How Thankful Are We?

It’s the week of Thanksgiving here in the United States. It’s a time that we stop and think about how thankful we are. At least that’s the idea. But with family, food and football it’s difficult to squeeze in much time to think about thankfulness.

The question that I have is: How do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it a warm feeling deep down inside? The warmer the feeling the greater the thankfulness? Sounds too mystical.

Is it an assertion that says I’m thankful? And the more confident your assertion the more it becomes a reality? In that case A type personalities will certainly be more thankful than the rest of us.

Is it an attitude, a way of thinking? I think therefore I am. Doesn’t sound right.

Is it something that we just say so it must be true? Sort of like, I’m the best basketball player in the world – so I automatically become the best basketball player in the world. That would send Lebron James into fits of laughter.

So how do you gauge thankfulness?

Is it even possible to gauge thankfulness?

There must be a way to determine, say on a scale of 1 – 100, how thankful you really are.

As it turns out, there are several ways that you can gauge your thankfulness.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how generous you are.

God loves generous people.

Psalm 112:5 says It is well with the man who deals [with other people] generously.

In other words, God wants us to be generous.

I seriously doubt that you can give generously without being thankful for what you have.

And I believe that when you are thankful for what you have – knowing that it all came from God (Psalm 24:1, James 1:16-17) you will in turn be generous.

You can gauge your thankfulness by how much your generosity costs you.

Do you remember the story of the widow in Luke 21? After the wealthy people had dumped their bags of money into the treasury in the Temple in Jerusalem, she put in her two coins. They gave out of their abundance – which is better than not giving at all, but it didn’t cost them anything. They had plenty more where that came from. There was really no generosity in what they did.

Then she put in her two coins. They were all she had. Her generosity costs her everything.

Jesus’ commentary on it was this: I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Giving generously is not the same as giving extravagantly. But when you give generously it will cost you something.

You can gauge your thankfulness by your satisfaction in the difficult times of life.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God.

Being thankful in the good times of life doesn’t tell you anything about yourself except that life is good.

It’s when you can be satisfied with what God is doing in your life as the sky falls in that you know you are a thankful person.

The difficult times in life reveal a lot about us.

Being thankful is more than just saying you’re thankful. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Being thankful is about what you do. It’s about your actions.

Thursday is coming. It’s time to be thankful.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Or is It?

We’re entering the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time to celebrate!

This time of the year means family, food and football for a lot of people. It means the changing of seasons and the leaves turning the beautiful colors of fall. It means parades, parties and presents. And snow! At least for those of us who live in the northeastern part of the United States.

As the song says, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Or is it?

Not for everyone.

In all of the festivities it’s easy to forget that we are blessed. It’s even easier to forget those who aren’t.

There are so many people around the world who won’t enjoy the holidays the way you do – and some of them are just outside your back door.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to relate to the poor, especially in the book of Proverbs.

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he (Prov 14:21).

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov 14:31).

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov 17:5).

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given (Prov 19:17).

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard (Prov 21:13).

Check out James 2:2-9 for a longer New Testament perspective on how we are to treat poor people.

There is a special place in the heart of God for poor people and there should be a special place in our hearts as well.

This holiday season find a way to bless someone who is less fortunate than you. Take a holiday meal to a poor family. Buy some presents for some children who won’t get any presents otherwise. Serve a meal at your local rescue mission.

There are many ways that you can help someone celebrate the holidays who is dreading this time of the year.

It’s not a matter of time – we all have the same 24 hours in the day. It’s not a matter of money (maybe it is for some) – we all have enough. It’s simply a matter of priority.

Make helping someone a priority this holiday season.

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all (Prov 22:2).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

Where Do You Get Your News?

If you watch the news for any length of time you’ll be tempted to ask is there any GOOD news? We’re inundated with one unsavory story after another that cause us to live in fear, disgust and/or hopelessness. It seems like evil has overrun our world.

As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised. God’s Word tells us that in the days just before the return of Christ, men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:2-4).

We’re there.

But back to the question is there any GOOD news? The answer is YES! Yes there is good news, especially for the Christian. It’s all about where you look. Most people get their news from sources like as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, or various internet sites and if you keep looking there, you’ll probably continue to get bad news and it will be discouraging. However, if you get your news from God’s Word there is plenty of good news. Here’s just a sample of the good news that God has for you as a Christian:

God is still in control. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11

You are on God’s heart. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. Psalm 34:15

We have peace. Therefore, having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

We have hope. Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

You don’t have to pay for your sin. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

The problems of today are nothing compared to what is coming. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

A better day is coming. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

You are loved. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. 1 John 3:14

Think about all of the good news that’s available to us if we just look in the right place. I’m sure that you can add to this list. Don’t be jaded by the news that you get from the television, newspaper or internet – the news from the world isn’t so good, but the news from God’s Word is great!

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Who Are You Thankful For?

It’s been a run of ugliness – much of it coming out of Hollywood. There have always been whispers about the dark side of the movie industry but now details are coming into the light and they are even uglier than we expected.

It hasn’t been limited to Hollywood. Now there are similar accusations coming from women on the U.S.A. Olympic team.

I anticipate that this is just the beginning of revelations. There is more to come. And possibly from areas of society that will surprise us.

Who can women trust? Who can any of us trust?

That made me stop and think about the people in my life. People who did not break my trust. People I’m thankful for. People who made my life richer than it would have been had we not crossed paths. And there have been many of them.

But a few stand out.

Heading the list is my wife who has had an enormous impact in my life. She deserves more credit than most people realize. Proverbs 31:10-12.

My parents who raised me in a godly family are on the list. As are my children.

Then there were seminary professors who saw me as more than a student and imparted not just academic knowledge to me, but their own lives.

Along the line there have been some special friends who have been there when I needed them. They fulfilled 1 Thessalonians 5:11 in my life.

Included in the list have been people who have stood outside that ring of intimate friendship, but who in some simple way made a lasting impact.

There have been a few people who, although our contacts were relatively limited, nevertheless spoke words of truth (sometimes hard to hear) that influenced my life.

There have been others.

I’m thankful for each of these people who made me better and those who are continuing to have an impact on me. Their lives have rubbed off on my life. They are the Proverbs 27:17 people for me.

In this day of ugly news about people we need to remember the people who have been positive, godly influences in our lives. We need them.

If all you do is fill your mind with the ugliness of man’s sin, you’ll soon despair. If you fill your mind with those good people who have touched your life you’ll find hope.

Who are you thankful for?

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

A Better Day is Coming

One of the New Testament books that people struggle with is the book of Revelation. Not only is it difficult to understand but even scholars disagree on its interpretation. However, there is still a lot of material that we can understand. One of the passages that gives us encouragement and hope is Revelation 21:1-4.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

Let me point out the obvious. In eternity we will no longer be separated from God. Three times (I’ve underlined them for you) we are told that God will be with us. The preposition means to be in company with or to accompany. The idea is that we will have a close intimate relationship with God that is different from what we presently experience. That relationship will be possible because we shall be His people and He will be their God. That is, we will be totally His, heart, mind and soul, and He will be totally ours. No sin to tempt us; no temptations to lure us away; no lust to divide our loyalties, we will be His. And He will be ours. Think about it. The Almighty God of the universe will be totally and only for us to enjoy.

The next statement is not only encouraging but it illustrates just how much He will be ours. Tenderly and compassionately He will wipe away every tear from their (our) eyes. As a father I can remember the times when my children were very young and one of them would fall down or hurt themselves. All I wanted to do was to hold them and wipe away their tears until the hurt was gone. Now I feel the same about my grandchildren. I just want to make it all better. That’s what God will do for us. We often think of God as austere and authoritarian. But He is also kind and compassionate and I like to think that someday He is going to take you in His arms, wipe away your tears and hold you until all of the hurts that you have experienced in this life are gone. I don’t know how He will do that with millions of believers, but then He’s God – I’m sure He can figure it out.

And life will be fundamentally different. No death, no sorrow, no crying, no pain. All of the things that bring you pain and suffering in this life will be over, never to be experienced again.

Some of you are going through trials in your life of pain and suffering and it’s easy for the rest of us to say, we’re praying for you. But sometimes that just isn’t enough. Perhaps you are battling cancer or something equally difficult, with endless rounds of hospital visits, doctor’s appointments, chemo therapy and you are facing an unknown future. Your prognosis is not good. You are suffering physically, emotionally and probably spiritually. To you I want to hold out the hope, the assurance, of rest in the arms of God. Of a future that will know no pain or suffering, but only the blessedness of the presence of God.

God Himself will be with [you] and [He will] be [your] God.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

It’s Not About What You Want, It’s About What (God Knows) You Need

Life is not easy. We go through a thousand trials and wonder when we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think of people that God has placed in my sphere of ministry and the pain that they are going through – serious health issues, financial problems, loss of a loved one, family issues etc. etc. You probably have people in your circle facing the same things. You might be.

If that is your story – you’re not alone. How many times did the writers of the Psalms cry out, Hear me when I call, O God (Ps 4:1); God, deliver me! (Ps 70:1); God, don’t be far from me! (Ps 71:12). We can all identify with those sentiments. We’ve been there. And when we’re in that situation and we’ve cried out to God but nothing has changed – we wonder why God doesn’t help us. Is he ignoring us? Doesn’t He care?

Several years ago my daughter, a young mother, shared some of the Biblical truths that she had been learning from the Word of God.

I want to share some of it with you. She’s right on target.

If you are going through hard times, I hope this ministers to you in an encouraging, healing way.

“After church last night, I was up thinking. We’ve been studying the prophets, many of whom were quite dramatic. Several, maybe more than I realize, came to a point in life where they begged God to let them die rather than face their circumstances, and the pastor was talking about how God met their needs by not giving them what they were asking for. It’s something I’ve heard before…God gives us exactly what we need. Sometimes, it seems like a trite statement and not very encouraging. Especially when what I am so convinced I need isn’t happening, and I think if God is so loving why isn’t He moving, doing, fixing, revealing Himself? Last night, I realized that statement – God gives us exactly what we need – isn’t such a small thing to say. As a parent, I am often begged, pleaded with, cried out to, asked by my kids for something that they are CONVINCED they NEED. And I know that they don’t need it, and in fact, it is not in their best interests to give it to them. Yet, I’m tired out – tired of saying No one more time, tired of the tears when they don’t get what they think they need, tired of being the unpopular mom, so I give in. I just want to see them smile, squeal with joy, hug me…even when I know that is short lived. I end up giving them what is not best for them. I imagine God in the same situation with me, yet He continues to say No to me and bears my tears, complaints, even anger and doubt because He knows that what I am asking Him for (even though I believe it to be the best thing) is not the best thing, is not what is needed.”

There’s a song by Laura Story (you can listen to it here). Part of it says:

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I want to encourage you to take another look at your trials. To submit your trials to a loving God. To look at your trials differently. He’s working in your life. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you need. And He knows what you need.

What if the trials in this life really ARE His mercies in disguise? What would you miss if you chose to avoid them?

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Blessing God

Blessing is part of the Christian culture. We pray for God’s blessing; we bless each other; we sing about blessings; we testify about being blessed; and of course we read about blessings in both the Old and New Testaments. You can’t take the concept of blessing out of the Christian experience and still have Christianity.

One of the early places where you encounter the subject of blessing in the Bible is in Genesis 12 when God calls Abram to radical obedience – Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house (Genesis 12:1). Attached to that demand was God’s dual statements about blessing – I will bless you/you shall be a blessing (Genesis 12:2).

From these early statements we get the idea that blessing involves some benefit. When God told Abram that He would bless him, He stated how He would do that; I will bless you and make your name great (Genesis 12:2). The personal history of Abram/Abraham shows how God fulfilled that promise.

When you bless someone it involves doing (or saying) something that brings a certain help to their lives – providing dinner to a shut-in, shoveling your neighbor’s snow-covered walk, driving an older person to their doctor’s appointment, praying with a fellow believer etc.

I often remind our church that our primary reason for gathering on Sunday is to bless God. Yes, there are other issues – fellowship, encouragement, receiving a blessing, and teaching/learning to name a few. And I always hope and pray that people are blessed in these ways. But our real reason for Sunday – the reason that must be even if nothing else happens on a particular week – is to bless God.

Blessing God occurs in a variety of ways. It happens when you come with a submitted heart. It happens when you pray, especially in thanksgiving. It happens when God sees you loving each other. It happens when you sing about God’s greatness, mercy and grace. It happens when you serve. It happens when you listen to the Word. It happens when you make a personal application of the truths of the Word.

In all of these ways, and I suspect more, God is blessed by you – He receives a benefit (if we can speak of God in those terms). The benefit of watching His children walking in the truth (cf 3 John 1:4). The benefit of hearing their prayers of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). The benefit of seeing His love spread to others (John 13:34-35). The benefit of hearing voices raised in praise of His marvelous grace (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). The benefit of blessing other people through you as you serve Him/them (1 Corinthians 12:7, 25). The benefit of watching your faith grow as you listen to Him (Romans 10:17).

If your primary purpose for attending church is to bless God then several things will be true:

-You will make church about Him – not about you.
-You will go to church for what you can give – not just for what you can get (and get something while you’re there!).
-You will search for ways to bless God (and others) – not just be blessed.

It’s all in your perspective.

Next Sunday, whatever else you do in church, plan now to be a blessing to God.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve