Friday, November 29, 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:2-3

Submitted by Lance Gibson
This year I will celebrate my 25th Thanksgiving.  As I look back, I can’t help but notice how the things in which I am thankful for have changed and adapted as I continue to grow.  Early on I was thankful for my toys, my awesome bunk bed, and my dog Tiger.  This was the only world I knew, one in which I was always provided for and taken care of in every way imaginable.  As the years went on my attitude and awareness changed and I became thankful for my best friend Devin (most of the time), my time that I spent outside instead of doing homework, and that the assigned seating landed me next to the prettiest girl in school.  Now, as much more time has passed, I find myself thankful for my wife, my family, and the life that God allows me to live every day.  With time, and a little maturity, our scope changes in what we find value and give thanks for.  I can’t help but notice this evolvement in my relationship with Christ.  As a child, I once was only thankful that God made me a boy and not a girl.  As I grew and began a relationship with Christ, I was thankful for salvation and that I would have the security of Jesus’ blood knowing that my future was in Him.  Later I would begin to understand his provision and realization that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1) and that all the labor I could muster would not gain me the things that I truly need.  And now, in ways I did not previously know, I find myself simply being thankful for His presence.  For now I know that where I go, He goes before me.  That Christ is in the Father and that I am in Christ and nothing can change that (John 14).  I understand now why Moses was so concerned that the Hebrew people not only receive provision from God, but that His presence would go with them (Exodus 33).  For if not accompanied by His presence, there would serve no purpose in going forward.  These are the things that as I continue to sharpen myself into the image of Christ I find value in.  Certainly I am thankful for Him saving me and for his never-ending provision, but as circumstances change and life hits, I know that His Spirit is alive in me and goes with me all the days of my life.  For that, I am most thankful.

The following was submitted by Donnie O’Fallon:
Growing up in South rural Arkansas, our holiday festivities were surrounded by the crops being laid by, the fall hunts and the time around the tables surrounded by family. We had very little money so made the best of what we had and we enjoyed spending our time with family. Now, every year, year after, seeing the fall foliage my mind carries me back to a time, when as a boy between the ages 9 – 14, I was growing up on a farm where my dad was a “share cropper”, of several hundred acres.

We raised rice and soy beans. By the end of late October through mid-November the crops were in the silos. The days are then spent working on and repairing equipment a half day and hunting the other half of the day. We hunted squirrels, rabbit, deer, and ducks. We put the meat in the freezer and ate it through the winter. In my mid-teens, my dad began working elsewhere and I moved to another area of Arkansas. It was there I met Marsha and later married. The traditions of the holiday however continued. Now it was more time spent with Marsha’s family rather my dad and some friends. A Father-n-law and three brothers-n-laws and myself and now my young son, would get up on Thanksgiving Day before day light and go to the deer woods. We’d usually return early to mid-morning to have breakfast, then clean and prepare the game for the freezer. By early afternoon the Thanksgiving feast was ready for the family of 20 or so to join together and partake. Every year for several years we did this and what wonderful memories we made.

Now, mine and Marsha’s dad are deceased and her mother is in a nursing home unable to remember anything. I have a brother-n-law and a son who are now in heaven, nieces and nephews married with their families of their own and new traditions. No one lives in the house where so many memories were made.

As I reflect those days and times, I’m Thankful for at least 4 things:
1.             I treasure their lives and the wonderful times we spent with them and for their memories.
2.             I am more blessed today and am a better person for what I learned about myself and life in those times.
3.             I’m learning to be thankful for what I’ve had and have not for what I’ve lost.
4.             “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He’s the giver of every good gift!

Scripture to Claim:

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge--1 Corinthians 1:4-5

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Celebrating Escape From A Personal Egypt

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 3:17

I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying it any more. Just about every depiction of the first Thanksgiving I’ve seen shows great tables of food spilling over plates and tumbling out of cornucopias. Even our turkey platters are covered in art that seems to provide proof positive that life in America began as one of excess and should remain one today. Well, I’m just not buying it anymore. Not when I see the number of hungry children served by our back pack ministry at Juan Seguin Elementary increasing. Yes, that’s right. The number is increasing not decreasing. Not when I see the number of people we serve at Center of Hope increasing not decreasing. Yes, that’s right. Increasing, not decreasing. Translation – the number of poor in our community is growing. Need in our community is growing.

And so it is that I’ve begun this holiday season by asking myself, at what point did Thanksgiving become a festival of American plentitude instead of a holy day of worshipful acknowledgement of God’s providence and provision? Don’t get me wrong, I feel certain the original settlers of Plymouth Plantation “feasted.” But let’s add some context to that word feast. You see, the children of Israel “feasted” as they prepared to leave Egypt. They ate roasted lamb and unleavened bread in haste – with their shoes on and their loins girded – ready to leave the misery of Egyptian bondage. The Mayflower Pilgrims tasted their own share of misery as well. After escaping persecution they survived a harsh winter living aboard the Mayflower as it lay anchored in Cape Cod bay. More than fifty of them died while waiting to see the promised land of America. Food and supplies ran dangerously low while scurvy, tuberculosis and pneumonia were running rampant in the close quarters of the 100 foot Mayflower. So, when the rag tag band of believers finally did have occasion to “feast” in celebration of God’s providence, I’m inclined to believe it was more than a harvest celebration. I’m also persuaded to think the feast itself would have fallen short of modern American expectations. To the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag friends, food was a precious resource to be cherished and shared – not flaunted then thrown away.

Well then . . . if Thanksgiving isn’t about flaunting American plentitude what exactly is it about? It’s about thanking God that He is in the business of bringing more and more people out of their own personal Egypts. He brought the pilgrims out of the persecution and oppression that was the 16th century Church of England. He brought you and me out of the oppressive darkness of sin and transferred us to the Kingdom of His own dear Son. And every day He continues to bring others out of personal bondage and slavery. The bondage of addiction. The slavery of materialism and acquisitiveness. The Egypt of hunger. The Egypt of poverty.

So, as I sometimes tell my Bible classes at the end of a particularly challenging lesson – do something! This Thanksgiving holiday I pray that you will do something too. Make serving the “least of these” a part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition. Serve at Center of Hope. Donate to the Packs of Love ministry. Buy a needy family a thanksgiving meal. Share the gospel with someone. Love someone who appears unlovable. Give a blanket or a coat to a homeless person. Anything. Just do something.

Scripture to Claim

He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed... Luke 4:18b  (HCSB)

Submitted by John Dennie

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  Mathew 25:40

From Caleb Lain
I have spent very few Thanksgivings at my house.  The men in my family usually start the week off with a couple days of hunting before we got to our final Thanksgiving destination. Our most common trip was to Midland where we would spend the holiday stuffing ourselves with some great food at my grandparents’ house, followed by football on TV.

While this was typical for my family, it wasn’t that way every year. There were a few years when we found ourselves at home (after the obligatory deer hunt, of course). I do remember that almost every time we spent Thanksgiving at home we had guests.  These guests were usually people who our society had left out - the widow or widower, the mentally handicapped, and even the socially awkward.

In Luke 14:12-14 Jesus says this, When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Having some of society’s outcasts at our dinner table for holidays was very much of a learning experience. It wasn’t always a pleasant or comfortable situation, but it was a definite blessing to be a part of something Christ command’s us to do.

The people we invited to dinner were never able to repay us or reciprocate in any way. But that’s the way God commands us to do it. If we only show love to those who can reciprocate that love, then we are just like the world. But when we show love to “the least of these” then we will see the true and unending blessings of following Christ.

From Brian McKay:
My grandmother just turned 96 and she lives in a small house right beside my parent’s home. I went by this past week to drop off a birthday present for her and then I popped in to my parent’s home just to say, “hi.”  I spoke with my mom for a few minutes, and then as I started to leave I was stopped by a bear hug.  Two big arms wrapped around me and those familiar words were spoken in my ear.
“I love you son.”

I’ve heard them thousands of time from my dad and most of them have been accompanied by this bear hug.

This bear hug is something I’m trying to pass along to my kids.  My 8 year old son loves to hug, he loves to hear me tell him that I love him and he loves to hug and return the sentiment.  Now my teenage daughter, well, she’s a teenager.  If you have one you understand.  But I’m not letting her response to my hugs and my I love you’s stop me. 

You may not have grown up with a dad or mom that hugged or told you those three words but there’s no reason for your kids to grow up that way.

If hugging is not “you” then, for the sake of your kids, make it “you.”  Start today.  Grab your kids, lock them in a bear hug, and tell them you love them.  They may not understand it now but they will when they have kids of their own.

I’m thankful for a dad that let his kids know every day that they were loved.

Scripture to Claim:

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  1 John 3:17

Submitted by Caleb Lain/Brian McKay

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“Thanksgiving x TWO!”

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.  2 Corinthians 2:14

As long as I can remember our family always celebrated every Holiday two times….same day, just a meal at both sets of grandparents. You see, my Ma Maw and Pa Paw (Wood) lived just next door to our home in Silsbee, Texas. There was a grassy field that separated our homes and that field had a “pig trail” where the grass was beaten down making a neat trail for me, my brother and sister. We played in that field and hid in that field many happy days as children. Oddly enough, on Thanksgiving & Christmas, we loaded up the car to carry the family and special food for the celebration…about 100 yards. That was very important because when we finished that meal we loaded up the car and drove across town to celebrate with Maw Maw and Paw  Paw (Sparks).

Our families were big and wonderful. The Wood family enjoyed the usual cuisine with special emphasis on chicken and dumplings and Pecan Pies! It was there as a child we learned that the adults ate first and the kids ate last…the adults got the white meat (chicken breast) and the children always got the dark meat (chicken legs). I was convinced that all chickens were JUST dark meat…all legs!

We always prayed together and enjoyed some football in the yard and some singing around the piano at the Wood home. These folks appreciated family and loved the Lord. We had to hurry so we could drive across town to celebrate with the Sparks family. They had the same wonderful food with turkey & dressing and coconut pie or banana pudding.  It didn’t matter if you got too full, either. You ate any way!!!

The Sparks family was better at football and didn’t have a piano…no singing there.
I have nothing but the fondest of memories of those special days and rejoice that both sets of grandparents lived in the same town.

I knew my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and all my cousins. God blessed us with godly family members and we learned about faith and thankfulness from all these folks.

Today I am thankful for the Mom and Dad that taught me just how important family was and is.

Scripture to Claim:

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 1 Chronicles 16:8

Submitted by Gary Wood

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