Thanksgiving is often associated with family and food. Today was no exception for me. We had almost all of our family here for a turkey dinner today. That meant lots of food and lots of commotion with 8 adults and 9 children (ages 3 months - 8 years) in the house. But now that everyone has left and the house is quiet again, I find myself thinking about how blessed we really are. It is so easy to lose sight of the material blessings that we enjoy in this part of the world where we live.
But even more than the material benefits we have in our country and community, as believers in Jesus Christ we are blessed in ways that most people cannot understand. Yesterday in church we looked at Psalm 92 where the psalmist reminds us that "It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High..." It is good to give thanks... That is what this day is really about - giving thanks to the Lord.
I am reminded of a woman by the name of Katherine Mansfield. She was a gifted writer, but she rejected any knowledge of God. Due to health issues she moved to Switzerland where she was overwhelmed by the beauty of the mountains around her. She wrote to a friend, “If only one could make some small grasshoppery sound of praise—thanks to someone, but who?” How sad that anyone should have a heart filled with thanksgiving but not have anyone to thank.
The key to thanksgiving is not only to recognize our many blessings but also to recognize the source of those blessings and to give thanks to our Creator, the source of everything that we enjoy.
So, what am I thankful to the Lord for today?
There are certainly many more things I could add to this list, but above all, I am so glad that when I feel thankful, I know who to thank. "Thank you, Lord..."
Last year we noticed some unusual black growth on some of the branches on the beautiful Schubert chokecherry tree in our front yard. It did not take long to learn that it was a kind of fungus or blight that infects trees in the chokecherry family. We found out that it is important to prune off any branches that are diseased just as soon as possible and dispose of them carefully as it is transmitted by wind-borne spores. So we got busy and cleaned it up as quickly as possible.
Well, this spring there were more signs of the blight on our precious tree. So we went at it again. Every week or so we see another branch or two starting to swell up and turn color. We watch it carefully and prune it whenever we see any sign of disease, hoping that we can keep it healthy. If the fungus is not removed, eventually it will take over the tree completely and the tree will die.
I cannot help thinking about how much that is like our lives as Christians. All around us there is a spiritual fungus or blight that affects us. It is called sin. Sometimes that sin takes hold in our lives and creates a blight in some area of our life. It is so important to be alert to the things that are causing spiritual disease in us and deal with them and prune them out as quickly as possible. If left untreated, the blight will grow and spread until it takes over our lives.
We need to daily examine ourselves to see if there is anything that is affecting our spiritual life and the health of our relationship with God. If we neglect it, it will only spread until it begins to suck the very life from us. But, the other side of this is that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
I do not know how successful we will be at saving our chokecherry tree over the next few years, but I have every confidence in the spiritual realm that God will not fail. The verse above gives us the assurance we need as we deal with the sin that infects our lives on a daily basis.
We had a great Easter Sunday. Our service at church was wonderful. There were a number of visitors who came out to church this morning. The singing was wonderful as people raised their voices in praise and worship to our risen Saviour. The sun came out promising a wonderful, warm day with more melting.
Then we had a wonderful day with family. Three daughters, one son-in-law and seven grandchildren made a house full of commotion and noise but it was wonderful to have family here to share the day with us. Again, we are so blessed to have our children and grandchildren close enough to share these special times together.
Easter is such a wonderful season of the year. There are many significant Christian holidays, but none so significant as Easter. Christmas and the birth of Jesus would be meaningless if it were not for the death and resurrection. It is the resurrection that gives us hope for eternity.
We had the opportunity to participate in a Christian Passover Seder on Thursday evening at the home of a friend. It was a wonderful experience to see the amazing symbolism in the Passover. There are so many elements of the Passover meal that point to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
It is quite amazing how quickly the time goes. Last Saturday to Monday we had our three grandchildren from Stettler staying with us while their parents went to Banff for some skiing. Since that time it seems like the time has just flown by.
I've been watching curling on TSN whenever I have a chance this week. The Brier, which is the men's Canadian championship, is on in Edmonton this week. I am amazed at the precision of the shots made by so many of the curlers. The technology of ice-making and climate control, and the quality of the rocks and the brooms in recent years, have really made curling a game of not just inches but millimeters. It is interesting to watch the teams discuss difficult shots, trying to decide not only where they want to throw the rock and how hard, but trying to determine the exact outcome of the shot, figuring out exactly where each rock will be situated when the shot is finished. Sometimes it works out just as they planned and sometimes it doesn't.
I can't help thinking about what we are told in the Bible about the handling of the Word of God. Paul told the young preacher, Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV) The NKJV says, "...rightly dividing the word of truth." Paul was encouraging Timothy to be very careful, to be precise in the handling of the Word.
We live in an age when many are becoming very careless in their handling of the Word of God. For many, including many preachers, the Word of God is seen as little more than a guideline, to help us determine truth for ourselves. It is not viewed as the absolute truth by which we must judge all teaching. For others, the Word can be interpreted to mean whatever we want it to mean in order to meet our needs at the time.
God's Word is absolute truth and our responsibility is to determine what God meant when He said it. Only when we have correctly and precisely interpreted the meaning of the Word, can we then determine how it applies to our lives and what we need to do in response to God's truth.
I noticed on the news last night an item about how busy the financial institutions were yesterday. It was the final day for contributions to your RRSP's to get a tax deduction for 2012. I have to admit that I don't do any last-minute contributions. as it is much easier to contribute on a regular basis throughout the year.
However, as I think about the emphasis many people put on building retirement savings, I am also conscious of the fleeting nature of wealth. In fact, I have often said there is no such thing as "financial security." We can spend a lifetime putting away money in order to be financially set for retirement, but market changes can make it all disappear very quickly.
Jesus said, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:31-34)
Yes there is a place for saving and preparing for the future, but ultimately our hope and security has to be centered on God and His faithful provision.
Over the past few weeks I have been involved in taking an online course on Messianic prophecy. The course is part of the Institute of Jewish Studies, an online education program provided by the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
It has been an interesting study, It has really stimulated my thinking as we have considered the Old Testament prophecies regarding the promised Messiah. One of the things that has really challenged me is learning how different the Jewish people's view of the Messiah is from our understanding. Most Jews have little interest in the idea of a Messiah at all. But those who do are still not looking for someone to deal with sin, but they are still looking for a Messiah who is not divine but rather a human being who is a powerful leader and mighty military man.
The Old Testament has so many prophecies which point so clearly to the person of Jesus Christ. I encourage everyone to read slowly and carefully Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and see how many references you find to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
At the same time as taking this course it has been interesting to watch what is going on the Middle East. the nations surrounding Israel seem more determined than ever to destroy the nation of Israel. I will comment more on this topic in a future post.
Gordon Rowland has been a Missionary-Pastor with Village Missions of Canada for over 35 years. Gordon and his wife Val have lived and served in Clive since 2001. They have four children and nine wonderful grandchildren.