This week’s column is written by Shellyn Poole, our Minister to Preschooler’s and Children’s Families, who is celebrating her seventh year of service at The Church at Shelby Crossings this month. You might want to “remember” this as you put up your Christmas tree this year.
I love Christmas trees–little ones, massive ones, skinny ones, fat ones, real ones, fake ones, designer trees and Charlie Brown trees. When invited into someone’s home at Christmas, the first thing I do is go to the tree and admire it.
At our home, one tree is called the “destination tree.” It started from collected ornaments of locations we had been. We had ornaments from schools, neighborhoods, rural areas and cities; from anniversary trips, band trips, mission trips and business trips. Some of these ornaments depict a famous landmark, such as the Smithsonian Institute, and some show a way of life, such as a surf board from Hawaii. Some are made of shiny gold plate, and one is made from a cotton boll. One was made in Homewood, and another was made in the Czech Republic.
What I love most about this tree is that each ornament has a story-who, what, when, and the place it was found. Each time I unwrap and place an ornament on the tree, I’m flooded with vivid memories of a very special time and place – the cabin on the coast of California on our 25th wedding anniversary, the band kids we chaperoned to the top of the Empire State Building, or the years we lived just down the street from the Missouri state capitol. Each year when putting up that tree, conversation, laughter and debates flow as we remember a special time represented by each ornament.
In the Old Testament, Moses gave parents some very detailed instructions regarding reminiscing and establishing traditions that cause people to remember (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). God wanted His people to know in their hearts and feel the emotion of His love when they felt His Word on their foreheads. God wanted the memories of how He provided manna in the desert and a passage through the sea to flood over His people when they passed through their doorways. Holy God wanted His people to “remember” and to talk about those experiences within their families so that they would never forget the Lord, their God.
“Holy God, in this time of busyness and celebrations, may we never forget that You are Lord. You have established our steps. You have brought us through ‘deserts’ and ‘seas.’ You have provided for our daily needs. You have sustained us in times of trouble and blessed us beyond our ability to list. Keep the memories of Your salvation, Your provision, Your sustaining power, Your deliverance, Your sovereignty ever before us. Amen”
When Erma Bombeck was fighting her own battle with cancer, she often told the story of a young patient she met named Christina, who had cancer of the nervous system. When she was asked what she wanted for her birthday, the little girl thought for a while and then shrugged, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I already have everything!”
Erma said, “When I forget to feel grateful, I hear Christina saying, ‘I already have everything!'” A little perspective is a remedy for thanklessness if there ever was one.
It’s so easy in our never-enough, discontented society to forget to be thankful for what we have, because we’re always focused on what we don’t have. Even in a week supposedly dedicated to giving thanks, we can lose sight of what Thanksgiving is all about.
Though Thanksgiving Day is not a distinctly Christian holiday, thanks-giving as an act is a major biblical teaching. Scripture is full of admonitions to give thanks, and examples of those who did. There is no more specific exhortation than the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
There’s that word again: everything. And Paul does not mince words; he says that it is God’s will for us to be thankful, in everything, even when times are tough. And, for whatever it’s worth, he’s not just talking about mouthing words of Thanksgiving before we slice into the turkey next week, but living life with an attitude of gratitude, day by day.
Here’s hoping we don’t miss the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday festivities in the week ahead. As we count our blessings, may we realize than in Christ we “already have everything” and so live our lives in a way that reflects hearts of grateful praise.
I’m thankful for each of you. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
God’s grace is sufficient for us. We are saved by grace, through faith–not of works, lest any man should boast. Yet we are also called to “work out our salvation” with fear and much trembling. So, what is it? Should we be hard at work for God, or hardly working at all? Is our faith active, or passive; or perhaps actively passive, or passively active?
In so many ways, we mistakenly try to work our way toward God’s favor, as if there was anything we could do that would improve on the incredible sacrifice He made for us at the cross to pay our price in full. Yet, most of us have also discovered that when it comes to our daily walk with God, and our service for Him–like most everything else in life–we get out of it what we’re willing to put into it. Truly, we reap what we sow.
As we seek to be a church that reaches our community and disciples believers in their faith, one thing is for certain: good ministry requires hard work. Of course, more than that, it requires God’s work, and we should be constantly and dependently praying for His hand of work among us. But there’s no getting around the fact that our ministries bear fruit in accordance to our willingness to give of ourselves in service to the Lord, for His glory.
Check out the common theme in these many verses from the New Testament:
“Make every effortto enter through the narrow door (God’s way)…” (Luke 13:24)
“Make every effortto do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
“Make every effortto keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
“Make every effortto enter that rest (God’s rest for His people).” (Hebrews 4:11)
“Make every effortto live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“Make every effortto add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5)
“Make every effortto be found spotless, blameless and at peace with the Lord.” (2 Peter 3:14)
God has done so much for us, and it’s so exciting to see how He is at work in the life of our church these days. Let’s be sure than in all we do in serving Him, we give Him our best and make every effortto serve Him with our whole heart and give Him the glory He’s due.
I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
Once, John R.W. Stott and I had lunch together. That may or may not impress you. It should. Hence, the name-dropping.
If you’re not familiar with the name, John Stott was one of the most influential leaders of the Christian church in the 20th and 21st centuries. He was a renowned theologian, prolific author and faithful communicator of Scripture, who spent much of his life serving one church, All Souls Church in London. But he also served the global church and preached all over the world. He challenged evangelicals everywhere to not just preach the gospel boldly, but to live boldly and Biblically, and to demonstrate the love of Jesus by caring for the poor and disenfranchised.
Throughout 70 years of ministry, Stott wrote numerous books, one of which–Basic Christianity–is a book that every believer should read. I remember reading it for the first time when I was a working at a camp as a college student, and it rocked my world.
As for having lunch with him, a little context might help. I was one of a couple of dozen pastors at a luncheon with Dr. Stott at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, about fifteen years ago. He had been invited to give a series of lectures at the school, and I was invited to a special luncheon with him because of my involvement in supervised ministry of students at Beeson. There were several tables of pastors, but somehow he and I were seated at the same table, across from one another. Something tells me it wasn’t quite as memorable for him as it was for me.
I was reminded of that lunch, and the conversation we had, when the news came that John Stott died a few months back. He was a humble and quiet man, an unassuming gentleman if there ever was one. He certainly had no reason to give someone like me much attention, but he did, and I never forgot that. But that was consistent with the way he lived his whole life.
Dr. Stott was “Christian” in every sense of the word. He lived the gospel he taught, and though he was up in his years, he finished strong. I read that in the final days of his life, when he was confined to bed, knowing that his time on earth was nearing an end, he asked for two things. One, to hear Handel’s Messiah over and over. Two, for a friend to read again and again from one book of the Bible: 2 Timothy. Just like the apostle Paul, John Stott was prepared to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I sure hope I can say those same words one day. But that won’t happen at the end of my life, if it doesn’t happen in the middle (or wherever in my life I am). So, I fight, I run, I keep the faith, where I am, while I can. And I hope you do as well.
I am praying for you, as I trust you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.