Most of us are probably somewhat familiar with the origin of our Thanksgiving holiday. We could trace its history all the way back to the Reformation, the decline of biblical values in society, and the desire of some Christians to be able to worship freely.
However, what is most familiar is the story of the Pilgrims. They started out in England and from there went to Holland. They felt that God was leading them to plant a colony where they could worship and live their lives as the Bible taught. Because they separated themselves and moved in 1608 to Holland they were called “Separatists.”
After twelve years in Holland they packed up again once again in search of religious freedom and a desire to expand their Christian faith. Later the Separatists became better known as Pilgrims which means travelers or wanderers.
That led ultimately to a voyage to America in 1620. The Mayflower landed late in 1620 with only about one third of its passengers considered to be Separatists. Upon arrival not everyone was interested in working to his full capacity and for the first couple of years food was in short supply.
It was at that time William Bradford decided to divide the land and let each household be responsible for meeting their own needs. It turned out to be a very wise decision, as production in the colony went way up. As Bradford later writes he is careful to give God all the credit for numerous events, the decisions that were made, and for leading them in specific ways.
While we have read about the first Thanksgiving in 1621 after the Pilgrims’ first growing season how often do we stop and give thanks for how God has led us? Let’s not forget that that first year was not incredible. One third of the colonists died during that first winter because of malnutrition or disease. The point is we don’t simply thank God when life is overly bountiful, we also thank Him in lesser times. That means we all have a story to tell where God gets the credit.
Carol and I built our first house and lived in it for several years as we added on and finished the basement. Our house was simple and small, but our lives were about to change. We went out on a date on a Friday night. Right after we dropped the kids off at some friends Carol suggested that we take a look at a piece of land she had seen advertised on the highway.
At this point I was in no mood to build another house. After all we had just finished the one we were in. For some reason (I believe God led me), I said ok, “Where is the property?”
We drove by and by Sunday evening we had a deal on five acres of property. It was there that we built our second house and from a financial standpoint it turned out to be the biggest turning point in our lives.
Like William Bradford, I hope to be able to always look back and see how God has worked in my life. Too much happens that I simply cannot take the credit for. What if Carol and I had not gone out on that Friday night? We learned later that another buyer had the money to buy it at 8am on Monday morning. What if Carol had not gone out that day and seen the sign?
The bottom line–God is at work in your life. Have you noticed? Have you taken the time to recount how He has led you?
This Thanksgiving, take some time to review God’s providence, His working in your life, and thank Him.
Thanksgiving: Give God the Credit!
Growing up my dad was a strong proponent of hard work. Physical labor was always admired and held in high esteem in our house.
Now while I was more than ready to work, I also had a fondness for reading. Even as a kid I would sometimes sit and read in an encyclopedia. In fact, back then our family would purchase the yearly update to the World Book Encyclopedia. I would always find time to read part of that yearly volume.
Now that I am in the ministry I continue to read, about 500 pages per week. I am always reading, researching, and writing.
One of the hardest mental concepts I have had to overcome is that I am really working even when physical labor is not involved. Ministry includes things like reading, writing messages, meeting with people, and praying. And while the apostle Paul said that he labored in praying, most people cannot identify prayer alongside hard labor.
Abraham Lincoln grew up in an agrarian society in which physical labor was highly valued. Yet Lincoln found himself reading.
Of course, in his day, reading was somewhat frowned upon. His own cousin considered him lazy, actually very lazy. To the cousin all Lincoln wanted to do was read and write poetry.
However, it was his reading that eventually paved the way for him to seek the presidency of the United States. Somewhere along the way he became comfortable challenging the old concept that placed a high value on physical labor and a low value on reading and writing.
Somewhere in the recesses of your mind you are holding on to a concept that may be holding you back from being who you were meant to be. Whatever your vision, it may not be encouraged by your peers.
Recently my 98 year old grandmother passed away, and I shared a few thoughts at her funeral. Never underestimate the power of influence you have in others, especially younger children.
If you are like me you can look back at an unfavorable circumstance that ultimately worked out in your favor.
Stories like this abound in the Bible. There is the story of Jonah who ran from God. That is not the brightest thing to do. Eventually Jonah found himself on a boat in the midst of a violent storm. Then the men on board threw him into the sea and Jonah winds up inside a large fish. God used all of those unfavorable circumstances to accomplish His purpose which was for Jonah to bring revival to the city of Nineveh.
Joseph was loved by his father, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, cast into prison in Egypt, and forgotten. Yet God used the positive and the negative circumstances, one circumstance after another to bring Joseph all the way to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt.
Your life will likely be the same (excluding the Prime Minister part). Circumstance after circumstance, good or bad, will be used by God to accomplish His purpose in your life. It takes all kinds of circumstances to produce the person and the outcome God is after. God has a particular design in mind for you, and He will work through each one until He arrives at the finished product. His personal development plan for your life will be multi-faceted, but you will like the finished product.
Circumstances. At times you will wonder what’s going on. Your patience may run thin as you speculate as to whether God is actually in your court.
In fact, God is right in the middle of your circumstances!
In my recent post, Life Can Be Cruel, I mentioned three things that seem to compound the intensity of our sufferings. Joseph experienced all three and stands out in the Bible as one who maintained a positive attitude and reflected a kind, and uplifting demeanor through it all.
For many of us it is much more natural to become angry when we do not get our way. Or we become very impatient after a ninety second wait at our favorite fast food joint. If someone really ticks us off or highly offends us then we get bitter.
Our series of misfortunes and mistreatment run the gamut. When we survey Joseph’s life I wonder if we just gloss over it figuring he must be the exception.
But the Bible is clear that the stories were written to encourage us and give us an example to follow. With that in mind, three words come to mind as we take a closer look at Joseph’s life.
1. Walk. Joseph knew that he was walking with God. There was no obvious sin in his life which brought on his personal hardships. While he was not perfect, he was not living under a cloud of guilt.
2. Willingness. One of the hardest truths to accept is that God often uses suffering to refine us and shape us. In the NT Peter mentions this in one of his letters. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” Yet how many of us find ourselves willingly suffering and trusting in God’s purposes?
3. Witness. This no doubt gets overlooked way too often. One reason we keep singing and smiling is to show God’s strengthening grace. You can’t explain it, but you can experience it, and expose it. What a testimony to those who do not know the Lord. What a testimony to fellow Christ-followers. What an example for our kids.
There is too much at stake to allow the hardships, the unjust cruelties, and the slander of others to get us down and keep us down.
Three simple words to keep you smiling when life is down.
To be honest all Sundays are not home runs. As Chuck Swindoll once said, “You probably will only have two or three Sundays a year that really stand out.”
Well, today was one of those home run Sundays. Here is a quick recap of three highlights.
1. Last week I challenged everyone to climb the Generosity Ladder for our Building Campaign and Double Tithe for 90 Days. One family talked it over and began right away. The next day the husband got a raise!!! WOW! It was fun to share that with our church family.
2. Dan and Tracy Whitehead, our missionaries in Equador who minister throughout Latin America, gave an incredible presentation of their ministry. It was perhaps the most moving of any missionary presentation I have ever witnessed.
3. Chelsea led our worship and on a scale of 1-10 she hit at least a 12! She nailed it today and the feedback was over the top.
This is why I hate to see people miss. Because watching online is totally different. And there is no way you can plan days like today. When you left today you knew God had shown up.
I can still recall playing outside with one of my best friend in third grade. His brother was also playing with us, and for a reason I can no longer remember he picked up a rock and hit me upside the head. I do recall he that he got in a lot of trouble.
Rocks hurt. They hurt worse when coming from a friend.
Reminds me of Joseph. He seemed to love his brothers, but their feelings for him were just the opposite. In fact, they hated him. So much so that one day as the opportunity presented itself the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.
Joseph’s story includes three things that often occur in our own lives, and all three seem to intensify the pain. You can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-50.
1. Indifference. Later in the narrative the brothers are discussing how they heard his cries, but they ignored them and continued to eat their lunch. Let’s be honest most are thinking only of themselves. There were many Saturdays when I was the only one to show for work. They weren’t too worried as to how their absence affected me. People quit their jobs without any notice at all, being totally oblivious to any hurt they may cause. Friends hurt friends, spouses hurt spouses, and employees hurt employers and never stop to consider the hurt they cause. Indifference hurts.
2. Injustice. Joseph was later thrown into prison by his master after he was falsely accused of attempted rape. There he sits in the cell thinking, “What good does it do to be good?” I can imagine a wife feels the same way after her husband leaves her for another woman. How many times does life appear to go well for the guilty husband. It just doesn’t seem fair, or just. And injustice intensifies the hurt.
3. Ingratitude. After some time in prison, Joseph gained hope. He gave the interpretation to Pharaoh’s former cupbearer’s dream. Three days later the cupbearer was released from prison and forgot all about Joseph. So after Joseph requested that the cupbearer remember him, he forgets him. It’s as if he is not thankful at all for the interpretation of his dream. That had to hurt. Ingratitude.
If you are Joseph how do you maintain hope? If your dream has been dashed by family and friends how do you keep hope alive? How do you keep smiling? Is it possible to persevere with a positive attitude?
It is, and in my next post I will give you three keys to surviving the cruel encounters of life, because life can be cruel.
The NFL has had a labor dispute with the refs since before the season began. And yes, there were some horrible calls by the replacement refs. However, the NFL maintained that the integrity of the game was not being compromised, and the bad calls were not changing the outcome of the games.
Then it happened! Monday night as Savannah and I were watching the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks the unthinkable transpired right before our eyes on the last play of the game.
At that point Green Bay was leading by a score of 12-7. Seattle’s only hope with just seconds remaining was a hail mary to the end zone. Not only did a Seahawk receiver push a Green Bay player to the ground, he never caught the ball. Another defensive player for Green Bay did. No problem. The Seattle receiver simply put his hands on the ball and the ref called it a touchdown.
Now without going into all the rules, everyone in America knew it was an interception and not a touchdown. So Seattle escapes with a win, and Green Bay is delirious as they fly home with a loss in a game they actually won.
It finally happened. On Monday Night Football! A bad call by the replacement refs changed the outcome of a game. As upset as Savannah and I were (we were actually pulling for Seattle) at the call, I told her, “The good thing about that call is the NFL and the refs will make a deal this week.
And they have. But why did they wait until the last minute? Why did they wait until the unthinkable happened?
It got really bad. Isn’t that how life is? We wait, we procrastinate, we hope things will not deteriorate, we assume the bottom will not fall out,….but it does. Yet we wait.
So while we were all screaming at our TV sets, how many of us were screaming at ourselves? After all, some of us no doubt were right in the middle of waiting…just like the NFL. And guess what? Things will probably get worse before they get better, just like the replacement refs.
We wait until a bill is overdue that we get serious about our finances.
We keep an employee on the payroll who has a bad attitude, hoping he will change, and he doesn’t and the company is hurt.
We ignore the leak in the roof since it is only a small drip right now.
We leave the pitcher in the game for just one more out.
We even fail to change lanes for the upcoming exit until we are forced to cut someone off.
So after all the fallout in the NFL and even in our own lives we continue to be plagued by waiting.
After all the lessons from life, Why do we continue to wait until the last minute?
A new era has begun at Penn State. Coach Bill O’Brien has somewhat of a formidable task. Due to the unfortunate incidents over the last several months several of Penn States top players left for other colleges to continue their football careers. When Coach O’Brien arrived the situation was already bad. However, after his arrival things became even worse as players left. With that sad here are some of my thoughts.
You have walked into a mess. The current is against you. There are few favorable winds at your back. But you took the job knowing all that, and because you believe your previous experiences, your character, and your success coaching football have prepared you for this undertaking.
I would add at this point that unless you have ever been broken at some point in your life, this job will become even tougher. You have walked into a broken situation, you will be surrounded by broken people, and you must be able to walk in their shoes.
One of the great stories from the book of Genesis centers around the life of Joseph. Let me encourage you to read that story multiple times and learn from how he led during a great famine. And quite frankly, Penn State football may be entering a time of famine, and it may last for a few years.
Here are six lessons to begin with:
1. Not all leaders can lead during a famine. Egypt went through seven years of famine and Joseph led the way. Part of your job is going to be to lead Penn State through the current crisis.
2. Do not complain. Everyone knows the circumstances. Everyone knows there is a famine in the land. Be proactive and lead.
3. Don’t play the blame game. Yes, people previous to you made some poor decisions. We get all that. Remember, you took the job knowing all that, and you felt like you measured up to the challenge. Deal with it, and do not bring up the earlier administration.
4. Set the example. Avoid spending too much time looking in the rear view mirror or you will wind up in the ditch.
5. Identify some benchmarks or milestones to track your progress along this long journey. As you travel, you will gain hope as you reach these along the way.
6. Cast a compelling vision for a bright future. Stay positive, encourage those around you, and serve your coaching staff and players well.
Yes, the sun has gone down on the University of Penn State. But it will rise again. And you can be the coach who is at the helm when that happens.
One more thing.
Remember that the country is pulling for you. Yes, Penn State has that much influence. And many will be cheering for your success.
Life is full of adversity. Obstacles seem to be around every corner.
If you ever feel like throwing in the towel and bailing on your dream think about the guy who…
*failed in business at the age of 32.
*ran for the state legislature and lost at the same age.
*gave business another shot at age 33 and failed again.
*lost his sweetheart at age 35.
*had a nervous breakdown at age 36.
*defeated running for Congress at 43.
*defeated again at age 48.
*ran for the Senate and defeated at 55.
*ran for Vice Presidency and defeated at 56.
*ran for the Senate again at 58 and lost again.
But he never QUIT!
*In 1860 he was elected President of the United States!!
Abraham Lincoln kept believing in himself.
Keep believing in yourself. You’ll be glad you did.