Calendars and Hearts

November 17, 2016

Governor William Bradford declared the first Thanksgiving Day on December 13, 1621. The Plymouth Colony’s first severe winter had killed nearly half the settlers. The summer of 1621 coupled with the harvest had given them renewed hope, so they observed a day of feasting and prayer.

On November 26, 1789, President George Washington also issued a general proclamation for a day of thanks, but for many years after there was no regular national Thanksgiving Day. Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, promoted the idea for 30 years. Finally, in 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday of November “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.”

Presidents since Lincoln have issued official proclamations of Thanksgiving on behalf of the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November. Congress approved this in 1941.

A nation’s strength depends on the moral and spiritual fiber of its people. As Psalm 127:1 says:

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. ESV

Security and blessings come from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV).

That is why ingratitude is such a serious matter. It cuts us off from the Gift Giver. Paul’s description of society’s downward spiral begins with “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Romans 1:21, ESV).

Our country has a long history of setting aside this day of Thanksgiving. It is a rich tradition, but traditions have the danger of losing their meaning. May Thanksgiving not only be something on our calendars but also within our hearts.

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The Transforming Pattern

November 11, 2016

When children first learn to print, a pattern is placed before them of how the letters are to be formed. They practice forming the letters by copying the pattern. In the process children are transformed from not knowing their letters to knowing and printing them.

Patterns can be transformative. I believe that Christian living is to be transformative. One term that expresses this in the New Testament is sanctification. It can refer to the process of becoming holy as well as the result of becoming holy. Is there a pattern for becoming more holy? Listen to these passages that I think give us the pattern that we are to copy and learn until like the child copying letters it becomes a part of us.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11 ESV)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13, ESV)

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, ESV)

So what is the pattern? When I hear the gospel I learn of the seriousness of my situation as separated from God, but I also learn of God’s love and Christ’s love in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prompted by this love, I want to follow him daily. Following him daily means that I will also deny myself and die to myself daily. This self-denial means that I will consider myself dead to sin and I will be working at putting to death the deeds of the body with the help of the Holy Spirit. I will also consider myself alive to God, and I will live for Jesus’ sake. This means putting on the positive qualities that God wants me to have.

  • Because of love, I will follow Jesus daily.
  • I will deny myself, die to myself daily.
  • I will live for God and live for Jesus daily.
  • I will rely on the help of the Holy Spirit in this process of sanctification.

When we do this, life will never be the same. This is a transforming pattern.


The Ultimate Screening Test

November 4, 2016

During my student days when I worked as a gas station attendant (and yes, we pumped people’s gas back then), I had to sign an agreement that I would be willing to take a lie detector test. The company wanted to protect itself from employee theft, and the lie detector was one way of screening employees when problems arose. When I applied to graduate school, I had to take a psychological profile test — it was one way the school had for screening applicants and alerting the school to potential problems. Currently, most employers will have new hires take a drug screening test.

These illustrations confirm that a variety of screening tests exist which provide all kinds of information about us, whether we want them to or not. But an ultimate screening test also exists. We frequently fail to think about it, and the result is that we live our lives carelessly. What is this ultimate screening test? God searches the hearts and minds of all of us.

We may make excuses to ourselves and to others that deep down we know are flimsy. Billy Sunday said, “An excuse is the skin of reason stuffed with a lie.” We need to remind ourselves that all of these excuses are known by God who searches minds and hearts. Listen to what the Bible says:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2, ESV)

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10, ESV)

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15 ESV)

Will I feel guilty when I face such truths? Possibly, but God provides a way of handling guilt. He has paid the price for our sin. He invites us to repent and confess. If there is any place where we should be honest about ourselves it is in our prayers to God, because God knows the truth about us.

We may hide from others, but we can’t hide from God. Knowing that I am being tested helps me to avoid carelessness. Honesty with God is the best policy. God knows our hearts. May we live so as to pass the ultimate screening test.