“Can this be Christmas?” was the question our grandchildren asked when we announced that right after our 2006 Thanksgiving weekend at Mt. Hermon we would be having Christmas at a little second home on our friend’s property in Castro Valley.
Our sons had been asked by Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center to provide the worship music for their very popular Thanksgiving Weekend Conference. With the approval of our son’s families, Louise and I decided to attend the conference, enjoy family, and then retreat to a friend’s wonderful guest house on Sunday, November 26 where we prepared a nice feast for the immediate family.
For years, we have seen our sons absolutely exhausted on Christmas Day, having just led their respective churches in three to five Christmas Eve Day services. Due to the hectic pace that is involved around that holiday season we decided to move our family Christmas celebration to the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We all call it Thankmas!
It was so wonderful to celebrate our time together with hearts of thanksgiving. While there were plenty of gifts (grandparents must spoil their grand-kids a little), we made sure that Jesus did not get lost in all the wrapping paper and Christmas decorations. Each grandchild read from Scripture as we remembered the reason we even have a Christmas.
In preparing this devotional I came across this little poem that portrays the importance of the Christ child in Christmas. I plan to read it to our family when we gather for our Christmas celebration.
Can This Be Christmas?
What’s all this hectic rush and worry?
Where go these crowds who run and curry?
Why all the lights—the Christmas trees?
The jolly “fat man,” tell me please!
Why, don’t you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!
So, this is Christmas, do you say?
But where is Christ this Christmas day?
Has He been lost among the throng?
His voice drowned out by empty song?
No. He’s not here—you’ll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.
But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, “Come in to stay.”
In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.
But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.
I’m tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I’ll go instead to Calvary.
And there I’ll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ—this Christmas.
I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.
In endless bliss, we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ—not Christmas!
~M.R. DeHaan, M.D., Founder, Radio Bible Class
How can you make the holiday season more directed to Christ?
“He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:8-9
I often think about that picture of a cat hanging on for dear life to a table top. The expression on the animal’s face says it all. Just like the cat, sometimes all we can do is pray and hang on. Perseverance is defined as steadfastness or persistence. It is one of those character traits we admire but don’t really like to experience.
A good friend of mine, Bob Schmitt, owner of Mack’s Fishing Lure Company, tells a story from his youth when all he could do was to “hang on”. Bob and some of his teenage Southern Utah friends decided to do their first big game hunting trip together. These determined lads packed a lunch, loaded up their guns, and headed to the nearby woods. They split up and began their hunt through the forest. Bob went uphill and his two friends went downhill to scope out the lower forest.
Within an hour Bob spotted a small herd of five deer about 250 yards from his position. He brought up his Remington 700 30.06 and began checking out the deer. A nice 4X4 mule deer appeared in his scope. Bob peered through the lens and squeezed off a round. The deer appeared to Bob to be hit but didn’t go down. Bob and his friends headed up the hill to see if they could track the animal. Shortly thereafter, Bob saw the wounded deer staggering in his direction. He again fired a round. This time the old buck hit the ground. With shouts of joy Bob ran up to the buck, placed his gun against a nearby tree, and pulled out his trusty knife to bleed out the deer.
Just as he mounted the deer and raised its head to expose the neck area, the dazed deer stood up and began to run downhill. Bob was now becoming a rodeo star right in front of his friends. With Bob on its back, the deer passed by his two astonished friends who were laughing out loud and evaluating Bob’s ability to stay on. While trying to keep his balance, all Bob could do was “hang on” to the antlers and ride it out. He knew that eventually, the animal would slow down enough for him to escape.
After jumping off the animal, Bob ran back to the tree where his gun was placed, aimed at the runaway deer, and squeezed off another shot that brought the deer down permanently. This adventure really did happen.
Today, many families are coping with various issues that could feel just like riding a wild animal and the only counsel one can give them is to “hang on”. I know two wonderful families who are currently going through very traumatic circumstances. One middle-aged man is fighting cancer as his young family wonders about the future. Another couple that Louise and I are close to has a daughter who is struggling with her pregnancy, an older mother who is very sick, and the unknowns associated with a new start-up business venture.
What can you tell folks who are struggling with what seems to be insurmountable situations? I would feel empty of thought if it weren’t for what Scripture tells us. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to hang on, baby! “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Hebrews 10:35 and “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:36
The Apostle Paul tells us to hang on baby! “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
There are those times when, humanly speaking, we can’t do anything. God designed us to trust Him – to lean on Him – to embrace Him even when we are in deep despair. Another way to put it is to just stand firm on what you know and the faith we have.
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,” 2 Corinthians 1:21
Personal Application: Psalms 46:1 reminds us that God is our refuge and strength. Are you regularly seeking His counsel by reading His word?
This devotional is a guest post by Dr. Jim Grassi. He is the founder of Men’s Ministry Catalyst, a ministry partner of Promise Keepers.
Each one of us has a heritage. One form is our lineage, meaning our ancestors who came before us. Another heritage is the cultural type which is handed down through the generations.
Part of our national heritage is the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate. The roots of that holiday (originally “holy day”) are important for us all to understand. President Lincoln originally called for a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1863:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”
After recounting many of the blessings the country had enjoyed, even in the midst of the great trauma of Civil War, Lincoln proclaims the following:
“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
My family and I had an opportunity recently to visit Plymouth, Massachusetts, where my ancestors landed in 1623 after a perilous voyage on the supply ship “Anne.” This was the first ship that came to re-supply the pilgrims who had landed two and a half years earlier. My ancestors, Ralph and Joyce Wallen, were “separatists” – those who sought to exercise their liberty of conscience rather than follow the dictates of the government church.
It’s interesting that most people view the Declaration of Independence as being the birth certificate of our nation. But it really isn’t. The Mayflower Compact is our birth certificate. Our forebears laid out a covenant regarding their purpose in the new world:
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith, and the 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 another; covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
From what I can tell, my ancestors were humble people seeking religious freedom in a new land. They had no intention or desire to destroy other cultures, but rather to set free those cultures to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The same should be true for us today. Our culture is not supportive of a Judeo-Christian worldview; in fact, it is hostile to us and our desire to engage in respectful dialogue about truth and the gospel.
Our Lord made it clear that we would face opposition but that he had already addressed that perceived problem: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
This Thanksgiving let us approach the holiday with a great sense of gratitude for what God has done for us personally and for our nation. Unlike any other nation, except Israel (and some include Switzerland), the United States of America was birthed in covenant. This demonstrates God’s great intention toward our people, and places on us, as recipients of that blessing, a duty to discharge to those who came before as well as those who will come after us. Let us have a resident spirit of gratitude to God for the liberty we enjoy.
Our country desperately needs men who will stand up for what’s right.
To help launch a movement of promise-keeping men, we need prayer warriors. We need peopleto tell their pastors and other men that Promise Keepers is back. And, if God is leading you, we need financial support. Here are four projects we are praying will be fully funded by December 31:
1. Promise Keepers’ next national stadium event will be held July 31-August 1, 2020, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — and will bring together 80,000+ men, plus a projected 5 million men in churches and groups worldwide through simulcast. Due to critical production and logistics costs to prepare for the 2020 event, we need just over $1.5 million by December 31.
2. A Promise Keepers worship album will unify men in praise and worship and ensure we are all singing the same songs during the global simulcast. In years past, our worship CDs were a key part of the Promise Keepers experience. Once again, we will identify the best singers and songwriters to create a worship album worthy of men. Cost: $125,000
3. The Promise Keepers smartphone app will encourage men on a daily basis before and after our 2020 event. This app is an essential tool for Fire Teams — small groups of men who will ensure the impact of Promise Keepers lasts long after our annual events. Cost: $350,000
4. The Promise Keepers Bible will give men powerful study tools along with an accurate translation of the Word of God. Through QR codes, you will be able to hold your smartphone over the Bible and watch videos about what the Bible is teaching and the history behind events. Cost: $95,000
We believe God’s hand is upon each of these projects, and we believe God always pays for what He orders. In that spirit, we share these projects with you and invite you to support them financially. We will never pressure you into giving. However, we’ve promised to communicate our needs openly and honestly, and this is one of those times.
To support these projects by December 31st, mail your gift or give online. Thank you!
As the U.S. deals with its latest mass shooting, with at least two killed and four others injured Thursday (Nov. 14) at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., evangelism and gun control are cited to Baptist Press as possible remedies to stem the tide of violence.
Police and other emergency personnel responded Thursday (Nov. 14) when a 16-year-old student killed two fellow students and shot four others, including himself, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif.
A 16-year-old Asian male Saugus High School student described as the suspected shooter was being treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound less than three hours after he is believed to have opened fire at the high school of about 2,500 students. One student was treated and released, and two others remain hospitalized.
In the hours following the shooting, many students were sheltered at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, a non-Southern Baptist congregation that hosted a night of prayer Thursday.
Baptist Press interviewed Southern Baptist evangelist Greg Laurie, whose 29th annual Southern California Harvest Crusade in August marked the longest-running evangelistic outreach in U.S. history. BP talked with Promise Keepers Chairman and CEO Ken Harrison, a former police officer who leads the evangelistic and discipleship outreach to men, and retired pastor Al Meredith, who was senior pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1999 when a gunman killed seven and injured seven others before killing himself.
Laurie, in his 2019 Southern California Harvest Crusade, reported more than 8,000 professions of faith, 65 percent of them from Millennials, he said.
“I believe that the ultimate answer to so many of our problems in the culture today, from acts of violence against others to even acts of violence against yourself,” he told BP, “is the Gospel. But we have to understand what the Gospel is.
“The Gospel obviously means Good News; the bad news is we’re sinners,” Laurie said. “The bad news is we’re separated from God; the bad news is we’re broken. The Good News is Jesus died to forgive us of our sin, and rose from the dead. And if we turn from our sin, put our faith in Him and follow Him, then He’ll change us.
“But that doesn’t mean you’re not capable of doing something horrible,” he said. “So it’s not just believing Jesus; it’s following Jesus. And it’s living by what His Word says.”
God is working among youth, Laurie said, “but we need to redouble our efforts to proclaim the Gospel.”
The motive of the suspect in Thursday’s shooting has not been revealed, but the shooting did occur on his birthday. He was taken into custody while hiding at the school with a .45 caliber semi-automatic weapon, authorities said.
“I’m sorry, it’s just not enough to say you know, ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,'” Meredith told BP. “Why is our death rate so much higher? Why do we have mass shootings that have become common place, they don’t even register on our emotional radar? And other countries like Scandinavia, and Germany and France and Great Britain, they shake their heads in amazement at why we allow these things to happen.”
Days and weeks before BP’s interviews, two young men had killed 34 people in one weekend in August in the U.S. In El Paso, Texas, a 21-year-old man had killed 22 people and left 26 others injured at a Walmart, and a 24-year old male gunman had killed nine in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio. The previous weekend, a 19-year-old male was identified as the shooter after three were shot dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif., about 300 miles north of Thursday’s school shooting.
“Hope is two-fold,” Meredith told BP, as tragedies make more common the term “domestic terrorism.” His views are his own, Meredith said, and not those of the church that in September marked the 20th anniversary of the 1999 shooting there.
“One, only God can change dead hearts into living hearts. Only God can transform evil characters into God-honoring people,” Meredith told BP. “In one sense, all these mass killings are an issue of the human heart. And it’s a sign of our failure as evangelicals to win the world to Christ.
“The other level,” Meredith said, “is it seems as though our problems are systemic in our society.”
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. registered 3.85 deaths by guns per 100,000 people in 2016, compared to rates ranging from 0.12 per 100,000 in Germany and 0.03 per 100,000 in Singapore. The numbers, released in 2017, do not include deaths from armed conflicts, accidents or self-harm, the institute said.
“And that should tell us,” Meredith told BP, “there’s something wrong with the system (in the U.S.)…. Something must be done to change the system, both in the area of some semblance of restriction on the availability of automatic weapons. And the other issue is mental health, and somehow do a better job of caring for and bringing healing and normalcy to people that are emotionally disturbed.”
At the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2018 annual meeting in Dallas, messengers passed a resolution “On Gun Violence and Mass Shootings” addressing many of these issues. Read it here.
Harrison, whose Promise Keepers ministry focuses on evangelism and discipleship, sees the answer more in evangelism and discipleship than in gun control. “When you look at mass shootings, they’re … mostly young men who, they don’t know that Jesus loves them,” Harrison said. “They don’t know that they can be forgiven for their sin. They don’t know where to turn for answers.
“The number one thing the church needs to do is let these young people know about the grace and love of Jesus Christ,” Harrison said. “But more practically … one of the biggest problems that these young men have, is they don’t have dads in the home. They don’t have positive male influences, and they’re filled with anger. I was able to see the effects of that when I was a policeman in South Central Los Angeles in the Watts-Compton area.” There, he said, where 95 percent of the population was law abiding, the influence of gang violence was prominent and left people in fear.
Problems were exacerbated by fatherlessness and a lack of Gospel evangelism, he said, adding that a father in the home doesn’t necessarily equal a stable environment.
“We as Christians, we have got to be active in sharing our faith,” Harrison said, encouraging Christians to seek opportunities to share the Gospel with people they encounter in daily life. “Just say, if there’s one thing I can pray for you today what would it be? Unbelievable where that goes.” In his experience, people rarely refuse to talk and such conversations most often lead to salvation experiences, he told BP.
The suspect’s father died two years ago, according to ABC7.com.
For many years the Babylonians held the Israelites in bondage. After King Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians, God stirred the heart of Cyrus to give the Israelites their Temple back.
In Ezra 3 we read about the rebuilding of the altar so that the exiled Israelites could again freely worship their God. Once the altar and boundary walls were completed, the rebuilding of the Temple itself began. There was much rejoicing and thanksgiving as they saw their land restored.
The people raised their voices to openly acknowledge God’s hand in forgiving them of their sins and bringing them back home. The words to their song and chant are preserved for us in the book of Ezra: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” (Ezra 3:11)
God is always at work in our lives — past, present, and future — even when we feel as if we are in “exile” or as if our lives are on hold. Today, many people are fearful, anxious, and yes, even depressed. The plight of our nation, the growing concern about the decline of moral values, and the numerous personal problems surrounding our loved one’s cause many to feel alone and desperate.
Thanksgiving is a great time to remind ourselves that we serve a loving and merciful God who wishes to bless His children with peace, joy, and abundance. He challenges us to trust and obey, even when it seems unnatural to do so.
The writer of Proverbs tells us, “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” Despite our challenges, let’s try to remember, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV)
May you and yours have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. We encourage you to have each person at your Thanksgiving table say one thing they are thankful for. May you find that His grace is sufficient.
What are you thankful for? Tell someone how God has blessed you today.
This devotional is a guest post by Dr. Jim Grassi. He is the founder of Men’s Ministry Catalyst, a ministry partner of Promise Keepers.
This is a guest post by Pat Boone. Pat Boone is an American singer and actor who has sold more than 45 million records, had 38 top-40 hits, and appeared in 12 Hollywood films. He is also a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and the proud father of four daughters. Earlier this year, Pat’s beloved wife, Shirley, went home to be with her Father in heaven. In this post, originally written for the Promise Keepers newsletter, Pat shares how gratitude can change our lives.
Life isn’t easy — no matter who you are.
I’ve been a recording artist for over five decades, and I’ve experienced fame and success. But it hasn’t spared me from heartaches, trials, and grief. For me, one of my greatest sorrows has been losing my wife, Shirley, this year.
Early in my life — when hardships or heartaches came — I learned a secret. Gratitude can lift our thoughts from what’s troubling us, change our perspective, and ultimately change our lives. Being thankful is one of the most powerful forces known to humanity.
Recently I’ve been thinking some new things about gratitude. When I make a list of things I’m thankful for, “breath” is at the top of my list! That sounds pretty elemental, but I find that appreciating something as simple as my breath leads to gratitude in other areas of my life.
For example, when I think of how I received life and breath from my parents, it reminds me to be grateful for my God-fearing, Bible-believing, church-going parents who brought me up to believe the Bible.
For 35 years, I’ve started my day reading the Word of God. I read through it every year, start to finish. And when I read the Bible, I learn that God breathed life into Adam, the first man, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). I also learn that before Jesus ascended, He breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
Asking God to Breathe into Me
Now, when I start my devotional every morning, I ask God to lean over me and breathe into me His Holy Spirit as He did with His apostles. Just simple gratitude for my breath leads my thoughts heavenward in a plea for His Spirit to fill me and guide me in everything I do and say.
I know that when the Day of Judgment comes and I stand before God, His first question is going to be: “What did you do with My Son? I gave Him to die for you; did you receive Him?” And then, “How about you as a husband and a father? Did you teach your wife and your kids about Me?”
Those questions are going to be asked of every man. And, brother, we’d better be ready to answer those questions because every breath we take is bringing us closer to that moment.
Put Gratitude and God’s Power to Work in Your Life
So I encourage you: Make a list of everything you’re grateful for right now. Remember to put “breath” on your list. The fact that you are alive means God has a plan and a purpose for you.
Then ask God to breathe His Holy Spirit into you, and you’ll find your life will change! You’ll be a better husband, a better father, a better businessman, a grandfather. You’ll think things and view life from God’s perspective.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 2:12-13, which says: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
When we breathe in His breath, God causes us to want to do the right things and then gives us the power to do them. But good luck trying to do them in our own strength!
The rest of my breathing days I look forward to sharing this message with other men because it is a great goal of mine that men would continue to grow into the manhood that God wants each one of them to have. God bless you!
Help Send 500 Young “Men of Honor” to PK’s 2020 Event
The Men and Ladies of Honor—a Christian ministry based in the Dallas area—teaches chivalry and virtue to at-risk boys and girls on public school campuses in the United States and locations around the world. The majority of students served are fatherless and live below the poverty level.
Through The Men and Ladies of Honor ministry, students are mentored and instructed in core values and leadership, with an emphasis on good character, honor, and integrity. Their mission is to develop passionate followers of Christ, urging students to create a culture of honor, excellence, and exemplary behavior in their schools and communities.
We have a vision for 500 of these young “Men of Honor” to attend Promise Keepers’ next national event in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on July 31–August 1, 2020. If you sense God’s leading, you have an opportunity to help provide a scholarship for one or more young men to attend the event. A gift of $100 to our Scholarship Fund can provide a ticket for one person. To help, click here and choose “Fund a Scholarship.”
You Can Do This Now
Interested in having an impact on others? We’ve created another simple way for you to encourage a young man to attend Promise Keepers. Share an audio testimony by calling (877) 880-1181 and leave a message with your story of how God has worked through Promise Keepers to change your life.
We’ll use your stories to encourage and strengthen others. Thank you!