How to give thanks—and how not to!

It is said that when Maureen Stapleton won the Academy Award, she gushed into the microphone, “I want to thank everyone I’ve ever known!”

That got a laugh, I’m sure, and everyone understood the sense of gratitude that threatened to overload her nervous system. It’s a grand feeling, no doubt, although few among us have ever been in the position she was at that moment.

However.  Does anyone think that Ms. Stapleton’s friends and family members, her co-stars and colleagues, her producers and directors, immediately felt appreciated and properly thanked by that statement? I think not.

No one took it as a personal word of appreciation.

Impersonal, general, generic one-size-fits-all thanks does not do the job. A message on the sign-board in front of a place of business saying “Thanks for your patronage” does not communicate thanksgiving.

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What to do when you don’t feel like singing

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  (Acts 16:25)

Anyone can sing when the skies are blue, the air is fresh, the flowers are dressing up the world, and your spirit is soaring. To the best of my knowledge, your Father in Heaven enjoys and appreciates that singing.

But the kind He values most, the singing that thrills His heart, the praise that establishes forever that you are His and He is yours, Scripture calls “songs in the night.”

If you can praise Him when you’re feeling lousy, when the news is terrible, when the bank account is busted, the news from the doctor is bleak, the family is in rebellion and nothing good is going on in your life, then one of two things is true: either you’re a nut in hopeless denial, or you know something.  Some really big Thing.

He giveth songs in the night.  (Job 35:10)

Thelma Wells is someone you need to know.

This precious lady was born to an unwed mother with more problems than any one soul should ever have. She was a severely deformed teenager with no husband and no place to go, since her own abusive mother insisted that she take the baby and leave. The poor unwed teenage mother found work as a maid cleaning ‘the big house’ while living with her baby daughter in servants’ quarters.

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The most difficult person in your church: The ungrateful one.

Why should I be grateful when things aren’t going to suit me? 

The woman “stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (Luke 7:38).

There is the picture of a grateful person.  She is worshiping, humble, thankful, fully yielded to the Master.

Want to see a photo of an ungrateful individual?  Find any reference to a Pharisee and you have it. For instance…

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12).

Without knowing any more, you find your spirit recoiling from this guy.  He’s proud of his righteousness and will be harsh and judgmental toward anyone less committed.  He addresses God as an equal.  He is unteachable, unleadable, incorrigible.

Pity the pastor with Pharisaical leaders.  They are ungrateful, self-righteous, demanding, and a pain to live with.

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Give thanks today. Rejoice now.

When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.  (E. E. Hewitt, 1898)

Last Sunday, as we sang that wonderful old song, something occurred to me.  Sure, we’ll “sing and shout” the victory when we see Jesus face to face.  Anyone would.  But He wants us to “sing and shout the victory” now, in the middle of the battle.

Anyone can celebrate after the final whistle when the score is set in stone and no further plays are run.  But how many can celebrate the victory at halftime when battles are yet to be fought, when enemies wait to be faced?

Rejoice in the middle of the contest. Scripture is loaded on this subject…

–“He giveth songs in the night.”  (Job 35:10)  “In the night His song shall be with me–a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8)

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Pastor: Something special for the month of November

I’d like to start a trend.  Since October is “Pastor Appreciation” time,  let’s make November–the month of thanksgiving–“Church Member Appreciation.”

I’m suggesting–no, I’m urging–every pastor to write a minimum of 25 thank-yous to some church members this month.

I loving receiving thank you-notes.  Writing them, however, takes a little more effort.  But the benefits are astounding.

Two thank-you notes  came in the mail last week.

After I had spent last Sunday evening sketching at her church’s “fall festival,” the preschool children’s director wrote:  Thank you so much for drawing at our Fun Fest last Sunday! You blessed and encouraged our families so much! I’m grateful for you, your ministry, and the way the Lord is using you to draw others to Himself.  Thank you again! 

Four sentences.  But it was perfect.

The fact that I have known that young lady, the preschool minister, her whole life and that her parents are my dear friends, did not matter.  I love her dearly as she does me. But she still did the niceties and wrote a thank-you.

It’s a classy thing to do.

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Gratitude: It can even make an Abraham Lincoln beautiful.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:16-17). 

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens brought a grieving mother to see President Lincoln.  Her son had been condemned to die as a result of some unnamed crime.  She wanted to intercede for his life.  After hearing her out, Lincoln turned to the Congressman and said, “Mr. Stevens, do you think this is a case which will warrant my interference?”  Stevens answered, “With my knowledge of the facts and the parties, I should have no hesitation in granting a pardon.”  “Then, I will pardon him,” said Lincoln and he signed the papers.

A few minutes later, as Congressman Stevens and the mother walked down the stairs, she turned to him and exclaimed, “I knew it was a copperhead lie!”

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100 things I’m thankful for this week–and every week.

I began by thinking of the simple, everyday blessings we take for granted.  But the more I give thanks for, the more things and people come to mind….

The first twenty……

I’m thankful for bananas in my local store.  They were picked green in some Caribbean country and shipped here in refrigerated containers, unloaded in New Orleans and then trucked to Mac’s Freshmarket down the street.  I am so blessed.

I’m thankful for crunchy peanut butter.  Wonder if George Washington Carver thought of leaving crunchy peanuts in the butter he invented.

I’m thankful for a faucet I can turn and hot water comes out.  The first eighteen years of my life we did not have that.

I’m thankful for a bed.  Nothing rejuvenates a weary body like a good night’s rest.  And I have a king-sized one. Am I blessed or what?

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10 reasons I believe in Jesus Christ (the second 5)

(To see the first 5 reasons, please visit our website www.joemckeever.com and scroll to the article for September 16, 2014. Permission is given to anyone wishing to reprint these or pass them along in any Christ-honoring way.)

I believe in Jesus Christ–to my mind that is synonymous with “I believe in God”–for so many reasons, these among them….

6) THIS WORLD. Planet earth is uniquely adapted for life, unlike any other place our greatest scientists have yet discovered in the universe.  Factors that make earth different from any other place ever found include….

The  life-giving atmosphere…the abundance of water….the distance of the earth from the sun…the rotation of the earth…the tilt on its axis…the symbiotic balance of plants and animals…the riches in the soil…the seasons. These and hundreds more factors, known mostly to the scientifically minded, have combined to pull off the greatest miracle of the universe so far discovered: Earth.

To date, scientists have seen nothing in the vast heavens which even remotely approaches this wonderful planet on which we live.  Earth is a miracle.  As it zooms around our sun at 67,000 mph–while our solar system moves throughout our galaxy and the galaxy itself spins across the heavens at supersonic speeds–my coffee cup sits steadily beside my laptop with nary a ripple in the liquid.  No turbulence.  How does the Almighty God manage this?  I am in awe.

If you can believe in earth, Heaven should be a cinch for you!  I believe in God because of earth.

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10 reasons I believe in Jesus Christ (i.e., in God)

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

(I started this thinking these reasons would be easy to express and thus the article would be concise. But  it has not turned out that way. So, this is the first half.  The other 5 reasons should be posted here tomorrow.)

Driving hundreds of miles to (and from) two funerals of dear friends last week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on this thing of believing in God, serving in ministry, and going confidently into “the valley of the shadow of death.”  Deacon James Gatewood and Minister Bill Hardy showed us how it’s done, from their daily faithfulness in good times to the difficult and dark days of suffering.

Our Lord said, “You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).  The way I read Scripture, He was equating the two.

In my mind, to believe in Jesus is to believe in God, and vice versa.  After all, our Lord said, “No one knows me except the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son (moi!) and they to whom I reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27, my paraphrase).

If you had asked ten years ago why I believe in Jesus, my answers would have been somewhat different.  But today, here are my top ten reasons for faith in the risen, living, ever-present, soon-coming Lord Jesus Christ….

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7 things I learned in choir rehearsal

“Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

During the time I sang with the choir at our church, I loved singing for the worship service, but had to make myself go to rehearsal.

Rehearsing songs–whether for church or school assembly or for the juke joint down the street–is hard work.

Gradually, I began to see some patterns forming. Eventually, those shapes merged to form life-lessons that have remained with me all these years.

1) I do not like new songs.

The minister of music would say, “Joyce, pass out the new music,” and I would cringe. I did not read music and did not do well trying to negotiate my way around these clothes-lines of blackbirds.  The piano is picking out the melody of the song and I’m working to get it.  This is no fun.  It’s work.

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