Worse still, many of us aren’t even aware that it’s gone.

We tolerate any teaching that comes from the pulpit because frankly we don’t really care. We don’t “fact check” what is being taught, instead we simply nod in agreement while keeping one eye on the clock. What does Biblical literacy matter anyhow, isn’t that what we pay the pastor for?

So many of our churches are on spiritual life support because they are no longer connected to the vine. Just as a severed branch will remain green for a little while, so it is with churches that have disconnected themselves from the Source of their strength. Like the church at Sardis, the grim reaper is at the door.

Without the passionate flame of the Holy Spirit continuously burning within us, we too become lukewarm and eventually cold and lifeless.

Fortunately, none of these things has to happen. Every one of them is preventable. All that’s required is to ask the Lord to help us. Ask Him to reveal to us where we are with Him.

Are we hot, cold, or lukewarm in our walk with the Lord? Do we love like we did when we first came to Christ, or do we love selectively or not at all?  Do we love the truth of God’s word, or are we content with any doctrine? Are we as connected as we once were, or are we in dire need of a Holy Ghost transfusion?

I’m praying that the Lord will open all of our eyes so that we might see ourselves exactly as he sees us. That he will remove the scales from our eyes and gives us 20/20 spiritual vision.

Be faithful to Him dear friends…

Ron

[1] Revelation chapters 1 & 2

 

 

Why we must resist spiritual pride

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Pride is one of those things that all of us possess in one form or another. Having pride in one’s appearance, taking pride in a job well done, or being proud of your children are all different types of pride that are looked upon as favorable.

Having a sense of pride however that borders on arrogance and superiority are not thought of as admirable traits, as most of us are not drawn to individuals possessing them.

When those traits creep into the church they lead to spiritual pride, or thinking too highly of ourselves. When we allow such pride to overtake us, we become unreasonable, rigid, self-serving, and see ourselves as nearly infallible. This does not reflect the nature of Jesus Christ.

For the Christian, this is a very dangerous place to be in because we become hardened to the Spirit of God. We are no longer malleable in the Masters hands, having convinced ourselves that “I’m in complete control, not God”.

Additionally, any Christian, especially one in leadership who operates under the guise of “it’s my way or the highway” is headed for a fall because the scripture makes it clear that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”. [1]

When those in church leadership positions allow spiritual pride to enter their hearts, they seek honor for themselves and not God. Under the cover of their position or title they exalt themselves (the creature) instead of the Creator. [2]

You may be thinking that this is an extreme example, but I can assure you that it is not. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my past when I found myself in this very predicament, and I don’t think I’m too far off by saying many of you have struggled with this issue at some point in your life as well.

All of this matters because God has a divine plan for each of our lives, a plan where there is no room for a “haughty spirit”. [3] Part of that plan is to mold and shape us so that we conform to His image and not our own. God calls this a “transformation”, which the Apostle Paul spoke of to the church at Rome.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2  (emphasis mine)

When we become a born again Christian, a mighty transformation begins to happen in our lives. Because we live in this world and are a product of its ways, thoughts, and practices, this ‘conforming nature’ has to go if God is going to have his way in our lives.

In order for that to happen God has to first chip away at the “world” that has enveloped all of us. How does He accomplish this? This is accomplished when we are placed on the potter’s wheel as mentioned in Jeremiah. [4]

As the Lord deals with us and we begin to grow in our relationship with him, the transformation becomes visible for all to see. In essence, we are not the same person we were before we found Jesus. Old things pass away, all things now become new. [5]

During this process we must take care not to become spiritually proud and to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Again, the Apostle Paul speaks to this as well.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (emphasis mine)

Paul is warning us here not to over-estimate ourselves. Don’t allow pride to enter your heart and cause you to become puffed up in your own eyes. This is a clear warning to be mindful of the dangers of spiritual pride.

We must not judge ourselves by our talents, our title, or our position in the church. Instead, we should measure ourselves by our Christian character. If Christ has been at work in our hearts, our character will be transformed, just as our minds are being renewed.

Anything less is not acceptable.

Be blessed, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] James 4:6, 1st Peter 5:5

[2] Romans 1:25

[3] Proverbs 16:18

[4] Jeremiah 18:3

[5] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

 

 

The dangerous sin of Indifference

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Now, just the mention of the “S” word is a complete turn off to most people today, of this there can be little doubt. That three letter word conjures up other words such as judgement, guilt, and condemnation. None of which are exactly going to have people clamoring to read this post.

I get it.

Speaking of the “S” word, most Christians are aware of what Jesus referred to as the Unpardonable Sin, the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost. According to Jesus, every conceivable type of sin can be forgiven except this one. [1]

That may come as quite a surprise to those who see God as a ‘Grandpa’ figure that winks at every rebellious act of his grandchildren.

While often misunderstood, this statement makes it very clear that this should not be taken lightly, and to say that this is the single most dangerous sin that could be committed would not be an understatement.

There is another one of those “S” words to be avoided that I believe to be of equal importance today, and while not necessarily dooming the offender for all of eternity, nevertheless is of such importance that I believe it merits our attention.

I’m referring to the sin of indifference found in Revelation chapter 3. This is where Jesus confronts the church of Laodicea for their lukewarm condition. So important was this to Jesus that he said that because they were neither hot or cold, but lukewarm, he would vomit them out of his mouth if they did not repent. [2]

That’s because the church of Laodicea lacked a certain key element in their devotion to Christ, and that missing ingredient was passion. Thinking they had it all, Jesus had to remind them that he knew their works, and that they were lacking some very important things.

Imagine Jesus showing up at your church next Sunday and telling you that!

The Laodicean church was a very prosperous church. They were a church on the move. They were the church that didn’t need anyone or anything. If any church knew how to ‘do church’, it was this one. They had it all figured out. No bake sales and building funds needed here, that’s for sure.

They had a major problem though, which was that they were simply going through the motions of ‘doing church’. On the surface, they appeared to be “blessed and highly favored” (a newish term I personally find somewhat arrogant, but that’s another post).

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the Son of God has a real problem with His church not being totally dependent upon him. It’s true because when we become self-reliant, we act as though He doesn’t exist.

Here in America many of our churches are are blinded by the sin of indifference just like the church of Laodicea was. Speaking in broad terms here, our churches are ridiculously wealthy when compared with those in other countries, and what has this gained us?

Has our religious wealth bought us a closer walk with the Lord? Have our overflowing coffers stemmed the tide of worldliness that is so pervasive in our churches today? Have our riches enabled us to mount a successful counter attack against the evils of society? Are our collective billions eliminating hunger, drug abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking, or the homeless problem?

We all know the answer to these questions is a resounding NO. Just as the church of Laodicea found their riches to be their undoing, so it is with many of our own churches today. In essence we, like the Laodicean church, are rich and increased with goods, but are unaware of our own nakedness and blindness before the Lord. [3]

The Church was never intended to be like this. Even a cursory look at the book of Acts reveals that the true mission of the Church was to go and make disciples. [4] It was never intended that the church become fat and lazy, content to rest upon its laurels. God’s Church was always supposed to be a doing Church!

God has warned us in many ways that this would happen as the church crept closer to the time when Jesus would come the second time. He warned us through his word  and he warned us through the mouth of his servants. [5]

Consider the following response to a questionnaire from a major US newspaper in the latter part of the 19th century. This paper had sent out a question to many of the prominent people of the day, and it just so happened that the founder of the Salvation Army was given the question. Below is his reply to “what are the chief dangers that confront the coming century?”.

“The chief dangers which confront the coming century will be Religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, Forgiveness without Repentance, Salvation without Regeneration, Politics without God, and Heaven without Hell”. [6]

Amazingly, every point that William Booth made well over 100 years ago has come to pass, both in the Church and in our present society. Allowed to fester unchecked, this is what the sin of indifference brings: a counterfeit Church.

We do not however, serve a counterfeit God. Far from it! The God we serve is “able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us“. [7] For this very reason, I believe that from within this present day Laodicean church the Lord is raising up a people that will once again trust Him to do what he said he would do.

Beloved, we serve a God who knows our very thoughts. So intimately does He know us that he hears the cry of our heart. In fact, he has numbered every hair upon our heads! This is how deeply our covenant relationship with Christ runs.

All around us is despair, ruin, and fear. Yet we are urged onward by the One who abides within us, for greater is He that is within us than he that is in the world. That my friends is the promise of God. Our walk with God is not dependent on the circumstances around us, for God is above all.

My prayer this Lords day is that we would shake off the heavy bands of indifference and press towards the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. Call upon the Lord to renew the passion you once had for Him. Replace the cloak of lukewarmness with the fire of the Holy Spirit and see what the Lord will do in your church and in your life!

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Matthew 12:31

[2] Revelation 3:16

[3] Revelation 3:17

[4] Matthew 28: 19,20

[5] 1st Timothy 4: 1-3

[6] William Booth, Salvation Army

[7] Ephesians 3:20