Thanksgiving 2019

“Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!” Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord , for he is coming to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord , for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:31‭-‬34 NLT

Are You Thankful?

“The old advice of always spending less than you earn is kind of worthless when you hardly have an income….”

I don’t know who said this, but they have a valid point. It’s a problem I have struggled with, and the interesting thing I have realized is that it has been true regardless of my income. Americans are spoiled. We live in a country where poverty level is higher than many countries highest earners. I don’t deny that there are thousands here who really are living in horrible conditions. It would be amazing to be able to change, but the reality is just as Jesus said.

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11 NLT

Search for the words “the poor” in scripture. They are referred to dozens of times. There are many people who believe that we should divide everything up among the entire population – I disagree, because it only encourages the lazy to become,more so, and it discourages those with ambition. Why should I work so that someone else can sit around?

My point is this: we should help those we can, especially family, the orphans and widows, and I have to add, our veterans. Give thanks for what you have, be it a little or a lot. Thank God for your blessings. A roof over your head, food to eat, transportation…. indoor toilets, heat when it’s cold. Family, friends, FAITH.

To me, this describes how Thanksgiving should be:

“This festival will be a happy time of celebrating with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows from your towns.” Deuteronomy 16:14 NLT

His Promise

We are powerless over our lives, past and present, and our lives are unmanageable on our own. We recognize that we need something more than ourselves; a “Higher Power ” (AA), or as we know, GOD. Only He can be trusted to bring sanity, wholeness, and healing to us.

This is a paraphrase of the First and Second Steps of AA and Celebrate Recovery, to be embraced by anyone* who realizes that they are not in control of their lives. *That means everyone. No matter how together and in control you think you are, with God, you are spiraling out of control. It may be a really slow spiral, or it may be twisting and turning so quickly that you can’t get a breath.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NASB

“But he promised me….. ” Something men do, and don’t follow through on. That’s what we have to go on; what our experiences teach us. Even though I know this to be true, every time it happens, a little piece of my heart dies. We see betrayal every day, and yet we are supposed to believe that some higher being is going to be different?

I do. I believe that a higher being, the Higher Being, the LORD, is different. I know He is different. He has listened to me for years, letting me rant and rave, yell and curse, and still He stayed with me.

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Isaiah 35:3 NASB

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:17‭-‬18 NASB

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8‭-‬9 NASB

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13 NASB

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1‭-‬2 NASB

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NASB

Until you can admit that your life is not yours to control, and that, in fact, you are out of control, you are lost. The LORD seeks us. He seeks you.

Step One: Admit you are powerless.

All Men Are Liars

“I said in my alarm, “All men are liars.” What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me?” Psalms 116:11‭-‬12 NASB

I didn’t say it first, but I have to agree. All men are liars. Before you men get all up in arms, know this: all women are liars, too. There’s only one man, one human, who has or ever will walk this earth who isn’t a liar, and that man is Jesus, Son of God.

Argue all you want; you know that’s a true statement.

Oh, we are capable of being truthful, and I believe that most most people want to be honest, at least for the most part. Some people can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. I look for the good in people. I want to believe you when you tell me something. I want you to be believe me when I say a thing. Mostly, you can. Like everyone else, I am fallible. I don’t usually mean to say untruths – lie – although, like most people, I do occassionally. Sometimes to spare your feelings, sometimes it’s to spare my feelings, and sometimes it’s just because I don’t have the energy to deal with it – and yes, that’s a cop-out that every single person has done at one time or another.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23 NASB

Is really so difficult to follow through; to say what you mean and do what you say you will do? I offer my heart too easily, and I take people at their word. I would like to live in a world where a man’s word truly was his bond. No written contracts necessary. This world, our reality, requires us to have promises in writing and witnessed, and even then the promises are broken. The courts are full of broken contracts and promises.

Watch your heart. Spend time talking with the LORD. Listen to the wise counsel of believers. Most importantly, both personally and in business dealings, treat the other person as you want them to treat you. You can’t expect any better than that.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NASB

Motivated Work

Why do we work? What is our motivation?

There are wrong, or distorted, views of why we work: When the only reason we work is to make money, we need more and more to be content. This is disillusioning and leads to dissatisfaction. Working for our own greed, or FIRE = financial independence [to] retire early; purely selfish and self indulgent, only working so that we can quit working and live a life of leasure. Then there is working for self significance, importance, to accumulate power, and identity. None of these is a fulfilling way of life and will leave us empty; never satisfied. Recall in Genesis 11 when the people built the Tower of Babble to make a name for themselves, independent from God? It was a singularly unfulfilled and unfulfilling task that only served to create chaos.

The right reasons: remembering that our primary calling is to God, and our secondary calling is to someone or something beneath Him. We can be unemployed, and we can change our secondary calling, but we can never be uncalled. ALL legitimate work is to Glorify God and is pleasing to Him. These include support (1 Tim 5:8; Proverbs 12:11): making money to provide for self and family, to meet needs, and to bless others. Working for satisfaction and enjoyment: Do you feel God’s pleasure in what you are doing? A poll showed that 70% of Americans are completely dissatisfied at work. What does that say about our culture! (Ecc 2:24; 3:22 NLT; 5:18-19) To serve other people, and to share what we acquire: “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does” – Martin Luther (Mark 12:31; Eph 4:28)

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 Timothy 5:8 NASB

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” Proverbs 12:11 NASB

“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” Ecclesiastes 5:18 NASB

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24 NASB

“So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.” Ecclesiastes 3:22 NLT

“Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:18‭-‬19 NLT

“The second is this, ‘ you shall love your neighbor as yourself .’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 NASB

“If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” Ephesians 4:28 NLT

Of Love and Justice

A Psalm of David.

“I will sing of Your Love and Justice, LORD. I will praise You with songs. I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will You come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip.” – Psalms 101:1‭-‬8 NLT

Sounds pretty harsh, right? There aren’t any people today who could honestly say that they are blameless, and we know that David was far from being blameless himself. He was a murderer and an adulterer…. I wonder how many people younger than the Baby Boomer generation even know what being an adulterer means.

Reading these verses, it’s difficult to imagine many business people can say that they apply these principles to their business. In corporate offices, even in Christian-led companies, I can bear witness to to all of those things that David was against occurring on a constant basis. Coworkers and management alike using gossip and slander to get ahead; dishonestly taking credit for someone else’s work, and accepting rewards and kudos for it. “In my own home …” Whether in my house or my vehicle or my office or my cubicle; at the movie theatre or amusement park …. it is a struggle to live these words.

In my time, I have acted in all of those ways. In my last job, I was in a close working relationship with people claiming to be Christian, yet seeming to take delight from gossiping and spreading lies in order to promote themselves over their coworkers, and who were full of conceit. Again, I must emphasize that I have also been full of conceit and lies in my past. I am far from perfect; I am guilty of many sins. It is difficult to miss the vulgarity in today’s society with billboards and signs proclaiming it in large format, and with television and radio, social media and the movies rampant with it. Clothing styles shout out perversions and prejudice and lack of modesty, and we just follow the crowd – instead of the cross.

Yes, I’m preaching again!

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” – Galatians 1:10 NLT

This verse from Paul’s letters to the Galatian church is how I struggle to live. I say “struggle” because it isn’t easy for me. I am a people pleaser from my childhood; a classic codependent whose life revolved around whoever I was with. A few years ago, I began to understand this about myself through a church program called Celebrate Recovery. Many people think/assume that because it’s a 12-step program, you must be an alcoholic or drug addict if you participate. Not true. In fact, one of the leaders said this: “There are 2 types of people in this world. Those who are in recovery, and those who need to be in recovery.” I absolutely agree! Being a codependent isn’t something you just shake off, any more than you can shake off any other addiction, and there are lots of addictions. Shopping, eating, sports, work, animals, and even our children can all be addictions.

It’s something for us to think about.

WORK : A Four-Letter Word

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 NASB

God created Man to rule over the earth; to care for it (everything in and on it) and to cultivate it; to subdue the earth – we are a contractor for God the Creator. In other words, we are to work the earth. The LORD God is all about work, and He created us in imitation of Him, in His image: the Bible opens with God working. From Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NKJV) to the end of Revelations, God is working. Creator Potter Shepherd Builder Judge ….. we are created in the image of God, therefore we are created to work.

“Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number.” Job 9:10 NASB

“For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon, To do His task, His unusual task, And to work His work, His extraordinary work.” Isaiah 28:21 NASB

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which GOD has done from the beginning even to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NASB

“Then the LORD GOD took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 NASB

Work is an integral part of our lives, and all work is included, from the CEO to the janitor, to the “housewife” to the farmer, to the homeless person picking up cans to sell. No work is better or worse than any other. If the CEO thinks he/she is too good to clean up a spill, or to clean their bathroom or pick up trash, then they have the wrong concept of work. The concept goes far beyond our paid workplace, individually and collectively, as we go about our daily lives. Do you stop to pickup that piece of trash to dispose of it properly, or do you step over it (I’m not getting my hands dirty!)? Are you careful to make the most of our resources, reducing waste, and not being wasteful with food?

We are under a mandate of work – it is a calling, and should never be considered a curse. As our pastor said, “Before Jesus was known as the Christ, He was known as ‘the carpenter’.” From Genesis, we know that work was present before the fall.

“Then the LORD GOD took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it….. Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.” Genesis 2:15, 3:17 NASB

The work is not cursed, but it falls under the curse, making it more difficult, as “marked by thorns”. It’s interesting to note that the Greek word for “to cultivate” can be used for work, worship, and service. We are coworkers with God. It’s not for Him to do everything, and not for us to do by ourselves, but to work together in partnership. He wants us integrated with Him and His Will: everything we do is important to God, not just ministry or church work. All work is equally valuable and pleasing to God. There is no sacred/secular or blue/white collar division; in fact, it has been said that a Sacred Place is wherever God has placed us, and according to William Tyndale, all work is sacred.
“Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him… Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything, should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history.” – Os Guinness

I like this, too: “Divine service is done here three times a day” hanging over the kitchen sink of Ruth Bell Graham.

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.”
Ecclesiastes 2:24 NASB