Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I Am Thankful
How do we begin to adequately express our thankfulness? Words sometimes seem so futile when we try to describe concepts that are so important. Being Christian missionaries from the United States to Honduras with World Gospel Mission and being part of a great extended family gives us ample reason for being thankful. As I think about a partial list of all that I am grateful for, I realize how all of God’s blessings in our lives are inter-related. It is difficult to even categorize them.
1. Above all, I am thankful to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and for his promise of eternal life. Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (NKJV) John 6:47. I’m not like many other people I know who can remember the date when they were saved, but I clearly remember the circumstances of 40 plus years ago. I am grateful that I was raised in the church and had great Sunday School teachers. I was about twelve years old and a former pastor returned to our church to preach revival services. He had only been gone from our church for a short time so he remembered me. I am continually challenged by how natural sharing our faith and participating in evangelism can be. When our former pastor greeted me, he simply asked if I had accepted Christ yet. When I said no, he asked me, “Isn’t it about time that you make a decision?” I don’t even remember the time of the year, but I vividly remember that the church baptistry was broken and the creek was very cold.
2. I am thankful that God called me to missionary service. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (NKJV) Romans 10:14 My call to missionary service came during a camp meeting when the challenge was presented for people to totally turn their lives over to God. Even though I had been a Christian for a couple of years there were aspects of my life that I wanted to control, especially having to do with my career. The last thing I had ever considered was being a missionary. Having responded positively to the altar call to give my life entirely to God, I felt the Holy Spirit quietly asking if that meant that I would even be willing to be a missionary. Every single day I wonder why God chose Angie and me for such a great privilege of working with the people in Choluteca, Honduras.
3. I am thankful for family. Even more specifically, I am thankful for God’s institution of marriage. “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) I have had the honor of looking at marriage from the middle of three generations of faithful marriage vows.
Looking back at my parents, things were often very difficult economically when we were growing up, but there was never any doubt of the love that Mom and Dad had for each other. I remember Dad working two jobs just to provide the very basic needs for the family. The worst punishment I ever got was when Mom would tell me that, “Your father would not be happy if he knew what you did.” Fortunately, the fact that Dad would not have been pleased kept me from doing many things that might have enticed me to make mistakes as a young person. I guess that is the way it is with our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Instead of following a legalistic list of “Do’s and Don’ts” I realize that God sees all that I do and I do not want to displease Him.
I am especially thankful for 34 years of marriage to Angie. It seems like only yesterday when her father Rev. Hash pronounced us “Man and Wife” in Sidney, Ohio. Our marriage has produced three great children. We anticipate that God will continue to bless us as we see His plans for their futures.
I have the advantage of being able to look forward a bit at the next generation of marriage through Rachel our oldest daughter. While the institution of marriage is being attacked on all sides, we are encouraged that there is still evidence of strong young Christian families. Not many young families could stand the scrutiny of having the wife’s parents live in the same house with them. We are grateful that Jared and Rachel allow us the special privilege of staying with them while we are on Home Ministry Assignment.
4. I am thankful for friends. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”. NIV (Proverbs 18:24) I am blessed to have many friends among missionaries whom I work with, among Hondurans, and among churches that we have known in the States. This year has been especially difficult because of the death of a great friend, Angie’s brother Rick. I had known him since I was 14 years old. We had roomed together in college. Rick was one of our greatest encouragers throughout our careers as missionaries. Even though we still have the pain of not having Rick by our side any longer, we are thankful for having the time that we had with Rick. We are even more thankful for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
5. I am thankful for our country. The history of the Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in the very beginnings of our history as a nation. We thank God for the freedom that we have. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (NKJV) Colossians 4:2-4
6. I am thankful for the “Shalom” Church. Though we have always been involved in a variety of different ministries, our entire missionary career has been focused on establishing and building the church. We have participated in helping establish new congregations, we have taught Sunday School and we have been involved in discipling new Christians, but we have never been a part of a congregation in the way that we are with the Shalom Church. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” NKJV (Acts 2:42)
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (NKJV) Psalm 107:1