Tag Archives: Christian

Growing faith

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT

Growing faith leads to abounding love. How does faith grow? One way is through persecution or trials, when we are forced to fully rely on God. How can we as followers of Christ, abounding in love, help those who are embroiled in such a predicament? Several years ago I began the practice of praying for someone who seemed to be wandering in a proverbial “desert wilderness.” I reasoned, if Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted forty days, then hat should be the measure of my commitment.  My forty day commitment to praying for someone is often done without telling them.  It builds up my faith to see God answering prayer in the life of another person.

praying-1319101_960_720Dear God, strengthen my faith by your mighty power. Remind me my strength comes from every word that comes out of your mouth. Guide my words and deeds to bring glory to your name. Show me someone who may be suffering, whether they’re facing a trial or struggling with doubts about their faith.  

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”  Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

 

The First Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720When I mention Thanksgiving, what thoughts come to mind? Are there memories of a family gathering, or a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings? At my parent’s house we watched football games on TV (before and after our meal).

According to my smart phone, the word Thanksgiving is defined as an “expression of gratitude, especially to God.” When I looked up the definition of gratitude, my phone said, it is a quality of being thankful. Notice how the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” describe each other. Thanksgiving is showing gratitude and gratitude is being thankful.

When was the first thanksgiving? Most people would say it happened several hundred years ago in Plymouth, Mass. when the first pilgrims came to America and gathered around a table with their Indian guests. Was that really the first thanksgiving, or did one occur much earlier in history?

According to David Mathis in his article, “The True Story of Thanksgiving,” the first thanksgiving began thousands of years earlier. Genesis 1:27 us that God created man and woman in his own image. God created us to show Him gratitude, to give Him thanks and to worship Him. The first thanksgiving occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve thanking and praising their Creator.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created perfect. Death had yet to come into existence. They had everything they could ever want provided for them in the Garden of Eden. That is, until the tempter, began spreading his venom around Eden. Satan, being full of pride and love of self, showed ingratitude towards God. Ingratitude is a form of rebellion. It is through ingratitude towards God that sin abounds. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:21 puts it this way, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude would lead Adam and Eve into sin.  Satan brought to their attention one thing they did not have.  They began to believe his lie that God was holding something back from them. God must not care about them. They began to covet the one thing they couldn’t have, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They stopped being thankful for God’s provision and gave in to rebellion. When they ate the fruit, God’s judgment fell on them. Sin separated them from God and death followed sin.

From that day forward, humankind has been self-centered and materialistic creatures believing they can do a better job than God at providing for their needs. We want to determine what is right and wrong in our own minds. People are concerned more with their deprived physical needs than about their spiritual, eternal well-being. What people fail to realize is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Isn’t it reassuring to know God didn’t abandon us to our foolish darkened hearts? God sent his son Jesus into a thankless, ungrateful world. Here on earth he lived a flawless life, showering God with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. Jesus exemplifies the word “thanksgiving.” The Gospels are filled of examples of Jesus giving thanks to God:

When Jesus fed the 4,000, “he took the seven loaves and the fish and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. (Mark 8:6)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41).

The “Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way after supper he took the cup, saying this the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eukaistos, which actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus didn’t just model thanksgiving for us. He died on the cross for our ingratitude, for our failing to exalt God, to praise him and worship Him as Lord. When we place our faith in Jesus, he redeems us from a life of ingratitude and restores us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to be thankful and grateful to God.

This is why it is important for us to be constantly striving to be more like Jesus, the only person who lived a perfect life of gratitude, honoring his father, God.

When we pray we need to remember to be thankful.

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  

When we worship God we need to be thankful. The book of Psalms is full of thankful worship verses.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

When we walk with God we need to remember to be thankful.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

But we’re human aren’t we. There are times we fail miserably at being thankful, like when things aren’t going well for us. We can easily be overcome by hurt and tragedy. When we face trials we have a tendency to blame God.

When we face those trials we need to remain especially thankful.

But how do we do that? First, we can remain thankful by standing on the promises of God. Second, we should remember past and current blessings God has bestowed on us. Yes, count your blessings name them one by one!

My wife visited her family in North Carolina recently. When it came time to fly home, I prayed God would give her an uneventful and safe return. Her fight home, which should normally take about 3 hours turned into quite an ordeal, lasting well over 9 hours. I thought I had covered all my bases with my prayers and found myself having a tough time coping with her having to change planes, miss a connecting flight, and endure hour after hour of delays all caused by bad weather.

The ordeal continued to spin out of control at a time I needed God most. It became increasingly difficult for me to believe God was listening to my prayers. Thoughts like, “Does he really care about my wife and me” crept into my head. It wasn’t until she and I were safely together again that I learned just how involved God was guiding her every step. I felt ashamed when I considered my feelings of ingratitude. My heart turned to repentance and thanksgiving.

From now on I will always think of this incident in my life when I come across the verse:

“And we know (there’s a promise in those three words). And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My wife will likely remember the promise I texted her in the midst of her ordeal :

“Be still and know (the word “know” is a promise) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

grateful-2940466_960_720

May this Thanksgiving be a special time of blessing for you. Remember to give thanks to the God who created you, to the One who sustains you, and to Him who will never leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 13-15: Live by faith

Joshua chapters 13-15 begin an account detailing of how the land of Canaan was to be divided among the 13 tribes of Israel (Joseph received a double portion). Each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as a tribe. Though this material may seem dull to the modern reader it chronicles the fulfillment of Israelite inheritance.

Inheritance – biblical inheritance in the literal sense is a possession or piece of property that is linked to the promises of God (i.e. Promised Land). It’s transcendent meaning holds that God himself is our inheritance.

Levites – the tribe of priests didn’t receive a swath of territory like the other tribes. Instead they received cities, which included the surrounding pasture lands. The Levites received the sacrifice offerings brought by the other tribes to the Lord. God was to be their inheritance. The twelve cities they received were scattered throughout the new land of Israel (see Joshua 21).

While Joshua chapters 1-12 chronicle God’s great victories fighting for Israel, much of the land still needed to be taken.  God himself would continue to fight for Israel if they remained faithful and followed his instructions. The areas yet to be secured included some of the coastland occupied by the Philistines, and areas to the north and south of the lands already conquered.

When the Israelites began to enjoy the Promised Land, they made compromises to speed the process along, permitting people who served other gods to live among them as slaves.  Ironically this would lead to the Israel’s undoing.  They would become slaves to idolatry and eventually to the Canaanites.  The book of Judges chronicles this.

Like the Israelites, how many of us have proved faithful to God in times of great crisis (during the storms of life) only to lose our resolve to remain faithful in the little everyday things?  Faith prizes the gifts god God gives us. Great faith sees beyond the gift and remains faithful to God who gave it.

saint-2356564_960_720Caleb stands out as an example of how Israel’s tribes ought to be living out their conquest of Canaan. He remained faithful to God.  He wanted the complete portion God promised. His faith wouldn’t let him make compromises.  At age 85, he set out to claim the land promised to him.  The same land his feet trod 45 years earlier when he and 11 other Israelites first spied out the land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership (See Numbers 13).  He approached Joshua and said, “Give me the land God promised through Moses.” It didn’t matter to him that the land was occupied by giants.  Caleb’s faith in God allowed him to conquer the land.

Our faith in God can sustain us.  Great faith remembers what God has done and is grateful.  Even today, Jesus is preparing an inheritance for those who are his faithful followers.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  John 14:1-3 NLT

Devoted

IMG_0892

One creature stands out from the others when the subject of devotion is mentioned.  Man’s best friend is a model for humankind.  Our furry beasts aren’t controlling and they don’t harbor hidden agendas; ever loyal, ever faithful, ever loving…

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  Romans 12:10

 

Rust

car-wreck-3183452_960_720I’m guilty of not washing my car as often as I should.  Maybe it’s because I regard vehicles as transportation and not a stylish reflection of who I am.  In the northeastern United States we use salt on the roads in the winter.  So, after ten to twelve years of ownership, my cars invariably show signs of rust.  At this point it’s a little late in the game to be putting more effort into washing my car.

I want to be one of those people who invests their time and energy into imperishable things like relationships.  I know this will require regular housecleaning to keep my heart from forming rust-bearing thoughts that can corrode the relationships I hold dear.

“Store your treasure in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not bread in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  Matthew 6:20-21 NLT

He is Risen!

easter-3290230_960_720

Easter is sometimes called resurrection Sunday.  Belief in a bodily resurrection extends clear back to the time of Abraham.  Job, a contemporary of Abraham, had this to say:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God.”  Job 19:25-26

Today, the hope of a bodily resurrection remains the greatest single desire for those who wish to live beyond the grave; to have their slate wiped clean of heartaches, defects and maladies; to once again be able to converse with lost friends and loved ones.  How can we be sure there will be a bodily resurrection for every believer in Jesus Christ?  The gospel of John records these words of Jesus just before the bodily resurrection of Lazarus:

Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…”  John 11:25

A Homily on Joshua Chapter 1

Here are my notes on the homily I gave yesterday at an assisted living facility:

The message I want to share with you today comes from the book of Joshua. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Joshua chapter one. In verse seven we find these words, “be strong and very courageous.” These are God’s words to Joshua after the Israelites are devastated by the death of Moses. They all loved Moses. For forty years he led God’s  people. To give you an idea of how well loved he was, turn back one page to Deuteronomy 34:12. “For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

Joshua had some tough shoes to fill. He had to step in to a leadership position and be responsible for well over a million people. The Israelites were surrounded by the Canaanites. It was clear where Joshua was going lead them—into the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. BUT conquering this land was another matter. So many uncertainties lay ahead. How would they get across the Jordan River at flood stage? How would they overcome great walled cities and mighty armies? What about the giants they would have to face?

Are you facing giant obstacles in your life? Maybe your world has recently been turned upside down, having lost someone close to you? God’s words to Joshua apply to us today, “Be strong and courageous!”

You may be saying to yourself my situation is different. How can I possibly be strong and courageous? Look at verse five, “As I [God] was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not leave you or forsake you,” In verse nine God tells Joshua, “I will be with you wherever you go.”  You see, God is not sitting up in heaven dreaming up new ways to make us miserable. He’s not sleeping, nor is he distracted with other matters, leaving us to face our problems alone. God says He is with us every day as we journey through life, especially when we are facing difficult circumstances. You might say God sticks to us like glue!

Faith and obedience are two things that made Joshua a successful leader.  Joshua believed God is who he says he is.  We need to remind ourselves regularly this means God is God and we are not. Complete trust in God makes obedience a joyful, not tedious endeavor.  Obedience for or the Israelites meant being careful to obey God’s law given to Moses. Verse 7 says, “do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” We Christians demonstrate our obedience, by loving God with all our heart, soul and mind AND loving our neighbors as we would ourselves Matthew 22:37.

My Sunday school class is studying the book of Joshua. We have been learning how God worked mighty miracles over the course of Joshua’s life. The only reason the Israelites were able to conquer the Promised Land was because God fought for them. God dammed up the flooded river Jordan so the Israelites could cross on dry ground. He shook the mighty walls of Jericho as the Israelites shouted, causing them to collapse. God even stopped the path of sun and the moon for about a day so the Israelites could defeat their enemies in battle. God did these things for the Joshua and the Israelites because of their faith and obedience. Jesus, our Joshua, will do mighty things in our lives if we have faith and will just trust him to the point of being obedient.

Let me tell you a story of how God intervened in this one little thing in my life. If we are not careful to notice the little things God does for us they can easily be overlooked.

FullSizeRender 2We bought a new puppy a little over a year ago. His name is Brody. He is a crème colored short-legged creature called mini dachshund. One day not too long ago he was in some kind of stomach or intestinal distress. Every hour on the hour he would climb up into my wife’s lap and begin yipping loudly. This went on for several hours; every hour on the hour. You can imagine how stressful this was to Patty and I. After several hours of this, we decided to call the vet and take him in. But before we did we casually prayed God would touch his little body. Have you ever prayed one of those quick nonchalant prayers, “God help __________” (fill in the blank).

Was it silly to pray for a puppy? I don’t think so. I think that God cares about the things we care about. Anyway, we arrived at the vet and I readied myself as we closed in on Body’s yipping time. The time came and went with no yipping. I remember thinking maybe it would happen a few minutes later this time but it didn’t. Several minutes passed until it was time to meet with the vet. She probed and probed and could not find anything wrong with him so she sent us on our way.

Well, I paid the vet bill and caught myself grumbling, if we had waited another hour or two, then a trip to the vet wouldn’t have been necessary and we wouldn’t be out the money. It’s easy to grumble and complain about things that happen to us in life isn’t it.  Well, this time I stopped myself in the middle of my grumbling and thought, Hey, wait a minute, we prayed God would touch little Brody and he did! 

My grumbling almost cost me a chance to recognize God’s handiwork and the fact he does care about me. Folks, let me encourage you to not to be like the world around us and pass off the little things God does in your life as coincidence. Praise God for every little thing he does for you. Count your blessings when you pray. Each time you do you are thanking and praising God!

So, do you believe God still works in the lives of those who love and obey Him? Do you believe God will help you be strong and courageous in times of great difficulty? Look at verse thirteen, God promised the Israelites he would give them rest when they inhabited the Promised Land.

Does life leave you feeling tired?  Do you long for rest? I’ve begun to count down the years until my retirement. I won’t bore you with the exact number. Like most of you I’ve labored long and hard for a lot of years. I’ve worked in a plastics factory, for a packaging and assembly business and in an order fulfillment warehouse. I’ve sat at a desk doing computer work. My most job is with Pearce Church doing anything and everything they need me to do. You know what? I often go home tired and weary. I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock anymore. I am looking forward to resting.

Have you found a place of rest in your journey? Do you want to find peace in the midst of your struggles? Let’s look at a couple of scripture passages about peace and rest.

In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews chapter 13 says, “be content with what we have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

My friends hear the word of the Lord! Be strong and courageous! Have faith and trust God because He is with us—ALWAYS!