[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #43 ---- 11/9/98

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Home   : November 1998 : Group Archive : Group : All Groups

From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 1998 17:14:33 -0600
Standing Shoulder to Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We Fight The Good Fight



TITLE:  "Thank You!"



Dear Friend in Christ:

Today I write from southwest Missouri and the Table Rock Lake area after
several days at a state-wide conference in St. Louis.  We are nearing the
end of an intense schedule which began in September and will end just
after Thanksgiving.  

I ask your special prayer for us this week concerning a conference which
began yesterday morning and goes through Friday night.  Jo Ann and I are
ministering in a church that has been experiencing great growth and
blessings from the Lord.

However, as is often the case, a measure of dissention has surfaced which
threatens to sabotage what God has been doing.  Last week the pastor was
on the verge of resignation, but decided to wait and see what God might
do during this week.

We have been in this church before, and have a great appreciation for the
people.  Pray that God will give us discernment in the selection of
music, in understanding basic needs and issues that need to be addressed,
and in the development and delivery of messages specifically to bring
healing and restoration to the people.

I am certain God has specific messages just for these dear people.

Likewise, I believe there is some special person to whom God wants to
speak through my letter to you today.  Pray as well that the message of
encouragement will find its mark.



REMEMBER TO SAY "THANK YOU!":

One week ago my son-in-law, Jim, and I stood in a restaurant line about
70 people away from being seated for lunch during a conference.  We stood
and talked ---- and stood and talked ---- and stood and talked ----

We were fast running out of time, but determined to wait as long as it
took.

After about 45 minutes and 40 people later, the host began waving his
hand in the air at the line with two fingers extended.  Finally, I
understood that he was looking for a party of two whom he could seat.  I
didn't raise my hand because I thought surely there would be people ahead
of us who met that criteria.

To my surprise, nobody else raised their hands ---- so I did!

Many of our fellow believers gave us the raspberry and groans as we
triumphantly walked past them ---- we didn't care.

As we walked behind the host, I gave him an enthusiastic, "Thank you very
much!"

We were seated and prepared to eat.  Our waiter approached us to take our
drink order.  His accent immediately captured my attention.

"Where are you from?" I asked.

"Europe." he responded.

"Where in Europe?"

"I am from Bosnia; my name is Igor."

Well, if you have read any of my previous letters, you know what
happened.  

Tempted to stand to my feet, I exclaimed, "I just got back two weeks ago
from Sarejevo!"

His eyes opened wide; "my girlfriend lives in Sarejevo!"

Then I asked, "Where are you from in Bosnia?"

"Banja Luka."

I could hardly believe my ears!  "I was supposed to be in Banja Luka last
week, but could not go because of the situation in Kosovo!"

By this time Igor's curiosity had the best of him.  "How many times have
you been to Croatia and Bosnia?"

"Six", I answered, "and we have three more trips planned for 1999."

"Why would you ever want to go to Bosnia?  What do you do there?"

"We go because we love the people and the country very much.  We go to do
missionary and humanitarian work."

Igor's reaction touched me deeply ---- and really prompted my decision to
write this letter.

His face became somber, and his eyes brimmed with tears.  He reached his
hand across the table and, with a firm grip in his hand shake, simply
said, "Thank You!"

Immediately my "Thank You" to the restaurant host for a convenient seat
at a table was put in its proper place.

Before we left I asked Igor how late he worked that day.  It was late
enough that I could bring Jo Ann to meet him, and I could also show him
some pictures I had taken three weeks earlier.  He said, "You come.  I
will be here."

We did; he was.

As he pored over the pictures, his eyes lit up light blinking Christmas
tree lights.  

I thought, "Thank you, Lord!"

When he saw the picture of Sarajevo from the mountain top, he pointed to
a spot and said, "my girl friend lives there!"

Then Igor turned to me and said, "Did you know that there are 10,000
Bosnians living in St. Louis?"

I was stunned.

And I thought again, ---- "Thank You, LORD!"

Just as we got up to leave, he said, "see that girl?  She is from
Croatia; her name is Iljana."

Then our visit extended awhile longer as we got acquainted with another
new friend.

As Jo Ann and I walked out of the restaurant to attend another session I
found it impossible to control my thoughts ---- "Thank You, LORD!  Thank
You!  Thank You!"  And then, to my surprise, I found myself quoting our
missionary friend in Kenya, Tonette ---- "Lord, you're just way cool!"

We walked into the next session and listened as dozens of people shared
their missions experiences from various locations around the world.  The
media presentations were exceptional.  They did more than touch the
emotions, or even the heart ---- they touched my spirit.

When the pastor from Belarus spoke, my heart immediately traversed the
ocean and continents back to eastern Europe ---- to Budapest in Hungary,
to Warsaw in Poland, to Kiev in Ukraine, to all the cities and towns of
Croatia, to Sarajevo.

"Thank you, dear Father! ---- for picking us! ---- for sending us! ----
for letting us see first in our hearts and then with our eyes!"

And, then, I wondered ---- "Why is it so difficult for us to remember to
say "Thank you" to others? ---- and to God?"



WHEN I CAN'T SEEM TO SAY "THANK YOU":

Have you ever thought about that?  Why do we tend to express thanks far
less than we should?

You can say that we just forget, but that immediately raises another
question ---- Why do we forget?

There are several reasons that come to mind.  For me, at least, I tend to
neglect saying "Thank you" . . .

1. When I am pre-occupied with my own interests. 

You see, if I am pre-occupied with the ball game on television, it's easy
to forget to say "Thank you" to Jo Ann for a delicious meal or for clean
laundry.  If I am absorbed with the attendance rather than the people in
Sunday school or in the choir, it isn't likely I'll thank those who work
so diligently to make it happen.

It is a horrible thing for any person to be held captive by his own
personal interests.

2.  When I am consumed by my own problems.

We all face problems ---- financial ---- physical ---- relational ----
vocational.  It's a part of life.  We should ask God to forgive us for
assuming our lives deserve to be problem free.

At the same time, when we are consumed by our problems, we seldom see the
acts of grace performed by other people in our behalf.  In fact, rather
than saying "thank you", we more frequently with either ignore both the
acts and the people or we will point out the mistakes made in their
efforts.

Remember the dog who snapped at the hand of the stranger when he tried to
remove a thorn from its paw?  Sometimes we snap at those who try to
remove our thorns.

3.  When I am absorbed by my own self pity.

Perhaps this is the most pathetic reason ---- because it is so obviously
self absorbing.  "Poor me!"  "I have been so mistreated!  No one deserves
to be treated the way I have been!"

Friend, I can guarantee you ---- if you are filled with self pity, you
won't a "thank you" in your body.

Get over it!

4.  When I am numbed by life's harshness.

There is no doubt that life tends to beat up on us at times.  Even
ministry itself is filled with harsh and unkind experiences, often at the
hands of those we love and trust most.  David's pain of being hurt so
deeply by friends he trusted so fully is often our pain as well.

But, whether it be the life of ministry or just life in general, we can
agree with a friend of mine when years ago he said, "Life wouldn't be so
bad if it wasn't so daily."

The harshness of life numbs our sensitives to the gracious service of
others to whom we owe a great debt of "Thank you!"

5.  When I am intimidated by opposing forces.

When we find ourselves in some type of adversarial position, there are
several things that can happen.

First, we can be intimidated by their "roars", accusations, and tactics. 
We must guard against that ---- not only for the sake of our ministry and
its effectiveness, but also for the sake of others to whom we must
provide exemplary leadership.

Second, and perhaps equally important, we can begin to label others as
adversaries when, in fact, they are not.  I still clearly remember from
my first pastorate concluding two men to be my "enemies" because I saw
them over in the corner talking with one who was clearly an "enemy" ----
guilt by association.

Third, and probably the most damaging, we can begin Treating everyone as
adversaries.

One of the great ways to disarm the adversaries in your life is to thank
God for them and to thank them for the good things they do.  For example,
to the one who criticizes your preaching, take time to thank him for
helping motivate you to become a better communicator.

6.  When I take things for granted through assumption and presumption.

You know, when your wife cooks enough meals, you begin to take her for
granted ---- you just assume she'll do it ---- without any thanks on your
part.  And assumption leads to presumption ---- if you assume long
enough, you begin to expect it.

And that leads to failure to say "thanks".

I'm sure there are other reasons we don't  thank people.  It's not that I
can't Say "thank you"; I can say it ---- I just don't.

And, there's only one reason ---- 

Ingratitude.



REASONS FOR INGRATITUDE:

In my opinion, the root issue for not telling others "Thank You!" is
simple ---- ingratitude.

You may say they are the same, but they are not.  Saying "thank you" is
the verbal expression of a grateful heart.  So, the real issue is asking
why we are ungrateful.  I believe there are several reasons, three of
which are . . .

1.  We forget who we have become.

It is extremely helpful to remember who we were ---- before Jesus, before
that special teacher, before our parents, before that mentor, before that
experience.

If you don't take time to remember who you were, you'll never appreciate
who you've become ---- AND Who is responsible ("and it ain't you").  And,
if you honestly look at who you've become ---- assuming you have grown
rather than regressed, of course ---- the automatic spontaneous response
will be, "Thank You, Lord!"  "Thank You, Dad!"

2.  We forget what we have been given.

The great old hymn, "Count Your Blessings" reminds us to "name them one
by one".  That's good advice.  According to Peter, God has given us
through his great and precious promises, "all things that pertain to life
(in general) and godliness (in particular).  Paul declares that God will
"supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

It would do us good to remember all we have been given ---- both
spiritually and temporally ---- both celestial and terrestrial.

3.  We forget why we're really here.

If we ever forget we are here to glorify God in all that we are, have,
and do, we'll become ungrateful.  If we forget we are here, not to hold
down a job, but to minister the grace and love of Christ to all people in
our lives, we'll live self centered lives that foster ingratitude.

Friend, as you minister, don't forget why you're here.



THANKFULNESS REQUIRES GRATITUDE:

I love the praise chorus, "Give Thanks".  It says, "Give thanks with a
grateful heart.  Give thanks to the Holy One.  Give thanks because of
what the Lord has done for us."

It points out two pertinent truths.  First, you cannot give thanks if you
are not thankful.  Second, you cannot be thankful if you are not
grateful.



WHAT STEALS OUR GRATITUDE:

1.  We place our expectations on the wrong things.

If we place our expectations in people, we will certainly be disappointed
at some time or place.  When that happens, our gratitude is stolen away
in the darkness of our disappointment.

Like the Scripture teaches, our hope must be in the Lord.  

2.  We feel our rights have been violated.

If we feel we have certain rights, especially those of us in vocational
ministry, we do not understand the teachings or the example of Jesus who
talked about not even having a place on this planet to call home.  Just
because I'm a vocational minister doesn't give me the right to expect
discounts at the department store, special parking places, special
favors.

If we get them, fine.  But if we begin to expect them, we will eventually
conclude we have a right to them.

We don't!

3.  We feel people do not support our leadership enthusiastically enough.

Friend, one of the greatest facts we'll ever discover is that, as long as
we minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will ALWAYS minister amidst a
mixed multitude.

Therefore, there will always be a variation of support and endorsement of
what we do.  If we don't watch out, we'll let that simple fact of life
poison a grateful heart.

Don't let that happen, my friend!



FINALLY:

Having said all that ---- THANK YOU!

Thank you for the incredible privilege of sharing my heart with you. 
Whatever it does for you, it does wonders for me!

Thank you for sending outstanding stories, jokes, and ideas.  I wish I
could use them all.  I do assure you they are all on "file" in my trusty
computer.

Thank you for writing me and affirming my ministry to you and the
hundreds of others who receive this letter each week.

And, ---- Thank you for identifying the thoughts and comments that seem
to bless you or meet a special need at a special time.

Be sure to say "Thank You" to someone each day this week.

They'll be glad you did ---- and you will, too.

In Christ's Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- Rom 1:12
Copyright November, 1998.  All rights reserved.


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               Hang in there!  I'm with you!
    
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Life Unlimited Ministries
E-Mail: lifeunlimited@...
Ph: 417-275-4854
Fax: 417-275-4855


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