Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18 ESV)
With all the snow in Chicago last weekend, my son’s flight home from college was canceled. There was flurry of phone calls, texting and a little stress for everyone for a while but eventually he made it home, ten hours later, but he made it. If he had been traveling by himself, I am certain the cancellation would have been way more stressful for him, but because he was with friends it was more of an adventure. No matter what, they were all in this together and were ready to “Planes, Trains, and Automobile” it if they needed to. Thankfully they didn’t!
In the verse for today, Jesus calls his first disciples, both Simon and Andrew, to follow him. He never planned to go it alone while he walked the earth. In Genesis 2:18, God said that it was “not good” for man to be alone. Even God exists in community, three in one, with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
God doesn’t intend for us to go it alone either. We are all on a journey and sometimes things get rough. We need traveling buddies. Brothers and sisters in Christ who will lift us up, encourage and challenge us, brush us off when we fall and help us grow into the person God made us to be. Friends that are all in this journey together, no matter what!
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4.11-12
There are times when I am guilt-stricken over my place in the world. People sometimes refer to the “birth lottery” in an attempt to make us appreciate just how great we have it.
For centuries, our nation has celebrated Thanksgiving. I can’t remember a year that my family didn’t have a celebration on the last Thursday in November. Family, food, and football – those are the primary ingredients to the majority of American Thanksgivings.
As glad as I am for all three of those things, the gratitude we express always carries in its shadows the recognition that some people don’t have loved ones, turkeys, or television. We usually throw some gratitude toward God that we aren’t “those” people, and we offer a paltry prayer of intercession on their behalf.
Paul told the Philippian Church that he himself knew both sides – how to be brought low and how to abound, how to face plenty and hunger, abundance and need. In his story, he experienced a contentment that we only conceptualize.
Would our Thanksgiving celebrations be different without our three main ingredients?
If we were brought low, hungry, and in need, would we still say, “Thanks,” on the last Thursday of November?
There is a faith so sweet, a hope so strong, a love so thorough, a joy so remarkable, and a peace so transcendent that we, like Paul, can say “Thanks” regardless of our circumstance.
Let’s spend today in a richer experience of prayer:
- thanking God for things that are unchanging, rather than the temporary blessings bestowed by the birth lottery; and,
- praying on behalf of those who have never tasted the sweetness of the eternal life offered in Jesus.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever….Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:1, 8 & 9
Many years ago when I was a child, in preparation for Thanksgiving, my mom instructed my siblings and I to look up as many verses as we could that related to giving thanks to God. There was a small bribe involved to motivate our participation, but I admire her heart in wanting our young hearts to be tuned in to gratitude toward God.
Psalm 107 tells of parts of Israel’s history with God. Throughout the psalm, the author reminds us to give thanks to God as we remember his good deeds and his rescue after rebellion and distress. He is faithful to us and his love is enduring. He satisfies us.
Thanksgiving is a good time of the year to pause and reflect on God’s goodness, provision, and love. Whether we look at the history of our own personal lives or the larger story of history, we can see God’s hand at work and how wonderful he his.
What are you thankful to God for this Thanksgiving? Spend some time talking with him about that today?
Shout with Joy!
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” Psalm 100 NLT
Do you remember a time in your life when you had no worries in life? No bills to pay, no commitments to make and no responsibilities for others? Maybe this question takes you back to your childhood when all you worried about was getting to stay up past bedtime! For most children, parents take care of providing food, shelter, clothing and anything a child would need. This is how we should feel about our heavenly Father. We should have a confident dependence on God because He is good and promises to take care of all of our needs.
If you find yourself filled with worry, burdens or complaints, recite Psalm 100. Acknowledge that the Lord is God. Do you willingly and joyfully enter into God’s presence or are you in a season where you’re just going through the motions of following Jesus and relying on yourself?
As we enter Thanksgiving week, may you be filled with joy, gladness, and thanksgiving! Enter your Good Shepherd’s court with praise! Give thanks to God because He is good.
“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” Ecclesiastes 11:6
The only way we can come to terms with reality – is by trusting God, regardless. No ifs, ands, or buts. If I am a farmer and God allows a flood to come and wash away my crops or God chooses to give me the beautiful season rains and a bumper crop, I trust Him and I give Him praise. If I am in industry or some profession and someone throws me a curve and God allows my whole world to be reversed, I trust Him and I give Him praise. I take life as it occurs. I don’t waste time in the pit of doubt. Nor do I worry over crop failures and strikeouts.
We can’t wait for conditions to be perfect. Nor can we wait for things to be free of all risks – absolutely free, absolutely safe. Instead of protecting ourselves, we have to release ourselves. Instead of hoarding, we are to give and invest. Instead of drifting, we are to pursue life. Instead of doubting, we are to courageously trust.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 ESV
Typically, I am not easily annoyed, but one thing that I really don’t like is speed bumps. I don’t like to drive down roads that have them. They jerk my car around and slow me down. I understand that protecting the residents on the street by slowing traffic is the purpose of speed bumps. I also realize that even though they are a pain to me they are a blessing to the people in the neighborhood. I still don’t like them, but I get their purpose.
This may be a stretch, but perhaps we can look at trials and tests as spiritual speed bumps. These small and large bumps in our road may be annoying, but no doubt they are serving a bigger purpose. They may be teaching us to persevere, or to grow our faith. Maybe God is slowing us down to protect us or others.
Once you get over some of the bumps in your life take time to look back and see how God was working in your trials. Count it all joy that you were worth testing and stretching and remember that God was molding you in the journey. We still don’t like them, but we can see how and where we have grown and be thankful for their purpose.
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. -Proverbs 16.31
I have been getting a lot of grief regarding my new hairstyle. The top-knot/man-bun is quite polarizing. It’s remarkable how much of a first impression your hair can make.
This got me reflecting on hair stories from the Bible. The most famous hair has to belong to Samson and his powerful locks. Leviticus includes a few laws about how to maintain your hair. There are some good-looking father-son combo’s – like Jacob and Joseph, David and Absalom. But then there are some odd hair references as well – Esau’s body being covered by it, and who knows what John the Baptist looked like coming out of the wilderness.
The New Testament apostles, Peter and Paul, tell ladies in churches how they should do their hair. Jesus had a unique hair encounter when a woman decided to anoint his feet and washed them with her hair. Jesus also tells his followers that they can’t change their hair (Mt 5.36), not one hair of their head will perish (Lk 21.18), and that each of their hairs is numbered (Mt 10.30).
But my favorite hair reference was the one in Proverbs.
So much emphasis in our day and age is about feeling young, looking young, and pretending to be young. This proverb suggests that gray hair is a reward. Agedness is a mark of honor. There was a part in the We Speak study that asked us if we thought that our culture “over-esteems youth while under-esteeming the elderly.” This struck a chord in our small group composed of mostly 30-somethings raising kids that are mostly under 5.
Do an inventory of the aged in your life. Where is the gray hair in your world (it might be when you look in the mirror)? Spend some time today thanking God for their (and your own) stories; and, if you’re feeling bold, let them know how much they mean to you.