THANKSGIVING

 Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs,

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Taking time to give thanks refreshes our view of life.  No matter what we have or don’t have in the way of material blessings, we can give thanks to the Lord.  I have noticed that when I focus my attention on who the Lord is, the things of this world lose their intensity, and I find the peace and comfort that comes from knowing him.

I pray for each of us that we can set aside time to thank the Lord for who he is and experience his peace and comfort. Have a joyful, loving time of thanksgiving.

THE RIGHT TREASURES

 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves brake in and steal.   But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

I have on occasion allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to win the lottery.  Just visualize new cars, houses, the latest computers, cell phones that take great pictures, extravagant vacations, the fastest internet connections, eating out at the finest restaurants and all the things that go with these luxuries. In the words of the above verses Jesus is offering us a clarifying perspective. 

Jesus explains the futility of concentrating on earthly treasures.  They are temporary and can be easily lost, whereas, treasures in heaven are safe and last forever.  We can focus all of our thoughts and energy on earthly treasures, or we can focus on our eternal life in heaven.  This earthly life last for a few short years.  Eternal life lasts, well, forever.

Jesus paid a dear price for us to have the option of choosing between the kingdom of this dark world, and the kingdom of heaven.  We can choose the temporal or the eternal.  The temptations of this world are strong, but the things of this world pale in comparison to the things of God’s eternal kingdom. 

OUR PART

There are nearly 8 billion people currently living on the earth.  I am not responsible for their salvation.  I come in contact with a number of people throughout the week.  I am not responsible for their salvation.  You might ask whose salvation am I responsible for.  My response is nobodies.  Jesus carried the full responsibility for the salvation of the world.  That includes everybody who has ever lived on the earth.

(John 14:6) Jesus Answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.”

(John 6:44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.    

Jesus and his Father have born the full responsibility of saving the world. As Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.”  So what is our part?  Do we have any part?

(1 Corinthians 3:5-9 MSG) Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter?  Servants, both of us – servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master.  We each carried out our servant assignments.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow.  It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow.  Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages.  What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving.  You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

Yes, we have a servant’s part.  As we walk with Jesus, he leads us for his purposes to bring others to him.  We help others to know and understand what he has done, but their salvation is in his hands.

HUMILITY IS A MUST

Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

My friend, Rob Strickland, shared a quote last week by D.T. Niles, “The gospel is just one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread.”  What a great perspective for us.  It reminds us of the humble place by which we can be most effective in sharing Christ.  Approaching another with an attitude of superiority is offensive, and it nullifies anything we might share with them.  So humility is a must if we are to bring our fellow beings to Christ.

Jesus talked frequently about humility.  He knows that it is a stumbling block for us.  The humble place goes against our sinful nature.  Therefore, it represents a major place of struggle for us.  Pride, the opposite of humility, gets us into a lot of trouble.  Initially, it is our hindrance for coming to Jesus, and then it interferes in our walk with Jesus.

God in his great wisdom provides many opportunities for his children to become more humble.  We usually see these opportunities as problems.  Trusting God through our problems grows our faith and naturally makes us more humble.  The more we surrender to God the closer we get to him, and the more humble we become.  This makes us more effective when sharing the good news.  Humility is a must, and God is always working on his messengers.

HANGING OUT WITH SINNERS

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

I spend my days hanging out with sinners.  You might think that unwise, but according to the above scripture, I have no choice.  Everyone I come in contact with fits into the category of “all”. Of course, so do I.  So everyone who associates with me is associating with a sinner.

Now there are two categories of sinners, those who have received Jesus as their savior, and those who have fail to do so.  Those who have not received Jesus as their savior still have the opportunity to do so.  It is the job of those of us who are saved to encourage those who have yet to receive Him.  Thus, it is important for saved sinners to hang out with unsaved sinners.

(2Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 

Since it is our Father’s desire, we should all the more want to please him by doing our part to bring others to Christ.  Jesus hung out with sinners like us. He healed, fed, taught us how to live, and then he died for us.  We should approach the unsaved with the same heart that Jesus had for us all.  We should love, pray for, help in times of need, and share our testimony with one another.

THE WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE

Christians are not called to stamp out the evil of the world by killing bad people.  We are trying to let the Holy Spirit clean out the evil in us. And we are called to share the truth of how we received forgiveness of our sins and started on this road to righteousness.  We are soldiers of the gospel led by our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Jesus overcame the world through humility and wisdom. Jesus, who is all powerful God, did not smite the heathens and bring down fire and brimstone on the evil nations, but through self-sacrifice, he defeated our enemy, and he is our example of how to fight evil.

“The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4).”

At the end of the Jewish exile in Babylon, Zerubbabel was called on by the Lord to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  The prophet Zechariah was given this word for Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).  Zerubbabel, who was facing what appeared to be an impossible task in an impossible environment, was reassured that the Spirit of God was going to provide what was needed to accomplish the task and overcome the obstacles.   

How much more will God’s Spirit within us complete the task of ridding the earth of evil and establishing his Kingdom?  Through his church he will accomplish this.  We just need to do the work that he sets before us.  We wait in faith for the reveal of his conclusion.

I will leave you with these words from the Apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6:10-17,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

THE BEST INVITATION

(2Peter1:3&4The Message) Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the one who invited us to God.  The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you – your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

Jesus came to invite us to know God personally, and intimately.  And in that relationship we have everything we need to live a Godly life.  The closer we are to him the more like him we become. 

Then there are the promises of God.  Topping the list is eternal life.  Physical death has now becomes a mere transition into eternity.  We have become his children, and he is our Father.  God has promised to watch over us and provide for us.

All these things are possible because Jesus died and rose again on our behalf.  He walked among us giving us an example of a Godly life.  He is our teacher, our mentor, and our advocate.  Jesus invites us to come to him that we might receive all that the Father has prepared for us.  This is surely, “The best invitation we ever received”.

PAST SINS

(2 Peter 1:9) But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Have you ever been tormented by your past sins?  I ask this question because I have.  Throughout my years as a forgiven sinner, I occasionally find myself wallowing in the memory of past sins.  Darkness begins to loom over me, and I fall into a self-loathing pile of self-focused misery. The only ones celebrating are the demons who have been whispering reminders of past sins in my ear.

When I realize what has been happening, I pick myself up and read the truths found in Scripture.  My sins have been forgiven and forgotten by the Lord (Psalm 103 11-12).  There may be ones here on earth that remember those sins, but my sins don’t even exist in God’s kingdom.  I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  The old has passed away (Romans 6:4-11).

I regret the things I did in the past and the hurt I caused, but Jesus died for those sins so I could have new life.  Jesus gave me the opportunity to start over.  That is where my focus should be.  This opportunity is also available for those I hurt, and I pray for them that they too will find new life in Christ. 

We have a common enemy who delights in bringing us down, stealing our joy, and making us ineffective in God’s kingdom.   Satan and his demons are out to kill, steal, and destroy.  They revel in tormenting us.  Through Jesus we can put them aside.  I sometimes forget this.

FINDING PEACE IN SUFFERING

(1Peter 4:1&2 The Message) Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way.  Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

As we get older there seems to be an unending parade of pain traveling through our bodies.  I woke up this morning with a sprained ankle.  It was fine when I went to bed.  Suffering pain seems to be inevitable.  However, we have a choice in how we deal with it.  Pain and suffering can cause us to draw into ourselves and wallow in the misery, but the above Scripture passage helps us to redirect our thinking.

 Self-centeredness is rooted in our sinful nature, but God can use our suffering to teaching us to be other-centered.  Looking outside of ourselves is always a challenge. When we’re in pain it is much more difficult.  Yet, I have recently found that focusing on others brings peace to my soul even in the midst of suffering. 

GOOD GUY OR BAD GUY?

 (Romans 7:18) For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Last week I had a very bad week.  Everything on my job went awry.  By the end of the work week, I became out of sorts, angry, and unkind.  The previous week wasn’t much better.  So I spent the last two weeks failing to be what I think a good Christian man should be.

When reading back through my recent posts, I came across this statement, “In the circumstances of the day, I am more helpful, kind, gracious, loving, and patient (The Everyday Miracle).”  When I read these words of mine, I must confess that the contrast with this statement and my behavior during the last two weeks got me a little chocked up.  I had regressed.

 So, I asked myself, “Who am I?”  Am I the good guy or the bad guy?  Paul discusses this dilemma further through the rest of Romans chapter 7.  For me, the last two weeks provided a lesson in humility.  I am not the good guy or the bad guy.  I am a redeemed sinner fully dependent on the mercy and grace of God.  He has made me his child, and he disciplines me as he see fit.  Through this rough time, he has reminded me that without him I can do nothing.  Only in him can I successfully deal with my sinful nature.

I’m confident that God loves me, and he forgives me.  I can move on from this time, but I’ll need to keep this lesson in mind that I need him in all things.