Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’


Twenty Random Things I’m Thankful For in 2012

I love Thanksgiving. Here are twenty random things in no certain order that I’m thankful for:

1)     I’m thankful for Angela, my beautiful wife of ten years (tomorrow is my anniversary). I’m the luckiest man alive. But more on that tomorrow.

2)    I’m thankful for my four children, Grace, Daniel, Emma, Lily. Each is so uniquely different and yet so precious.

3)    I’m thankful for my family: parents who raised me in the Lord and have always loved me, my brother Tim, my sister Laura and how they have enriched my life.

4)    I’m thankful for Billy Graham, whose ministry helped bring my father to Christ.

5)    I’m thankful for the Church. I’m thankful for my church. I’m thankful to serve as a pastor.

6)    I’m thankful to live in the 21st Century with technology like my iPhone, my Macbook, Twitter, GPS, and other such things. I don’t pine to live in some other era like the 1950’s. God put me in this age at this time. And so I like it.

7)    I’m grateful for good, deep, rich, wonderful friendships that last the test of time.

8)    I’m grateful for annoying people, trials, and character-building things I hate but that God sends for my sanctification.

9)    I’m grateful for coffee, for the delightful Mexican restaurant near our house: Grande Jakes, for Netflix, for Frasier, and for thrift shops where I can buy quality shirts for $3.00.

10)  I’m grateful for good books, for a love of reading, for men like Tim KellerMark BuchananRandy NewmanMax Lucado, D.A. Carson and other Christian leaders and authors who have inspired me.

11)  I’m grateful for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where I’m studying for an Mdiv.

12)  I’m grateful for my assistant pastor, Jay Lovelace and his wife Cheyenne.

13)  I’m grateful for and especially Amazon Prime.

14)  I’m grateful for Ginger Kolbaba, who published my very first piece of published work, for Andrea Mullins, who published my first four books, for the guys at who continue to give me a platform, and for anyone who has ever published a piece of my writing.

15)  I’m grateful for Tamela Hancock Murray, my literary agent who has helped me get published.

16)  I’m grateful for insurance companies, good health care, air conditioning, and Diet Mountain Dew Red.

17)  I’m grateful for email, texting, podcasting, and fantasy football.

18)  I’m grateful to live in Chicago, to live in the United States of America, and for the opportunity to travel to other countries and see the world as it really is.

19)  I’m grateful for Trevin Wax, Tim Challies, Kevin DeYoung, the Gospel Coalition, Aaron Armstrong, Michael Hyatt, Paul Tautges, and the host of other blogs I follow.


Shouldn’t Gratitude Should Be Our First Language?

Yeah, yeah, of course we’re supposed to be thankful on Thanksgiving. But it occurs to me that we’re not very good at this. By we, I don’t mean the editorial “we” by which I’m pointing the finger at the rest of Americans for being ungrateful while I ignore my own ingratitude. By we I don’t mean the “Church” by which I think the problem is the rest of those ungrateful brothers and sisters in the Lord while I silently pretend I’m not full of unhealthy entitlement.

No, I’m talking about me and my own ingratitude. And of all people, shouldn’t it be me that’s the most thankful? Whose first language is one of thanksgiving? After all, it’s me who was sovereignly chosen to salvation, who was brought from death to life by the mercy of God at the cross. It’s me who is the recipient of God’s resurrection power, giving me new life, endowing me with the Holy Spirit, gifting me to serve God, and securing a beautiful eternal city where I’ll dwell with God forever.

It occurs to me that, of all who should be grateful, Christians are at the front of the line. And yet it is us–it is me–who are the least grateful. We belly ache about the state of our country, posting our beefs on Facebook and Twitter, muttering them at the coffee shop and the water cooler. We complain about our jobs, our marriages, our children, our in-laws. We rail against the faults of the Church worldwide, the church local, and that cranky old neighbor next door. When we’ve exhausted these complaints, we moan about the weather.

But our lips should resound with praise. Of all people, we who have been touched by the gospel, should know the depths from which we were rescued. We, of all people should recognize the simple gifts of beauty from a gracious God. Sunlight, oxygen, green grass, rows of harvested corn, breath, blood, life, and community. We, of all people, should enjoy the fruits of American prosperity: political stability, food, order, money, iPhones, clean shirts, education, books, coffee, and a warm coat.

God’s people should speak first the language of gratitude. We should treasure, rather than bemoan, our closest relationships. We should overlook rather than highlight the flaws of those we love. We should embrace, rather than run away from, hard work and accomplishment and purpose.

I wonder the effect on our culture if Christians first simply expressed the unadulterated joy of a man in prison: The Apostle Paul. Where others would complain, he said, “Rejoice.” Where others would give up hope, he said, “I’m content.” Where others would rail at God, he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Imagine the impact if this attitude prevailed among God’s people. Imagine the impact if it simply prevailed in me.

The careless soul receives the Father’s gifts as if it were a way things had of dropping into his hand yet is he ever complaining, as if someone were accountable for the checks which meet him at every turn. For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks—who is there to thank? At the disappointments that befall him he grumbles—there must be someone to blame!- George MacDonald


10 Things I’m Thankful for in 2011

Today is Thanksgiving. This year (2011) I have much to be thankful for. I could fill pages. But I distilled them down to ten:

  1. Nine years of marriage to a beautiful and godly woman, Angela who has faithfully stood with me in ministry, trains our children in the Lord every day, and enjoys watching crime dramas with me.
  2. Four beautiful children, Grace, Daniel, Emma, and the latest edition, Lily. They are all beautiful gifts from God. I’m humbled to be their father. And I’m finally learning how to change diapers without passing out.
  3. A relationship with God through Christ. The mystery of God’s love expressed in Jesus continues to amaze me, that He loved me enough to sacrifice His son, purchasing my redemption, satisfying His wrath, and displaying His glory.
  4. Parents who loved me enough to introduce me to Jesus, take me to church regularly, and be there when so many kids grow up in unstable and abusive homes. Mom, can’t wait to eat your famous ice cream jello tomorrow.
  5. The Bible, God’s revealed Word. I’ve read the Bible all my life and still feel like I’m scratching the surface of its depth and beauty. It’s even cooler that I get paid to teach and preach and write from this magnificent book.
  6. A church, Gages Lake Bible Church, who allows me to fulfill my calling. They are the most wonderful, kind, loving, beautiful people I know.
  7. New Hope Publishers, who has believed in me enough to publish three (soon four) of my books. This was always a dream of mine and you made it happen. That goes for all the outlets that regularly publish my work, Crosswalk, Patheos, Clash, Stand Firm, CT, Lake County Journals.
  8. A growing circle of mentors and friends who enrich my life. And who are willing to listen to me ramble about politics, sports, and random things.
  9. America, who despite its deep flaws, is still the greatest nation on God’s green earth. Americans are no more loved by God than the rest of the world, but we are definitely the most blessed by far.
  10. Apple, Google, and Starbucks.

Why We Need Music

I once heard a well-meaning Christian leader say something like this, “Ahh, music is so overrated. You don’t need music. If you were stranded on an island, you would get along fine without music.” I actually believed him for a time and used to think this. But then, when I faced some of my darkest moments, I realized that it was music that helped bring me back. It was music that cleared the rubble of my heart and brought it tenderly before Jesus. I need music.

As we approach thanksgiving, I think it’s important to offer worship and gratitude to God, not only through our thoughtful expressions and notes, but also through music. Consider this passage from Ephesians 5:15-21:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Do you notice how the Scriptures instruct us to worship? “With psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” What’s a key indicator of a heart that is worshiping God, ruled by the Spirit? It’s a heart that sings. How do we express gratitude to the Lord? By singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.

In other words, you can’t rightly worship God without music. Now some can sing beautifully, others not so much. What matters is not necessarily the noise that comes out, but the heart that sings. In other words, everyone should be a singer, for without singing, without music, you cannot worship God.

So, to take this fellow’s words seriously. If music is “overrated” and unnecessary, then you’d have to rip out most of the Scriptures, including the largest book, the Psalms. Then you’d have a sort of Jefferson Bible.

No, music in a diversity of styles, is important for the life of every serious believer. We worship God with music. We do this at church on Sunday, but we should also do this throughout the week. And especially on Thanksgiving.

I’d encourage you as you lead you’re families, to consider breaking out in song. Do you have an old hymnal? Why not play a few bars of a hymn of worship? Parents, teach your kids to worship through song. Don’t just be a grump about the music you hate that they listen to, be proactive and positive and introduce your family to songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.

For this is how you worship your Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.


When Gratitude is Tested

I wrote about the difficulty of gratitude in hard times for my weekly Crosswalk devotional. Here’s an excerpt:

We can only summon the strength to gratitude when we understand the goodness of a sovereign God. James reminds us that God uses our trials to shape our character, so that the perfect life of Christ is worked out in us. He has the courage to tell Christians to consider the hard sufferings as opportunities for joy. And when you understand how God is in firm control and shapes our discomfort for our good and His glory, you can begin to “give thanks” even in bad times.

Read more here: Then and Now Daily Devotional for Christian Families, Family Bible Devotions.


Dads Should Lead on Thanksgiving

In the last few years, the Thanksgiving holiday has slowly been redefined by overeating, crank in-laws, lots of NFL football, and early Christmas sales. Now, I enjoy all of those things (yes, even the cranky in-laws). But if we are not careful, we can allow a grand moment for worship and thanks to pass us by as we’re grabbing for the remote and more pumpkin pie. This is where I think Dads can lead their families with a bit of courage and a lot of creativity.

As the spiritual leader in the home, Dads have a job to set the tone. I’m not saying we need a five-hour sermon series on the finer points of thankfulness and the history of Squanto, but at times in the Thanksgiving holiday, Dad needs to make some right turns and steer the family toward some expressions of gratitude. This could be a throat-clearing moment at dinner when Dad puts down the turkey leg and says, “Okay, I would like everyone to go around the table and express thankfulness for some blessings they received this year.” You might even plan ahead and bring your Bible to the table and read from Habakuk 3 or 1 Thessalonians 5:18. If you own a hymnal you might crack it open to a hymn like “Come Ye Thankful People, Come” or “We Gather Together” or “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” You can also Google those hymns and print them out to read.

This might take a bit of foresight, but I think it’s important for a Dad to set a tone of warmth, thanksgiving, and gratitude on Thanksgiving. Especially since Dads typically approach this holiday with a bit of a sense of indulgence: overeating, lots of football, and unwillingness to engage family. We tend to allow the ladies to serve us and offer little in the way of spiritual leadership.

I’m not saying watching football is bad on Thanksgiving. I plan on watching plenty of NFL. And I love to eat turkey and all the trimmings. However, with a little effort, Dads can lead the way to recovering the original intent of the holiday.


Resetting our Gratitude Meter

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

What are you thankful for? We gather, every year at this time, to reflect on the blessings of God over the past year. But in most families, Thanksgiving is less about real gratitude and me about stuffing your face, watching football, and hanging with the family. Some actually dread Thanksgiving, because they’re forced to sit in a room with people they really don’t enjoy.
Now I’m all in favor of the food and the football. But this year, let’s make Thanksgiving about giving and about thanks. This year, more than any, might force us to dig deeper. For many, it will mark a year since they’ve had employment .For others, Thanksgiving will bring another reminder that they haven’t found that significant other. And there are those couples who have to face the family questions of why they still can’t have children.
For many, 2010 was a year marked by pain. So how do we summon the gratitude?

Thank God for the President

1 Timothy 2:1-2

Sometimes I don’t like the Bible.

That might shock, since I’m a pastor, Christian author, and speaker. But sometimes I don’t like the Bible.

What I mean by that is this. Sometimes I read the Bible and nod my head and love what it is saying to me.

But other times I read the Word and like sandpaper on the soft timber of my soul, it grates, it rubs, it, well, it convicts.

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