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

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Why You? Why Now? Why Here?

This is the season of Thanksgiving in America. It’s a time to reflect on our blessings as a nation and as individuals. As I’ve thought about the blessings of life two questions often come to my mind. The first is Why was I born at this time in history? The second is Why was I born in this country of the world? I think these are important questions for Christians to contemplate especially during this time of the year.

From a purely secular point of view any of us could have been born at any time in history and we could have been born in any country. Think about how different your life would have been if you had been born to a struggling peasant family during the middle ages somewhere in Europe. You probably would have lived in a small hut made out of branches and mud with a dirt floor. No lights. No running water. No central heat. No bath or shower. No indoor plumbing. One change of clothes. Bread and porridge once a day. No doctors or medicine. And no prospect of a better life – if you even survived childhood. If your parents were peasants you would be a peasant. That’s how the class system worked.

Yet we (especially American Christians) live in prosperity. All of the things that peasants lacked throughout history we have. And more. We are free. We are rich. We are healthy. We are fat. We are spoiled. Not only do we have one of the most enviable lifestyles in the world, we have one of the best lifestyles in human history. Why?

The simple answer is that God put you where He put you. I asked a dear pastor friend in Haiti if he had ever wondered why God had him born into a Haitian family instead of into an American family. He replied that he had thought about it – often. And the conclusion that he came to was that God had a purpose in the circumstances of his birth. He understood that God had placed him into a country of immense suffering in order to make a difference.

There is a Biblical principle that comes into play here. Luke 12:48 says for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required. Although this statement is found in the context of eternal rewards and punishment, it states an eternal principle. We will answer for how we use what God has given us. Those of us who have been privileged to have been born into prosperity and health are those to whom much is given in a material sense and we will have to answer for how we use our blessings.

This is no small matter. If it is true that we are among the most prosperous and blest people in the history of the world, and there is great evidence for this, then what is/will be required of us is immense. We have a greater responsibility to minister the grace of God than any other generation has ever had.

God has put you here, now because He has a purpose in the circumstances of your birth. He wants you to make a difference with your life. How that plays out in your life will depend to a large extent on how you view the ownership of your life and possessions. If they belong to you, you will most likely make a small difference. If you see them as belonging to God then you will probably make a great difference.

Being thankful is more than simply reflecting on the blessings of the past year. It’s an understanding of the source and purpose of our blessings that motivates us to action. Never forget that we have been blest to be a blessing.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m not sure why – it may be the crisp fall air and the beauty of the leaves changing colors (for those of us blessed enough to live in the colder climates); or it may be the great holiday feasts with family and friends; or it may be the blessings of faith and freedom that we as a nation enjoy. Whatever it is, I like it.

But I have to admit that there are several things wrong with Thanksgiving. One thing that’s wrong is that I don’t always feel thankful. I know that I’m supposed to, but there are days when I just don’t feel that way. Another thing that’s wrong with Thanksgiving is that it’s not always easy to be thankful. In fact sometimes it’s difficult. And then there’s the whole idea of being thankful for the difficult things in life. Maybe if I was completely sanctified I could – but I’m not and I can’t (at least that’s what I tell myself). If you are like me (and I think most of you are), you’ve struggled with these same issues.

The reality is that Thanksgiving is not about your feelings – it’s about your heart. You don’t have to feel thankful to be thankful. And you can be thankful even when it’s not easy. And yes, you can be thankful even for the difficult things in life without being completely sanctified. It’s all a matter of the heart and a heart that has been changed by the love of Christ is a heart that can be thankful in any situation. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is still true: In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.

Another thing that we need to remember is that Thanksgiving is not about your circumstances – it’s about your God. As Christians we’re thankful, not because life is great, but because God is great. As long as He is in control we have nothing to fear and we can be thankful to Him no matter what happens in life. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (also 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 29, 136:2, 3, 26).

Thankfulness is a spiritual quality that every Christian needs to cultivate. We of all people have reasons to be thankful. Our feelings should not matter. Our circumstances should not make a difference. All that matters is our hearts and our God.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Some Thoughts on Death

Please forgive my silence during the past few weeks. I was in Haiti from March 1 – 18 teaching at Institut Biblique Lumiere and conducting evangelistic meetings with Pastor Jean Admettre and the good people of Third Baptist Church in Les Cayes.
The subject of death has been on my mind recently. It’s probably due to two recent events which occurred on consecutive Sundays. On March 10th while I was in Haiti one of the young Deacons at Third Baptist Church died unexpectedly, leaving behind a wife and two young children. I had the privilege of visiting the widow in her home with Pastor Jean Admettre and attending the memorial service. The following Sunday, March 17th an elderly man in our congregation went home to be with the Lord. We had his funeral this past Friday.

For the Christian death is an interesting thought. We often turn to the Apostle Paul’s statement knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. . . we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6 & 8). There is that aspect of looking forward with anticipation, not to the journey of death, but to the reality that death in this life ushers us into something better, something eternal. Death doesn’t simply add to life – it begins real life!

But there is another aspect of death that we often overlook. And that is that death takes something away. What death removes is our opportunity to bring praise and honor to the Lord. The Psalmist reminds us of this when he says, in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks? (Psalm 6:5). And again, the dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17).

In Psalm 88 we are given an extended section that talks about what we cannot do in death.

Shall the dead arise and praise You? Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the
grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be
known in the dark (place)? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
(Verses 10-12).

Death removes our ability and our opportunity to praise and thank God, to declare His goodness, to experience His faithfulness, to share His wonders and to tell people about His righteousness. It takes away the very reason that we are here. It is only in life that we can accomplish anything for God. Once we are dead we can no longer bring glory to Him with our lives.

Which leads me to two thoughts. First, we need to be busy doing what we were designed to do. Life for the Christian isn’t about us – it’s about God and what we can do for Him with our lives. And second, while death will lead us to something more glorious and better, let’s not be so anxious to go there, knowing that it is only in life that we serve.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Running Water & Hot Showers

Thankfulness is an interesting quality. As Americans we view ourselves as a thankful people. Once a year we set aside a day to express our thankfulness to God for our blessings. Ironically we indulge (gorge might be a better word) ourselves more on that day than on any other day of the year. We might better express our thankfulness by fasting on Thanksgiving rather than feasting.

While we imagine ourselves to be thankful, it’s difficult to truly be thankful until something has been taken away from you. When something that has been part of your life has been removed so that you can no longer enjoy it, you begin to get an idea of what it means to be thankful.

Most of my readers know that I just returned from an eighteen day missions trip to Haiti.  On the return flight I was seated next to Pam, a woman who had just experienced Haiti for the first time. Her shock at what she saw in Haiti was typical for the average American. The vast majority of us have never witnessed the abject poverty, the unsanitary conditions, the lack of the most basic medical care, the absence of running water, indoor plumbing, and electricity that is typical of much of Haiti. We take these not only for granted but as our birthright as Americans. Yet the majority of people in the world lack most, if not all of these. We are blessed. I had an interesting conversation with Pam as she worked through some of her amazement and emotions.

That’s where thankfulness comes in. I can guarantee you that today Pam, like many others who have visited Haiti, are more thankful than she has been in a long time. She now has a framework in which she can objectively view her blessings.

God has a lot to say about being thankful in the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms. Here are just a few of the many verses in Psalms that challenge us to be thankful.

Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows (IE thankfulness) to the Most High (Ps 50:14).

It is a good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High (Ps 92:1).

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Ps 106:1).

This theme carries over into the New Testament as well.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6).

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God (1 Thess 5:18).

Thankfulness to God for the blessings of life is not to be the exception but the dominating characteristic of the Christian life. It should define us.

After eighteen days of cold showers I was reminded again today to be thankful as I stepped into a hot shower. The ability to turn a faucet handle and have instantaneous hot water always reminds me to be thankful. It doesn’t take much once you do without.

What would it take for you to be thankful?

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Thoughts on Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. I’m not sure why – it may be the crisp fall air and the beauty of the leaves changing colors (for those of us blessed enough to live in the colder climates); or it may be the great holiday feasts with family and friends; or it may be the blessings of faith and freedom that we as a nation enjoy. Whatever it is, I like it.

But I have to admit that there are several things wrong with Thanksgiving. One thing that’s wrong is that I don’t always feel thankful. I know that I’m supposed to, but there are days when I just don’t feel that way. Another thing that’s wrong with Thanksgiving is that it’s not always easy to be thankful. In fact sometimes it’s difficult. And then there’s the whole idea of being thankful for the difficult things in life. Maybe if I was completely sanctified I could – but I’m not and I can’t (at least that’s what I tell myself). If you are like me (and I think most of you are), you’ve struggled with these same issues.

The reality is that Thanksgiving is not about your feelings – it’s about your heart. You don’t have to feel thankful to be thankful. And you can be thankful even when it’s not easy. And yes, you can be thankful even for the difficult things in life without being completely sanctified. It’s all a matter of the heart and a heart that has been changed by the love of Christ is a heart that can be thankful in any situation. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is still true: In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.

Another thing we need to remember is that Thanksgiving is not about your circumstances – it’s about your God. As Christians we’re thankful, not because life is great, but because God is. As long as He is in control we have nothing to fear and we can be thankful to Him no matter what happens in life. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (also 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 29, 136:2, 3, 26).

Thankfulness is a spiritual quality that every Christian should cultivate. We of all people have reasons to be thankful. Our feelings should not matter. Our circumstances should not make a difference. All that matters is our hearts and our God.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve