Give Thanks In All Circumstances

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Heidelberg Catechism says that belief in the providence of God makes it possible for us to be “thankful when things go well” and “patient when things go against us”.
So sometimes we are thankful, and sometimes we are patient.

Paul sums things up this way. He says it is God’s will for us to be thankful “in all circumstances.” Really? Well, it may help to note that Paul is not saying we should be thankful for all circumstances but in them. When things seem to go against us, I think God expects us to be grateful that his hand holds us and helps us to endure under the strain. That’s a big challenge–to look for reasons to be thankful when the going is tough.

Sometimes it can be equally difficult for us to be thankful when things are going well. We might not think it would be that way. After all, when things go well, we have so much to be grateful for. But the very nature of human beings, even if we are Christian, is to overlook the crowd of God’s good gifts to us every day. Let me suggest that today you sit still where you are and exercise the gift of noticing. Notice what you see, what you have, and who is with you. Notice the color, beauty, and variety around you. Keep noticing, and make a list of the gifts you notice. Then give thanks to God, the great giver!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What It Means To Live Your New Life

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20–24

One of my very favorite stories from the Scriptures is the story of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus. Lazarus was sick. Jesus found out, but waited until four days after he died to come. Upon arriving, Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from the tomb and raised Lazarus from the dead.

Something interesting happened next. Lazarus was still bound with the linen strips that were wrapped around a person when he died. And Jesus said, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

What I love about that statement is that Jesus isn’t allowing Lazarus to wear the clothes of a dead man. Instead, He intends for Lazarus to shed the garments of death and move forward in life.

Much the same way, when we come to Christ and are raised from the death of our sins, Jesus calls us to shed the garments of death that bind us and put on the clothes of grace and glory.

Many Christians have stepped out of the tomb, but are still bound by their death clothes of sin. But in Christ, you have the ability to shed the clothes of death and put on new clothes of life. Walk in that new life today by God’s power!

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:13-14

BE RENEWED DAILY IN GOD’S POWER BY TAKING OFF YOUR
OLD SELF AND PUTTING ON THE NEW!

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Reformation Sunday: 500 Years of Biblical Faith

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

There’s an old song by Sam Cooke that was popular in my younger days that had a line in it that goes: “Don’t know much about history…” 

I think that pretty much describes our generation.  We are close to being historically illiterate in our day.  We know a little about the founding of our nation, we know something of our own family heritage, but when it comes to our collective religious roots, well that’s another story.  For example, many know dates like October 12, 1492, and July 4, 1776, and certainly September 11, 2001.  But how many of us know the significance of May 4, 1415 or October 31, 1517.  We may know trivia tidbits like the names of 3 ships that Columbus sailed to the new world: the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. 

But many if not most have never even heard of John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Knox.  And yet, these names are far more important to our Protestant faith.  

Well this is Reformation Sunday, commemorating the day 500 years ago when a monk named Martin Luther nailed those 95 Theses to the wooden doors of the Wittenberg Chapel, protesting the excesses of the Church.  It was a world-changing moment in history that ultimately impacts the way we view and practice the Christian faith.  John MacArthur states the following concerning the Reformation, “The power of the Catholic Church was stifled by Scripture itself, as God’s people came face-to-face with the truth of His Word. The pope and the priesthood, along with Catholic dogma and tradition, were exposed as untrustworthy and unbiblical intermediaries between God and man. In the light of God’s Word, their satanic lies were laid bare.

Today, we worship and serve in the long line of faithful believers who held to the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture. This line includes the heroes of church history who helped recover the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. If not for the work of those faithful servants, we might still be living under the dark dominion of Catholic lies today.”

May we remember the sacrifice that has been made by many so that we may enjoy the privilege of having our own personal copy of God’s Word to read, study and enjoy daily.

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Why All This Suffering?  Part 2

When we ask the question, “Why all this suffering”? we have to be prepared for the answer. As we discussed in part one, we understand that “why” question goes back to the very beginning.

We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points for us. And if we consider these truths, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help give us some basic answers.

  1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering. This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Tragedy and suffering exist because we live in a fallen world filled with sin.
  2. Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good. He does this by fulfilling His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even our trials and tribulations in life have a purpose and plan in the ultimate purpose of God.
  3. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil. A lot of times you’ll hear people say: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?” And the answer is that because He hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He won’t do it. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
  4. Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for his followers.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Cor 4:17

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Rom 8:18

  1. We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage. The bible clearly teaches us that when faced with trials and hardship, God will be faithful to care for us even through those trials.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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Why All This Suffering? Part 1

I don’t know if this question has entered your mind or has been asked of you in the past couple weeks, “If God is good and loving, why is He allowing all this suffering and evil to exist in our world”? This has been a tough month or so for the United States. First came the hurricanes which brought major flooding, death and destruction to our southern and gulf communities. Then we had the horrible shooting deaths of 58 individuals by an apparently lone crazed gunman who rained down warlike gunfire on crowds of concert goers in Las Vegas. Now here in California we are faced with wildfires, which are currently ravaging the houses and properties of thousands of people in Southern and Northern CA and at the date of this writing has caused many deaths. All this suffering causes many to ask the question, “Why?”

That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. There was 9/11, the ISIS slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God?

But if you’ve never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, you will when they strike you with full force or they come to a loved one. And Jesus said they are coming. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as just being illusions, Jesus was honest. He told us the truth. He said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might – he said it is going to happen.

We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points for us. And if we consider these truths, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help give us some basic answers.

I’ll list them here today and go into each one a little deeper in part 2 of this article.

Biblical Truths To Consider When Contemplating Evil and Suffering

  1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  2. Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  3. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  4. Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for His followers.
  5. We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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LIFE WILL TEST YOU – Part One

“for God has come to test you.” Ex 20:20

Do you remember the tests you took in school? You passed or failed, but you couldn’t avoid them. Life works that way too. When it comes to life’s tests-you must prepare yourself in advance! 

Jesus said: 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  (Mt 7:24-27).

The first man built his house on rock because he knew it wasn’t a question of “if,” but “when,” a storm will come. The second man built his house on sand because it was cheap and easy. When the storm came the first man’s house stood and the second man’s house fell.

What’s the point  Jesus was making?  Your talents, your resume and your reputation may get you to the top, but if you haven’t built strong character you won’t stay there long.

Furthermore, your beliefs may be sincere and line up with what other people around you think, but unless they’re founded on God’s Word they’ll fail you when you need them most. Three times in the Bible we read, “The just shall live by faith” (Ro 1:17).

When the tests of life come you’ve got to be able to rise up and say, I may not have all the answers, but I have proven God’s character and track record and I’m trusting Him to do what He’s promised in His Word!”

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BEWARE OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

“You who judge others do these very same things.” Romans 2:1

I read the following illustration, on having the proper perspective.  A woman looked out her window every morning and commented to her husband on the dirty laundry on her neighbor’s line. One day she noticed it was sparkling clean: “Maybe she’s using a new detergents”; she remarked. “No” said her husband. “I got up early and cleaned our windows.”

Hello! When Paul talks about “greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception…gossip” (Romans 1:29), it’s tempting to think it doesn’t apply to you. Then he says, “You are just as bad…you…do these very same things.”

Maybe you’ve never embezzled money, but have you ever shortchanged somebody? Or taken an “iffy” tax deduction? How about when you’re stuck in traffic, or you overhear some juicy gossip?

The Christian writer Phil Yancey says: “Murder and adultery differ from hatred and lust only by degree…Paul reserves his most scathing comments for self-righteous people…A Pharisee of Pharisees, he knew the pattern…the danger that accompanies a feeling of moral superiority. Just as denial keeps you from seeing a doctor about a lump or lesion…denial of sin leads to worse consequences…! accepted a speaking engagement from some Christians involved in Twelve­ Step Programs…As I pondered what to say…it occurred to me that what
recovering alcoholics confess daily-personal failure and the need for grace…represent high hurdles for those of us who take pride in independence and self-sufficiency. Romans 3:10 says, There is none righteous,’ and God’s grace is the only solution. It comes free of charge, apart from the law and…human efforts towards self-improvement…we need only hold out open, needy hands-the most difficult gesture for a self-righteous person.”

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TWO STORIE S ABOUT MARRIAGE

“love…keeps no record of being wronged.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Story one: Deborah K. Johnson writes: “My seven-year-old daughter wanted to take violin lessons, so I took her to a music store to rent an instrument. Hoping she would understand the importance of making a commitment to practice, I explained that lessons were expensive. I was willing to make the financial sacrifice if she promised to work hard. ‘There may be times you’ll feel like giving up,’ I said, ‘but I want you to hang in there!’ She nodded, understanding, then in her most serious voice she said, ‘It will be just like marriage, right, Mom?'”

Story two: A husband asked his wife, “Tell me, dear, have you ever been in love before?” She thought for a moment and replied, “No, darling. I once respected a man for his great intelligence. I admired another one for his remarkable courage. And I was captivated by yet another for his good looks and charm. But with you, well, how else could I explain it, except love?”

Have you been finding fault with your mate instead of remembering the qualities that attracted you to them? Attitudes are like weeds, they spring up overnight and if you don’t deal with them they take over the whole garden. Don’t let that happen! Next time you’re too busy to show love, or you react in anger, read these words: “Love is patient and kind.

Love…does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1Co 13:4-7).

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PARENT, THAT’S YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deuteronomy 6:7

 Abraham had a nephew called Lot who succeeded in business, but lost his family. How come? Because:
(a) he had the wrong emphasis – he placed material  success above spiritual success;
(b) he had the wrong environment – he thought his children could live in Sodom and not be affected by it;
(c) he had the wrong expectation – he thought he could change his surroundings by compromising with them;
(d) he set the wrong example – he thought his family would follow his instructions; instead they followed his lifestyle;
(e) he had the wrong relationships – he didn’t realize until it was too late, how much Sodom had influenced
  his family  (See Ge 19:4-5).

If you think you can live by the world’s rules and expect your children to follow God’s, you’re kidding yourself. Instead of preaching about the shoes you want your children to fill, walk in them! Lead by example. Outside of your influence as a parent, the four greatest influences in your child’s life are their peers, the internet, media and music. And all four are either working for you or against you. You say, “But I’m really busy right now.” Get un-busy! Rethink your priorities.

Your child’s character is being molded each day; the question is, by whom? God’s Word clearly states that these six things constitute your job description as a parent: (1) Instruct them (See Dt 6:6-7). (2) Train them (See Prov 22:6). (3) Provide for them (See 2Co 12:14). (4) Nurture them (See Eph 6:4). (5) Discipline them (See 1Ti 3:4). (6) Love them (See Tit 2:4).

The truth is, you have no greater responsibility!

 

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PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6

Sometimes we take for granted the gift of prayer. The idea that we can communicate personally with the most Holy Sovereign Supreme God Who just happens to be the Creator of everything is stunningly amazing. It reminds me of a story I read several years ago.

The four-year-old son of a missionary family in Africa spotted a picture of a little pink dinosaur in a magazine and set his heart on having one. His mom knew it was impossible (the magazine was three years old), but her son never doubted God would come through for him. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve, a box from home arrived. At first glance, it seemed to contain something special for everyone-except a four-year-old boy. Then they reached the bottom-and they were stunned. The lady who sent the box had no way of knowing God would use her to answer a little boy’s prayer. Before taping up the box, at the last minute, she tossed in the one item impossible for his parents to provide-something so insignificant no rational adult would ever have been foolish enough to ask God for…a pink plastic brontosaurus from a fast-food restaurant promotion!

Sometimes we feel foolish bothering God with little things, but we shouldn’t. The Bible says: “pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

God is interested in every detail of your life; if something is important to you, it’s important to Him. In Bible times two sparrows were sold for a cent (on sale you could buy five for two cents!) yet Jesus said, “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it…the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (Mt 10:29-30).

When you learn to trust God in little things, you’ll be able to trust Him in big ones.

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