Category Archives: table scraps

What’s for breakfast?

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For as long as I can remember I’ve eaten a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  Upon cross examination this seems like all too familiar a routine.  Throughout the day the idea of cereal for breakfast doesn’t even enter my mind.  But in the morning, when my stomach is growling, it’s the only thing I can think about.

Is their someone in your life like that?  All to familiar and forgotten until they’re desperately needed.

 

 

The First Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720When I mention Thanksgiving, what thoughts come to mind? Are there memories of a family gathering, or a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings? At my parent’s house we watched football games on TV (before and after our meal).

According to my smart phone, the word Thanksgiving is defined as an “expression of gratitude, especially to God.” When I looked up the definition of gratitude, my phone said, it is a quality of being thankful. Notice how the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” describe each other. Thanksgiving is showing gratitude and gratitude is being thankful.

When was the first thanksgiving? Most people would say it happened several hundred years ago in Plymouth, Mass. when the first pilgrims came to America and gathered around a table with their Indian guests. Was that really the first thanksgiving, or did one occur much earlier in history?

According to David Mathis in his article, “The True Story of Thanksgiving,” the first thanksgiving began thousands of years earlier. Genesis 1:27 us that God created man and woman in his own image. God created us to show Him gratitude, to give Him thanks and to worship Him. The first thanksgiving occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve thanking and praising their Creator.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created perfect. Death had yet to come into existence. They had everything they could ever want provided for them in the Garden of Eden. That is, until the tempter, began spreading his venom around Eden. Satan, being full of pride and love of self, showed ingratitude towards God. Ingratitude is a form of rebellion. It is through ingratitude towards God that sin abounds. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:21 puts it this way, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude would lead Adam and Eve into sin.  Satan brought to their attention one thing they did not have.  They began to believe his lie that God was holding something back from them. God must not care about them. They began to covet the one thing they couldn’t have, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They stopped being thankful for God’s provision and gave in to rebellion. When they ate the fruit, God’s judgment fell on them. Sin separated them from God and death followed sin.

From that day forward, humankind has been self-centered and materialistic creatures believing they can do a better job than God at providing for their needs. We want to determine what is right and wrong in our own minds. People are concerned more with their deprived physical needs than about their spiritual, eternal well-being. What people fail to realize is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Isn’t it reassuring to know God didn’t abandon us to our foolish darkened hearts? God sent his son Jesus into a thankless, ungrateful world. Here on earth he lived a flawless life, showering God with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. Jesus exemplifies the word “thanksgiving.” The Gospels are filled of examples of Jesus giving thanks to God:

When Jesus fed the 4,000, “he took the seven loaves and the fish and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. (Mark 8:6)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41).

The “Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way after supper he took the cup, saying this the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eukaistos, which actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus didn’t just model thanksgiving for us. He died on the cross for our ingratitude, for our failing to exalt God, to praise him and worship Him as Lord. When we place our faith in Jesus, he redeems us from a life of ingratitude and restores us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to be thankful and grateful to God.

This is why it is important for us to be constantly striving to be more like Jesus, the only person who lived a perfect life of gratitude, honoring his father, God.

When we pray we need to remember to be thankful.

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  

When we worship God we need to be thankful. The book of Psalms is full of thankful worship verses.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

When we walk with God we need to remember to be thankful.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

But we’re human aren’t we. There are times we fail miserably at being thankful, like when things aren’t going well for us. We can easily be overcome by hurt and tragedy. When we face trials we have a tendency to blame God.

When we face those trials we need to remain especially thankful.

But how do we do that? First, we can remain thankful by standing on the promises of God. Second, we should remember past and current blessings God has bestowed on us. Yes, count your blessings name them one by one!

My wife visited her family in North Carolina recently. When it came time to fly home, I prayed God would give her an uneventful and safe return. Her fight home, which should normally take about 3 hours turned into quite an ordeal, lasting well over 9 hours. I thought I had covered all my bases with my prayers and found myself having a tough time coping with her having to change planes, miss a connecting flight, and endure hour after hour of delays all caused by bad weather.

The ordeal continued to spin out of control at a time I needed God most. It became increasingly difficult for me to believe God was listening to my prayers. Thoughts like, “Does he really care about my wife and me” crept into my head. It wasn’t until she and I were safely together again that I learned just how involved God was guiding her every step. I felt ashamed when I considered my feelings of ingratitude. My heart turned to repentance and thanksgiving.

From now on I will always think of this incident in my life when I come across the verse:

“And we know (there’s a promise in those three words). And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My wife will likely remember the promise I texted her in the midst of her ordeal :

“Be still and know (the word “know” is a promise) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

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May this Thanksgiving be a special time of blessing for you. Remember to give thanks to the God who created you, to the One who sustains you, and to Him who will never leave you or forsake you.

I Envy You!

“I envy you!” A common expression used by folks of my day.  When I use it, I’m congratulating a friend or acquaintance on the favorable position he or she finds themself in.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Umm, maybe.  But what if deep down inside me there is a little more to it?  What if my own life isn’t going according to carefully laid plans?  What my station in life isn’t what I imagined it would be?  Then, there’s the part of me continually comparing myself to others. While I’m at it, what if I drag my faith into the equation.

Tim, a friend of mine,  goes so far as to suggest that envy possesses the ability to turn a person away from God.  How can that be? It is possible for a person to turn bitter towards God when He doesn’t deliver the goods they long for.  When this happens, envy becomes a complaint against God.  Without realizing it, a person takes issue with the sovereignty of God, and the plan He has for their life.

How do I keep this from happening to me?  Humility plays a big part in keeping me off the wrong path.  God loves to respond to the humble.  Humility feeds gratitude, and gratitude fosters contentment.  It is joy, not happiness found in acquiring and possessing things, that gives life meaning.  Joy can be experienced in both good and bad situations.  Happiness, on the other hand, is fleeting — like chasing after the wind.

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.  2 Corinthians 6:10 NLT

Embrace joy!

P.S.  Maybe, “I’m so happy for you!!” is a better expression to use.  And yes, I should mean it like I’ve said it!

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Making a New’s Year Resolution

new year'sresolution2016Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! This is my final installment of the series entitled, “table scraps” (words likely to be used at family gatherings over the holidays). As you might expect, I chose a word closely associated with this time of year: “resolution.”

In 2013, Dan Diamond, a blogger and contributor to //onforb.es (www.Forbes.com), states that 40% of Americans are likely to make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% of them will achieve their goal. According to Diamond, “More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower.” He cites a desire for self-improvement as the leading factor in making resolutions.

My reasons for making a resolution would include, a desire to act on something that’s been bothering me, whether it is guilt from neglecting something or someone, or inaction (not doing something I feel I should be doing). Like many other people, I would include health related reasons; two of my favorites are losing some weight and exercising more.

Our culture has adopted the practice of making our resolutions at the start of a New Year. I guess the new calendar symbolizes a fresh start and makes the starting date easier to recall. Add to that the social buzz created by a host of others also making resolutions and you have a strength in numbers kind of thing going on. For people of faith, having just celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas, a new calendar year offers a convenient starting point to resolutely draw closer to God.

This year, before you jump on the bandwagon and vow to make a resolution, you may want to give more thought to the word’s meaning. Google defines “resolution” as “a firm decision to do or not do something.” Synonyms include: intention, decision, commitment, pledge, and promise. Words closely related to resolution are: “resolute,” (purposeful, determined, and unwavering) and “resolve” (defined as a “firm determination to do something”).  Making a resolution, then, can be likened to drawing a line in the sand, and vowing not to cross it.

Returning to Dan Diamond’s piece for a moment, he gives the following advice for making a resolution: (1) keep it simple (small, obtainable), (2) make it tangible (eliminate vagueness), (3) make it obvious (have visual reminders), and (4) keep believing you can do it (have willpower).

If you are a Christian you can add a fifth point: involve God in your resolution making decision and seek out His help in seeing it through. He is very much interested in the little details in our lives. Take Romans 8:28 for example, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A quick peek at my Bible concordance (TNIV translation) yielded two scripture passages using the word “resolved,” Daniel 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 2:2. Since the book of Daniel is one of my favorite books, I decided to check that verse out.

“But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.” (TNIV translation)

Here Daniel resolved not to do something – not to eat of the king’s delicacies. He was a prisoner of war taken to a foreign land, to be assimilated into a pagan Babylonian culture. To resist assimilation meant facing the possibility of being killed. Many scholars feel he was a young teen when he was taken to Babylon and made this resolution.

As a true believer in God, Daniel believed there was no separation between his religious beliefs new year's resolution 2016and the world he functioned in. (Many of us need reminding of this fact on a regular basis.) The former (his faith) governed the latter (his work). His resolve to resist defiling himself came from within; he purposed not to do this in his heart. His decision was an act of worship, not one of self-affirmation or self-improvement.

On the surface the resolution seems trivial until you look at its broader implications. Daniel was being asked to abandon his devout faith in God and adopt a pagan way of life. He made the resolution out of a need to preserve his relationship with God.   God honored Daniel by working on his behalf and making it possible for Daniel to eat the food and water of his choosing. By keeping the resolution he made, Daniel’s life became a conduit for the miraculous workings of God.

What, if any, resolution will you make this year? Will you be including God in your plans?

Table Scraps – “The Christmas List” (2015)

IMG_0542I am posting a series of “table scraps,” highlighting words likely used in family gatherings connected with the holiday season. This week I thought I’d take a satirical look at “the Christmas list.”

We are rapidly moving through the month of December and Christmas morning looms larger on the horizon with each passing day. Your Christmas list, once an inspiring collection of vagueness, is quickly turning into an obsession, dictating how you will use your remaining time before that great day of merriment and gift-giving.

The stakes are high in this season of giving.  Money is an object and it’s in limited supply, so you find yourself scrutinizing everyone connected to you.   With so little time remaining, you’ll need to determine the extent of your list this year.  As part of the process, you can’t forget to take into consideration the gift transactions that occurred last Christmas. No doubt there were individuals who you gave gifts to that did not reciprocate. Likewise, persons who were not on your gift list blindsided you with one.

As if scrutinizing the people on your list wasn’t enough, you must also determine the methodology you plan to use for gift selection, especially for that special someone in your life. Do you get him or her exactly what they asked for? That is certainly the easiest and least stressful approach. Hopefully, you’ll consider wrapping it instead of handing over the gift in the shopping bag it came in. Maybe you’ll go the extra mile to disguise the item first, making it less recognizable before you distribute it. Have you considered this approach:  send the person you are buying for out to buy their own gift?IMG_0260

Perhaps it’s more your style to weigh what a person asks for against a gift you think they’d like better. You can develop a reputation as a poor gift giver in a hurry, if you don’t put a lot of thought into your substitute gift. As a parent I learned that substituting a knock-off copy of the toy being asked for made me appear uncaring and out of touch. You could always give the universal gift, good old American dollars, a viable compromise for many gift-givers.

The most risky giving strategy of them all is to give someone a gift that is completely foreign to them. One that they would never have asked for but introduces them to something they have yet to experience. For this strategy to be successful you must really know the person well; their likes and dislikes, personality, interests, etc. A successful gift using this strategy can result in a lifetime of satisfaction or pleasure, particularly if it involves the start of a new hobby, gives birth to a hidden talent or develops a new or different career path.  Some conjecture that only God could give the perfect gift using this strategy (and they would be more right then they could possibly imagine).

So, once you think you’ve got your Christmas list together and you’re about to do that Santa Claus thing: making a list and checking it twice… there are a couple more things I’d ask you to seriously consider.

Does God appear anywhere on your Christmas list? Certainly, He has done something meaningful on your behalf this year. The birth of his son, Jesus, is “the reason for the season.”   But what kind of gift can you give to God? Will you consider your indebtedness settled by simply throwing money in the offering plate this Christmas?

IMG_0548Have you considered giving God the gift of your time? It’s probably the greatest gift you can give to anyone. When you give the gift of your time you are giving away a piece of yourself. God would love you to spend time with him in prayer, hear you sing a song from your heart or read from the Bible He authored. You can give God your time in other ways,too. You can be God’s ambassador by spending some of your time serving others. God is also looking for messengers who are willing to spend a moment telling others what God has done for them. Perhaps you will be given an opportunity this Christmas season to tell someone, “God loves you.”

Well, there you have it. I hope I’ve given you something to think about as you finish off your Christmas shopping. Will you join me in taking a moment to step away from the commercialism our culture so tightly embraces and reflect on the gift that God has given us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NIV

Table Scraps – “Leftovers” (2015)

IMG_0561Leftovers is the subject of this week’s post, the sixth installment in a series of words likely to be used at family gatherings during the holidays, which I affectionately call, “table scraps.” I am torn as to which direction to take this piece. Do I champion leftovers because I happen to love them, or do I point out the ills of wasting and neglecting them?

It has been my experience that people deal with leftovers in one of three ways. They are hot, cold or lukewarm to the idea. I am not referring to the temperature of the leftovers about to be served, rather, to a person’s philosophy of dealing with them.

Those who are “hot,” myself included, are totally committed to leftovers. Because I love them, I will make every effort to preserve, and later eat them. Coming home after working late, and spotting last night’s goulash in the refrigerator, definitely brings a smile to my tired face. People committed to leftovers refrigerate them, freeze them and incorporate them into their meal plans.

I’m sure there are a few people out there who are “cold” to the idea of leftovers. Maybe they don’t like rewarmed food or the leftovers they do generate are insignificant and not worth the effort to save. Tossing the food out immediately makes the most sense to them.

The third group is half-hearted, or “lukewarm” about dealing with leftovers. They spend the necessary time and energy storing the food but that’s about where the effort ends. Food piles up in their freezer or refrigerator where it is neglected. The neglected food then spoils or frosts over to the point where it is no longer edible.

Since Christmas is less than a week away, I thought it would be fair to consider opinions on the birth of the Savior of the world. I am of course speaking of Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas day. Are you hot, cold, or lukewarm to the idea of a savior? Have you embraced him, rejected him or neglected him?

The Apostle John recorded a vision he received from Jesus in the book of Revelation. In the opening chapters, Jesus addressed seven different churches, chastising some, and commending others. To the church called Laodicea he had this to say,

“I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold, I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

Jesus is speaking out against lukewarm believers in Him. My Life Application Bible notes had this to say about lukewarm ChIMG_0562ristians, “The believers didn’t stand for anything, indifference had led them to idleness. By neglecting to do anything for Christ, the church had become hardened and self-satisfied.”

Jesus goes on to say, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.” Revelation 3:19-20

How will I respond to the message of Christmas this year?  Will I pack away my faith after Christmas along with all my Christmas decorations?

Table Scraps – “OMG” (2015)

IMG_0527Thanksgiving has come and gone and many of us have begun making preparations for Christmas in earnest. “OMG” is the subject of my fourth “table scrap” in the series of words used at family gatherings throughout the holiday season. OMG appears to be a smooth, catchy expression that’s become widely accepted in our culture, having found its way into everyday conversations, song titles, movies and websites featuring obscure facts.

OMG seems to convey a number of emotions ranging from extreme happiness and surprise to fright and horror. It’s much less offensive to people than its predecessors, “Oh my God,” and “Oh, God,” and can be used in many more situations. We live in a world where people feel the need to be culturally relevant  and express themselves as they go about their day. I understand a person’s desire to garner love, draw attention to themselves and fit in socially with their friends. I share the same desire.  Using OMG seems to fill the bill in every instance.  Except I don’t use OMG in my vocabulary but that’s just me.

Some of you are saying to yourselves right about now, but what about the second commandment, you know, one of the ten big ones found in the Bible (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). This would be the commandment God told the people of Israel, “do not misuse tIMG_0524he name of the Lord your God.”

Like many of you, I was taught when I was young that using the Lord’s name in an irreverent fashion was “swearing” and thus constituted a gross violation of this commandment. Now that I am older I am inclined to see this commandment as having more to do with ambassadorship than “swearing.”

What do I mean by that? As a Christian, I have become closely associated with the person and name of Jesus Christ. In effect, I am representing Him. So in every situation life throws at me I find myself positioned as an ambassador for Christ whether I like it our not. So, if I act or speak in an unchristian manner, then I have misused the name of Jesus Christ (this would be a clear violation of the 2nd commandment).  “Swearing” seems to pale in comparison to the responsibility of being an ambassador 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week doesn’t it.

These days, I find myself becoming less rattled when I am around people using “colorful” language.  I am trying to look past the language and see the person beneath it.  Some of these people are members of my family or friends. These are people I love and am praying for. Others are just acquaintances who I am trying to start up a simple conversation with.  In those situations I want my words and actions to be less about me judging their language and more about being a genuine ambassador for Christ.

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Jesus told his followers:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34, 35 NIV

As I contemplate what to think about OMG and its prevalence in our culture, I am reminded of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  They had Jesus labeled a blasphemer.  When one of them tried to expose him as a fraud by asking, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus gave them this response:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40 NIV