In Appreciation

The second part of the process of thanksgiving, after noticing something worthwhile, is to appreciate that worth.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you see something wonderful or beautiful or joyful if you don’t appreciate the fullness it brings to your life, even if only for a moment.

To appreciate is to increase the value of something—perhaps by simply realizing that it’s there, perhaps by seeing it afresh in a way that makes it more than it was before in your eyes.  When a house appreciates in value, it is because it has been evaluated at a higher price than previously believed.  When we appreciate someone that person’s value increases to us, in our evaluation and in our estimation.

I am not talking here about the intrinsic value that we all have by being loved by God, who showed that love by sending His Son into the world at Christmastime.  Instead, I’m talking about perceived value, the value we assign which may or may not be an accurate assessment.

But that’s the trick, isn’t it: to appreciate accurately, to value highly what is highly valuable.  Too often we place (and often pay) too high a price for something that is not worth the cost.  Whatever currency we pay this cost in, whether dollars or desire, the danger lies in our value system being turned upside down.  When that happens, we begin to believe that only what demands our attention is worth our appreciation.

Do you appreciate being still and knowing that God is God (Psalm 46:10, NIV)?  Do you appreciate God speaking to you, even if it is with a “gentle whisper” (I Kings 19:11-13, NIV)?  Do you appreciate the relatively quiet and unpretentious scene at the manger in Bethlehem, and draw strength from, like Mary, “treasuring and pondering these things” in your heart (Luke 2:19)?  If not, maybe spending time at the manger over the next couple of weeks would help set your system of evaluation right side up.

Live in appreciation of the wonder, the beauty, and the joy that is Christ, especially during this Christmas season.

On Notice

On Wednesday night we had a Thanksgiving Eve service, and I gave a brief message on, you guessed it, thanksgiving!  Only it wasn’t entirely about thanking, but also about the steps in the process that lead to an expression of thanks.  I said then that there was too much to this process to fit into the time allotted, so I would discuss it further in a blog post (or a few).

And here we go.

The first step of the process—notice—often goes unnoticed itself, which is as sad as it is ironic.  We use the word, of course, but in different contexts.  When someone is “on notice,” for example, it means he or she has been warned; when someone is “beneath notice,” it means he or she has done something insignificant.

However, “notice” really means to pay attention to something or someone for a sustained period of time, and many of us find this almost impossible to do.  To notice in this way would require us to slow down, to focus, to ignore distractions—exactly what our ADD, three-seconds-is-too-long-to-wait world rushes us from.

You cannot notice in a hurry.  And hurry is one of the hallmarks of our lives.

But if we do not notice, we will not start the process of thanks, much less get to the end of it and actually thank someone.  We notice what is done wrong, of course, and condemn it; meanwhile, we overlook what is done right, and fail to commend it.

I don’t think that’s how God intends for us to live.  And on this Black Friday, poised to enter another Christmas season, through which we will gallop at a breakneck pace if we do not pull back on the reins of our personal reindeer, remembering what God intends for us to do with our time matters more than ever.

So now we are on notice.  And although we may fool ourselves into thinking so, what we do with this life He has given us is in no way beneath His notice.

The point of prayer for the church at Sutherland Springs

Like Jude, whose book is the basis for our Sunday morning messages this month, I was going to write one letter today, but I need to write another first (Jude 3).  So I write today about Sunday’s tragedy at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman opened fire during the morning service, killing many (at least 26) and wounding more.

I agree with Thom Rainer from LifeWay, who said in his blog: “I will identify with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”  We are the Body of Christ, and whatever happens to one part of the body affects every other part.  As Paul puts it, “if one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).  So it is right and fitting that we suffer with those who lost so many of those they loved, and honor those who have gone on to be with Jesus forever.  If we did not have that hope, we would be overwhelmed by the darkness of this despicable act.  But we do have that hope, so we can stand firm on it (1 Corinthians 15:12ff).

Despite what some in our society think—especially celebrities who think their every revolting thought much be shared instantly with the world through social media—prayer matters, because it matters to God.  At our church we have begun a Congregational Prayer Initiative to actually pray as though it matters.  This week, we add First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas to our prayer emphases.  It is not all we can do, but it is the best thing we can do.  And so we join them in prayer: to suffer, to honor.

First, simply Christ

Let me start this series of posts with some thoughts on what a Christian pastor’s page should be about.  See if you agree.

First, the page should be clearly centered around Christ.  “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” and Jesus Christ is the main thing about the Christian faith.  The purpose of this page is the purpose of the church: to be a witness, a sign that points to Jesus.

That does not mean this page is only for those who follow Christ.  It does mean that  Jesus Christ is truly “the most interesting man in the world,” not some guy in a beer commercial.  Most people don’t know that today, but everyone needs to.  So we’ll work at sending that message here by being interesting, yet about Jesus at the same time.

Good signs keep the message clear by keeping it simple.  The apostle Paul would agree: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV).  This page will be simple in the same way.

“Simple” does not mean “shallow,” however, just “straightforward.”  Any communicator needs to be clear enough for any interested reader to understand the message.  No jargon, no groupthink; there’s too much of that in our culture already.  I agree with Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis) that if you can’t explain a topic that simply, you really don’t understand it yourself.

So, to be clear, this page simply will be.  Clear, that is.  About Christ.