November is the month we Americans celebrate the holiday known as Thanksgiving. As a Christian, I believe every day is Thanksgiving Day. But it's still good to designate a special day, a time to offer gratitude and praise to God for all our blessings and a time to express appreciation to those persons who deeply enrich our lives.
By the grace of God, I have had the awesome privilege of serving the Lord in ministry for many years - almost 40 as a pastor and hospital chaplain. I would not trade the experience for anything. Most all of the people I've come to know and love have been very good to me. They have supported the cause of Christ and labored alongside and encouraged me in so many ways. For them I will always be grateful.
Still, I would be less than honest if I did not admit that at times I have been disappointed, troubled and even deeply hurt by some who may or may not even realize it. God knows that happens, because God knows that we're human. We make mistakes. In the words of an old song, "we're just sinners saved by grace."
That's where the Good News of the Gospel gives hope and peace. When Jesus died, He took our place on the cross. All the things we deserved because of our sins - He died to forgive. He died to save. So I can be thankful even for the disappointments and the hurts because God can take and use those things to help me grow, to be more forgiving and hopefully more understanding.
If you've been there - if you've known heartache and rejection and misfortune - and everyone has - I pray you never become bitter or mean-spirited. Learn from the ways our Savior dealt with those things. Receive Him today! Confess your negative attitudes. Turn from your anger, your frustration, your anxiety, your fear or whatever it is. Ask Him to come into your heart and life and live His life in you. His Spirit will guide you in your journey through life.
Some years ago Marvin Phillips wrote a poem "Love anyway." I'd like to share it with you today. Always remember that God loves you. Please receive that love and pass it on! Peace be with you.
If you give yourself to love, you may get hurt; love anyway!
If you love people they may not love you back; love anyway!
If you open your heart to others, some will invade and vandalize it!
Open your heart anyway!
If you allow yourself to love unconditionally, you may find that others may love you with many conditions: love unconditionally anyway!
If you love your fellow man some may misundersand; love your fellow man anyway.
If you love romantically, you may get burned; love romantically anyway! There are those who are dangerous to love. There are those with whom you should not be in love.
Be a loving person anyway.
Love will bring many thorns and scars along the way. Love will not be returned every time.
But love is the only path worth traveling. Love brings ecstasies nothing else will.
So love...love anyway!
Ask God's help to love often and well!
For it is better to have not lived...Than to have not loved!
(Marvin Phillips 1999)
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)