Thankful for my Dad

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” - James 1:17

On the day that I am writing this devotional, it is exactly 3 months from the day that my Father departed from this world and entered into Life everlasting. At the age of 71, his time with us was cut short by a terrible disease called Frontotemporal Dementia. And this is the day that I sat down to write a devotional about what I am thankful for. Today, I want to let you know that I am deeply thankful for my Dad.

My Dad was a good man. He was strong and he was gentle. He loved people really well, he loved Jesus with all his heart, and he taught all three of his kids and all nine of his grandkids to do the same. He was generous, kind, humble, patient, absolutely selfless, a man of impeccable character, the consummate entertainer, and oh so very funny. Even during the worst of this awful sickness, he was still all Dad. Dementia may have ravaged his brain, he may not have remembered our names, he could barely put together a sentence, but he could smile, he could laugh, and his eyes still had all the love that they had ever had in them. It was still Dad. It’s amazing how much you miss those little things. In fact, I didn’t realize how thankful I was for those little things until I lost them. It had been years since I had had a meaningful conversation with him and he just hadn’t been himself for a long time, but there was something so comforting in knowing that I could go visit him and see his smile, hear his laugh, and look at those loving eyes.

I can’t do that anymore… at least, not with Dad… but I can look for it in others. So, today, my Dad is still teaching me things. He is teaching me to be thankful for the gift of a smile, a laugh, and for loving eyes wherever I see them. He is reminding me that while these may be little things, they are also good and perfect gifts, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.

Thanks, Dad.

Now, it’s your turn. What are the little things that are good and perfect gifts?

Pastor Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

Be thankful! Don’t boss me!

When given a direct command, I want to do the opposite. When the sign says “Don’t touch the glass!” I want to leave my mark. I’m not sure what my problem is, but I know I don’t like being told what to do. Even when I agree or know it is for the best; I still don’t like being bossed around.

Indian Hills is a Christian Camp in southeast San Diego. The camp has a cool little petting zoo and just outside that zoo is a corral that houses some small donkeys and ponies. Years ago, the corral had signs around the outside that read, “Don’t pet the donkeys!” I was fascinated last week to discover that the signs now read, “Donkeys bite fingers!” Notice the communication change, one is a command without information and the other is information without a command. Which message would be more effective at protecting you?

A lot of the Bible’s wisdom comes to us as instructions, orders, or commands that do not give a good reason why; including this little gem from 1 Thess 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The explanation for giving thanks in all circumstances is that it is God’s will for us. Imagine if the signs around the donkey corral read, “Don’t pet the donkeys! Because I don’t want you to!” The instruction tells us God's hope or plan for us, but it does not tell us how that helps us or protects us.

For some believers, that is good enough. “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!” is their mindset. God blesses believers who faithfully obey. But some of us take time to move from knowing something, like knowing that God wants us to be thankful in every situation, to actually putting that into practice. Maybe stubbornness makes us push back against being told what to do, or maybe it is because we don’t see what is in it for us.

No one is justified in disobeying God because God didn’t make his instructions or precepts clearer. I’m just pointing out that some believers don’t obey and don’t like being told what to do, even by God. There is a battle of wills, and it is helpful for believers to be aware of that battle. It is helpful to recognize if, and when, believers are pushing against God’s instructions intentionally or out of a pattern of lifelong, natural, human resistance (we usually call this sin). Is God trustable? Will you submit to God and let him boss you around? If so, be thankful!

P.S. Everything modern researchers learn about thankfulness shows that God was right and that gratitude really helps the hearts, minds, and bodies of those who express it regularly.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

How Beautiful is the Body of Christ

One of the highlights of my week is having the opportunity to stand in the lobby and to walk the halls of the Children’s Center on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. There is nothing like it. It fills my heart with so much thankfulness that I can hardly contain it. Really. Sometimes there are tears. Let me tell you why.

On any given Sunday or Wednesday, I walk into this huge building and remember that it was built because of the sacrificial giving and the dedicated prayers of so many who prioritized having a special place to invest in the spiritual lives of the next generation, and who believed that opening a preschool would expand the reach of the gospel into our community. I’d like to tell you today how incredibly thankful to God I am for those sacrifices, those prayers, and the belief that it really mattered. Because it did and it does. Because children matter to God.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the building is the thing, but the building has been used by God— powerfully— as a place where kids and families have been built up and encouraged. I could tell you stories all day of kids who have been changed because of the hope and joy that they are finding in a relationship with Jesus.  Or stories of young parents, new to our church, who are filled with gratitude that this church family cares so much for their children. Or the stories of families who have a child with special needs, and who are embraced and loved. Or the stories of the volunteers who walk through the doors week after week, with a light in their eyes and a love for Jesus that they long to share with each child who shows up that day.

I see about 200 volunteers from our church family walk through the doors of the Children’s Center each week, and their lives are beautiful to me. They encourage my heart more than they will ever know. So as I walk the halls and see a volunteer teaching a Bible lesson, or rocking a baby, or leading a discussion, or tenderly helping a child with special needs, or teaching a group of little ones how to talk to our awesome God in prayer— my heart could just explode with thankfulness to God for the beauty of the body of Christ on full display. Each one brings their love for Jesus, their love for children, and a hope that a child will learn to walk in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus because they showed up. They show up and it matters— for eternity it matters because Jesus loves children.

Father, thank you for the beauty of the body of Christ, as each one brings their gifts, their sacrifice of time and love, to help the next generation know all of the wonderful things you have done in making a way for us to know you, through your Son. Thank you, God, for each member of this church family who prays and gives and serves because they have found life in you, and want others to know that life.

“… How beautiful the radiant Bride who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes…How beautiful the feet that bring the sound of good news and the love of the King. How beautiful the hands that serve the wine and the bread and the sons of the earth. How beautiful! How beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ.” -Twila Paris

Nicole Jiles
Director of Children’s Ministry

The Thankful Equation

Philippians 4:6-7-"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Many of us have either memorized, read, or heard that verse countless times. But today as I read it, something stood out to me. Being thankful when making requests of God results in peace, less anxiety, and our hearts and minds being protected. Seems like a simple equation and who does not want peace beyond understanding and freedom from anxiety? So then why are so many people suffering from anxiety, yes many even in churches?

I did some research. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Anxiety disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States. Women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Meanwhile, approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before age 21. How sad is that? I’m not talking about momentary anxiety we all experience, but chronic anxiety.

A young woman we’ve been praying for in our church family is expecting a baby and is now in the hospital for several weeks before the birth to ensure he’s born healthy. She emailed me and asked to be part of the prayer team to pray for other people while she is in the hospital. I’m grateful for her and I know that God will be guarding her heart and mind while she waits. Why? Because that is what He promises to those who pray and give thanks. Being thankful in all situations helps us develop our trust in God and helps us to be humble. Thanking God in difficult situations can also help us appreciate the good times more.

Practicing gratitude increases dopamine in your brain (the stuff that makes you feel good!) and encourages your brain to seek more of the same. So, scientifically speaking, the more you are grateful, the more you will find things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for the Creator who designed that brain, aren’t you? I wonder if that also means the more I grumble, the more things I find to grumble about . . . just thinking.

How can we practice gratitude every day? Notice good things, look for them, appreciate them. Savor, absorb, and really pay attention to those good things. Express your gratitude to God, write it down, or thank someone. Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty, and his promise to be near us when we call (Psalm 145:18).

Thank you, Lord, for your peace that transcends understanding and your love that endures forever.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant

Rejoice Evermore!

Do you ever find yourself on the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving thinking, “Why did I just do all of that?” I have! As I’ve stepped into adulthood, I find it harder and harder to appreciate what it is we’re celebrating on these special days without getting caught up in all the “things” to be done. So, even as I am writing a devotional on gratitude, I am thankful for this moment to pause and reflect on what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving.

An epistle that comes to mind when I think of this holiday is Philippians. You don’t necessarily see the word “thankful” come up much, but in my mind, praise and thanksgiving are practically synonymous, and praise is littered throughout Philippians. In fact, the word that comes up many times in the epistle is the word “rejoice.” The emphasis on rejoicing is really the whole focus of Paul in this letter, which is possibly the most joyful book (I have encountered) in the Bible. Paul is filled with so much joy that he can even genuinely say to those at Philippi, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Neither the terrors of death nor the suffering of life can phase Paul in the slightest. To him, they are only opportunities for better things ahead, as Paul says (regarding the things of this world), “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).

In the vein of this theme of rejoicing, and since Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, I thought it appropriate to quote the wisdom of one of our American forefathers, John Adams (as depicted in an historical adaptation of his life). After years of struggle, suffering and political maneuvering to help form the budding nation of the United States of America, Adams is very near death’s door in one of the closing scenes of HBO’s John Adams. He verges on moments of senility that clearly make his son (who’s walking beside him) a bit nervous. However, at one point in his soliloquizing to his son, he gets extremely passionate and excited; he pulls his son close, and whispers, “Rejoice evermore!” (1 Thess. 5:16) He then repeats himself, whispering a bit louder, “Rejoice evermore!” He finishes by slamming the cane he’s using into the ground and shouts to the skies, “Rejoice evermore!” His son laughs at his father’s antics, but Adams adds, with a bitter tone of regret, “I wish that had always been in my heart and on my tongue.”

At the end of his life, what Adams regrets most is not allowing his joy and gratitude towards God to permeate his every waking moment. I think at this point, Adams realizes that when we rejoice, when we see our lives and this world with the perspective of a child of God who has everything he or she could possibly need or want in Christ Jesus, all the things we thought were really important fade away in the face of eternity with Him. So, this Thanksgiving, let’s not forget to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”!

Ashley Carr

Muchas Gracias

Series: Thanksgiving
Text: Colossians 3:15-17
Speaker: Pastor Esteban Tapia

On Sunday, November 21st, Esteban Tapia, Pastor of our Spanish Language Ministries, taught from Colossians 3:15-17 in a special Thanksgiving message, Muchas Gracias. We looked at the subject of gratitude and giving thanks. In addition, Pastor Ryan Lunde spoke at our Sunday evening service from Lamentations 3:1-24 - How Can We Be Thankful. Click here to view the 5pm service message.