Don’t Skip Thanksgiving

The world wants to skip from Halloween to Christmas bouncing from horror themed self-indulgence to tinsel tossed materialism. The church can empathize with the sentiment. The social unrest, contentious elections, and COVID19 pandemic have cast a long, misty shadow of anxiety over most every part of the globe. The idea of stopping at grandma’s for Thanksgiving turkey seems to be an ironic exercise in American cultural futility. Why give thanks for such a world?

Though the world despairs, the people of God have every reason to give thanks in such a world. They understand the sovereign love of God. The church knows that all of today’s troubles are bound together by a golden thread of grace that culminates in the book of life. For the Christian, spiritual reality remains far more real than presidential elections, infection numbers, and GDP growth. What do those who see beyond the empirical world know?

Why Christians Give Thanks

They know that God will rescue his people and that Jesus will come again. To borrow the words of Micah 7:8b and 9b Christians are confident that, “when I fall, I shall rise…[and] in that day the boundary shall be far extended.” Though the believer may watch his political candidate go down in flames, get a pink slip, or receive a terminal diagnosis, he knows God will not let him be crushed. God will vindicate his people. Admittedly, God may not vindicate his people’s political candidates, business plans, or medical strategies. Our causes may flounder, but our faith will remain unmoved. We will prove to be more than conquers because God has pleaded our cause and has executed “justice (Micah 7:10).” Jesus died that we might be freed from the curse. Death, sin, and sorrow have no right to dominate our soul for Jesus has swaddled us in his righteous love. Even if our day is filled with adversity, mistakes, and sinful failures, we know the darkness will not last because “the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:9.).” Even on the worst day, the believer can confidently boast, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).” Those whose names have been written in the book of life have every reason to be thankful. God will rescue from today’s trial.

God also promises to come again. The Christian’s future hope is not tied to suburban homes and white fences, large family gatherings, or exotic vacations. All these things can come and go and utterly disappoint our souls. Homes can flood, gatherings can descend into feuds, and vacations can prove to be a waste of time. The Christian hopes in something yet unseen but something far more secure, the new heavens and the new earth. When Christ returns the boundary of his kingdom shall be extended to cover all of humanity. All sin, disease, sorrow, anxiety, hurt, and injustices will be forced outside the walls of God’s kingdom and crushed. Inside the walls, Jesus will shepherd his people placing them under the shade of his blessed comfort and filling their hearts with the abundance of his riches. Because the believer knows her destination is secure, she has every reason to be thankful today. The new heavens and the new earth are coming.

Give Thanks!

Though the world maybe ready to skip from Halloween to Christmas, the church should embrace the cultural moment and give thanks. God promises to see us through today and to come again. The two things that fuel our anxiety, today’s problems and tomorrow’s possibilities, have been solved by Jesus on the cross. The baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas morn has conquered this world of goblins and vampires. Nothing can separate us from him. Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

3 Ways To Prevent Ministry Collisions

conflict pictureI wobbled around the yard with the ball in my glove. My older brother was lying on the ground with a bloodied nose. We were both a little fuzzy (a complication of being knocked silly) on how we got to this point. We think the general story went like this: In an effort to work on catching pop-flies my brother and I would toss a ball as high as possible and then run underneath it to catch. On this occasion, I had tossed the ball and doggedly charged after it. My brother did the same. And seconds later, the ground shook as two skyward gazing grade-schoolers ran into each other at full speed.

Often church people do exactly the same thing. With eyes fixated on expanding the church, people smash into each other seeking resources for their specific ministry, projects, or ideas. And when they do collide over how the budget will be spent and on who gets to reserve the fellowship hall, things can get messy in a hurry. People in the church start complaining, start rooting for programs to fail, and start stressing how much more important X Ministry is than B Ministry. I.e. the same team starts competing against itself. When this happens, the ministry game comes to the stretching halt.

When I was playing high school baseball, my team was blessed with enough talent to thoroughly thrash a couple of our lower quality opponents. During one such thrashing, we geared up to start of the 4th inning. As we slide on our gloves, the other team decided that they had had enough. They had enough of the errors, the poor pitch selections, and the bad calls. Their gloves came off and a full out brawl began…in their dugout. We watched passively in amazement as a tornado of gloves, hats, and punches whipped around the visitors’ dugout. Needless to say, the team forfeited that game and the rest of their season. They were done.

And when the church turns in on itself, it is done.  Once we exchange the liberating hope of the gospel for the despair of personal opinions, we become bring all real ministry to a halt. Humility evaporates. Relationships break down. And, God is forgotten. What’s left? A bunch of squabbling teammates that can’t even live up to the world’s standards of friendship.

What the solution?

1.      Be Thankful

We begin with thankfulness. Instead of being angry, instead of clinging to our own ideas as if they descended from heaven, we stop and thank God for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Notice what Paul say in Philippians 1:3-4,

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.

Paul is thankful because they are all on the same team. They are all servants of Christ united together through the gospel. The next time we are tempted to get upset, to lash out at a fellow believer over some program, we need to stop and pray for that person. We need to be thankful that the same God working in us in working in them. We need to praise God that he saved both of us.  We need to teach our hearts to love others. We may have different ideas. But we have the same God and savior. Instead of attacking our fellow teammates, let’s be thankful for them and for their ministries.

1.      Be Thankful Again

Ok, now some of you may be thinking that I can be thankful for most people. But then there is that special class of people who always get on our nerves, who do things out of spite, or who do things to advance themselves. Surely we can fight against those people. And if these people are getting the gospel wrong, then yes would should address them in love. We should speak truth. But if they are preaching truth from wrong motives, Paul says rejoice. “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” I.E. if the ministry you deem to be most important is being trampled by another ministry that’s growing (even with bad leadership) we should rejoice. Why? Why is Paul rejoicing? We can rejoice with Paul because ministry is not about making much of us and our ideas. It’s about making much of Jesus and his church. Let’s rejoice and praise everything that moves the gospel forward!

2.      Check Your Heart

In addition to being thankful, we also need to be honest with ourselves. Ultimately, the reason we turn on other church members is that we have messed up hearts. We are worshiping our ideas and programs. When we don’t get them, we sin. Notice in Philippians 2:3-4 Paul says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The reason we get mad, the reason we attack ministries, and the reason we complain about our fellow church members is that we are motivated by ambition and conceit. If our main complaints about programs and the church are focused around the pronouns “I” and “me,” we have a problem. We are not looking to the interest of others. We are being selfish. We need to stop and start putting others first. Why? Because this is what Jesus does. He humbled himself to save us. If we are going to be like Christ, we must humble ourselves so that Christ and his church can flourish. Friends, we need to be honest with ourselves. If we are fighting with people in our church, if we are always critical, if we have competing ministries, we have hearts out of line. Before we fix or change any program of ministry focus, we need to repent.

It’s natural for there to be competition, complaints, and attacks in the church. After all it is a hospital for the spiritual sick. But instead of blooding each other, let’s humbly put others first. Let’s keep our gaze on Christ. Let’s be thankful for our fellow Christians, and let’s be honest with each other. Together, we can keep the church moving forward!

Thanksgiving Every Day

thanksgiving blogSometimes it was painfully awkward; sometimes it was refreshing, and sometimes it was just a touch weird.  Yet, we did it. Each Thanksgiving after the pumpkin pie had been put away, all five of us Witkowski kids would go around the table and list the one thing we were thankful for. (The first kid always had it easy. “I’m thankful for my awesome family.” Shocker, right?) Though I wasn’t always a fan of the tradition as a kid, I’ve come to realize that we need to regularly thank our creator. And our thankfulness needs to go beyond a material goods. We need to realize that God’s favor is not tied to stuff, health, or human relationships.

This is hard for us to grasp. From the time we start praying, we tend to focus on stuff. Think about how most young kids pray. “God, thank you for mommy, thank you for our dog Calvin, and thank you for my toy helicopter Aunt sally sent me.” Our thankfulness is often determined by what God has done for us lately.

But God’s definition of love is not tied to today’s stuff; its tied to him. We read in Romans 5:8 that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The best thing Christ has done for you and me is to bring us to God. Our relationship with him is the source of joy, life, and peace. Regardless of what we and our kids have experienced this year, we can be thankful. We can praise Jesus even if we have lost our mom, buried the family dog, and totaled our car because none of those things can separate us from the love of God! Our thankfulness is tied to cross. Let’s start abounding with it 365 days a year!

Does your family have a Thanksgiving Day traditions? I would love to hear about them!




photo credit: <a href=”″>Pillsbury Thanksgiving Table2</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;