Thanksgiving: For Richer or Poorer
By Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com
“Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them.” – James 1:9
The rich eat ham,
The poor eat tuna.
Doesn’t take as long to cook,
So we eat soona.
The words of that heretofore unknown poem were uttered by my lifelong best friend sometime around our senior year of high school. He conjured it out of thin air while I was spending the night at his house. It was the result of one of those “I’m so tired I’m laughing at anything” sessions you’d often experience with close friends around midnight.
It was also the result of Jay’s enduring awareness of the socio-economic differences between himself and many of his friends, like me, from the affluent north side of town. So whenever I think of ham, tuna, or Jay, I often think of richness and poorness as well.
Recently, thanks to a fantastic tour around the Missionary Learning Center, I was thinking about missions and outreach. It struck me as interesting that whenever a mission of mercy or evangelism is commissioned, it tends to be to an area where there is a high concentration of poverty, whether it’s to India, Mexico, or inner-city Philadelphia. Well, yes, as it should be.
After all, Christ commanded us, if we loved Him, to tend to His lambs (John 21:15-17). James 2:15-16 admonishes us not to ignore those in need of food or clothing. Paul and the Apostles started churches among those who were poor (Acts 9:36; 10:4). Poverty was crippling in the time of Christ and so it continues to be now. The very fact that Jay had a roof over his head and the fish he despised came in a can rather than him having to catch it made him one of the wealthiest persons on the planet. So the holidays are certainly a time to think about – nay, physically assist – those less fortunate than ourselves (2 Corinthians 9:9).
Then again, are we missing something?
Consider James 1:9 – “Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them.” There are lots of ways to be poor, and Jesus told us they brought about blessing in the long run (Matthew 5:3-12). Those poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Those mourning loved ones will be comforted. Those who make peace rather than seeking their own profit will be called sons of God, Who chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith (James 2:5). 2 Corinthians 6:10 states: “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
And what about the rich?
That’s the hard part, literally. Jesus said it’s very difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who love their life too much find it hard to lose it. James reminds us it’s the rich who “oppress us and drag us into court, blaspheming the fair name by which we’ve been called (James 2:6-7).” The word “miserable” has at its root the word “miser.” The love of money isn’t just the source of evil, but also of depression and dissatisfaction.
So… doesn’t that mean that the rich have just as many spiritual needs, if not more, than the poor? Who will go to them? Who will train them in the joy of giving their money away and not living by comparison to others? What mission trips are planned?
I contend that untold legions of us are making such a trip this very month, back home to our families and friends, where a big ham might fill the center of the table, people will put on their fineries, and a lot of the talk will focus on the daily drudgeries of keeping our precious lives in working order to cover up the hole that’s getting bigger in the soul.
We might spend a few minutes at the table saying how we’re thankful we’re not like others, or that we have our health, or that our family is with us – before we stuff ourselves, stare blankly at the Dallas Cowboys or Detroit Lions to avoid looking at each other, or fall asleep. Of course, you probably know someone for whom Thanksgiving is an unwelcome chore, a painful experience of dodging rejection, annoyance, questions of future or romance, and Uncle Jimbo.
Or, if you’re truly rich, as I am for marrying into a godly family, there will be genuine thanks, true giving, heartfelt prayers, and corporate worship.
Whatever the case in your gathering, let me encourage you to take the love of Christ with you and accept the difficult challenge of bringing it to the wealthy this Thanksgiving. Jesus said a camel fitting through a needle’s-eye was difficult, not impossible (thank goodness for most of us).
What if the Person I’m Struggling To Forgive Is Me?
LYSA TERKEURST, author, crosswalk.com
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5 (NIV)
Do you ever feel like the hardest person to forgive is actually yourself?
I understand this. Deeply. I so wish we were sitting together having a conversation right now instead of you just reading these words on a screen.
When I was in my early 20s, I made a decision I wished with everything in me I could go back and change. I had an abortion. Knowing nothing could be done to reverse the decision I had made filled me with the deepest grief I’d ever known. Then every time something made me think of the baby, I was so horrified by the lie I’d been sold that this was just cells dividing … and not life that began at conception.
And then every time I would hear others talking harshly about abortion, I was filled with shame. It felt like a life sentence I would never be healed from.
I would say, “I can’t forgive myself.” What I meant was, “I don’t think forgiveness is possible for a person like me. And I don’t think I’ll ever be free from the shame of what I’ve done.”
Maybe this is where you are right now — struggling to overcome feelings of shame and regret from choices you wish you could go back and change.
That’s why it feels so important to share what I’ve learned with you. When I researched the concept of forgiving ourselves, I was a little shocked to discover it’s not in the Bible. I started to realize, just like we can’t accomplish salvation apart from God, we can’t bestow upon ourselves forgiveness. Forgiveness starts with God.
Since we are not the judge, we can’t pardon ourselves. So, when we feel like we are struggling with forgiveness for ourselves, what’s really happening is a struggle to fully receive the forgiveness of God.
Jesus gave His very life to provide forgiveness for our sins, which isn’t just a part of the Christian faith … forgiveness is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Forgiveness for our sins isn’t just a hope we have; it is the greatest reality for all who choose to receive salvation through accepting Jesus as the Lord of their lives.
Often what keeps us from walking as forgiven people is the struggle with feelings of shame and regret. These are very heavy burdens to bear. In my own life, I’ve carried many burdens. But the weight of shame is by far the heaviest I’ve ever known.
It’s a burden God doesn’t want any of us carrying. And I’m so thankful for these three things that eventually helped me fully receive His forgiveness and get out from underneath shame’s condemning weight:
1.I needed to have a marked moment confessing, repenting and asking God for forgiveness.
Psalm 32:5 reads, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” I couldn’t do this by myself, because I wanted someone, a witness, who could forever remind me I had asked for God’s forgiveness and was, therefore, forgiven. I also verbalized out loud that I received God’s forgiveness, so I could have a definite memory of me acknowledging His gift of mercy.
2. I had to remember that shame and accusation come from the enemy.
Satan will do everything possible to try and keep us from sharing a testimony of the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus. And the enemy loves to hold people hostage to shame by keeping what they did hidden in the darkness. I was terrified to tell people what I’d done. But I did tell God I would share my story if ever there was a young girl in danger of making the same uninformed decision as I did. When I eventually let God use my painful choice for good, I started to see glimpses of redemption. Seeing God take what the enemy meant for such evil and use it for good didn’t take away my grief, but it did start to heal my shame.
3. I let my experience make my heart tender.
Knowing what it feels like to make a terrible mistake has given me more compassion when others make terrible mistakes. This isn’t excusing behavior we shouldn’t do in the name of compassion. But at the same time, having an attitude of compassion helps us to not shame others. I don’t ever want another human to carry the awful weight of shame, and I probably would not be as sensitive to others as I am now if I hadn’t ever carried that weight myself.
Shame and condemnation aren’t from God. Confess what you’ve done. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Receive His forgiveness. And then walk in His freedom. You can live the greatest testimony of truth there is … redemption.
Throw Your Cares On The Lord
1 PETER 5:6-7 NET 6 And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand 7 by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.
Worry is associated with pride, as these verses reveal, for being humble is the opposite of pride. And pride will, sooner or later, cause you to fail, instead of lifting you up.
A person who worries is proud because their action shows they think they are better and more compassionate than God. When you analyze it, the thinking behind worry is really “God is not doing a good enough job taking care of me, so I better take over and figure something out on my own.”
Pride makes us think we can handle things on our own — apart from God. Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing — at least nothing that amounts to anything. (We certainly can mess up all by ourselves.)
One way to humble ourselves is to just put our lives in God’s hands and trust Him. It’s like getting in a car someone else is driving. You don’t want to get in the car of a stranger who may be untrustworthy. But God loves you more than you love yourself and desires the best for you, so you can trust Him.
God knows how to drive and what is needed to get you where you need to go. Since He loves you enough to die for you, surely you can trust Him with smaller issues.
The word “casting” in 1 Peter 5:7 means “to throw.”
Whatever is a burden to you, is troubling you, weighing you down, causing you concern, or tempting you to worry is included in what you are to throw over on the Lord. God wants us to throw all those things over on Him, trusting Him to work it all out for the best.
Then once you really throw them over to Him, you’ll have peace in your heart even though the problems still exist, because you know the Lord is working.
Throwing something is not the same as pushing it aside a little bit. Throwing something pictures getting rid of it completely. When you throw something you don’t have it anymore.
Instead of throwing the concern of the things they face over to God, many just try to push them away a little at a time. They ask God to help them, but they keep trying to solve things on their own.
Yes, we have a part to play, and we can’t just lock ourselves in a room and expect God to go out and live our lives for us. But the part we have to play is obedience. When God directs us to do something we are to do it. But worrying ahead of time about what will happen does no good.
You may find it helpful to perform a symbolic physical act like writing all your “cares” on a paper that you then throw into the trash. Symbolizing your faith by an act like this may make it more real to you