Thanks Day!

As I was getting my chemo treatment recently, I asked my infusion nurse how she was going to celebrate Thanksgiving.

She immediately replied, “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day, for we believe every day is a day for giving thanks.” I thought about what she said and I agreed with her.

Yet I think it’s beneficial for our family and as a nation to celebrate a special day to give thanks. Our country has so much. Two thirds of the world lives on $2.00 a day, the price of a coke for us Americans. Noel Piper comments in Treasuring God in our Traditions, “God is the reason we have anything to celebrate. He is the ultimate source of any of our celebrations.” p 65.

It’s a perfect time to take inventory of God’s abundant goodness to us. As the family gathers around the table loaded with all kinds of goodies (I love candied sweet potatoes and pecan pie) and as we feast and then gather around TVs for football, we need reminders of our origin and our purpose for living. And the blessings we review ought to be full of spiritual ones, such as an answer to prayer about a person who gossiped about you and you put into practice Matt 18. And God reconciled you.

As we prepare to thank the Lord for the bountiful feast before us, our family custom is to read Psalm 100 together (Psalm 95;1-7 is good, too), and during dinner, we share with one another God’s goodness to us through the year. An Asian family that had just moved to our city knew little or no English and no family to celebrate with. So we invited them to spend Thanksgiving Day with us and our two families transcended the language barrier as we laughed and talked, with the father of the family translating. It was a joyous occasion and after many years, we still keep in touch.

This Thanksgiving Day join us as we say in our hearts and on our lips, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).

Six 21’s

The US Army soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier endure a strict, arduous discipline for that privilege.

Along with various tests, the tomb guards are required to memorize 17 pages of military information, including the location of 300 presidents and leaders who are buried there; and to be reminded of the significance of guarding and defending our leaders and patriots, and all those who sacrificed blood to allow the freedom to never forget those who died. Each guard spends 5 hours preparing his uniform before taking his position, dressing in front of a full length mirror.

The regimented 21 steps was chosen to symbolize the highest military honor bestowed–the 21 gun salute. The routine involves marching 21 steps S, turning to face E for 21 seconds; turning N, changing rifle to outside shoulder, waiting 21 seconds; marching 21 steps down the mat, turning E for 21 seconds; turning S, changing weapon to other shoulder, waiting 21 seconds, and then repeating the routine until being relieved of duty during the changing of the guards. They carry M14 rifles unloaded and cleaned daily, ready at all times. They can lose this privilege for any conduct unbecoming the tomb guard’s standards any time, on or off duty.

As I studied the discipline and the routine of the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s requirements of discipline and commitment to the Christian life. Using the metaphors for the runner, the boxer, and the soldier, Paul describes the rigorous and strenuous commitment to the Lord.

Paul assumes their common knowledge of the foot race in the stadium. Every one of them should run as these runners do, with an all-our effort to get the prize. Paul says of himself that he does not contend like an undisciplined runner or boxer. He states that he aims his blows against his own body. The Christian, confident of God’s sovereign grace, is nevertheless conscious of his battle against sin. “ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms” ( Eph 6:12).

Paul continues in Hebrews 12:1: “Let us throw off everything that hinders.” The runners carried nothing with them in the race. Some things that are not wrong in themselves hinder us in giving our best effort. “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3).

Of the 20% of the US Army soldier volunteers accepted for training to be an unknown tomb guard, only a fraction pass. How many of us modern day American Christians who volunteer for Christ’s service would pass?

If we are to be in the fraction who pass, then we must be possessed with Paul’s discipline, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the [coveted guard rank] (1 Cor 9: 27).

It’s My Pleasure

The Bible declares, “God does what he pleases” (Job 23:13b) .

For human beings, this declaration about ourselves would reek of arrogance and highest pride. Or as a good friend of mine says about haughtiness, we’d be “ addicted to self-significance.”

Colossians 1:16 reminds us of the purpose of creation: “All things were created by him and for him,” implying the same fact that “God does what he pleases” for it’s His. One night as I shared this thought in our devotions around a campfire, watching the sun set over beautiful Lake Michigan, my 13-year-old grandson blurted out, “Isn’t that rather selfish of God?” To the human mind, and not only the young ones, the answer would seem to be, Yes.

The fascinating truth, subtle yet illustrious, is found in Job: “Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?” (38:25-27).

Why? For God’s pleasure as He counts the trillions of stars, calling them each by name, for He takes pleasure in His creation.

A nocturnal cactus, growing up the palm trunks near the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean in central Florida, boasts of a large gorgeous white flower. When the first orange, red, and yellow rays of the sunrise ripple across the Atlantic waters, the blossoms wither and fall off. Why all this seeming wasted display of beauty for a few moths to experience? Don’t forget. Creator-God is enjoying those white blossoms all night long while at the same time “His eyes are roaming throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are steadfast toward Him.”

Job, through all of his suffering, kept asking, “Why God? Why?”

John MacArthur in his study Bible suggests a satisfying response: “God cannot be required by man to give all the reasons for what he chooses to do.”

It’s comforting to know that God reveals what we need to understand about Himself. There’s also the anticipation that when we’re in heaven with Him–we’ll have all eternity to discover some of the unanswered “whys” as He continues to take pleasure in His sons and daughters.

For now, our hearts in deep gratitude keep repeating, Thank you, Almighty God, for including us in your “doing what pleases you.”

God’s Mad?

stock-photo-lightning-over-field-151812536When my brother Dick and I, living on a farm in Missouri, cringed from the zigzagged lightning splitting the cloudy sky and heard thunder rattle the windows that made the mules nip at each other’s necks, we ran for cover. All the time Dick yelling, “Leon, God must be awful mad at somebody.”

Dick was right on target about one thing–It was God’s voice we were hearing. According to Job 37:3, 5, “He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven . . . ; God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.”

God’s power in nature is not meant to dazzle us with His mighty acts like an entertainer, but is evidence of his commitment in Job 37:13b,“to water his earth and show his love.” The next time He fills his hands with lightning (Job 36:32a) and claps the ear splitting thunder, remember God is speaking to His creation, saying, “I am just in my dealings with all people as I rain my abounding love on you.”

In his own childish way, Dick witnessed God active in nature with the lightning, thunder, and pelting rain during one of those violent Missouri thunderstorms as we and the mules ran for shelter. No, Dick, He wasn’t angry, but He sure was loud!

Let’s praise “The Almighty who is beyond our reach and exalted in power (Job 37:23) . . . He comes in golden splendor; and [who] comes in awesome majesty” (22). “With hailstones and bolts of lightning, the Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.” (Psalm 18:12, 13).

World’s Fastest Mile

The world’s fastest roller coaster in the world is Formula Rossa in Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi , Yas Island, United Arab Emirates. It travels 2.195 miles in 1 minute, 32 seconds and reaches top speed of 149 MPH (240 km/h). Remarkable? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

The human body is strung with more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels, and the blood circulates through those vessels in less than thirty seconds. If all of these blood vessels were strung out end to end, they would reach around the world about three times.

Want proof of this speed?

My wife recently had a chemical stress test. The technician injected the chemical in her left arm, and within 3 seconds she felt weird, painful sensations in her right leg and toes.

How about that for verification of this phenomenon? The more scientists discover about the design of the human body, the more perplexed they become. Is it any wonder?

This biological knowledge should humble us in worship before our Creator as the psalmist declared, “Body and soul, I am marvelously made! O worship in adoration–what a creation!” (139:14, Message).

The response to this “marvelously made” knowledge is to praise the Lord. To praise is to acknowledge His attributes, especially the one that comes to mind when we consider the engineering of the human body’s circulation–God’s incomprehensibility. Isaiah says it is impossible for the creature to understand his Creator, for “God’s understanding no one can fathom” 40:28b.

As my heart pumps blood through my vessels two to three times in one minute, it zips through more than 120,000 miles in that minute without my help. Even though I don’t comprehend its creative engineering, I can offer hymns of praise to the Designer: How Great Thou Art,  Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,  and 10,000 Reasons.

As you sit reading this meditation, your blood will circulate 20 times. What can we do, but with the psalmist, praise the Master Architect of the universe because we are “marvelously made.”

A Surprised Provision

We were coming home from my oncology appointment. The news from the CT scan was a bit discouraging and the doctor had decided to try yet another chemo drug.

As Emily got out of the car she commented on how dirty the driveway was. “Could we get a power washer and clean this up, Leon, or is it too much for us to handle?”

“Yes, it is.” I will try to find the name of the man who did it for us a couple of years ago.”

I decided to take a rest before starting on my blog. The doorbell rang and Emily came into the bedroom. “A man named Terry is at the door. He said he would power wash the driveway and sidewalk for $___. Do you want to talk with him?

I went to the door and we discussed the details. He and his brother agreed to power wash the driveway, the sidewalk, the eaves and downspouts (which were also dirty) and even wash the windows.

As they were leaving, I gave them the money, two cokes, two energy bars, my business card, and talked with them about their relationship with the Lord. They occasionally attend a local church and promised me they would read the Gospel material that I gave them, entitled The Purpose of Life.

The Lord’s promise is not only, “He will call upon me and I will answer him” (Psalm 91:15) but even greater, “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask,” (Matt 6:8)

Did God hear Emily’s comment as we were coming into the house, still a bit confused about what the next chemo step would be? Did God send Terry and his brother down our street just 15 minutes later? Did God lead them to answer our concern about the mildew and dirt on the driveway and house? Do we really believe God is always caring for those of us who love Him? Is Psalm 91:15 a very real promise in our everyday lives?

The answer to all of these questions is emphatically “Yes.” He verified today that He cares about each of His beloved children.”

What a perfect picture of His answering before we even utter a prayer for help. Thank you, Lord, for Terry and his brother.

A Shadow on the Moon

I stood with my daughter on September 28, 2015, and gazed at the full moon, hiding its shiny face from us that night.

We witnessed the one hour, twelve minute total lunar eclipse–in awe and wonder. The display of an all-powerful Creator as the earth came between the sun and the moon. What a phenomenon! Like a curtain being pulled across the moon, turning it blood red. All by the mighty hand of Christ-Creator.

Everything’s purposeful and orderly in the universe as Paul described to the Colossians, “For Him all things were created and by Him all things hold together” (1:16, 17). What a reminder and a confirmation that he “sustains all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Had the sun come between the earth and the moon, all inhabitants of the earth would have been fried pretzels.

When earth’s shadow had moved passed the moon, and the moon reflected the sun’s rays again, I said to my daughter, “God is not entertaining us. Instead, He is reaffirming he’s in complete control of all His creation and reminding us of the truth: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and His Deity–have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made” (Romans 1:20), including the lunar eclipse.

It was as if He were saying, “Sleep well tonight, my child, I’ve just let you know that ‘I’ve got the whole world in My hands.’”