Thanksgiving Week 2013

1 Thessalonians 5:18(NIV): Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Seven years ago tonight, my friend Edward and I were almost back to the states from our mission trip to Liberia, West Africa. We had spent over a week in this war-torn nation and now we were arriving back to the land of plenty on Thanksgiving night. I remember feeling kind of guilty about the day after Thanksgiving meal that awaited me on Friday. We had met people who told us that their greatest daily concern was being able to feed their family. I didn’t eat much that Thanksgiving because of the thoughts of our brothers and sisters in Christ who were hungry in Liberia. Some things have improved over the last seven years for our friends in Africa, but providing for and feeding their family continues to be among their primary concerns.

And yet, here on Thanksgiving week in the United States, many people’s greatest concern is finding the best shopping deal that they can. We stuff ourselves with food, take a nap, and then head out in a mad frenzy to the most popular shopping destinations to buy material things that we could do without, if we had to. What if we were faced with making the difficult decisions that many people around the world are forced to make tonight? We have so much and we only want more and more and more. Concern for our neighbor and our fellow human beings is the farthest thing from our minds.

My oldest daughter has been on four mission trips to Haiti and during that time, she has developed a heart full of compassion for the Haitian people.  As she talks about her experiences there, I can see the love of Christ filling up her heart and soul for the people that she has come to know in that country. Two days before Thanksgiving, I read that a rescue effort was under way for about 100 Haitian refugees whose overloaded vessel ran aground and capsized off the shore of the Bahamas. About 30 Haitians are presumed dead after this attempt to reach the Bahamas in search of a better life.

We don’t read the words of the Apostle Paul, “to give thanks in all circumstances”, as our brothers and sisters in Liberia and Haiti do. I can tell you that one of the most Spirit-filled worship services that I have ever been a part of was in a church in Liberia. I witnessed in person, followers of Christ who truly gave thanks in all circumstances. And most of their circumstances were extremely difficult at best. My daughter would say the same for services that she has been a part of in Haiti. Their faith and the fact that they believe God is with them in their “circumstances” are what gives them hope.

Many people will read this and say that they only have themselves to blame for what is happening in their countries. A follower of Christ will read this and with deep compassion say, “I have more than I need, how can I help others who are in so much need?”

So, if you have plenty this Thanksgiving and throughout the year – be thankful! Acknowledge God and thank Him for your many blessings. Be thankful that you have a warm home to fall asleep in and that you can go to bed without being hungry. Be thankful that God provides in ways that are both recognizable and unrecognizable. “Be thankful in all circumstances” and know that whatever circumstance you face, God is with you.

 

Doing What’s Right

Psalm 100: A Psalm. For Giving Thanks.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

On this Thanksgiving week, I have been closely following the story of a homeless man in Atlanta, who found a woman’s wallet, while rummaging through a trash can for food. This homeless man said that returning the wallet to the rightful owner was the right thing to do. After the wallet was returned, the managing director of the hotel began searching the streets for the man in order to reward him for his act of honesty. Several days later, the homeless man was located and given a week’s stay in the hotel along with room service and $500. The honest man has also received many cards, letters and monetary gifts from people who have heard and read about his honesty. After watching an interview tonight on the local news, I must say that this man seems truly grateful and appreciative for the public outpouring of support and encouragement. He was quoted as saying that this experience has renewed his faith in mankind and he seems almost embarrassed at the attention that he has been given for doing what he considers the “right thing to do.”

I don’t know the entire story of this man’s life and I don’t really think that I need to. We all go through low points and challenging times in our lives, although most of us have never had to sleep outside in sub-freezing temperatures or search through a trash can for food. All of us know people who live comfortably but would lie, cheat, or steal without giving it a second thought. It never ceases to amaze me just how greedy and dishonest people can be over things that matter very little. This man has renewed MY faith in mankind by his kind and honest act and for that I am thankful.

This week, as I sit down to a Thanksgiving meal surrounded by family and loves ones, I am going to be more mindful of those who are cold, hungry, and in need of basic shelter and warm clothes. I am going to be more thankful for my family and friends as I think about those who so desperate yearn for some human interaction and compassion. And I am going to ask God to open up my heart and move me to give more attention to those in our community who are in need. Their needs extend beyond this one week of the year. Jesus demonstrated love and compassion to those in need and He calls us to do likewise.

 

 

Overcoming the World by Obedience and Faith

1 John 5:3-5, 19-20: This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

It has been more than a week since I have written a devotional. The last few weeks for me have been filled with stress, worry, and a few sleepless nights. It seems that the world around me is constantly bombarding me with more worries and problems that I can handle. Just when I think that I have solved one problem, several more come my way. That’s life though, it has its peaks and valleys and many times we learn something or even become stronger when we endure difficult periods in our lives.

Then I take a moment to reflect on other people who have issues and problem far more serious than mine. I know people that are dealing with moderate and severe health issues and they certainly are an inspiration to me as I see them living out a life of faith and obedience to God. Trials, worries, and troubles will come our way as long as we are living on this earth, that’s just the way it is. And it should not surprise us because 1 John 5: 19 tells us “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Satan will do anything and everything in his power to turn our attention away from God and weaken or destroy our faith in the power of God to save us.

The writer John encourages us to obey God and to follow his commands in order to meet the many obstacles that stand in our way on this earth. As believers, we are not promised an easy, carefree life that is free from pain and worry. We are promised that if we obey God and follow his commands that we will eventually overcome this world. Faith and obedience to God is the best weapon in standing firm against the onslaught of the evil one. Seeking God and not the things of this world is the only way to overcome this world and its many evil desires.

If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God then you have the power that is vital to overcome this world. Being faithful, obedient and loving the Lord God is the key to overcoming the many obstacles and trials that this fallen world sends our way. If you will seek God and believe in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you will overcome this world.

1 John 4:15-16: If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

 My prayer is that this message will give you what you need to further seek God through his Holy Word so that you can overcome this fallen world by faithful obedience to God in heaven.