Fred VanVleet

NBA guard Fred VanVleet recently agreed to a new contract that will keep him a member of the Toronto Raptors. VanVleet has played a huge role in the Raptors’ recent success, which includes a march to the 2019 NBA championship. He was rewarded for his efforts by the contract offer, which is worth $85 million over four years.

VanVleet wasn’t always that highly appreciated. After playing his college ball at Wichita State, VanVleet did not hear his name called at the NBA draft. Not to be deterred, he worked hard to hone his skills, took advantage of an opportunity that came his way, and in the end was offered the largest contract ever extended to an undrafted player. It just goes to show that hard work and perseverance eventually reaps its rewards. Remember that the next time you are feeling under-appreciated.

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”—Proverbs 22:29.

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Uncommon Thanks

One of my favorite Scriptures about thanksgiving is found in Luke 17. There we read about the time Jesus healed ten men who were suffering from leprosy. These ten men came as close to Jesus as they dared. By Old Testament law, they had to remain distant from others so as not to infect anyone else. (Does this sound a bit like life in 2020?). These men shouted to Jesus, asking for pity. They did not specify exactly what they wanted him to do, but there is little doubt what they were asking from this teacher who had gained quite a reputation as a miraculous healer. They wanted their health back. They wanted to be able to go back to society, back to their family and friends, back to their jobs. They wanted their lives back.

Jesus gave them what they wanted, but in a roundabout way. He put their faith to the test by telling them to go and show themselves to the priests, who acted as health inspectors in those times. In other words, he told them to behave as if they had already been healed. They all passed this test of faith, and as they obeyed by starting off for the priests, they were healed.

One of these men, when he noticed that he was healed, ran back to Jesus. Praising God in a loud voice, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

At this point, Luke mentions that this man was a Samaritan. This is noteworthy, since Jews and Samaritans normally despised each other. The other nine were presumably Jewish, therefore the most unlikely person in the whole group is the only one who came back to thank his Jewish healer.

Jesus seems to be disappointed that no one else came back to give thanks. He recognizes the uncommon faith expressed by this lone man. Jesus then praises the man for his faith and sends him on his way.

From this text we can learn some important principles of thanksgiving.

First, let us recognize that it is important to give thanks immediately. If we don’t give thanks quickly, we sometimes end up not giving thanks at all.

Secondly, we need to see that true thanksgiving is rare. Many people focus their attention so much on the blessings they receive that they have little attention left to give to the One who gives the blessing!

Third, we must understand that Jesus expects us to be thankful. Our gratitude must be expressed in our prayers, our singing, our conversations and our general attitude about life. Even in the year 2020, when so many things went so terribly wrong, we have much to be thankful for!

Let’s try to be especially thankful this Thanksgiving. Like the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.”

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Different Reactions

Years ago I was part of a community service group that was trying to raise money by offering “Pictures with Santa”. I got to dress up as Santa Claus, and people would bring their small children to be photographed with Santa for a small fee.

It was interesting to see the different reactions from the kids. Some would run up to me, jump up on my lap and give me a big hug around the neck. Others would be so frightened that they would not come near me, no matter how much their parents tried to assure them it was okay. Some would even cry loudly and would not even look at me.

Have you ever noticed that people have similar reactions when it comes to facing God? Some willingly embrace the Father, while others shy away in fear. The first group sees him as loving and forgiving, while the second envisions a God of wrath who will cause them harm.

What is it that differentiates between the two groups? It’s faith.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…”—1 John 3:1.

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The highway department recently put in a much-needed guardrail along a stretch of road near our house. My wife asked me if I had noticed it. I had not, even though I had driven by there a couple of times since it was installed. I also failed to notice the new guardrail the next couple of times I drove by. Finally, I did notice this new addition to our highway, a fine safety feature to protect people from getting seriously hurt if they happened to run off the road.

God puts spiritual guardrails in our lives that protect us even when we aren’t noticing them. The Scriptures instilled in us help to prevent us from making wrong decisions. The Holy Spirit guides us away from sin. The influence of godly family and friends keep us on the right road.

One important guardrail for a Christian is the Lord’s Supper. Regular participation in communion will keep us on the Lord’s highway and help to prevent us from suffering spiritual harm.

“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread…”—Acts 20:7.

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Tasting Good!

In a recent Zits comic strip, a conversation between teenager Jeremy and his father went like this:

Jeremy: “Oh, great. We’re out of milk.”

Dad: “There’s still plenty of skim milk.”

Jeremy: “Oh. Okay…In that case, we’re just out of milk that tastes like milk.”

Dad: “Welcome to my world.”

We live in a world that is full of unsatisfactory substitutes for Jesus. Thank goodness we have the real thing!

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”—1 Peter 2:2-3.

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Remembering Him

University of Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman died Thursday at the age of 45 after a two-year battle with cancer. The Wildcats wanted to pay a special tribute to their coach, who also played football for Kentucky from 1994 to 1997. So they took the field with only ten players, lining up without a left guard for the first play of their game today against Vanderbilt. After Kentucky was called for a delay of game penalty (which Vanderbilt declined to accept), senior lineman Landon Young took the field for Kentucky wearing Schlarman’s #65 instead of his usual #67. It was a very fitting tribute to their fallen coach.

Every Sunday we Christians have the opportunity to honor Jesus Christ, our crucified Lord and Savior. Whenever we take communion, we pay a special tribute to him. We remember that he died to pay for our sins. This tribute, however, is different in that we not only acknowledge his death, we also give testimony to the fact that he has risen from the grave! Our crucified and risen Savior lives! He reigns from heaven, and one day he will come back to receive all who trust in him, to take them home to heaven to live with him forever!

What a fitting tribute to our wonderful Lord and Savior!

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”—1 Corinthians 11:26.

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Dirty Jobs

Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe is probably best known as the host of the television show “Dirty Jobs”, which aired for several years on the Discovery Channel. Rowe would travel to various places to give viewers a glimpse of what it is like to perform some of the most disgusting jobs on the planet. These dirty jobs included some of the nastiest chores in agriculture, industry, construction, the medical field and many other occupations. If you can picture the grossest chore imaginable, it was probably featured in an episode of “Dirty Jobs”.

What made the show interesting was that Mike Rowe was not content to merely stand behind the camera and narrate the action. No, he was always actually involved in performing the dirty work. Each episode showed him dutifully getting his hands–and usually all the rest of him—as filthy as could be.

There is a chapter in the Bible that reminds me of the show “Dirty Jobs”. It’s John 13, where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.

In the first century, it was considered to be a common courtesy to provide the service of foot washing when a guest would enter your house. After walking in sandals on dusty or muddy roads, one’s feet would become quite dirty, making the foot washing necessary. Since this task was so unpleasant to perform, it was reserved for the lowliest servant in the household.

It is interesting that Jesus chose to humble himself by washing the feet of his disciples. Important people usually try to avoid such work. Why would the Lord of the universe stoop to perform such a task? And the context is interesting as well. Jesus is in the process of trying to prepare himself and his disciples for his upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. You would think that Jesus would have other things on his mind besides washing the feet of his disciples! But he had an important lesson to teach them, and us, about the importance of humble service in his kingdom.

Jesus wants us to know that we must practice humility. Jesus gave us an example of this when he humbled himself by leaving heaven to come here to earth. He further humbled himself by allowing himself to be falsely accused, horribly mistreated and ultimately put to death on a cruel, painful cross. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was simply giving one more profound example of the humble way he came to serve mankind.

The purpose of this demonstration was to set an example for his followers to perform acts of humble service. While the need for foot washing is not as prevalent as it was in the first century, there are many modern day “dirty jobs” that we can perform for one another to show our desire to follow Jesus’ example in humble service.

Have you ever worked to unclog a toilet in the church building? Maybe you helped clean up a church building after it had been flooded or damaged by a fire. Perhaps you held a container for a friend to vomit in as they suffered from the side effects of chemotherapy. Some Christians have toiled on their hands and knees to scrub communion stains out of the carpet. Others have cleaned up messes when a child dropped a plate full of food at a church dinner. Have you ever tried to minister to a poor person who did not have the means to practice good personal hygiene?

There are any number of “dirty jobs” in the kingdom that humble servants of Jesus perform every single day. When one of those jobs presents itself, let’s have the humility and the desire to jump in and get our hands dirty!

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Alex Trebek

Millions of Jeopardy fans are mourning the loss of the television show’s beloved long-time host, Alex Trebek, who passed away a few days ago after a valiant battle against pancreatic cancer. Trebek seemed to have been born for the role of host of the popular TV game show. His calm, pleasant demeanor, his smooth voice and his obvious love of knowledge all contributed to his great success in hosting the show for so many years.

One of Alex Trebek’s finest qualities was the genuine empathy he had for the contestants. He rooted for all of them to do well. Alex sympathized with them when they did not come up with the proper response, and he was obviously pleased when they were correct, especially when it enabled them to win a lot of money. His caring nature endeared him to the millions of fans who watched him over the years.

Empathy is a quality that we all should try to cultivate in our lives. The more that people understand that we truly care about them, the more likely we are to be able to influence them in a positive way that will either lead them to Jesus or help them to grow in their faith.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”—Romans 12:15.

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No Greater Love

Today is Veterans Day, and citizens of the United States will spend time reflecting on the sacrifices made by many men and women over the years; sacrifices that served to gain and maintain the freedoms we enjoy in our great nation. While the current pandemic will curtail many of the gatherings and celebrations that had been planned, nothing will diminish our appreciation for those who have unselfishly sacrificed so much for their fellow countrymen.

Let’s spend some time today giving thanks for our veterans and saying prayers for our men and women in uniform and their families, wherever they may be.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”—John 15:13.

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Making Progress

I have always liked the message that I saw on a T-shirt years ago—“Be Patient with Me! God Is Not Finished with Me Yet!” We Christians are indeed all works in progress. We never will reach perfection, therefore there is the need to be patient with one another.

However, I have recently had a new thought about that message. Could it be that we use the perfectly respectable request for patience as an excuse for not growing in our faith? Is it possible that we might prefer continually asking for forgiveness over exercising the discipline required to make much-needed changes in our lives?

Maybe it’s not true, but I thought it was worth asking.

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”—1 Tim.4:15.

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