Oak Grove Church of Christ

One of the most rewarding experiences in the course of Mark’s thirty-five years of preaching full time, was the many faithful preachers he trained. In 2008 and 2009 we had the delight of training Derek Long, who, thanks to his photographic memory, seemed to have the Bible knowledge of a sixty-year-old man. In fact, humble Derek would reluctantly play along when I’d flip to any of the most remote sections of the Old Testament and about the time I’d get around six words in, he’d accommodate me by mumbling the correct book, chapter and verse. It was like a superpower, especially given his young age and certainly was one of the reasons why Derek’s sermons were exceptionally thorough. His thoroughness was not just in the pulpit. In an effort to reach the lost in our community by inviting them to have Bible studies, Derek helped Mark hang over 6,000 invitations on the front doors of Beaverton residences while he was with us. 

Not too long after he was hired by his first congregation, my phone rang with a man on the other end of it, exuding gratitude to us for training such a fine young preacher. I had to be forthright. “Ya. We didn’t really do that. He actually came to us with a lot of that ability already.”

He’d not been preaching full-time for very long when, because of his habit of attending as many gospel meetings as he could, Derek met a sweet girl named Lora and they became husband and wife. A few years later they came to Oregon for a visit, along with their little son, Silas, who by then was big enough to toddle around a bit. We had great conversations during their visit and kept in touch from time to time over the thirteen years before our first visit to their friendly, faithful congregation in northern Florida called Oak Grove, near their home in Jasper, Florida. 

Derek’s wife, Lora, is a songwriter and pianist and recently wrote and shared to Facebook a video of herself singing a song that caught my attention. A friend of Lora’s had recommended that she compose a song about a special subject. Lora was very glad that he did, and had good reason to be happy about how it turned out. She posted her pretty voice singing her song on Facebook, in order she said, “to see who liked it and who it could help”. Lora’s clever, humorous song has a sweet country feel and is called The Pity Pot Song.  These are her lyrics:

Are you on the pity pot, Little Darling?
Are stuck on that wishful thinking?
Sitting there with gloomy eyes,
not even trying to disguise,
that you bought into lies.

Why are you on the pity pot, Little Darling?
it won't promise fame or fortune.
Counting up all your mistakes,
makes it harder to erase,
things past, and poor misfortune

Please get off the pity pot, Little Darling,
get on up and begin living
You might feel that you could sing,
for you got off that sorry thing.
Living what you were wishing.

Say goodbye to pity pot, Little Darling,
I'm so glad it will be missing.
We will put within its space,
a little quiet, peaceful place,
a Bible, and chair for praying.


What a beneficent use of Lora’s gifts! The opposite of the pity pot is, of course, gratitude, and since gratitude is such a beautiful thing, I’d like to join my voice with Lora’s, so to speak, and say some things about gratitude to also “see who it will help”.

I was 10 years old In 1972 when Bob Barker started hosting the game show “The Price Is Right” and I was on board with that game show. On very rare occasions a contestant would so accurately guess the value of his or her showcase that they would win both showcases. Do you know you’ve actually won both showcases? Congratulations! I’ll explain exactly what I mean. 

But first. Pretend that you’ve entered a room and for 8 hours every day for a year you’ve been granted the miracle of listening to firsthand accounts of hundreds of people who have lived since the beginning of time in various cultures all over the world describing how they spend their days, from how they step by step acquired and prepared animals and plants to eat, and what it was like to endure a famine. Pretend you’ve heard long stories of what it was like to be in an ancient civilization trying to survive various plagues, and how past civilizations treated horrific, contagious diseases and injuries before modern medicine. You’ve taken in first-hand accounts of the long process a mother went through to create or purchase clothing for her children, what fathers and mothers did in the past did to try to protect their families from attacks of wild animals or a violent neighboring tribe. It’s easy to see why, for a long time, life expectancy was not much more than 30 years in some cultures, and with the realities I’ve just mentioned, what would the quality of those short 30 years be? For example, how many hours in a day were they not in physical pain, exhausted, or terrified about surviving one more day? It’s a real eye-opener to realize that there are still places in this world where all these challenges are still very real.

So congratulations. Congratulations on winning the best showcase that has ever been showcased: Think of it: Of every time and place a human being could have been born during the existence of this planet, God chose to let you be born during unprecedented prosperity and freedom. Living in such a time and place as this, the Lord has showered more comforts of this life upon this generation in this country, than any other people at any other time. The relative ease with which we can provide a living for our families!? What a blessing. Most humans are now free from spending every waking moment feeding, clothing, and sheltering our families so that now we have the time to better tend to their souls and the other souls around us. Yes truly, if the blessings of each individual who ever lived could be physically stacked in piles, your pile of blessings of modern-day conveniences would approach the top of Mt. Everest in comparison to those born in other places or at other times in world history, especially when we recall the blessings of modern medicine and technology, and that’s worlds better than any Price is Right showcase.

When you add the much more relevant vast blessings of having such easy access to the written wisdom of God — wisdom that comes with such immeasurable, positive ripple effects that moment by moment improve the quality of your life? And a brain to understand it, and a heart to embrace it when so many, many, many on the broad way know only the confusing, chaotic ripple effects of their rebellion to their Creator? I wonder what percentage of the world’s population today both has what you have and knows what you know about what this world is all about and how to prepare to see God face to face. We are so very free, are we not?  As you go through life from here on out and grieve the losses on your hardest of days—may you from this day forward view every setback, every challenge, every trial, and every trauma from the mental clarity of a soul looking down as from a mountain top to see the big picture —looking at life from an eternal perspective gazing down upon it from that perspective to see each problem’s actual size and it’s actual weight and it’s actual relevance —because the truth is that many who have lived in the past, if given the chance, would trade all their blessings and problems for my and your problems and blessings. We are swimming in blessings. These are the good old days, Little Darlin’.

Think about it: Every single good thing you have ever experienced has come from your Heavenly Father above (James 1:17).  Every breath. Every heartbeat. Everything. We are far too blessed to be ungrateful. It’s time to cold turkey complaining. Let’s overcome any blessing amnesia after God has answered our prayers a thousand times. Think about it: Why did God destroy Israel according to 1 Corinthians 10:10? Grumbling. The Israelites outraged God by complaining while they were crossing a desert with none of the comforts we now enjoy. Complaining is infuriating to God. But why? God is outraged when we complain because we are so buried in blessings! We must replace our complaining with gratitude. Here’s a challenge: Go three days without complaining. And start over every time you forget. If you’ve got big-time issues with ingratitude and complaining and want a full-on battle to overcome it, you could download a fasting app on your phone to track yourself as you do this “fast from complaining.” If you make it three days, go for seven. If you make it seven, go for 10. We can consciously choose a positive perspective.

When should we give thanks? Ephesians 5:20 says, “Always.” For what should we give thanks? The same verse says “Everything”. To whom do we give thanks? "The Universe"? No. He says here, "To God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

If we use every circumstance to "dig for treasure"; that is, to learn important lessons, or grow in our compassion for others going through the same thing, or to realize how God is the only one in control. So whether we are low or abounding, facing plenty or hungry, or in abundance or need (Philippians 4:12-13), it is God's will that in each and every circumstance we lift our eyes to His grace and mercy and find reasons to give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “So let the world see you give thanks to the Lord, for His goodness”, and how His unfaltering love endures forever! The world is watching. We can set an example of how to “wait faithfully for His rescue” and then openly express how He has redeemed us from trouble (Psalm 107:1-2) and in doing so, we can be an inspiration for others to also turn to Him. 

What might gratitude look like in action?

Gratitude is waking up so filled with appreciation over the blessings of being a child of God that a yearning washes over you to get up, make your favorite warm beverage, and sit in your favorite cozy chair to spend at least one thoughtful hour communing with Him. 

When there is physical pain, express to Him how appreciative you are to live in this era of modern medicine.

When the house is a mess, be thankful for the shelter.

When a friend pours her heart out to you, be grateful she trusts you enough to confide.

When you’re dreading going grocery shopping or cooking dinner, remember to be deeply appreciative to not live during famine. 

When chaos breaks out because your husband is late from work, thank God for having a husband who is employed. 

When your children are “raising the roof”, thank God you were not infertile. 

When the electric bill comes, thank God for the thousands of conveniences it represents.

When it’s time to clean your bathroom, thank God for indoor plumbing.

When your car breaks down, remember the generations that had to walk their whole lives everywhere they went.  

When one is insulted for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, thank God for being considered worthy of such insults (Acts 5:41). 

When you're struggling to get the family out the door for worship, thank God for the spiritual refreshment you are about to receive.

When you receive bad news, recall all the times God has providentially intervened and protected you time and time again, then resolve to persevere with optimism instead of despair, and give much thought to how God may use the heartbreak for your growth. 

Gratitude remembers during times of discouragement or depression that, ultimately, it is God who comforts the depressed (2 Corinthians 7:6), that He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. Gratitude confesses that it is He who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3), and that one fine day it is He that will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). 

Be ye grateful.

Oak Grove Church of Ch
2922 NW 76th Terrace
Jennings Florida 32053