JAMES MERRITT: GIVE THANKS to GOD of HOPE

Today’s blog is a reminder to give thanks to our great God of hope. Let’s be thankful everyday not just one day each year as we celebrate a national holiday. If we Americans ever doubt there’s much for which to be thankful, then let’s consider the following.

We will eat more today than most people in this world will eat this week. We drive our air conditioned or heated vehicles while billions will never own a car.

We will sleep tonight in our heated or cooled bedrooms while most of the world will sleep shivering or sweating.

If we have more health than sickness today, then we are more blessed than the one million who will die this week.

If today we aren’t facing dangers of battle, loneliness of imprisonment, suffering of torture, or hunger pains of starvation, then we are better off than 500 million people.

If today we are not afraid of being harassed, arrested, tortured, or killed, then we have it better than 3 billion people.

If we have food in our refrigerator, clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, and a place to sleep, then we are richer than 75% in our world.

If we have any money in the bank or even spare change in our pocket, then we are in the top 8 percent of the richest people in the world.

If we can read a paragraph in a book or sign our names, then we are better off than 775 million who can neither read nor write.

Dare we doubt that God has blessed us? Do we have any reason to thank Him everyday? He deserves our thanks, and He wants it. What will our thanksgiving do for God?

Pastor James Merritt stated eloquently, “Thanksgiving is the music that brightens the face of God. It is the spark that warms the heart of God. It is the love that kisses the hand of God.”

Let’s communicate with God today, but let’s not ask Him to bless us. Instead let’s give Him thanks and bless Him; He deserves it. The Bible instructs, “Enter His gates with  thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”(Psalm 100:4)

I want to thank James Merritt for the reminder to give thanks to God everyday and for the numerical info that I gleaned from one of his messages. He is Pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Atlanta, Georgia. For years I have been blessed by his televised sermons.

Visit the website @ touchinglives.org for info about a ministry that is truly touching lives… including mine.

FIRST THANKSGIVING: A GREAT HOPE (Part 3)

In those terribly dark and difficult days God was faithful as always, and His grace proved sufficient. In their wildest dreams, probably none of the Pilgrims expected the appearance of natives who spoke English, yet Samoset and Squanto came to teach them how to sow and reap from the fertile land and to fish from the bountiful coastal waters.

Squanto even lived with the Pilgrims until he died in 1622. The faith that he witnessed lived out in their day-to-day actions impacted him so much that his last request was to ask Governor Bradford to pray that he might go to the Englishman’s God in heaven.

Bradford’s writings continued to convey their trust in Providence, and He sustained them:

“Squanto continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he dyed.”

Squanto’s lessons had made a huge difference to the Pilgrims’ success in their new land. Finally they harvested an abundance of food and enjoyed bountiful blessings. Governor Bradford knew Who deserved thanks and proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving (which extended beyond a day).

Perhaps the following words have been preserved for us to recognize the reasons for their attitude of gratitude for the “goodness of God”:

“Our harvest being gotten, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.
At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.
And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want that we are partakers of plenty.”

I am convinced that the Pilgrims were strongly influenced by their Christian roots. In fact, I believe their faith was deeply rooted in Christianity. Also I agree they had good reasons to be thankful. We do, too.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, and remember to thank the One Who sends the blessings!

FIRST THANKSGIVING: A GREAT HOPE (Part 2)

Authored and signed by the Pilgrim men, the “Mayflower Compact” was the first covenant or constitution in American history. There is little doubt it was thoughtfully written, and it clearly explains their intent and purpose:

“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, defender of the faith, …having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.”

Just as the Pilgrims’ crossing the Atlantic Ocean had not been smooth sailing, neither was life after landing on New England’s shore. Approximately half their group died within a short time, and it was very hard for the survivors to care for the ill among them. However they bore their burden with brotherly love and carried on with unfailing hope. According to Bradford:

“In these hard and difficult beginnings… most sad and lamentable was that in 2 or 3 months time halfe of their company dyed, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts, being infected with the scurvie and other diseases, and which this long voyage and their inaccomodate condition had brought upon them; so as there dyed sometime 2 or 3 a day in the foresaid time; that of 100 persons, scarce 50 reminded.

And of these in the time of most distress, there were but 6 or 7 sound persons who, to their great commendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night or day, but with abundance of toyle and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them, in a word did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren.”

(To be continued… See A GREAT HOPE Part 3.)

FIRST THANKSGIVING: A GREAT HOPE (Part 1)

The Pilgrims, who celebrated America’s first Thanksgiving holiday almost 400 years ago, held fast to a great hope in God and a desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To show this idea is actual fact not just my hopeful opinion, I will share writings of their well-respected Pilgrim leaders, Governor William Bradford and Pastor John Robinson. I am thankful for Governor Bradford’s detailed written record and will include many quotes to enhance this three-part blog.

After years of searching for a home where the Pilgrims could live in peace and worship freely, Bradford wrote of their strong desire to travel to the New World:

…a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

They faced the reality and risks of such an endeavor and chose to trust Almighty God even if it might cost their lives:

…all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be… overcome with answerable courages. It was granted that the dangers were great, but not desperate, and the difficulties were many, but not invincible… and all of them, through the help of God, fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome…

[But] their condition was not ordinary. Their ends were good and honorable, their calling lawful and urgent, and therefore they might expect the blessing of God in their proceeding; yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet they might have comfort in the same, and their endeavors would be honorable.”

They anticipated difficulties but also had enough hope to expect help from the all-powerful God they trusted:

Yea, and as the enterprise is weighty and difficult, so the honor is more worthy, to plant a rude wilderness, to enlarge the honor and fame of our dread sovereign, but chiefly to display the efficacy and power of the Gospel, both in zealous preaching, professing, and wise walking under it, before the faces of these poor blind infidels.”

They were concerned with more than themselves and prayed for the natives in the New World:

And first, seeing we daily pray for the conversion of the heathens… it seemeth unto me that we ought also to endeavor and use the means to convert them; and the means cannot be used unless we go to them, or they come to us. To us they cannot come, our land is full; to them we may go… that they may be persuaded at length to embrace the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus, and rest in peace with him forever.”

Their pastor, John Robinson, did not accompany the largest group of Pilgrims who left Holland to board ships in England for their journey to the New World. Instead he stayed behind to care for those physically unable to travel. Pastor Robinson genuinely cared for his flock and sent a letter with those leaving. His letter was filled with reminders of hope and help that would be read many times during challenging days ahead.

These words by Pastor Robinson show the kind of teaching they had been used to, still believed in, and would continue to rely on for needed strength:

“We are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known and generally for our unknown trespasses…[For] sin being taken away by earnest repentance ad the pardon thereof from the Lord… great shall be [a man’s] security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses.”

(To be continued… See A GREAT HOPE Part 2)

PILGRIMS: LABORED in HOPE

Many prayers, grateful  words, and speeches have been voiced  about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving since that historic event in the “new world” almost four hundred years ago.

“…let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles… through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments… in full conviction that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.” (Daniel Webster, 1851)

“Let us, in the midst of these reflections, have our hearts enlarged in thanksgiving to God for his merciful favor to our fathers and to us…. Let us piously acknowledge the hand of God in all that has been done for them and us and to the whole, cry grace, grace…. Let our gratitude be to our father’s God and ours. And out of gratitude to God, let us improve the blessings of life with sobriety and maintain our liberties with an honorable Christian firmness.” (Charles Turner, 1773)

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many. Yea, in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.” (Pilgrim leader William Bradford, 1600’s)

This hope and laboring in Christianity as expressed through the years are at the root of this nation’s origin. Unfortunately these beliefs are not as widely held today as they were in previous centuries. It is that foundation that made us strong, and without it our strength diminishes.

Some fear we have reached a point of no return. I hope and pray that we haven’t and that we will return to the attitude of the first Thanksgiving participants. It is, after all, our choice. Every day we have a choice to be humbly grateful — or grumbly hateful. I believe history proves which is the better choice.

VETERANS DAY: HOPE in BLESSINGS for AMERICA

A favorite patriotic song of many Americans was written by Irving Berlin in 1918. Yet “God Bless America” wasn’t introduced publically until 1938 when sung by Kate Smith on a radio program on Armistice Day (now Veterans Day). It was — and still is — an expression of deep love for our great and beautiful land. Perhaps more importantly it expresses hope in God’s blessings for America. Berlin didn’t want to personally profit from his patriotism so assigned royalties from the song to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

God bless America, land that I love.

Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam,

God bless America, my home sweet home.

God bless America, my home sweet home.”

(Irving Berlin)

Remember to thank a vet today! Celebrate Veterans Day, and be thankful for the brave military men and women to whom we owe so much.  God bless America and our heroes both past and present!

MATTERHORN: MOUNTAIN POINTS TO GOD OF HOPE

Have you paid any attention to the stunning picture when you visit this blog? Its inclusion here is not accidental and is for a specific reason.

You may recognize the peak, because it has been photographed countless times. Maybe you’ve seen the well-known mountain range of which it’s a part. Maybe you’ve even scaled heights that resulted in this view and feelings of awe and wonder.

I remember when I first saw those mountains 15 years ago. I was excited to see spectacular views both while I was flying directly over and from a distance while on foreign soil in Italy and Switzerland. Those were special moments in time that have remained in my memory. (I’ve reached an age where I realize more and more that remembering such moments is a blessing.) Anyway… it’s special to me personally, because I’ve been there, and recalling the beauty of those snow-covered mountains takes me back and makes me smile.

I’m referring to Europe’s amazing Alps. More precisely, this photo features the Matterhorn in Switzerland or called Monte Cervino in Italy. Both countries share this magnificent summit. I chose this image, because it does what I want this blog to do. It points up toward God, the source of hope.

This photo represents hope to me, so I chose it for this blog. My intent is that this blog is “where hope is found.” If the first image one sees on this website is an awesome mountain peak pointing heavenward, then maybe that’s a peek (excuse the pun) of what’s to come.

God is the Source of hope, and my desire is that others are finding His hope via these blogs. I’m thankful for the opportunity to share. Also I’m glad to have such an amazing photo to represent this blog and to greet readers.

Such an image also represents beautiful inspiration from Psalm 121: “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth….” Something that brings Scripture to mind brings hope.

As you now know, I love this particular Matterhorn picture. Perhaps you feel the same. It’s likely to be on this website for a long time to come!

I’ll close by acknowledging my thanks to God for His beautiful Creation that includes mountain peaks to point us to Him and to remind us from whence comes our help… and hope.

 

LIFE IS HARD: HOPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE

I don’t have to tell you that life is sometimes hard. Probably no one will argue with that statement except those who say it is always hard. The good news is this life isn’t the end. The bad news is this life isn’t the end.

Let me explain what I mean…. If you have no hope for a better life after this one, then the idea of never-ending death is worse than terribly sad news.

However, if you have hope for eternal life in heaven after this one, then faith in Jesus of the Bible brings better than incredibly good news!

The Bible tells us “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Accepting, trusting, believing in Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, as means of eternal life results in living forever in heaven, a place of no more death nor crying nor sorrow. Why would anyone not want to go there? To know Jesus is to know eternal life. This idea brings hope.

Rejecting God’s gift given at Christ’s expense results in one getting his own way. In other words, if one doesn’t want to be with Him, he can have it his way. No Jesus means no eternal life, therefore no Jesus means to know eternal death. This offers utter hopelessness.

Worth pondering…. the consequences of this one choice of what to do with Jesus will last forever! I pray you will have faith to believe the Truth and be filled with hope for eternal life.