Thankful

So today is Thanksgiving Day in America.  I’m glad we set aside a special day to give thanks.  It easy to forget to be thankful, even though the scriptures are very clear that thanksgiving is not just something we do once a year.

We’ll be celebrating thanksgiving today with Pam’s family.  The extended family is well over 40, so it’s tough for all of us get together, but we still try.  Before all the activities get going this morning, I thought Pam and I would list why we are thankful.

First, we are thankful to God.  He has blessed us this year.  We are thankful that we continue to pastor and that God has provided a new job at Salvation Army.  In addition to all that, we are thankful for Jesus and salvation.  As the old Sunday School chorus goes; “Thank you Lord, for saving my soul, Thank you Lord, for making me whole.  Thank you Lord, for giving to me.  Thy great salvation so rich and free.”  We are thankful for the cross and we are thankful that Jesus rose from the grave to set us free from our sins.

We are thankful for our three wonderful children — Rebecca, Anna, and James give us great joy.

i (Dale) am thankful for the wonderful gift of music that God has given to me.  I love the ability to sing and play songs of praise to God.

The older Pam and I get, the more thankful we are for good health.

I (Pam) am thankful for friends.  A cool thing this year is that both of us now have a Facebook account and we have had a chance to “meet up” with old friends and stay in contact with current friends and make new friends.

We are thankful to God for all he has done in our lives.

Special Lectionary Reading

first_thanksgivingThanksgiving Day
November 27, 2008

I thought instead of commenting on the scriptures this morning.  I would give you the links to the scripture and give you the full scriptures today.  The scriptures today are quite self-explanatory.  Remember to give thanks today.
Deuteronomy 8:7-18

7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. 9 It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! 16 He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ 18 Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Psalm 65
1 What mighty praise, O God,
belongs to you in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to you,
2 for you answer our prayers.
All of us must come to you.
3 Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
you forgive them all.
4 What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
inside your holy Temple.

5 You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas.
6 You formed the mountains by your power
and armed yourself with mighty strength.
7 You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
you inspire shouts of joy.

9 You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
10 You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!

II Corinthians 9:6-15

6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”[a] 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”[b]

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity[c] in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem[d] will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift[e] too wonderful for words!

Luke 17:11-19

11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”[a] And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.[b]

of “Saints” and “Strangers”

This past week, I was reintroduced to the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims.  The voyage was actually a business venture between the Pilgrims or the “Saints” and Separatists or the “Strangers.”  The Saints lived their lives according to God’s Word — they were looking for freedom to practice their religion away from the Anglican Church or Church of England.  The Strangers had no such code of conduct as God’s Word and lived their lives for themselves.  It was these two groups that boarded the Mayflower.  There were originally two ships, the other being the Speedwell.  There were conflicts among the 102 passengers on the Mayflower because the Speedwell was not worthy to make the trip.  When land was sighted the “Saints” and the “Strangers” entered into a business contract to ensure their survival in this new land.  That contract was called the Mayflower Compact.

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, by the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc.

Haveing undertaken, for the glorie of God, and advancemente of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and countrie, a voyage to plant the first colonie in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by vertue hereof to enacte, constitute and frame shuch just and equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd the .11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our soveraigne lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620

The Mayflower Compact is one of the original documents of this brave, new world.  I thought it was interesting to hear a new perspective on Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow, I’ll share on what I am thankful for.

Monday Night Bowling

After last week’s performance, our team landed right back in 13th place.  Tonight was the final week of the first half.  Maybe the 2nd half will be better.  The great part is that every team has new life.  All the won-lost records are reset, so it is a brand new season next week.

Our team won 3 points and lost 4.  We started off great, but tired out and the other team bowled just a little better than us.  In both the last two games it came down to the final bowlers — which always makes it interesting.

Personally, I didn’t bowl great and didn’t bowl badly — I was consistent — rolling a 146, 131, and 138 for a 415 set or a 138 average which is two pins above my average 🙂  Also, tonight I rolled a turkey — three strikes in a row — it’s been a long time since I’ve done that.  In my fourth year of bowling in church league, this is only the second time I’ve accomplished this.  I missed a fourth strike by one pin (oh well, the adventures of bowling.)  It was a great night of fellowship for both teams.  I love when both teams can be good sports about competing and I’m as competitive as anyone.

Like many of my pastor friends, I’m trying to cram a whole week’s work into two days.  There’s lots of work yet to do.  Blessings…

Music Monday

It seemed like everytime we turned around yesterday morning Pam and I were talking about sheep and goats — from the Lectionary readings to Pam’s Junior Church time.  So I though I would take us way back, prior to 1983 to Keith Green’s classic Sheep and the Goats.  I very rarely hear this song without being convicted in some way.  Perhaps, it will speak to you today.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Today was a warmer day on the Southside compared to the last few days — the sun shown the whole day and temps got close to 50 — Well under the normal of 60.

We had a great morning.  Over 8 students called to ride the van to church.  I taught Middle School today, which is always interesting.  With Pam and I we had 9 in Middle Sunday School.  We had 30 total and 34 for worship.  Our service like most American services focused on Thanksgiving.  That was not my original plan, but it worked.  If you’ve been following this blog this week, you will have noticed a theme and that theme came out in the message today.  We are very blessed people — God has blessed us beyond measure — now what are we going to do in return?  Several commented on the message.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit working.

This afternoon was short.  We had a Christmas play practice and then a community Thanksgiving service.  It was preceded by a nice Thanksgiving meal by the host church.  My role tonight was small — setup and pray for the offering.  The church we worshiped in tonight, has their offertory prayer after the offering, which is different, but I like it.  There are five churches that get together each Thanksgiving for worship.  It was a good evening together.

Now it’s time to get a week’s worth of work done in two days, so that I can spend this week celebrating Thanksgiving with my family.  Blessings…with much thankfulness.

Worship Recap

November 23, 2008
Reign of Christ Sunday

Welcome
Call to Worship
— Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

And his courts with praise;

Give thanks and praise
his name.

Glorify the Lord with me;

Let us exalt his name together.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise,
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,

And his righteousness endures forever.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;

Come before him with joyful songs.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;

Tell of all his wonderful acts.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy,
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?

I will sacrifice a thank offering….

And call on the name of the Lord.

Song of WorshipCome, Ye Thankful, People Come (Whiting/Spencer/Dykes)
Invocation
Songs of Worship
Give Thanks (Smith); All Hail, King Jesus (Moody); Majesty (Hayford)
Special Music
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Song of Worship
Rejoice the Lord Is King (Wesley/Darwall)
Worship through God’s Word – God Has Blessed Us, Now What Do We Do? [Audio] [Video]
Song of CommitmentJesus Is Lord of All (Gaither)
Benediction

God Has Blessed Us, What Should We Do?

[Audio] [Video]

Today, we mark the end of the church calendar. The church calendar begins four Sundays before Christmas in a time that we know as Advent. We will begin Advent next Sunday. Advent is a time when we prepare for the Lord’s coming. There is a dual purpose in that not only do we prepare for our hearts for the celebration of Christmas, but we also remind ourselves that Jesus is coming again. This particular Sunday is known as Reign of Christ Sunday. It always falls on the last Sunday of the church calendar, which is today. In the United States, it many times also falls on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I encourage you to attend tonight’s service at Pleasant Grove. The scriptures tell us, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” Tonight we will worship we other brothers and sisters who believe that Jesus is Lord and who is worthy to be praised. I want to share with you this morning, from a passage that at first might seem strange for the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but before we are through, you’ll see how it all fits together. We are going to the book of Ezekiel – the 34th chapter beginning with verse 11.

11 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. 12 I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. 13 I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. 14 Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!

17 “And as for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to his people: I will judge between one animal of the flock and another, separating the sheep from the goats. 18 Isn’t it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn’t it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled?

20 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely judge between the fat sheep and the scrawny sheep. 21 For you fat sheep pushed and butted and crowded my sick and hungry flock until you scattered them to distant lands. 22 So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. 23 And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the Lord, have spoken!

One of the things that I encourage you to do this afternoon is to take your Bible, take this scripture, compare, and contrast it to Psalm 23 and Matthew 25:31-46. What stands out to me immediately is that all of these passages are talking about shepherds and sheep. Two of these passages mention sheep and goats. During my study this week, I stumbled across the similarities between Ezekiel and Matthew. A friend of my pointed out the similarities between Psalm 23 and Ezekiel.

On Wednesday night, we had our annual Mosaic Thanksgiving Service and Dinner. By the way – thank you for all the staff who cooked and participated in the service and took care of the little ones. You guys did an awesome job. Just before we ate I share this scripture from Hebrews 13:15-16.

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

If we take a look at these passages and put them together with several others, we will see a pattern. Jesus replied to the Pharisees question in Matthew 22:37-40 when they asked him what the greatest commandment was. “37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

In James 1:27 it tells us: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

One of the things that God made very clear to the Israelites was the importance of taking care of the widows and orphans. Another way that we could phrase this is to take care of the least of these. I have become very convinced that despite the trying times that we are facing financially, we who live in the United State are still blessed people. It is amazing that God keeps his hand of blessing on us, considering how much that we have ignored Him. My friend Mark Wilson gave me a link to a website called www.globalrichlist.com. You might be interested to find out how rich you really are, especially when you compare it to the rest of the world.

Percentage of World Population

Yearly Income

Daily Income

Bottom 10 percent

$400

$1.10

Bottom 20 percent

$500

$1.37

Bottom 50 percent

$850

$2.33

Bottom 75 percent

$1,487

$4.07

Bottom 85 percent

$2,182

$5.98

Top 10 percent

$25,400

$69.59

Top 5 percent

$33,700

$92.33

Top 1 percent

$47,500

$130.14

Just to put it into perspective, Three billion people or not quite world’s population live on less than $2 per day while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than $1 per day are women. All of us here are in the top 15% richest people in the world. I can say that with great confidence because I know family in this room makes at least $2,182 a year. Those who make that make less than $6.00 a day. Compare that to the just under $70.00 a day, someone who makes $25,400 a year earns. We are a blessed people – no matter how poor we think we are.

As we read the passage in Ezekiel, I thought these verses were interesting. “18 Isn’t it enough for you to keep the best of the pastures for yourselves? Must you also trample down the rest? Isn’t it enough for you to drink clear water for yourselves? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Why must my flock eat what you have trampled down and drink water you have fouled?” The Lord was complaining to the people of Israel who already had the choicest pastures and the choices drinking water. He was telling them that they were blessed and that there was no reason to be greedy about it. These verses have become very personal to me and God has been speaking to me about them lately. How much stuff do we really need? I am amazed every day as I go to work and pick up donations around our county. We do not live in a rich area and yet we have more than enough. It is amazing – at times – the quality of clothes that are donated. We are blessed by God.

In Matthew 25, we are giving the parable of the Sheep and the Goats by Jesus. He tells of a coming judgment in which the Son of Man will sit on his throne and judge the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. It tells about a king – who is this King? Jesus is speaking about himself – he will reign in glory. Paul writes in Ephesians:  “19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” God has placed Jesus at the place of honor – he is worthy of our praise – he is the King and God has given Jesus all authority.

It is here that Jesus comes to judge the deeds of man. To those on his right, he says, “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” Jesus then tells them why they have been invited. They have fed Jesus, gave Jesus drink, invited him in as a stranger, clothed him, cared for him when he was sick and visited him in prison. Those gathered on the left are stunned – when did all this happen? Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” Imagine their surprise.

Immediately Jesus turns to those on his left – the goats – those who are here, he tells to go away – to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. He goes on to explain that they completely ignored him in everything they did. The goats stand in shock – in utter dismay – when did all this happen? Jesus replies with a very similar answer – “in as much as you didn’t do these things to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you didn’t were refusing to help me.”

We have a two-fold purpose in this life. One to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength – James would say that this is keeping yourself from being corrupted by the world. This is offering a sacrifice of praise, as the writer of Hebrews says. This is part of living a life of holiness – this is part of making our lives a living sacrifice as Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2: 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

That is one part of living a life of holiness, but there is another part – one that we don’t like to talk about as much. In Matthew it is called loving your neighbor as yourself. In James it is called taking care of the widows and orphans in their distress. James puts taking care of the widows and orphans and refusing to let the world corrupt you as part and parcel of pure and lasting religion that the Father accepts. Holy living is keeping yourself pure and uncorrupted. But the other part of holy living is taking care of those who are around us – especially those who are in need. Why do we put such an emphasis on Grace Network and food drives and Christmas Gift Paks – letters to missionaries – letters and cards to chaplains – letters of encouragement to others? It is because it is taking care of the least of these. It is as much of making Jesus the Lord of your life as anything else. Making Jesus the Lord of your life is an important thing for every believer to do. Jesus deserves every part of us – he desires us to live pure and holy lives – we can’t do it alone – only the Holy Spirit can help us do that and only when we ask Him to help. Make Jesus the Lord of your life also includes giving up all you have to him. As the chorus to the gospel song says, “King of kings, Lord of lords, Jesus is Lord of all, All my possessions and all my life – Jesus is Lord of all.” How is it with you this morning? Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.

In his famous book Mere Christianity, Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

We come to a place of decision this morning. What is God speaking to you this morning? There are several options:

  1. God is speaking to you about entering a life of holiness – a life that is separate from the world – He’s calling you to leave your old life and join Him. He’s calling you to make Him Lord of your life.
  2. God is speaking to you about putting action to the life of holiness that he has called you. He’s calling you to make Him Lord of your life.

In closing, we are going to sing #275 – Jesus Is Lord of All – the altar is open, how is God speaking to you this morning?

Come On Ring Those Bells

100_0265Today did not start like a normal Saturday starts. At 2:30 AM we had a visitor to our door. This man needed a ride to Wal-Mart. His story was that his mother sick and he needed to go see her at Wal-Mart. Dale was smart and called the sheriff’s deputy who goes to our church. Dale made some calls and found out that his stories didn’t match the facts and called 911 and they took care of it. That is how our day got started.

I really was not looking forward to having to sit out in the cold and ring bells for Salvation Army. I knew it was going to be a long day outside. Today’s temperatures were much more like Upstate New York a week before Thanksgiving, than the Southside of Virginia. I knew as the leader I had to pick up the extra hours that nobody wanted. Thanks to 100_0270Dale who volunteered to take six hours after he got out of work from Salvation Army. Which was more hours than I took. In reality, one of our members relieved Dale at about 6:30 and he was very grateful. Anna went with me in the morning and we had a fun time together. We actually took some funny videos while ringing bells. I been here before when there was something that I did not what to do but I was blessed anyway. One of the things that blessed me the most was when the people told me why they give to the Salvation Army. One of them was man whose family received help at Christmas from The Salvation Army. This man told me that was one of his favorite Christmases. Then there was the Army vet who remembered the Salvation gave him razors and shaving cream while he was deployed. He 100_0273could not believe that they gave he something. The next person was an older woman who apologized that she could not give $20 this year because she did not have it. Don’t we wish that everyone felt that way who past us today.

We had some people who actually said what Dale and I were thinking which was how much money could be raise if everyone who walked by us would give a dollar? Better yet what kind of difference could The Salvation Army make in people’s lives if people if everyone contributed?

It has been a great day being the hands and feet of Jesus!

What Does Your Calendar Say About You?

zaffino2007Our children look forward to this time of year — Maybe for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Of course, that is part of the answer, but they also look forward to picking out the family calendar for the year. I do not remember when all this started about calendar and our family. This year’s calendar was Star Wars. I always wondered would people think if they would come to visit us. Here are some of the other calendars that we had as a family; Thomas the Tank Engine, Disney Princess, Teapots, Weather, Pennsylvania, and there was a couple of years when we let the girls draw. It is a family tradition which I am going to miss but when the children gone. In not too many years ahead Dale and I will get to pick our own calendar. My dream calendar would be a Marine calendar or a Mustang calendar. What kind of calendar will the children pick this year? I know calendars are not that important but it is something that brings our family together. All families need this kind of time to bring them together.