Three Thanksgiving Proverbs

rockwell-freedom-from-want-2fl28wnThanksgiving Day was not designed to be a day aimed at “general gratitude,” it is a holiday designed for the people of the United States to give thanks to God for His care, and for His provision. If you really want to celebrate Thanksgiving, you must realize that there is a God who in His divine providence has decided to bless you, and you must thank Him. Thanksgiving is a day of worship. But this year more than just thanking God with our words, my hope is that we can honor God with our lives. So to help us with this I want to consider three Proverbs from scripture, three wise words for Thanksgiving.

The first wise saying is Proverbs 15:17 – Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. There is a certain coming together at Thanksgiving. We join together with family and friends and yet so often as we all know there can be what I like to call “Thanksgiving tension.” Remember, Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. One of the great bits of advice that I have gotten in my life is that love is a choice, you choose whether or not you are going to love someone. I want to encourage you this year to choose to love your family members, every one of them. You know those family members that you haven’t been that friendly to in the past couple of years, this is the year to love them. Talk to them about whatever it is that they like to talk about. Put yourself aside for one day and choose to be a lover. Just before His arrest, and just after Jesus, the Son of God, had washed his disciples feet He said to them in John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. In other words, Jesus is saying, “Don’t wait around until you feel affinity toward one another. I have loved you, and because you have been loved by me, you go Love.”

The second wise saying is Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. So much of the Thanksgiving holiday is centered around relationships, and relationships are all about communication. You will have a lot of opportunities to stir up anger this thanksgiving with family members and friends, so watch your words, and be gentle with your words. One of the great bits of advice I can give any relationship is this: Do not respond to sin, with sin. If you remember those seven little words they will keep you out of a lot of trouble. When someone sins against us it is very natural to respond with sin, but the wise man of God is able to respond with grace and righteousness. James 1:20 reminds us, The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. A soft answer is not always easy, but it turns away wrath.

The third and final wise saying is Proverbs 21:13, Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. We are a blessed people, but there are many in the world who are not so fortunate. Proverbs 21:13 actually serves us more of as an observation than as a warning. You know the people at my church that give the most both in terms Time, Energy, and Finances to the church, and to the Kingdom? It is not the people that have the most, it is the people who are the most grateful for what they have. I bet that is true of your church too. You see gratitude produces generosity, if you are grateful you will give, and the more grateful you, are the more you give. Remember, gratitude leads to generosity. I want to challenge you and your family to do something this year to help somebody that can’t give you anything in return, then you will know that you are truly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, I pray these simple Proverbs would help all of us to worship God today not only with our words, but also with our actions.

On Friendship

shp_paigejasondsc_6081-2

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”[1] –C.S. Lewis

Thanksgiving week is a wonderful time to think about what it means to be a friend. If the gospel is true, and in Christ Christians are called to eternal relationships with one another in a never ending Kingdom, then friendship is without a doubt one of the most important things we could and should be thinking about. At the same time it can be hard to imagine what our relationships will be like in the fullness of the New Heavens and New Earth. What would life be like if you could completely trust everyone? What if you never got jealous? What if you always approached other people with more concern for their well being than you have for your own? Again these realities that are sure to one day come when Jesus is fully reigning are hard to even imagine today. If we want to rightly frame what our friendships should be like here and now the Kingdom is where our thinking should begin. After all, if we do not understand the Kingdom, and if we are not longing for the Kingdom, then how can we ever pray for the Kingdom to come?

There are many places in scripture that instruct us on the nature of friendship, but for this Thanksgiving season allow me to lead you to just a few passages from the book of Proverbs that give us great insight on what it means to be a Christian Friend.

The Resiliency of Friendship

Proverbs 18:24

24    A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17

17    A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

The chief motivator in most human decisions is the self. Most people only have a marketplace understanding of any human relationship. We are inclined to think, “If this relationship serves me and improves my well being, then it is a good relationship.” In this way people aren’t making good friends as much as they are making good deals. A relationship however is tested when the relationship becomes inconvenient. A friend is proven in adversity. A successful person will of course have many companions because people have a lot to gain from him or her. That individual’s “stock” is valuable and everyone wants to make a good deal, but when that man or woman comes to ruin, that is when a friendship is proven. As the Proverb says, “a brother is born for adversity.” Who comes running in when everyone else is running away? And where do you run when your “friends” have nothing left to give you?

The natural man of course is inclined to run away, which is what makes the gospel so unnatural; that Jesus, when we were sinners, when we had nothing to give him, came running in after us. And in the gospel Jesus doesn’t just come to be a friend in the time of trouble he comes to become our trouble and to take all of our troubles away. The bible says, “that for our sake God made Jesus to become our sin, so that in Jesus we may become the very righteousness of God,”[2] and therefore, by implication, to be fully reconciled to God and to one another.

The Great Benefit of Friendship

Proverbs 27:17

17    Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:5-6

   Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

The best kinds of friendships, or maybe the only kind of true friendships are with those people who care about your character. Whenever my wife and I do pre-marriage counseling we always encourage couples that one of the great benefits of marriage is mutual-sanctification, which is our way of encouraging the would be bride and groom to desire correction and instruction in the marriage. The same should be true of our friendships. A true friend is someone who is willing to tell you the difficult things that you do not want to hear. An open rebuke is a good thing, as Proverbs 12:1 tells us, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” If there is no one in your life who is willing to challenge you, push you, and even correct you, then according to scripture you really don’t have any friends. Conversely, if you are not willing to have these kinds of conversations with the people that you are closest with then maybe you aren’t the friend that you that should be.

Again the gospel helps us in this. When Jesus meets us, he confronts us with who we really are, and he helps us to see our sin before a Holy God. This is the repentance side of salvation. To repent means to have your eyes opened to the brokenness of your ways. But of course Jesus doesn’t just call us to repent and then abandon us, he calls us to repent and to believe in him, to follow him, and to walk with him, and Jesus graciously and patiently meets us wherever we are. In John 21, after Peter had denied Jesus three times in his hour of greatest need, Jesus met Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with a simple question, “do you love me?” Now, its hard to make out in the English, but in the Greek, Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me (agapas me)?” To which Peter replied, “Yes Lord you know that I love you (philo se).” A second time Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me (agapas me)?,” to which Peter relied, “yes Lord you know that I love you (philo se).” Do you see what is happening? Jesus came to Peter with the stronger or deeper expression of love in the Greek (agape), but all the love that Peter could muster in that moment was (philo). So in this beautiful and gracious way, the third time Jesus asks Peter, he says, “Peter, do you love me (phileis me)?” To which of course Peter replies, “yes.” It was as if Jesus says, “Ok Peter, if (philo) is all you can give then that is exactly where I will meet you now.” Jesus makes us aware of our sins, and fears, and weaknesses, but he never abandons us there, he meets us there and walks with us. As the old song says, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”

The Result of Friendship

Proverbs 12:2626 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Its good to remember at Thanksgiving, that in so many ways we are the sum of the people that we associate with. The people that you are building your life around are the people who will most influence your character. As the Proverb says, “your friends and neighbors are your guides.” In the same way, you are a guide to everyone in your sphere of influence, and you will either serve as a light of righteousness or as a pathway of destruction.

The idea of influence can be daunting, but again the gospel proves helpful. Jesus sends us out to make disciples and to influence the world for his glory, but he promises us that he will be with us, he promises us to lead us and to guide us. As people follow us, Jesus invites us to follow him. Your family and friends will be looking to you this holiday season, and they will be looking for a safe and secure path to go down especially in a world of very few moral signposts and of great confusion. Make sure as your friends follow you that you are following the greatest friend, Jesus the son of God, who is always leading us down paths of righteousness of his names sake.

May God give us good friends, and may he help us to be good friends for the sake us his Kingdom and for the glory of his name.

Happy Thanksgiving.

[1] Lewis, C. S. (1971-09-29). The Four Loves (Harvest Book) (p. 65). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:21

Red State Blue State: Political Division and the Bond of Peace

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-12-53-44-pmSatan is clearly doing a masterful job of dividing the church over something as small as a presidential election. The truth is, there were prayerful and thoughtful Christians that voted for Hillary Clinton, there were prayerful and thoughtful Christians who voted for Donald Trump, and there were prayerful and thoughtful Christians that voted third party or wrote in a candidate. As it has been said throughout this election there was no good choice, yet American Christians were still called to think and pray and leverage the stewardship that God gave us, called voting, in the best possible way. If the candidate that you voted for won, you shouldn’t be too happy, and if the candidate that you voted for lost you shouldn’t be too sad. We remain a country in need of repentance and faith, we remain a church with a beautiful and glorious hope in Christ. I think a good passage for Christians to meditate on today and maybe tomorrow is Ephesians 4:1-6:

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I understand that it can be fun to belittle people and take shots at people on social media, I understand that it feels good to praise our own moral high groundedness, but does it unite the body of Christ? Today is not a day for condemnation, or for making your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ guilty for the decision they made on Tuesday. Today is not a day for gloating or blaming. Today is a day, like every day, to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.