THANKSGIVING: WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

The way the question above is asked suggests that Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal. However, I disagree – the holiday of Thanksgiving is a big deal and so is the giving of thanks.

The Thanksgiving holiday is not the only day of the year we should be thankful, but it is a day of emphasis and focus on being thankful. If someone is not in the habit of expressing gratitude on a regular basis, at least once a year the holiday does raise the subject.

I don’t know if the holiday is a big deal to God or not, but giving thanks seems to be. The Bible includes numerous calls and instruction to be thankful as well as examples of expressing thanks (especially in the book of Psalms). Luke 17:11-19 tells of an occasion when Jesus healed 10 lepers; only one returned to thank him and while Jesus appreciated the one who did return, he was apparently disappointed the other nine did not.

I think the importance of being thankful and expressing it is seen in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In a three verse section he underscores being thankful three times: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:15-17). Giving thanks seems like a big deal to Paul, doesn’t it?

God’s call to us as his children is not just to be thankful on the holiday, but all year long. And the challenge is not just to be grateful to him, but to all those who serve us, care for us, bless us, and enrich our lives. What we must guard against is just going through the motions of politely saying thanks without really feeling gratitude. Hopefully, those to whom we express thanks appreciate it; but expressing thanks is also good for us!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with family and/or friends, a tasty and satisfying meal, and a meaningful public or private time of expressing gratitude. And thank you for reading this post.

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IS COMPETITION GOOD OR BAD?

My answer to the question posed above is “it all depends.” And that answer is not a cop out because competition can be good or bad depending upon the competitors and the circumstances. All of us who have competed know from experience that it can be good or bad.

Those who watched the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers play a couple of weeks ago saw how it can be bad when one player ripped off an opponent’s helmet and hit him with it. Like many, I enjoy watching a variety professional games, but I am also disappointed more than I would like.

Earlier this week I read two headlines that disappointed me. One headline reported “Washington Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway ejected for spitting during nasty brawl vs. Anaheim Ducks” (for those may not know, those are hockey teams). The other headline reported “Houston Astros World Series DVD may show team’s alleged cheating set-up.”

I’m concerned by the bad example set by too many professional athletes for our children and grandchildren, but I am equally impressed by the sportsmanship of those who set a good example for those watching.

While a very few really don’t care if they lose, the saying “Nobody likes to lose” describes most of us. Not liking to lose, however, doesn’t make competition bad. It’s a participant’s attitude and actions resulting from a loss that can be bad.

There is a lot to absorb from Grantland Rice’s oft-quoted maxim “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” And I would add to how you play the game, how you handle losing or winning. Obviously it’s ok to be happy and celebrate a win, but very unbecoming to gloat and/or denigrate your opponent(s) who lost.

What troubles me the most is the disappointment, erosion of confidence, and self-deprecation many children and young people seem to feel following a loss in competition. Dealing with that is a special challenge for parents and grandparents.

It’s in those situations that we can try to help them appreciate the fun of simply competing and underscore the point that how they played is as important as winning. That’s not easy, of course (as we well know ourselves), but we can plant some seeds for the future.

I also think former Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel made an important observation when he said about the outcome of a game, “It’s how you respond to that result that makes the difference in your future.”

Two final thoughts. I don’t like one phrase in this dictionary definition of competition: “The activity of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others” (emphasis added). Also, and patting myself on the back, I don’t mind losing in Candyland to our youngest grandson, losing a nerf gun game to our older grandson, losing in golf when I play my son, losing in Scrabble to my wife, and losing in Jeopardy when I play my daughter.

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WHY WORSHIP?

A lot of us would like to continue to move forward in our understanding of and participation in worship. And a lot of us includes me. I’ve been regularly going to church for almost 60 years, graduated from Bible college and two seminaries, and preached for over 45 years; but I still have a lot room for growth when it comes to worship.

A recent study of Psalm 119, and some reading about the Psalms in general, has sparked my interest in revisiting this matter of worship. The Old Testament book of Psalms is filled with calls to and examples of worship.

At its simplest, worship means to attribute worth to something or someone. Some other words we use to describe the word include glorify, adore, praise, bless, and revere. A dictionary definition of worship as a verb is “to show reverence and adoration for a deity.” As a noun worship is defined as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”

Yes, people can worship whatever they choose to worship, but for Christians there is only one deity—God in the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We may not completely understand the triune God, but we believe it because the Bible teaches it.

Let me make some observations (you may or may not agree with) and quote some others that I hope will provoke your thinking about worship.

You can go to church and not worship – I’ve done it, and I would guess you have too.

Worship is about me, but it’s more about God.

Worship isn’t an event we go to.

Worship is not something done for us.

We worship both alone on our own as well as together with others in corporate worship.

We often speak of praising and thanking God in or as a part of our worship. We praise God for who he is and thank Him for what he does. Thanksgiving goes together with praise.

“Delight in God, arising out of the health of our relationship with God and enhancing the health of that relationship, is expressed in praise to God” (Pastor Mark Abbott).

“We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” (C.S. Lewis).

Unfortunately, some think of worship as a solemn and joyless activity. There may be occasions when that is true, but generally worship is far from joyless.

“The whole notion of God asking us to sit around saying nice things about him can seem rather alien” (Philip Yancey).

“God doesn’t need our worship, but he wants it” (C.S. Lewis).

“In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (C.S. Lewis).

There is a lot to this thing of worship, isn’t there? My goal, as well as my encouragement to you, is to keep growing in understanding worship and exceling in the practice of worship.

Here’s a final observation about the subject: God’s invitation for us to worship him is one we should accept – regularly (alone and with others), thoughtfully, and enthusiastically.

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Image by Aaron Cabrera from Pixabay

 

 

 

WHO ARE YOU MOST LIKE?

Generally speaking most blog posts are serious, but in this one I want to lighten things up and have some fun. I don’t know why, but for some reason earlier this week I started thinking about the seven dwarfs – strange, right?

The seven dwarfs were characters in the Walt Disney animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs originally released in January 1959. Prior to the Disney film the story was a classic fairy tale about a princess who is cursed to sleep for a hundred years by an evil fairy, where she would be awakened by a handsome prince.

Even though I have never seen the movie (or read the story), I am somewhat familiar with the dwarfs. In terms of the movie, I’m pretty sure they are good guys. But most of all I am intrigued by their names: Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful, Doc, Happy, Grumpy, and Sleepy. While their names are suggestive of their personalities, in my research I have found some additional descriptions (and shortened them):

Bashful is shy. He’s not afraid to blush and bat his eyelids. Bashful is sentimental and pensive.

Doc is bossy. He’s a born leader – if something needs doing, Doc’s the one coming up with a plan. That’s because he has a fast mind. Doc is the excited one whose words come out quicker than he forms sentences.

Dopey is bare-faced and bald. He is the youngest of the gang and sometimes behaves rather childlike. Dopey doesn’t speak, and he never really tries to.

Grumpy is a know-it-all. He says no to everything. And he’s just plain miserable! His stubbornness and resistance, though, is what helps the dwarfs come to the princess’s rescue.

Happy – don’t we all love Happy? He’s so jovial about everything. Happy stays happy. In fact, the only time he loses composure is when the princess takes a bite of the Witch’s apple and quickly falls into a sleeping death.

Sleepy is well named, really. He’s just as hardworking as the rest of the clan in the mine, but he never falters to keep that relaxed, laid-back working style. Even though Sleepy is forever yawning and exhausted, he always seems to have his wits about him.

Sneezy – you cannot miss Sneezy. You also cannot have any doubt about where his name comes from. He just can’t control those sneezes and they seem to have terrible timing, too! Of course, the other 6 dwarfs help their buddy out whenever they can.

Based on the descriptions, it’s obvious the seven dwarfs are different, just like us. We have different strengths and weaknesses. No two of us are exactly the same; that’s how God made us. And aren’t you glad? If we were all the same, how boring families and friendships would be! Different as we are, however, we are all valuable and have something to offer to others and this world.

Here’s what I thought might be fun: pick the one you are most like, the one you are least like, and your favorite. And if you’re so inclined, share your choices with your spouse or a friend.

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Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/blickpixel-52945/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=656147″>Michael Schwarzenberger</a> from <a

 

CONTENTMENT – DO YOU HAVE IT?

What is contentment? I’m not sure. I recently read a sermon by Jeremy McKeen on contentment and have been reflecting on its meaning the past few days. Is being content a good thing? My answer is yes, but it really depends upon our understanding of what contentment is.

One popular suggested definition of contentment is being satisfied. Is being content the same as being satisfied? It seems that would be true in terms of eating, but what about situations other than eating? Can someone be content and yet not satisfied at the same time?

In his sermon Pastor McKeen tells about a younger gentleman who came to him with a dilemma and told him, “I want to find another job and strive to serve Christ more and seek to improve my situation, but I also want to be content in life. And so I’m torn between self-improvement and self-contentment.” I don’t know the details, but I think I would have told the young man he could do both.

Here’s a personal illustration that I hope will make sense. I played golf today and didn’t play as well as I would have liked; but that doesn’t mean I am discontented. I enjoyed being on the course playing golf and competing with friends. I already look forward to the next time we play and I know I will enjoy it because my contentment does not depend upon my score. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve and win next time!

An indication that we may be discontented is if we preface our desire for something with the words if only. Putting a condition on someone or something to satisfy us may shine some light on our deficit of contentment.

One thing that greatly contributes to our discontentment is comparison. We see that someone has more than we do or has it better than we do and we dwell on what we don’t have. It’s not easy to be satisfied if we are focusing on what someone else has that we don’t have.

Something I think that greatly contributes to contentment is the cultivation and expression of gratitude. Instead of looking at what others have and focusing on what we don’t have, it may make a difference if we focus on what we do have and be thankful for that.

A final thought in this consideration comes from the Apostle Paul and his testimony in one of his letters. In Philippians 4:11b-13 he writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Apparently contentment is something that can be learned; maybe we should make the effort to do so.

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ON BEING A GRANDPARENT

I’m thrilled to be a grandpa and have been thinking a lot about what it means. A couple of years ago Jan and I went to a conference in Dallas called the Legacy Grandparenting Summit sponsored by The Legacy Coalition. Both the title of the conference and the sponsor make it clear their emphasis is upon the legacy grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren.

As important as the idea of legacy is, I was most impacted by the slogan Grandparenting is a Verb. I interpreted the slogan as suggesting there is a difference between having grandchildren and being a grandparent. To me being a grandparent suggests appropriate involvement with one’s grandchild or children.

I realize not all grandparents live close to their grandchildren, but I know you can be an involved grandparent even if you live far away. Before FaceTime became such a valuable tool of interacting with grandchildren, and before Jan and I moved, we communicated with our grandson by Skype.

Living close is a wonderful plus, but it doesn’t automatically ensure that having grandchildren means grandparents are engaged with them. There are lots of ways to be engaged with grandchildren; both the parents and the grandparents can work together to make it happen.

Three obvious observations I want to underscore are no two grandparents grandparent in exactly the same way, there aren’t any perfect grandparents, and being a grandparent is not the same as being the parent. As author Tim Challies notes, “Parenting falls primarily to mom and dad, not grandma and grandpa. Grandparents need to be willing to allow parents to be parents.”

Yet most grandparents worry about their grandchildren like they did their own children; we just can’t seem to help it. When a grandchild hurts, grandparents hurt as well – both physically and emotionally. I think it comes with being a grandparent.

Grandparents can have a tremendous positive impact and influence on their grandchildren; and that is what most of us desire. Our impact and influence, of course, starts with the example we set. And one of the most important things we can do in setting an example is to acknowledge when we are wrong and apologize.

One of the opportunities we have as Christian grandparents in terms of influence is having a godly and spiritual impact on our grandchildren. Pastor and writer Bob Russell offers the challenge that “Every grandparent should find ways to be a spiritual blessing to their grandchildren.” Beyond the example we set, perhaps as important as any spiritual blessing is our prayers for and with our grandchildren.

I don’t fully understand what it means, but I like the affirmation of Proverbs 17:6, “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged” (NIV). Having grandchildren and being a grandparent is a wonderful blessing and privilege. The encouragement of Tim Challies’ words challenges me and I hope they do you as well, “Don’t just be a grandparent — be a distinctly Christian grandparent.”

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Here is the link to the article by Bob Russell cited in this post:
https://www.bobrussell.org › ten-ways-to-bless-your-grandchildren

For Tim Challies articles search for Tim Challies on grandparents

THE BIBLE AND THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP

Not everyone agrees on what the Bible teaches about the relationship between wife and husband in marriage. Before I make a couple of suggestions about what I think the Bible says, I want to make a general observation: husbands and wives function differently in every marriage.

The foundation of what I believe the Bible teaches about men and women is that they are equal, but not the same. That foundational premise, of course, comes from the creation account in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Mankind includes both male and female, but both male and female tells us they are not the same. However, the affirmation both are created in the image of God tells us they are equal.

The passage that has been the most controversial and debated the last several years about the marriage relationship is the Apostle Paul’s instruction to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5. I see some significance in the non-specific instruction of verse 21 that precedes the specifics for wives and husbands in verses 22-33: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

While more is said, the core of Paul’s instructions in the passage is that wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives. I don’t think anyone would say that since Paul only tells husbands to love their wives that Paul does not expect wives to love their husbands. Even though Paul doesn’t say it, it goes without saying that wives are to love their husbands. Loving one’s spouse is not the exclusive responsibility of the husband.

If Paul’s instruction to husbands to love their wives is not restricted to husbands, and if it goes without saying that wives too are to love their husbands, then I think the same is true for submission in marriage. In the same way that wives are to love their husbands even though Paul does not specifically say so, so also husbands are to submit to their wives even though Paul does not specifically say so.

Some read these verses from Paul and agree that neither submission nor love is exclusive to a wife and husband, but that submission and love are the primary calls to each. I have heard some teach that the primary way a wife loves her husband is by submitting. If that’s true, couldn’t the same thing be said about a husband in terms of showing love to his wife by submitting?

I realize not everyone will agree with what I am suggesting, but I do think it is worth giving some consideration. No two marriages will be exactly alike, but the most fulfilling ones are filled with both love and submission, by both wife and husband.

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