A Very Special Thank You

This post is to say “Thank You” to three very special groups: The News Media, The Entrepreneurs, and The Collectors (otherwise known as HOARDERS). In a time when gratitude seems to be rarely appreciated as a virtue and even more rarely expressed, it behooves me to be both grateful and express my gratitude. In these times I feel the need to give each of these groups the recognition they so rightly deserve, as well as a note of “Thanks” for what they have done and continue to do.

THE NEWS MEDIA

First to the news media folks. Where do I begin? There are so many things you are responsible for that needs to be recognized, along with my thanks. Why not start with the biggie? Thank You for bringing the COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS to everyone’s attention. We would have never known about it if it were not for your diligence. You have sounded the alarm for the whole world to hear. But I have to ask, “Why didn’t you warn us about the other Influenza Viruses, like Swine Flu, H1N1 for example. More people have been infected by this virus and died from this virus than with the Coronavirus. But you didn’t bother even to notify anyone of this more potentially deadly virus. Hey! But to your credit you did warn us about Coronavirus.

And the way you have presented this news, is absolutely out of this world. You have painted a picture that Coronavirus is related to the swarming locusts, just waiting to fall out of the sky and kill us all. You rarely , if ever mention that this latest virus has a 97-98% survivability, which is right in line with Type A and Type B Influenza strains. But this fact never got in your way did it? THANK YOU for ignoring facts in order to get out the warning.

And because of YOU, NEWS MEDIA, there is more than Spring in the air. It’s full blown paranoia and pandemonium. The result of this paranoia and pandemonium is that many small busy owners, those Mom and Pop, the Family businesses are about to go under. More than income, many will lose their homes because they took out a second mortgage to build their dream. Thanks for crushing their dreams and ensuring that Mega-Businesses will step in and take their place. THANK YOU for pushing out small businesses. Leave business to the Big Guys.

I don’t know what you were thinking when you created this monster. I’m really trying to understand your perspective. If I could just see what’s going on inside your heads maybe I would understand it better. But there simply are some things I WILL NEVER DO; taking a walk inside your minds is one of those things. So, I say THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR UNLEASHING PANIC, PANDEMONIUM AND THEIR SISTER, FEAR!

THE ENTREPRENEURS

All I can say to you Entrepreneurs is WOW! You had the vision and foresight to clear the shelves and place toilet paper and hand sanitizer on E-Bay and Amazon Marketplace. Not only that, but you had the courage to price those items 10, 20, even 30 times their manufacturers suggested retail prices. You, yes YOU ENTREPRENEURS, had for a while, the world at your feet. You took one of the things that made this nation great, ingenuity, and took it to a whole different level!

THANK YOU for making it difficult for people who really needed those items. You revealed your true character in the ways you took advantage of this current crisis. You made your prices so high, that the poor and working poor could not even afford those items. But you knew that there would be idiots and morons who would pay whatever price you posted. And your wealth would have increased even more had E-Bay and Amazon not pulled your ads. But I am sure you will find another way to dig deeper into the pockets of your neighbors and fellow Americans. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING THE POWER OF GREED AND BEING SO INCONSIDERATE OF YOUR FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS.

THE COLLECTORS–KNOWN AS HOARDERS

I have saved my last THANK YOU for those who can always be counted on to increase daily sales revenues and sales tax collections for local and state governments whenever there is a crisis. Yes, you HOARDERS are providing an economic stimulus unparalleled by anything or anyone else. Big Corporations count on you to help provide those extra big bonuses at the end of the year for that inner circle that does little to produce anything for the whole year.

THANKS to you HOARDERS in this current crisis, people who can’t afford to rush out and buy their BASIC NECESSITIES of life, are reminded that the poor are nothing but a burden to society. You are sending them a clear message that their life doesn’t count for much, if anything. THANK YOU HOARDERS FOR SHOWING EVERYONE THAT LIFE ISN’T ABOUT OTHERS–IT’S ABOUT SELF! THANK YOU FOR BEING SO PETTY AND INCONSIDERATE OF OTHERS. THANK YOU FOR REMINDING US ALL TO DISREGARD ALL OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.

A final word to THE NEWS MEDIA, ENTREPRENEURS, AND HOARDERS:

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m trying to find out if the government still has any of those vacated ICBM silo bunkers for sale. Think I’ll isolate there until this stupidity goes away.

A Tailgating Kind Of Thanksgiving!

1 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    2 Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before Him, singing with joy.
 3 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
 4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
 5 For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

Psalm 100 (NLT)

In the state of Alabama there are 3 topics that must be avoided at all costs when in a group of more than one.  Religion, politics, and football; especially college football.  College football is more than a sport or pastime in our state.  It’s on the level of time travel and quantum physics.  The entire future of the universe hinges on whether their team wins or loses.  But there is something else I’ve noticed about College Football.  There is a sacred ritual that is deeply connected with it.  And that ritual is this:  Tailgating!  Now, for you unfortunate souls who may not be acquainted with this sacred ritual, I am going to give you a quick digest of it.  I would not have enough time this morning to go into the depths of all that this ritual involves.

For the serious fan, you just don’t show up as the gates open up.  You come early that morning and some even days before.  It truly falls into the realm of religious experiences.  You have the altar of fire, otherwise known as a grill.  On that altar of fire, great sacrifices are offered up; things like hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, pork loins, briskets, steaks, seafood, chicken; you name it.  You will even find some folks celebrating something similar to communion, with the bread and some liquid in a red solo cup. 

Your spot has your team’s liturgical colors along with many signs and symbols of your team.  Everyone is in a great mood.  Excitement abounds and celebrations are everywhere.  And the game hasn’t even started yet.  Now most of you know I think a bit different from most folks.  But I have to ask this question:  I Wonder How Our World Would View The Message Of The Church, If On Sunday Morning People Drove By And Saw Christians Having Tailgate Parties? 

Well, minus certain forms of liquid refreshments.  I mean we could have coffee and tea, orange juice, Pepsi, Mt. Dew, and Coca Colas.  You could have flags with the cross on it; banners with doves on them; music going; people talking, laughing, and full of excitement.  I mean, can you imagine what non-church goers, non-Christians would think?  I can just imagine one of them pulling into our parking lot with looks of bewilderment.  They come up to your tailgating spot and ask, “Uh, what’s going on?” 

So you grab a plate, take some of whatever is on the grill; get them a glass of tea and say, “Jesus is going on!  He loves us so much that He left His throne in heaven to be born just like us.  He grew up to be a common man and as a man, He died on the Cross.  He didn’t have any sins of His own, so He took on everybody’s sins.  Told the Father, ‘I’ll pay the price for them.’  Then Jesus rose from the dead, went back up to heaven and sent back down the Holy Spirit to let us know how much He loves us.  And in just a little while, see those doors over there, they are going to open up and I get to WORSHIP this God who loves me so much.  Man, I can’t wait!”  And then some cheerleaders come up shouting, “Gimme a J; Gimme a E; Gimme a S; Gimme a U; Gimme a S.  What’s that spell?  JESUS!  Who loves you the most?  JESUS!  Who gives you life?  JESUS!  And in the end, who’s gonna win?  JESUS!”  Can you imagine what those who distrust, even dislike the church would think?  Some of you may think I am being irreligious and disrespectful to our heritage and traditions. 

But it seems to me, that the Pharisees thought the same thing about Jesus.    And maybe, just maybe having tailgate parties in the parking lot is a bit extreme, at least for some, but here’s the point God wants us to get, and get it right and it’s the One Thing You Need To RememberGod Wants His People To Be Passionate About This Life In Christ!  Passion for Jesus unlocks the code for having a thankful heart 365 days a year; and 366 days in Leap Years.

For This Life In Christ To Have Any Meaning For Us, And If We Are Going To Share With Others This Life In Christ, Then There Needs To Be A Sense Of Excitement And Anticipation In Us.  It comes from the deep realization that everything God has done, everything God is doing, and everything that God will do for us, through us and in us comes from His unimaginable love for us revealed in this mystery of Grace

God freely lavishes His extravagant and outrageous love for us.   And in return for this mystery of this unmerited favor, all God asks from us is to surrender each moment of our ordinary day-to-day life as an offering to Him.  He doesn’t ask us to earn His love because we won’t.  He doesn’t ask us to understand His love because we can’t.

All God asks of us is that we accept, live in, and share with others His love, and invite others to do the same by telling YOUR story of grace.  Think about it, this should make life exciting.  Yet Sunday after Sunday so many enter God’s sanctuary out of a sense of duty rather that this Tailgating Kind of Thankfulness

When we try to live out the life of grace from a sense of duty rather than this Tailgating Kind of Thankfulness, it zaps the energy right out of us.  And the world sees it and make up their minds, “Well, if that’s what a Christian looks like, I can do without it.”  And So Can I.  And who blames them.  If we walk into the sanctuary looking like we’re mad at the world and walk out relieved that it’s finally over, I wouldn’t want a life like that!  In fact, I’m not settling for that kind of life, and God doesn’t want you to either.

If living this life in Christ has become a burden to you, if you are not excited about this relationship of love and grace, then something has gone wrong, and the key to the recovery of the joy and excitement is found right here in Psalm 100.  The Psalmist tells us that to live every moment with that Tailgating Kind Of Thankfulness, there are 4 elements that are guaranteed to put the zest back into your life.

1.  The First Element Is Delight! 

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!” (Verse 1)

Here is a worshiper who feels absolutely no sense of duty about worship, but finds Exhilaration In Worship.  Take Delight in the fact that God loves you.  Let His love give you the satisfaction and contentment that is so often missing in action in your day to day life.  To Take Delight In God’s Grace Means We Become Captivated And Overwhelmed By This Undeserved Favor.  Don’t feel bad that God loves you.  Exalt that love.  Relish that love. 

Be happy that God loves you.  Get excited about God’s love.  Some folks say, “Well, I would rather be mature than have a childish excitement.”  Well, God would rather you have childlike excitement because Jesus said the Kingdom belongs to children.  Live every day as if there is an adventure, a discovery awaiting you, because it is!

2.  The Second Element Is Joy! 

(Verse 2)  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy.

Facial expressions tell a lot about a person, and the absence of joy in our faces reveals an absence of love and faith in our hearts.  I know that everything doesn’t work out the way we want.  I know that there are times full of fear and pain, heartache and loneliness.  God doesn’t promise His people they will be exempt from these experiences. 

But God does promise this:  That You Can Count On Him Being With Us Through It All.  It’s easy to whine, it’s easy to be fearful, because that’s what Satan wants us to do.  Every whining moment, every fearful moment, every moment we spend focusing on the pain of what’s happened or worse—what might happen—is a moment we withdraw from God’s presence. 

Joy Is Not Rooted In What Is Happening Around Us, But Rooted In All That God Is Doing In Us, For Us, Through Us And With Us.  Worship Is Meant To Be Full Of Joy.  And worship is not something we do just on Sunday.  Worship means we honor God with our work and recreation.  Our whole life is meant to be an act of worship.  God doesn’t want sad faces in worship.  He wants joyful faces.

3.  The Third Element Is Dependence! 

(Verse 3)  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

The Message puts it like this:  “Know this: God is God, and God, God. He made us; we didn’t make Him.”  As I understand it, the original Hebrew would be something like this:  Yahweh is God, God is Yahweh.  Why is this important?  Remember that Yahweh means “I Am”!  The sovereign God has created us and has chosen to love us and offers to take care of us. 

God wants to be involved in every aspect of your life.  He wants to be with you in every moment; the highs and the lows, the good and the bad, the wonderful and the horrible.  And He wants to do more than BE with you.  He wants to help you, but He can’t until you give Him back that one gift He gave you:  Your free-will.  God will woo you, plead with you, draw you to Himself, but He will not violate your choice to reject Him. 

Allow Him to change your life—to change the things you can’t change or don’t want to change.  The Reason He Changes Our Life Is So That We Can Become Who We Are Created To Be.  Live in the confidence that if you depend on God, He will always be with you, He will always have your best interests at heart, and He will always take care of you.

4.  The Fourth Element Is Gratitude! 

(Verse 4)  Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

To nurture a real spirit of gratitude, you begin with thanking God that HE IS God!  We think thanksgiving means listing all the things God has done for us.  And make no mistake about it—God does so much that is marvelous, amazing and wonderful. 

But before you list all those things, focus on the reality of God.  If we make giving thanks all about what He does for us, we will become fickle.  Sometimes God doesn’t do the things we want or think He should do.  Then we begin comparing our lives to others and feel like we are missing out, and we are convinced that it’s God’s fault.

Focus your heart and mind on God—Who Exists And Dwells In Immeasurable Glory And Holiness—Who Isn’t Just Powerful But ALL Powerful—Who Can Speak A Word And Create—Whose Awesome Presence Causes Angels To Bow In Worship And Lift Their Voices In Praise. 

Be Grateful That God IS God, Because Radiating From The Very Core Of God Is Pure, Unadulterated, Unpolluted Love!  And the object and desire of His love???  You!  Gratitude is lifting our hearts and voices in praise that this indescribably Eternal Holy God has broken into the limitations of our space and time and died for us, so that we might know that of everything God is, above it all is this—He Is Love

And the way we can live in a Tailgating Kind Of Thankfulness is to come to the realization that His love never changes and will never go away.  (Verse 5)  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.  Now that you know God’s Love is unchangeable—maybe a tailgate party isn’t such a weird idea.  But better yet, why not surrender your heart, mind, and each moment of your life to Him.  I believe we can reach more people for Jesus here when we claim for ourselves this exuberant, passionate life of Thanks Giving.

And here is your Next Step:

Find Your Voice Of Joy!

Sing a little louder in here—and a whole lot louder out there.  When you look at the culture of society, the culture of politics, the culture of economics—there’s not much joy—if any.  But If You Look To God—Look At Jesus—Watch The Holy Spirit At Work—Now There’s Great Joy—And A Tailgate Party I Want To Join.  How about you?

When Jesus returns one day, He is going to gather all His people into one place. I know that Jesus described it as a marriage banquet. It was an image that the people He spoke to could understand. For me, it’s going to be the Biggest Tailgate Party ever. I want to be there, how about you?

You Can Pine, You Can Whine, Or You Can Shine!

This morning my inspiration came from Terry Teykl (check him out here). It was yesterday’s email that I finally got around to reading this morning. He said, well, just let me Control C and Control V (that’s “copy and paste”): “Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one on each side of him. Today, we also live with the possibility of two thieves taking their place on each side of us.  One thief is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow.  Both of these thieves steal from us and stop us from living in the present. But gratitude is an antidote to their thievery.”

When we allow the chaotic culture that is inundating us to hold our attention, then Terry’s 2 thieves get on each side of us; and the results are annihilating any sense or hope of being Kingdom People. You’ve seen it: people who are pining day after day for what use to be. Then there are those whining that the future is hopeless. Two thieves who taunt us into submission. And we, who should be That Different Voice, have pined and whined our way into The Enemy’s Camp. Trust me on this one, The Enemy takes great joy when those who should be following Jesus allow the thieves to steal our purpose.

I propose to you today that there is a third option. Instead of pining and whining why not start Shining? Supposedly the British author Charles Dickens once said that in America we have it all mixed up. He said, “Use that one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you.” Sound advice, even if he is from across the pond.

What better way to counter the culture than choosing to be grateful! Read and listen carefully to what Paul wrote:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Paul didn’t say to be thankful for, but be thankful in! Think you don’t have anything to be thankful for? Check out Joe’s story! He was pampered and spoiled by his daddy. He was daddy’s favorite and he loved to brag about it. But one day his brothers threw him in a hole, took his prized coat, covered it with blood to pretend he had been dragged off by a wild animal, and then sold Arrogant Joe into slavery. If that wasn’t bad enough he was sold again in a country where he didn’t know their language. He managed to rise up only to be lied about and thrown into prison. If that wasn’t bad enough, he helped a fellow prisoner who said he wouldn’t forget Joe–but he did; for 2 years he forgot all about Joe.

Joe could have pined for the days when he was his daddy’s favorite son with all the perks it brought. Joe could have whined about his situation in that Egyptian prison–which was not much more than the hole his brothers pushed him into. Two thieves on each side of Joe; but Joe did not choose to pine or whine. He made the conscious choice to Shine! All those bad times really did to Joe was sand off his arrogance and taught him the importance of Godly Character.

And when Joe could have exacted revenge on those brothers–he didn’t listen to Pining and he ignored Whining. Here’s what he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

I love how The Message renders it: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Joseph was not thankful for the pit or the prison or the injustice. Joseph was thankful that God was busy at work redeeming all the bad in order to bring out The Shine!

Don’t let those treacherous thieves called Pining and Whining steal your life. Do what Paul said, Be thankful! So today, go out there and be thankful. When you’re thankful you can’t help but be joyful, kind and helpful. It will make you Shine like the sun; better yet–Shine Like The Son! God is working for good in your life and mine–even if we are unjustly thrown in prison like Joseph. And if that’s not enough to cause you to desire Gratitude in this day–do it anyway because it will annoy the stew out of the piners and whiners. I’d call that a great day!

Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him–and it will when you choose GRATITUDE!