Happy Thanksgiving !

What a great holiday !!  Great time with family, great food, great opportunity  to remember to stop the whining and be grateful for all God has done for us !   For many it will be a great feast, lots of football, and gained weight !   But a verse that has always struck me equally with clarity as well as conviction is  “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess.5:18).     As we come to this holiday consider what the Lord had Paul write here and let it permeate your festivities and thereafter.

It states that we are to be grateful “in everything”.  That is not easy, for not everything that enters our life we see this way, at least initially. It is a daunting imperative and whenever we see these it prompts us to lean on Someone higher than us for the grace and perspective to think so. If a trial comes we’re told to think thankfully. And why shouldn’t we? Aren’t they all temporal? Aren’t they all allowed by the Lord to better us? So, be thankful, even if it’s not what you’d like dealt you today.

To “give thanks” means we deliberately make the conscious choice to render appreciation for what God has given us and tell Him so.  When God hears you utter even the simplest thanks out of a sincere heart it smells better to Him than the best pumpkin pie !    And the “will of God” is often a source of wonderment at times to many  folks but here is crystal clear. Interesting that the command to be thankful is so plainly defined as in His grand purposes for us.  And also interesting that we have to be commanded,  which means its not a “given” for us !!   To be less than thankful is to place yourself outside of God’s explicit purpose in your attitude and actions and to forfeit His special blessings.

Last, “concerning YOU”.  God makes this command to be thankful very personal so we don’t miss the application and shove it off to someone else who we think has it better than us.   We all go through ups and downs and sometimes we’re better or worse off than others yet that doesn’t change the Divine charge here to be a person of Thanksgiving the whole year !   Enjoy this great Christian holiday and let God enjoy you as His child being a person typified by thanks !!

GROW in grace

In July we will be having what we call, GROWTH Sunday.  It’s an opportunity to see the individual and the church GROW !  We will be encouraging folks who have been saved to follow the Lord in being immersed as He commands and for people who attend to commit to the church by joining it and becoming an official member (Acts 2:41), and for existing members to make any spiritual decisions that prompt them to genuinely grow in Christ.

The apostle Peter did not write many books in our Bible but when he was ending what he did pen, he included this via inspiration of the Holy Spirit for our serious admonition:  “But GROW in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. . .” (2Pt.3:18).  It is written in the Greek imperative hence it’s not meant to be an option for us but a solemn obligation.  This  was in the final verse he left us.  What would your final words be to your friends or family?  Would it be to GROW in the Lord?   They should be, for GROWTH of this sort is far more important than the increase of one’s things or bank account, your spiritual state is the center of your life no matter what level you are at.  What you believe and truly are INSIDE steers your decisions and your destiny, so GROW !  Take some time to water your heart by reading then heeding the Word today.  Pull out the weeds of indifference, apathy, and worldliness.  Fertilize your heart with the truth and you will see fruit produced in you that emulates the Fruit Maker !    It is exciting knowing that with each passing day, by the grace of God I can GROW when I give my heart to Him and maintain a walk with Him.  Watch for the fruit !!

The Bible can be so tedious to read ! Oh?

If you are doing the Scripture reading in the bulletin for this week you may find some of the sections a bit challenging as in Joshua some of what we will read deals with dividing up the land.  So Joshua lays out each of the tribe’s territories in great detail.   Granted its not the ideal place for a brand new Christian to start reading the Bible, Ha !    But it is nonetheless recorded for us for a reason.  There are genealogies, listing of peoples, cities, etc.  that we read in the Word of God we may wonder why?!   Rest assured it’s not as some preachers or even people do, to fill up space ! I can say that being both!!   God has His reasons and He does let us know that “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is PROFITABLE for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. . .” (2Tim.3:16).    He says clearly here there is something beneficial for us spiritually !

One of the things I get out of such sections is the order of our God.  He is not as Satan, in any sense an Author of confusion. He is organize, nothing is out of whack with Him.    Look at your life, you can easily spot things amiss.  How does you bed look right now, or your hair, how about your teeth (are there leftovers in there?, ha), is your car in need of a good cleaning, and I won’t even go there with your closets or underwear drawer ! Yes, we are not always the tidiest of beings but God is orderly in ALL His ways and since that is so, you can count on Him knowing the very hairs of your head and the very nature and level of your problems. Not only does He know, He truly cares.  Not only does He care, because He is so highly organized He has had the answers to ANY situation or decision you face ALREADY embedded in His Word for you to read and apply. And His Spirit is within you once you are saved so that you now have the power available to you through Him to do what is needed in each scenario you face !!      Think of these things the next time you run into a tedious portion of the Word to read !!!

Remedy for Sick of Winter Syndrome !

What a crazy winter it’s been huh? Watch one woman’s assessment of this year’s season so far if you want  a good laugh you can relate to:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rloxx3RzuXQ      Yes, sometimes we just get plain fed up with how things are, huh? We long for change – – but we’ll likely be longing for chillier temperatures in the scorching heat of summer too !  That’s how we are, so easily governed by our circumstances, and so we end up discontent.

What is a wonderful thing about being a Christian though is how you can finally find satisfaction even when the world around you is “smacking down snowmen” !   When Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians he listed what’s called the “fruit of the Spirit” and one of those signs that we have truly allowed God total control of our heart is  “peace”: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. . . ”  (5:22).  This, of course, is in stark contrast to the “works of the flesh”  he previously listed in vss.19-21.

Our lives are often filled with a lot “craziness”, “adversity”, etc.  and we can either sound or look like the rest of the world or we can stand out for the Lord and show them what a Spirit-controlled person is.  We can show them Christ IN us !  Its oh so simple to be, yet oh so powerful and peaceful.  Each day, just give yourself completely to Him.  Full surrender brings full victory, complete submission bring complete serenity !  So when that next “snowfall” comes, and it will, you may feel an initial inclination to obliterate a snowman but the peace of God that passes all understanding will also help you to meet the day with a joy and peace the world can never bring and go through any storm with contentment.  March may come in like a lion but with God will always go out like a Lamb !!!

He’s in charge

One does not have to live long in this world to see that evil men at times seem to be winning.  Seem, of course, is the operative word for in a game the eventual loser can at times be ahead, until time is up !  But as in a game we need to remember as believers that we ARE on the winning team and though evil gets an edge in this old world at times, evil’s days are numbered !!  Bullies aren’t relegated only to elementary schools they grow up and achieve positions of power over us in companies, governments and sadly even at times in our churches. And they abuse their authority over those under them and God does not look upon this lightly, especially when it comes to His kids !  So don’t fret or lower yourself to their level when you are oppressed in some way, He’s in charge !!

As I read the second psalm recently I was impressed by the idea in it that no matter what evil men may do, God is in charge, period !! “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh”  and what is God laughing about?  Evil men thinking they can possibly oppose the Lord with any success !   The psalm ends with the simple yet ultimately wise admonition: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him”.   Evil men are not doing this.  They trust in themselves, their money, their “wisdom”, their “power”, etc.  They trample people to get ahead, to achieve more domination of others yet in the end they will know the wrath and justice of the Almighty.  And we who strive to live each day trusting Him will go on to enjoy eternity forever with Him and all those who have been truly saved.   So our duty is to keep trusting God, He will exact justice and perfectly so !!   He’s in charge, make sure He is in charge of you too !!!

Surpise, surprise, surprise

In the words of Gomer Pyle  “Surprise, surprise, surprise”  most of us woke up this morning in central Pennsylvania very surprised at the fresh fallen snow.  I’m sure the kids didn’t mind the delay to school !   We are sometimes taken aback by things that happen in our lives. We are chugging along doing our thing and suddenly an unexpected trial or blessing occurs, perhaps an opportunity comes out of the blue you don’t feel you are prepared for.  God makes our lives very exciting and interesting at times but it’s all good.   When something surprising comes up, God is never surprised for He knows all !

The Psalmist wrote this of the Lord in Ps.139, “O Lord Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest mine downsitting and my uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways”  (vss.1-3).    Surely the God of all the universe is not thrown any curve He can’t handle or know about before it happens.  The omniscience of God is, when you think about it for any length of time, a very comforting truth about our God !    You may be thrown for a loop about something you are caught unawares about but He isn’t and He is ready to handle it through your life.  His Word is so uniquely and wondrously designed that nothing that comes up is not covered by it either in clear precept or principle.  Periodically I tell our church that rock music though not specifically addressed in Scripture is certainly in principle in numerous places guiding us away from the carnal towards more Christlike music which speaks to our inner man rather than fixates on the natural man.

Have you had a surprise in your life recently and are a little unsure how to handle things?  Remember, God knew about this surprise even before you were born !   His Word has the guidelines you need to be resilient and resourceful in dealing with it in the proper way.   And when surprises befall us we can choose to either panic or pursue a path that honors the Lord and obeys His Word. So remember, that surprise is intended to turn out to God’s glory and your good !!

 

God’s grace

We have implemented at our church a new program this year similar but different than last year’s reading program.  Last year we read through selected chapters of the Bible (not to read through the Bible in a year in a “wisk through” fashion but to carefully read it).  Now we are also reading and adding special prayer to focus on daily to the intent our prayer lives improve even more as well as a careful meditating upon what we read so we go away each day truly seeing God speak to us.  I would like to share with you some of what God has been sharing with me through my time with Him in the Word !

Matthew begins with a genealogy, which is something we often speed read through.  But catch this in Matt.1:6, “…And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” –   Clearly this is not something we’d like to  admit in a family tree of ours, but God does so in the line of the Messiah and for good reason. It shows His grace !!  The fact that we sin and God is not unaware yet His grace is offered to deal with our sin properly.  David learned from this tragic error and offense to a holy God but the Lord was gracious !

And also, as Herod sought to discover where the Christ child was, supposing Him to be a threat to his puny dominion, God was gracious to Joseph and Mary by revealing to them this wicked plot in ample time to leave Bethlehem and flee safely to Egypt and then be able to return after Herod’s death to live in Israel once again !    The gracious gift of the wise men undoubtedly supplied the young couple with adequate funds for this journey and their time there as well.  God is good even though men are not and even when the wicked oppose our stand for Christ and seek to do ill will to us.  It may be harmful remarks, mean actions, etc but whatever the case God’s grace is sufficient for your need !!!!

 

 

Laughing with the Lord

Well its a new year and boy is today ever a cold one !  I looked out the back of my house this morning at the thermometer and it was below minus 20 !!  Factoring the wind chill registered such frigid temperatures.  Which reminds me that God has a great sense of humor.  Whats that you say?  What does this the crazy cold temperatures have to do with God having a sense of humor?

In the news recently has been the report of a Russian ship stuck in the ice in Antarctica. So a Chinese ice breaker came to free her up but guess what happened? Yep, the rescuing ship also is stuck ! It’s also reported that an Australian ship on its way to help was turned back by great snow and freezing winds !!.  But what was the Russian ship doing there in the first place?  It was carrying a load of scientists studying the effects of global warming !!!   Since science is supposed to be about observing data, seems to me they got their share to check out this trip. And what they didn’t see was “global warming”, quite the contrary !!!   Man can surmise their theories and concoct all kinds of ideas in the name of “science” but when they reject the existence of God, sooner or later they will come face to face with the facts !

The Psalmist wrote, “He Who sits in the heavens  shall laugh ; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure.” (Ps.2:4-5).   When so called intelligent men reject the facts: that God is real, that He is in charge of this universe, that salvation only comes through Christ then its not man who will have the last laugh but God !

How about us as Christians?  God speaks a TON in the New Testament about the local church but how actively engaged are you in one?  How supportive of it are you?  When the Lord’s Day arrives, do you make the excuse it’s the only day you have to sleep in or do you start your week worshipping Him with others in His house as He commands?   God has His ways of exposing our foolishness and letting all know He sits on the throne whether we want Him to or not !  It is best to follow His Word so you aren’t stranded in the ways or mire or ice of this old world !!  Id’ rather laugh with God than be laughed at by Him, how about you?

Merry Christmas to YOU

What a wonderful holiday we enjoy in Christmas !!   The miracle and gift of the Incarnation of the Son of God will not fully be appreciated until we reach heaven’s shore.  But think about it for a moment this Christmas day.  God the Son enjoying the splendor of heaven and then creating the universe, watching Adam & Eve sin (knowing in advance they would), seeing man regress in their sin and then finally the time arrives to take on the body of our flesh.  He experiences being born as He’d designed the birth process (the exception being born of a virgin), growing up as a child, then a teen and finally into manhood.   He experienced humanity yet without sinning: The perfect human being !!  As He would then go to that cruel cross, He would feel pain, rejection (even from the Father) for YOUR sin and then at last death itself.  Yet He would emerge victorious and rise from the dead and salvation was secured to all who would accept Him. This then is YOUR Christmas gift, again, not fully appreciated until we reach heaven but very true nonetheless.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son (uniquely begotten), that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”  (Jn.3:16).   MERRY Christmas to YOU !!!    In all your doings today, take a moment in the quiet of your heart to tell Him “THANK YOU” for His precious precious gift to YOU.

Christmas Eve Plans

Well it’s Christmas Eve !  What are your plans for today ?  Open gifts, have a special dinner with family, head off to a Candlelight service, finish up some last minute shopping?  We tend to have our plans for these special days.  God’s plan over two thousand years ago now was taking on flesh.  Leaving heaven and taking on humanity for you and I !   What a plan !

When we make plans it normally comes down to what we want to do.  Not that God didn’t want to do what He did that first Christmas but the plan was pure selflessness, true love indeed.  That is one thing we can learn from this Christmas plan, namely when you make plans make them with true love and selflessness in mind.  How will the plans you make affect others, is it really going to glorify God or moreso gratify you?   Paul wrote the Corinthians some wonderful things and one of the maxims he wrote under the inspiration of God was “Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1Cor.10:31).  This Christmas, this year make plans that truly put God and others first !!!