In the United States the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving is commonly traced to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts which was made possible by a good harvest the previous year. The first nationwide thanksgiving celebration did not take place until much later when George Washington proclaimed that November 26, 1789 should be set aside . . . “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”

The reason for any celebration is that you have something to celebrate. In our country we have all kinds of celebrations. National celebrations include New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Armistice Day. There are also many sectional celebrations. Thanksgiving Day is primarily a religious celebration, in that we celebrate the goodness of God. There is a sense in which no gift is ours until we have thanked the giver.

After a tour of the United States some years ago an European was interviewed and asked to give his impressions of our country. He had seen our skyscrapers, inspected our factories, and visited our national wonders. But when reporters asked what had impressed him most about America, he replied simply, “The size of the American garbage can.” Our lack of gratitude for God’s blessings has often caused us to waste our resources needlessly.

Too often we have celebrated the goodness of God in the same way materialists do. We give evidence of being kin to the man called The Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. The next time you read his story in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, notice how many personal pronouns he uses to describe what he owns. His pride and selfishness was on display big time. He had riches, good character, position, and ambition. Jesus told him that he had to have a different priority. He went away sorrowfully “for he had great riches.”

How should Christians count their blessings? A good place to begin might be to thank God for the capacity to be thankful. The Hebrew word for “man” means “an upward looking creature.” Next, we can make a list of what Apostle Paul calls “the unsearchable riches of Christ”: Deliverance from sin (forgiveness, cleansing); the capacity to forgive others; “the peace that passes understanding” (serenity of spirit); comfort in the time of sorrow; courage in time of emergency and stress; the capacity for spiritual growth in Christlikeness. And the list could go on and on.

Whether we realize it or not, blessings are a judgment. We judge ourselves by where we set the period when we count our blessings. A materialist looks only at things. An egotist thinks only of self – other people don’t count. The cemetery is full of people who thought the world couldn’t get along without them. The late Alexander Wolcott once was listening to a man so enamored with his own voice that he would not let anyone else get a word into the conversation edgewise. Thinking that the egotist had been talking long enough, Wolcott said: “Pardon me; my leg has gone to sleep. I think I will join it.”

Our blessings – all of them – were given to us by God. If we use them for selfish ends, we become ingrates and parasites. If we use them with the awareness that we are trustees, we will share them with others. It is the only way that we can become channels of God’s grace. It is by practicing faithful stewardship that we can transmute God’s blessings on to others.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, it is the parent of all the others.



The gift of guilt

One of the Bible’s greatest attributes is that the characters it describes are presented realistically — that is, you see them as they are – warts and all. Take David, king of ancient Israel, for example, who spied Bathsheba, a married woman, bathing on a nearby rooftop. Lust consumed him so totally that he committed adultery with her, arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, and took her for himself.

The account of this notorious sin has one central theme: a broken relationship with God. He successfully hid the guilt he felt from others – that is, until the prophet Nathan exposed his sin to him. Psalm 51 tells us that David dealt with his guilt constructively by confessing his sin to God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4 NIV).

Guilt is an early warning sign of danger, the first hint that something is wrong. “Man is the only animal that blushes — or needs to,” observed Mark Twain. A guilty conscience presents itself as an inner voice that clamors for our attention, and it can have a powerful effect on both our body and our emotions.

Some psychologists believe that guilt is a bad thing. They believe religion is the culprit that causes their clients to feel guilty. They suggest that we would all be better off if we could learn to overcome our feelings of guilt. They see the pain produced by guilt as a bad thing. The truth is that pain can be a very positive thing. It lets us know that something needs our immediate attention.

Guilt reminds us that we are moral beings who are accountable to God. Like everything else in our disordered world, guilt is subject to misuse. Instead of serving as a prod to deal with a problem, it can sometimes become the problem. False guilt occurs when a person punishes himself or herself for not measuring up to somebody else’s standards – perhaps a parent’s or the church’s or society’s standard. True guilt occurs when a person becomes aware of not measuring up to God’s standards.

A fourteenth century mystic, Dorothy of Montau, wept for hours after realizing she had committed the “sin” of wanting to eat a piece of spiced fish. Martin Luther, in his early days as a monk, would literally tire his confessors out by confessing the most miniscule sins and unhealthy thoughts. “My son,” his exasperated advisor said, “God is not angry with you: it is you who is angry with God. Eventually, Luther came to see that his constant fear of sinning actually showed a lack of faith.

Just as our physical bodies speak loudly through pain so that we will attend to an injury site, our conscience speaks through the language of guilt so that we will take the necessary steps for healing. The goal of both is to restore health. When we feel the twinge of conscience, we should ask ourselves, “Have I sinned against God or against others?” If the answer is yes – we should not ignore or repress the guilt it has caused. We should admit it, confess it, and experience God’s forgiveness.

Those who feel no guilt cannot ever find healing. The same is true for those who wallow in guilt. The designed purpose of guilt is to push us in the direction of finding a cure. Fortunately, a cure for the guilt that sin produces is available. “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9) NIV).

Notice the word “ALL” in that verse. Sins that are confessed to God are forgiven – ALL of them, not just SOME of them. They have become nonexistent in His eyes. Sins that God has forgiven have been totally erased, cancelled, expunged, wiped out – in other words, gone. When sin disappears joy arrives on the scene.


When I was your age I used to walk a mile to and from school every day – and it was uphill both ways.”

This is the kind of boastful statement parents sometimes make to their teenage sons and daughters to emphasize how easy young people have it today when compared to the time their parents were growing up. The difference between the two times is called “the generation gap.” It is one of the things with which mothers and fathers must deal if they are to fulfill their God-given responsibility as parents.

To keep the lines of communication open with their teenagers it is important for parents to know what is popular with the younger generation in today’s world – for example, their likes and dislikes when it comes to the styles and labels of clothing they prefer. Each generation will set its own preferable style.

Our daughter, Gail, just before entering high school requested that we purchase a certain label of coat that was popular in her age group. When I told her we could not afford that label, that another label had the same style and quality, she said, “Write a check!” I should have known then that she would become a banker following her graduation from college. Today she is a regional Senior Vice-President for First Citizen’s Bank.

Watching your sons and daughters grow up, become Christians, graduate from college, get married, have children of their own, and succeed in their chosen profession is a reason and time to rejoice. The only thing that compares with that is having grandchildren – and great-grandchildren! I have three great-grandchildren – and if you have a couple of hours to spare I could tell you about them.

Let me encourage every parent to work hard at the task of maintaining communication with your children until your divinely assigned parental responsibility is finished. The gap between generations is real, but communication can be maintained by parents who willing and seek God’s guidance.

When our daughter, Gail, was fourteen I went into her room one night, sat down on the bed beside her, and we had a “DDT” (daddy-daughter-talk). Her mother and I were aware of the pressures she would face and the challenges she would have as she entered high school. She and I talked honestly and openly about them.

I said to her, “Your mother and I want you to begin making as many of your own decisions as you can, for that is the way you grow up as a Christian toward maturity. When you make good decisions, we will commend you and support you. When you make what we consider to be a wrong or bad decision, we will countermand it, and we will tell you why. God gave you to us, and He requires us to guide you in the right way. We believe God has special things in store for your life.” That talk was one of the wisest things I ever did.

God’s Word gives every parent this instruction: “Train up your child in the way he (she) should go, and when he (she) is old, he (she) will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Parents who say to their children, “Don’t do as we do; do as we say” will fail in the most important responsibility they will ever have.

Mothers have provided most of the training in the home for children, for fathers have traditionally been the breadwinners. In today’s world more and more mothers also work outside the home. Whatever a family’s circumstances may be, both parents should be involved in the training of their children. It is their sacred duty.

Parents: If you will set the right standard for your children in everything you do – seven days every week and twelve months every year – you will never regret it. When you have done that, you will have been a good steward of the greatest responsibility you will ever have!


Americans who live in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean or near the Gulf of Mexico keep a sharp eye on the Weather Channel every year from June 1st through the month of October. It is the time of year when hurricanes come ashore with a fair degree of regularity to wreak havoc. A hurricane named Hazel hit the North Carolina coast with fury on October 15, 1954, and the memories it left in the minds of North Carolinians are almost as fresh as if it had happened last week.

Weather satellites were not available in 1954 as they are today. Hurricanes Florence and Michael recently found their way into our state in a big way. Before any powerful hurricane comes ashore, everything that can be blown about by the wind is tied down or put indoors, windows are boarded up, batteries are purchased, and an adequate supply of water and food is collected. Not to do these things would leave you totally unprepared for the damage they cause.

Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, told a parable of two men when a storm headed in their direction. Our first glance at them does not reveal a great deal of difference between them. Both were respectable. They lived in the same neighborhood and may have known each other.

One of them exercised wisdom in choosing the building materials for his house. The other, however, was foolish, for he had taken shortcuts in choosing both the materials he used and in preparing the foundation for his house. That is why Jesus said, “When the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell . . . and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:27).

A powerful hurricane, of course, is not the only kind of storm that must be faced in life. How do you plan to face storms when they come your way? You may choose to ignore them, but you cannot evade them. I see four truths in this parable of which every person should be aware:

Sooner or later storms will come. They come to the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the educated and the uneducated, to those who plan wisely and to those who are not wise enough to plan at all. Sorrow, tragedy, pain, and suffering are universal. The fact that you have experienced none of these things thus far does not mean you will not face them in the future.

No one is immune to having to face conflicts in life — literally no one. The world in which we live is often more like a battleground than a playground, and we would be wise to remember that. Jesus fully recognized the risks that are involved in life. It is why He emphasized the importance of being prepared for them when they happen. His invitation to discipleship was simply this: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 10:21). To follow Jesus is to have Him walking beside us when difficulties must be faced.

Some storms happen suddenly. They can come without warning. Like a tornado that sweeps suddenly down out of the sky, crises can head in our direction. Any religion that promises nothing but smooth sailing throughout life is deceptive and false. Jesus never promised immunity from hardships that test our very souls, but He did promise to travel with us as we go through them.

When storms come, we must look within for our defense. I am not referring to human strength, but to divine strength. Faith that is developed before the storm arrives will provide adequate resources that will be needed to get through them. Trusting God when the road is steep, burdens are heavy, and the way is blurred will help us face in a constructive way whatever comes our way.

With God’s help, storms can be endured. We will never face a challenge for which God cannot and will not provide the strength we need. He never permits life to place upon us an impossible burden that He cannot handle. He reminded us that “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Therefore, when storms come your way – and they will — what you do will be determined by what you believe . . . and by the One in whom you believe.

Think about it! When storms march pell-mell onto your shore you will be prepared!


Anyone who is not aware that a national election is scheduled for November 6, 2018 has either been living on another planet on the far side of the universe or perhaps in an igloo in the vicinity of the North Pole and doesn’t have a radio or television set.

“Reform” and “change” are two words we have heard again and again by candidates and their surrogates in political ads that dominate every medium of communication. Why is this true? Big money, special interests, and self-promotion have produced an unhealthy amount of cynicism among voters. Promises by candidates made before elections are consistently forgotten as soon as the last vote is counted. Political platforms that claim to be a roadmap toward tomorrow regularly settle for yesterday’s status quo. This has led to millions of Americans becoming so disillusioned they do not vote.

Our democracy suffers when we choose not to participate in the electoral process. To fail to vote is to surrender our voice to those whose primary goal is to pursue personal gain and/or power. No one has a greater reason to vote than does a Christian. But do remember that God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He has plenty of bones to pick with both political parties.

Choosing the best candidates is not always an easy task amidst the kind of mudslinging that often takes place in elections. Rabid partisanship and negative personal attacks garner too much coverage in the print and broadcast media – and spills out onto our streets and other public places in rowdy ways. Even so, to fail to vote is to surrender a sacred right for which our ancestors fought and died.

The kind of candidates who are worthy of our votes:

  • Those who are service oriented, not those who are self-centered.
  • Those who love America and believe in the principles that have made our nation great, not those with the gift of gab and the gift of grab.
  • Those who build bridges, not those who rock the boat.
  • Those who concentrate on sharing their ideas and goals for America’s future, not those whose primary objective is to tear down their opponent.
  • Those who have the kind of integrity that has never been questioned, not those whose integrity has seldom if ever been mentioned or could legitimately be questioned.
  • Those who know what they believe, but are willing to listen to the ideas of others.

The United States has had many great leaders in the past. It still has many who are worthy of our support – on November 6th and thereafter. Let me encourage you to do your very best to try to choose such persons when you cast your vote. Millions of people live in countries where the right to vote does not exist – or it is seriously infringed in some way. Thankfully, our country is not one of them.

The most dangerous votes in every election are those not cast. If you do not vote, you do not have the right to criticize what is wrong with our government. Let us be grateful that our elections are by ballots, not bullets. Jesus said to His followers: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). It is the duty of every citizen to vote on November 6th. It is especially the duty of every Christian.

Pray for guidance, and then go vote! Our nation’s future depends on it. God bless America!

If every single resident member of your church showed up for worship next Sunday morning, what do you think would happen? My first guess is that your pastor would faint, for I am not aware of it having ever happened before. Then, if you revived him, he would be so surprised and excited that he would possibly preach for two hours.

The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). We should follow their example of devotion – and do the same things. The earliest disciples had no church building, but “every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46). Wherever and whenever a church meets to worship God, believers thrive on fellowship with other believers and on the teaching of God’s Word.

Every Christian is a member of the body of Christ and has unique talents. Sharing these gifts with one another strengthens us in our common task of glorifying God. There are four things that make church attendance important:

Fellowship. Regular worship attendance allows a Christian to become part of a church family – a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who share genuine concern for one another. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (I Corinthians 12:26). We not only enjoy the security of belonging to a spiritual family, but we glorify God by revealing His character to the world.

Corporate worship. When King David was rescued from his enemies by God, he could not keep his praise to himself. He cried out, “O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3). Even Christ, in the darkest hours of His life, asked three of His closest disciples to “watch and pray” with Him (Matthew 26:41). God honors our private devotions, but there are times when nothing will do except to join with fellow Christians in praise of our great God. Jesus promised: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Personal growth. Just as individual Bible study and prayer are vital to a Christian’s spiritual growth, so is consistent contact with other Christians. God commands us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:24). Meeting with other Christians is an opportunity to be encouraged in your daily walk with Christ, to receive godly advice in areas of difficulty in your life, and to be challenged by the example of more mature Christians.

Ministry. Paul tells us that God gave us “pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Attending church allows us to receive the instruction of trained pastors and teachers, helping us to minister not just within the church family but also out in the surrounding community and the entire world. Christians not only have the responsibility to communicate the gospel to those who are unsaved, but also to minister to other members of the body of Christ who have needs.

If you expect to be present “when the roll is called up yonder”, you should also give serious attention to being present more than just occasionally “when the roll is called each Sunday at your church.” The Postmaster in my home town in Georgia in the 1940’s regularly placed on the Post Office bulletin board poems he liked. One of the poems emphasized the importance of church attendance. It impressed me so much I still remember it:

“Often when I pass the church,
I stop in for a visit,
So that when I’m finally carried in
The Lord won’t ask, ‘Who is it?’’”

In speaking of His second coming, Jesus Christ said, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). What were the days of Noah like? Genesis 6:5 tells us, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is the description of the society that was swept away by the Flood.

Any person who is keenly observant would have to say that the moral compass of our nation at the current time no longer has a true north. II Timothy 3:1-5 tells us: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Paul was not saying that in the days before the second coming of Christ everyone living would be depraved. He was giving us in very understandable terms the picture of the culture that will exist in the world before Christ returns. His description reads like today’s newspaper headlines, doesn’t it? The moral decline and depravity of our nation is a symptom of our isolation from God. Without God at the steering wheel of the human heart, we are like a driverless car careening down the freeway toward an inevitable crash.

The moral decline in our nation can be seen in many ways. For example, in a recent year the Internet’s largest online pornography website reported that consumers watched 87,849,731,608 X-rated videos. Over 87 billion! That adds up to twelve videos for every person living on the face of the earth. And the picture is even worse than that, for over one-fourth of Internet pornography is child-related.

The young Jewish writer Ben Shapiro wrote in his book Porn Generation, “I am a member of a lost generation. We have lost our values. In a world where all values are equal, where everything is simply a matter of choice, narcissism rules the day. The acceptance of pornography has become a social fact.”

Moral depravity in our nation is also seen in how marriage and the human family is defined. Jesus described marriage in this way: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:6-8). But in the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote took it upon itself to redefine marriage more broadly than God does.

We cannot control what a secular society does, but as Christians we can demonstrate a better way and let the Word of God govern our convictions and our conduct. Nevertheless, the ruling by the Supreme Court undeniably puts Bible believers in a tough spot. Justice Samuel Alito, in his dissent to the majority opinion, predicted that this decision in years to come would become a basis for aggressive legal discrimination against those who hold a biblical view of marriage. His prediction is already coming true.

Space will not allow me in one article to survey the many other areas of societal moral decay –- the loss of ethics in business, the breakdown of family life, the out-of-wedlock birthrate, the loss of the concept of fatherhood in our society, well over one million abortions every year since 1975, rampant materialism, substance abuse, gambling and gaming, the crime rate, our rapidly increasing national debt, etc.

Romans 1:18-32 describes in a graphic way how God feels about what is happening in our nation. These fifteen verses, unless things change, accurately describe America’s future. Please read them, for America has largely forgotten the truth found in Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”