When I was a young believer in Jesus, I was encouraged to keep a thanksgiving journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me as a means to capture the daily happenings that filled my heart with gratitude. Sometimes I would pen my thanks items at the end of the week, following a time of reflection.
Tom, the manager of a car dealership, navigated Jacob around the showroom floor. Pausing at a restored Ford Ranchero pickup truck—one of Tom’s classic vehicles—tears began streaming down Jacob’s face. He then shared the happy memory of working on a farm in his youth. Year after year, no matter the weather, the farmer picked him up in a truck just like that one. Jacob would sit in the back while the farmer and his dog sat up front.
Since the early days of human existence it’s been a constant foe. Recently it came calling in a friend’s life as she lamented her children not walking with Jesus. Another friend bemoaned the death of what had been a loving marriage. A family member looked at me with teary eyes, trying to form words that couldn’t come due to dementia. Another family member, deep in the throes of grief because of her father’s death, said softly, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
A group of villagers gathered around a massive rig in rural Uganda to watch as a well was being dug on their behalf. Twelve hours later, when the drilling machine struck water, the men, women, and children danced, laughed, and voiced their thanks to God for having a clean water source for the first time in their lives.
I do not know whether anyone has ever succeeded in not enjoying praise. And, if he enjoys it, he naturally wants to receive it. And if he wants to receive it, he cannot help but being distraught at losing it. Those who are in love with applause have their spirits starved not only when they are blamed off-hand, but even when they fail to be constantly praised.” —John Chrysostom
Window washers Juan Lopez and Juan Lizama were riding on a scaffold to the top of a New York City skyscraper when the left side of their platform gave way. The two men dangled there, 69 stories above ground, for about 2 hours. Rescue workers decided to cut a hole in the side of the building to reach the men. After working for 45 minutes, they successfully sliced through three layers of glass and pulled Lopez and Lizama to safety.
As the father of four children, I tell them four words nearly every day: “You should be thankful!” I say it to them during dinner when they turn up their noses at vegetables. I say it to them when they want to get a toy that “all” their friends have. For my kids, and I suspect for many of us, giving thanks to God is an individual discipline—the proper response to what He’s done.
The wise pastor told his new worship director, “There’s one style of music I hope you never play in our church.” She grabbed a pen and asked, “What is it?” He replied, “I’ll never tell you. If we all insist on getting our own way, we’ll never sing anything.”
Nine-year-old Willie might have saved his life simply by singing a praise song. The boy was kidnapped from his driveway by a stranger. But the kidnapper then dropped him off unharmed after driving around for hours. Willie says he continued to sing the song “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker until the kidnapper grew tired of cursing and telling him to shut up.
I enjoy reading lists of names in the Bible. In the past, they seemed pointless to me. In fact, I would skim over them to get to the “meaty” stuff in the passage. One day, however, I realized that all those names were there for a reason. God had selected individuals and involved them by name in His Word. What an honor when your name was chosen for positive reasons!
As a preacher, I’m rightly concerned with the content of each of my Sunday sermons. I must confess, however, that I can fall into the trap of being overly concerned with what people think of my message—not whether or not the message is clearly understood or whether the people and the Lord Himself are blessed by what I say. I can become more concerned with the goal of having church members like what I say and approve of my message. Sometimes a furrowed brow in the congregation, especially from someone I know and respect spiritually, can seriously interrupt my flow and cause me no small amount of consternation.
On July 21, 2013, media outlets worldwide held their collective breath as they waited for the birth of the child of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The baby was third in line to the British throne, and so when Prince George was born the next day there was hardly a newspaper or news program that didn’t herald the announcement front and center.
Charles complained to his friend about some lower back pain. He was seeking a sympathetic ear, but his friend gave him an honest assessment. “Your back isn’t your problem,” he pointed out. “It’s your stomach. Your stomach is so big it’s pulling on your back.”