What is it: that aroma? It’s a mixture of turkey and dressing, ham and sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. For many of us, these are the smells of Thanksgiving. And along with these come the sounds: the chatter of family “catching up”; the yells of fans whose team just scored; children laughing and running through the house. For many of us, this is Thanksgiving.
While there are many among us whose holidays are punctuated by memories of past tragedies, which make them more difficult to enjoy, all of us who know Christ have every reason to be thankful. In America, we have the benefits of those who have given their lives for our freedom and the blessings of our Judeo-Christian heritage. The tradition of family, food, and football are enjoyed with a sense of right as much as privilege. Christians and non-Christians alike will gather ’round and “give thanks”: the latter, to nothing or no one in particular; the former to the God of all mercies.
While we enjoy so much and give copious thanks, there is a danger that even the most grateful among us must work to avoid. I call it the Elijah moment. You may remember that Elijah’s life and ministry were particularly blessed by the Lord. He had seen miracles and mercies that few humans have been privileged to witness. God had answered his prayer to withhold rain and met with him to put to shame the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
Elijah was a man of the same weaknesses as us, and like us, he was prone to forget God’s goodness or remember it while moaning about something else. Not that Elijah’s problems were insignificant. After the victory at Mount Carmel, his life was threatened and he was left to hide in the desert without food and water. He despaired of life and questioned the God he had so faithfully trusted. It was a low point in Elijah’s otherwise faithful life and ministry.
But lest we are too hard on the Prophet, we are all prone to the Elijah moment. We are often “giving thanks for one thing in spite of something else”; or we are giving thanks for one thing while complaining about something else. Truth is, life is not perfect, nor is it supposed to be this side of eternity. On this Thanksgiving and each day after, we must seek the grace to give thanks always and in everything. We must pursue a grateful life; a life focused on the riches of God’s grace, the abundance of His mercies,and the depths of His love in Christ: no matter what future Thanksgivings may bring.
In the love of Christ,
It’s not enough to keep the traditions or even have a “Christian” Thanksgiving. We need a perspective change. We need to have a biblical Thanksgiving. Join Charles, Daniel, and special guest Micah Cavanaugh as they discuss it…
I have always anticipated fall and the time leading up to Christmas. It is a beautiful time of change and anticipation. And it has become even more enjoyable to me and my family with the inclusion of Passion4Christ Summit into the season.
This year’s Summit was no exception in that it was once again the highlight of our year. God provided us a faithful staff and attendees who were a blessing to work with. Our hope and prayer is that all those who attend will have a wonderful time. But P4C is about a lot more than fun. There was a sense of genuine fellowship around the truth of God’s Word, a mutual desire to worship, and the joy of being with likeminded singles. Volleyball, zip line, hiking, and late night games around the table were all part of refreshing relaxation which led to a more intense volleyball tournament on Saturday. The lakeside campfire was rained out, so we stoked the fireplace in the lodge and gathered ’round to here Micah read Patrick McManus for the best laugh of the week. But the best of it was the nine sessions of Bible teaching and preaching built around the theme of “holiness”. We were challenged and encouraged by the capable exposition of our guest speakers pastors Eric Coher and Steve Cavanaugh (perhaps they were blessed a bit Charles and Daniel as well… 🙂 ).
Worshipping our Lord in song with such serious-minded brothers and sisters was something of a punctuation mark for the whole week. We were encouraged to rest in the assurance of our positional holiness. We were challenged in our pursuit of progressive holiness. And we were led to anticipate our ultimate and eternal holiness. And if that were not enough, we had breakout sessions for the men and women from Micah and Pam Cavanaugh. We ate well. We played hard. We worshipped in spirit and in truth.
It was a great week made especially significant for our family because we had a new Cavanaugh working with us; Daniel’s wife of one year, Michelle.
After Sunday morning’s final session, we said our goodbyes. The attachments we have made make it a bit sad, but we are happy to see excited singles go back to their churches to serve. Hugs and parting pictures are the order of the day, and Facebook posts will follow us home. It is a blessed time which causes us to anticipate another time together next year, the Lord willing. One attendee put it this way: “The sessions were all spot on. In a world lulled into compromise, I so need to be often reminded that the choices I make today affect who I am tomorrow. That eternity is real. That the battle for holiness begins in the mind. Thank you for standing on the truth of the Bible.”
Every bit of investment is worth it because of our love for our Lord and His people and since we know that our “labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
In the love of Christ,
President of V4L Ministries
Hi, I am Pamela Sue. I like…
- old windows
- a screened in porch
- chalk boards
- snail mail
- talking on the phone with friends from the past
- anything that smacks of pumpkin, especially Circleville, OH pumpkin donuts
- making my own greeting cards
- using mismatched Christmas plates
- burning real candles
- old black and white Classic movies
- putting that special touch on gift wrap
- laughing out loud ’till it hurts
- shopping on Black Friday with family
- practicing hospitality in my home
- hanging around young adults
- watching my family grow
- singing praises to the Lord
- serving others
Being distinct is the act of making or keeping distinct – differentiation between or among things. It separates things. When you say someone’s name, there is always something about that person that distinctly comes to mind.
As a Christian in today’s world, what should stand out about us as marks of distinction? Do people around us see marks of distinction in our lives? The marks are not always something we wear on our sleeves or plaster and debate on Facebook every other day. It is not what we don’t do. It is what the Holy Spirit and grace are doing to mark our lives for Christ.
The first priority, of course, is salvation in Christ: evidence of God’s reality in our lives – “And you He has made alive, who were dead in trespasses and in sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) Is forgiveness part of the distinction? “…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) Marks of distinction: faithfulness of God’s promises, our personal lives being lived out in the power of His truth, peace when our hearts are anxious, finding the pleasure of Christ’s company and presence in our lives. We have to prepare more than ever before in the history of our society not to be an island unto ourselves but to be prepared to have an answer.
And that answer lies in the truth of God’s Word, not what is written on a coffee cup. We do not stumble around in the darkness as one with no hope. “But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13) “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope.” (Psalm 16:9)
Monograms are classic, and when stamped on fabric note the designer. They reveal the initials of the owner. They are marks of distinction. “Who has also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22) “In Whom you also trusted, after you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in Whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13) The Lord has sealed and put His monogram on your hearts, and that makes us belong to Him: a mark of spiritual distinction. This truth separates us from others.
This is the challenge before us: to bear the marks of Christ; to be distinctly Christian.
Just because we are Christians and “know” that “all good things” comes from above, does not mean that we celebrate Thanksgiving correctly. We are not immuned from celebrating Thanksgiving with a wrong perspective. Charles and Daniel talk about it…
Nearly 240 years ago, the founders of the United States established a government of law. They were strongly influenced by, and many were firmly committed to a Judeo-Christian view of life and civil responsibility. Many even believed that in order for a person to run for public office, he ought to be a Christian.
These definitely are different days. We have come a long way from the days when the voting public was familiar with and accepting of a Biblical view of life and morality; a day when leaders felt at least somewhat accountable to a standard of morality that resembled Christian teaching. The “melting pot” has become something of a mud puddle ideologically and culturally speaking.
Lest I be misunderstood, the United States of America has never been anything close to perfect. The quote, “America is great, because America is good” falsely attributed to Alexis de Toqueville, was a bit generous, though possessing some truth. Truth is, we have always been a depraved people, and there are ample instances in our history to verify that troubling truth.
However, God has been good and merciful to this nation and shows amazing restraint in these days of immorality, perversion, and lawlessness. And while the culture we once enjoyed and took for granted is all but gone, we are still in need of Biblical wisdom as we enter another election cycle. What do we do, and how do we choose?
I have found some help from Proverbs 29:2: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” It was written to the Old Covenant people of God accustomed to theocratic rule and a king ostensibly bound to God’s prescribed laws. So one must be careful of misinterpreting its truth. Nevertheless, there is application for our benefit as we judge the qualifications of those who are asking for our votes.
(1) Leaders are responsible to exalt righteousness. It seems almost absurd in today’s political climate, but it is still true. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice…” As most proverbs are, this is a general rule, not an absolute truth. There are exceptions. But at the very least we can say that we need leaders who lead righteously and justly. Since we find it difficult and perhaps nearly impossible to find such people, then we must prayerfully do our best and choose the one whom we believe will act and govern most righteously. We are not choosing a Pastor, so he or she does not have to agree with us on every detail, but there must be some evidence of a moral base from which this person will govern and make decisions.
With this in mind, we must be careful as responsible Christian citizens of refusing to vote when the “perfect” candidate is not left standing. Christians tend to be myopic as a voting block, unable to see the forest for the proverbial trees. Abortion is a watershed issue for many of us, but if there is not a candidate who holds my exact position on the matter, I must vote for the one who will at least decrease abortions. I will not cast my vote for more abortions by refusing to vote for the better of two candidates. In recent years, the Evangelical voting block has essentially voted for some wicked rulers by refusing to vote when the “right” candidate was not running. In this we must be “wise as serpents”.
(2) The person we vote for must be able to lead and govern. Wicked men may not rule as we like, but they often know how to govern in a way to accomplish their agenda. Because a man or woman has been accomplished in one field, does not necessarily mean he or she can lead a nation. We elect people to lead and make decisions; to use sound judgement and solve problems. But they must be able to do so in an environment of governance. They must be fearless decision-makers yet compassionate leaders. And as leaders, they must give evidence of an integrity that is unshakable.
If you are a Christian, you will not likely get everything you want in a candidate. Do not let that give you reason to shirk your responsibility to cast your vote for the person who most closely conforms to the Biblical model of leadership, and remember that our trust is not in humans, however qualified the may appear, but in the Lord our God.
In a sense, when truth is deconstructed, its simple rebellion. But in the process of deconstruction, there is an end which lead to ultimate rebellion – open and brazen godlessness. Join Charles and Daniel as they talk about the last step in the process of deconstructing truth…
Worship: the mere word conjures up images that we have come to associate with formal public worship. Certain songs and certain modes of religious behavior are hard to divorce from what most of us have come to call worship.
But this is not an article about worship styles or even what some have come to call worship wars. This is about something much more personal; something that impacts the direction and authenticity of our lives. And we will see how true this is as we come to realize that worship is not a weekly event but a way of life. Do not get me wrong. I am very grateful for and committed to the weekly event of corporate worship in the local church I am a part of. My soul is stirred, thrilled, and challenged by that event. But it is my desire and goal to never stop worshipping. I trust it is yours as well.
The distractions to a life of ongoing worship are myriad. Much, if not most, of what we do is not conducive to worshipping our holy God. Religion itself can be, and will be, a distraction, if it is not a Christ-centered religion of the heart. The normal responsibilities if life, that are not in themselves sinful, nevertheless easily distract us from a pursuit and habitual worship of the Lord God Almighty. Our vocations occupy us much of the day, and, if that were not enough, when we get home, there is grass to cut, the house to clean, the laundry, our children and spouse to invest in. So even normal relationships can be a distraction from a life of worship.
But most of us who know and follow Christ would agree that our God and the worship of Him are a priority, and not just on the Lord’s Day. In the words of Elijah the Prophet; “If Jehovah is God, serve Him; but if Baal, serve him.” (1 Kings 18:21) If, as Paul tells us in Romans 11:36, God is the Giver, the Guide, and the Goal of all things, then what does that say to us about the significance and priority of, not only public, corporate worship but also daily and lifelong personal and private worship. Though the distractions are a real and even necessary part of our lives, thoughts of our great God should never be far away and should be “crouching at the door” of our hearts. Nothing is more central to a Christ-centered life, and nothing is more crucial to our spiritual health and vitality. “The LORD is my light and my salvation… The LORD is the strength of my life.” (Psalm 27:1) It is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
So what shall we say to these things? First, there must be something of a holy obstinance in our lives with regards to worship. We must prayerfully and diligently pursue an attitude of worship in every circumstance: every event, every encounter, every exceptional situation is a call to worship. It may not be the first thing that comes to our minds, but it should not be far behind. What prevented Job from sinning in the midst of overwhelming calamity? It was at least in part his personally developed bent toward worship. (Job 1:20)
But beyond this perseverance with regards to personal worship is the need for practice. It may sound perfunctory or contrived, but the truth is that we do not develop habits without practice. Prayerfully and thoughtfully consider things that promote an attitude of worship. Write them down. Write out a plan. Then practice it until it becomes a natural part of what you do. Make occasional little changes to keep it fresh, but by all means stay at it. It may be something as simple as singing a hymn or spiritual song to the Lord as you walk from your car into work.
This is not meant to be a how to course on being spiritual but a call to worshipful living. Embrace a life of worship, and pursue it unrelentingly. May it be our heartfelt desire and our intentional goal to worship … always.