I Am Thankful – Charles Box

This post ‘From My Files’ is by Charles Box, who was the longtime minister for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Greenville, Alabama. Many of his articles can still be found there. In his usual style, his articles are filled with Scriptures. This one was in my ‘Thanksgiving’ file, appropriately enough, and is entitled ‘I Am Thankful’.

Every day brings us more blessings and more reasons to give thanks. “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud” (Psalm 55:17). Out of God’s bountiful storehouse comes the daily blessings without number. Let us thank God “fro whom all blessings flow.” “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

I AM THANKFUL THAT GOD GAVE ME LIFE. “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring'” (Acts 17:28).

I AM THANKFUL THAT JESUS DIED FOR MY SINS. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I AM THANKFUL FOR THE BIBLE. “An you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

I AM THANKFUL FOR THE CHURCH. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23).

I AM THANKFUL FOR MY FAMILY. Our mate and children are truly a gift from God. Much of the happiness of life comes from our family. (Psalm 127:3; Ephesians 6:1-4; Proverbs 18:22)

I AM THANKFUL THAT I HAVE A MEDIATOR. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

I AM THANKFUL THAT JESUS UNDERSTANDS WHAT IT IS TO BE TEMPTED. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

There is no sin uglier than that of ingratitude. The story of the ten lepers illustrates how ungrateful people can be (Luke 17:11-19). The Lord gave them what they most needed and only one was thankful. The bible says, “Be ye thankful” and all of us have so many reasons to obey these words!

Pumpkin Pie

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Aside from the tasty joy that is pumpkin pie, it is a reminder to me of love and gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. Mostly, because I couldn’t eat Pecan Pie (not pee-can, puh-cahn please), which is much to be preferred.

It was all because of those years of having metal bands wrapped around my teeth and the accompanying rules of braces. Popcorn? No. Gum? No. Pecans? No. Not even in pie? No. But what about Thanksgiving? No. Pumpkin? Sure.

So at our family Thanksgiving there was both pumpkin and pecan pie. I’m not sure many partook of the pecan alternative – although I hasten to say that my mother made a great pumpkin pie. But I did. I had to, if I wanted pie. And I always wanted pie. Still do.

Pumpkin pie became a symbol of Thanksgiving, but also a symbol of love. I’m fairly convinced that had I not been wearing braces all those years (and been a rule-keeper when it came to the food laws of my Orthodontist) there may not have been pumpkin pie on the dessert table. But there it was – an act of love, accommodation, inclusion. It was a catalyst to giving thanks.

The word ‘pumpkin‘ is not in the Bible. Not even in The Message. But a pumpkin is a gourd, and the word ‘gourd’ is mentioned in the Bible four times. In three of those passages the gourds are carved decorations. The other time is in 2 Kings 4 when a stew was made that included some gourds gathered from a field – and it says specifically the servant who gathered them did not know what they were. Turns out they were poisonous and Elijah had to save the day.

Well, none of those Bible verses really makes me think of the warmth, acceptance, and family gratitude that comes to mind when I consider the presence of pumpkin pie in the Thanksgiving celebrations of my childhood. But some verses do make me think of the kind of love that I experienced, and that I hope this holiday brings to your table:

…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

– John 13:35

…serve one another humbly in love.

– Galatians 5:13

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

– Romans 12:10

“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything…”

-Romans 14:2

That last one might be the closest Bible verse about pumpkin pie. I wouldn’t be dogmatic about that though. I hope your Thanksgiving Day has some pumpkin pie – some symbol of acceptance, love, care, and service. These are the qualities that make Thanksgiving a family oriented holiday observance.

Never Completely Dark

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One thousand people were surveyed and 86% of them said that in one aspect or another we live in dark times. I admit, I made that sentence up, but I bet you didn’t find it hard to believe. I drew it from my observations in social media. I admit that I am one of the 86% much of the time. But not all the time.

As the sun sets earlier in the day and winter approaches, we’re all going to have to be extra self-aware. You’ve no doubt seen the dozens of memes about 2020. This is a year of infamy for sure.

Reese Witherspoon shared this meme on Instagram. (Instagram/@reesewitherspoon)

Humor helps, for sure. But it’s not always easy to laugh when the troubles keep piling on. Pandemic, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Isolation, Politics … the list is pretty extensive. Then throw in the other pressures and struggles on top of that and it can seem really dark. I do want to contend, though, that it’s never completely dark.

The night sky reminds us that in the vast darkness of the universe, there are luminaries whose light stretches across miles and miles until detected by the human eye. There are also lighthouses that guide the way. There is hope when all hope seems to have vanished. Look for the light when times seem very dark.

Look for people who bring light and hope with them. They help guide us just a little farther along the paths of life. Who among your friends can carry your spirit for a little while?

Look for words that bring courage and strength when we feel we may not be able to go on. First I would suggest the Psalms or maybe John’s Gospel. But there are many writers who continually resource our deepest hopes.

Look for art that inspires your vision for beauty and expression. There is a reason that some of the works of the masters has remained popular for a long time after they have passed from this life.

Listen for a song that reaches your heart. It could be a Christian song or a secular song. What is important is that it expresses hope for a brighter day to come.

Look for Jesus. I don’t mean to list Him last as if he is of least importance. But I hope you will look for Jesus in all of these areas and more. Read about Jesus and see how He loves. He loves you in the same way friend. Try to understand that Jesus does not love us because we are moral or smart or good looking … He loves us because we are humans – Creations of the Creator. He demonstrated the greatest of all loves when he died on the cross in our place. In the words of Steffany Gretzinger’s familiar hymn…

No one ever cared for me like Jesus. His faithful hand has held me all this way.

I think it’s really important in a dark time that you do not turn inward or just allow the dark thoughts to begin to direct your thoughts. Our Enemy is an accuser and a liar. He will plant the seed if you will allow it to grow. It’s never wrong to seek out professional help when you need it.

No matter how dark it seems, it isn’t completely dark, friend.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

Adjustments

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The seasons remind us that life is a series of adjustments. The leaves that were so vibrantly green in the spring have now turned gold or red before dropping to the ground. They expose the stark branches that were beautifully hidden. Now, even seeing the tree requires an adjustment. Our appreciation for it may diminish until signs of life return.

I’m wondering if this season of learning to live in a pandemic isn’t kind of like that naked tree on the horizon. It has great promise, but right now it isn’t living into it’s glorious potential! I think a lot of the things we are doing now (such as wearing masks, not gathering in crowds, washing our hands so frequently) can leave us feeling like winter’s trees. Some of the joy and beauty of life has diminished a bit.

As we unwillingly accept the cooler winds and bleaker days of Winter, we need to visualze a few signposts from our times.

It will not always be this way. The trees may begin to look empty, without purpose, harsh against the Winter sky. But in time tiny green buds will cover the branches, signaling the coming Spring. Jesus promised, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Keep your mind sharp. It’s tempting to sink into despair. The adjustments we are making now are massively invasive to our lifestyle. This is not a time to just fall apart. Keep your thinking focused on the things that do not change, the truths from Scripture that prop up our spirits and help us not to lag behind. Paul wrote that we are to … be transformed by the renewal of your mind…(Romans 12:1). When discouragement sets in, we need to refocus on Scripture, positive and true things, and engaging with others who are trying to remain sharp.

We don’t have to know what’s next. There might be something comforting about knowing what’s going to happen next. I don’t like surprises! But the truth is that no one knows how this pandemic will end. Or maybe you’re having your own pandemic in your personal life with grief or disease or betrayal, or whatever. When the vision going forward is nothing but cloudy, remember that you don’t have to know what is next. Apostle Paul affirmed,”… for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus walks ahead of us, and that will have to be sufficient.

Whatever adjustments you’re having to make, whether it is day by day, or moment by moment, don’t let it take your faith. However sparse and lifeless the Winter tree appears, when the time is right, newness comes. Out here hope remains.

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”

― Robert Louis Stevenson

The Great Salvation – John Gipson

If I may wax nostalgic for a moment… when I was a younger preacher back before the internet (do you remember?) , one way I had to stay in touch with others was through their church bulletins. I have always loved church bulletins. At one time I would receive 40 or 50 per week from all over the country. So many good ideas and articles were harvested from those. Church bulletins are rarer these days – everything is digital. But when they were essential communication items, no one wrote more articles that were republished throughout churches of Christ than John Gipson. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him, but I have read his articles over the decades. Today I’m sharing one from my files.

We rejoice when a young boy is pulled from an icy river and by heroic measures his life is saved. We applaud firemen who ignore their own lives and make trip after trip into a burning nursing home to rescue the elderly. We thrill to such stories of salvation, and give thanks both for the rescuers and the rescued.

But as wonderful as it is, how is this to be compared with the salvation which Christ offers? The Bible refers to it as “the great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). Why “great”?

It is eternal. As wonderful as a temporal salvation might be, it is nothing compared to that which has lasting effects. Yet this is exactly what Christ offers. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

It is universal. It is not reserved for one nationality or class of people. “The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'” (Romans 10:11-13). And again, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

It is the only one. In no uncertain terms Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of Jesus and said, “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11, 12).

It was confirmed by miraculous power. The apostle John writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30, 31). And Peter says that Jesus of Nazareth was “a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him…” (Acts 2:22).

It is free. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

This great salvation is available for all of us, but it will not save unless man is disposed to listen (Hebrews 2:3). “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

__________________

From the Keynoter, bulletin of the Sixth and Izard Church of Christ, Little Rock, Arkansas. Volume 16, number 6, February 9, 1984.