Monthly Archives: November 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

The season of Thanksgiving is a time to bring into focus the important qualities of life.  We are given at least a day to slow down, reflect, and recall the blessings of life.  What have been the lessons we have learned?  Were our challenges and struggles curses or opportunities for growing in our faith?  Have we sought to listen for the still small voice or have we become uncomfortable and angry with the silence?

Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to remember and celebrate the pilgrims’ spirit of long ago.  From a summer of sweat and labor, they were able to reap a bountiful harvest and build homes of protection.  From the strained challenges of building relationships with another race, they were able to give thanks for friendships that provided shared learning experiences, knowledge, and gifts.

Henri Nouwen shares with us to give thanks for a life of blessings.

“Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude.  It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future.  Grateful people are those who can celebrate even the pains of life because they trust that when harvest time comes the fruit will show that the pruning was not punishment but purification.”  — Henri Nouwen

May your Thanksgiving celebration break forth to a lifetime of Thanks-living.

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Thank God For The Gift of His Commandments

I started a Series of messages on Sunday Morning Nov. 23rd entitled Gifts For Which We Are Rarely Thankful.  The first message in that series was Thank God for the Gift of Identity!  While this second part is not a message as such it is something which might help us as we enter the Thanksgiving Season to Remember to Thanks God for the Gift of His Commandments.

Exodus 20:1-21 (KJV) 1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 13 Thou shalt not kill. 14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15 Thou shalt not steal. 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. 18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. 21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

John 13:34-35 (KJV) 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

stopsign1Two teenage pranksters thought it would be funny to disregard God’s 8th Commandment by stealing a stop sign that had been placed at a dangerous intersection. Before that night was over, a terrible collision between two cars occurred at that intersection. People in both vehicles were killed. Likely such a tragedy would never have happened had the teenagers obeyed God’s Word and let the stop signs remain in place. When was the last time you thanked God for a stop sign?

Have you ever thanked God for His Law? Psalm 1:1-3 speaks of such a thankful man. He was wise enough to recognize what a vital gift God gave us when He set down stop signs to keep us from wrecking our lives at those temptation intersections we so often must cross.

Psalm 1:1-3 (KJV) 1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalm 23:3 (KJV) says, 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. – and for my own protection and well being!

As a child my mother and father would give us “commandments” that we called rules. When was the last time you heard a child say:  (This is a possible Drama)

Teen: Oh, thank you, my parents for the school night curfew Many of my friends have no curfew, but you love me more than those parents. You know that without a curfew I will increase my chances of doing something stupid. Without this curfew I probably wouldn’t get my homework done, and my grades would slide. Then I would not be eligible for college academic scholarships! Oh wise and caring parents, I am so grateful for your wisdom and care to set down this rule for me!

Older Child: My parents, how I praise and honor you for grounding me for the week because I stole that bag of candy from the market. I understand that I must earn money to pay back the store owner and then apologize to him. Your quick action to discipline me for disobeying your rule and Gods commandment, “Do not steal,” will help me avoid doing such a terrible thing in later years where I might end up in prison for stealing! Thank you for enforcing your laws!

Unless you have extraordinary kids, you will never hear such words from their lips—unless they are mocking you. But God’s children ought to be wise enough to realize that His commandments are for our benefit, and we ought to thank Him from the depths of our souls for caring enough to give us guidelines for living.

How can we best thank God for His gift of commandments? Obey them!

 

Happy Thanksgiving

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LOOKING TO OUR FUTURE IN PRAYER

Proverbs 19:21 (KJV) 21 There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21

A popular movie from a few years back had the phrase, “If you build it, they will come.” This is how we sometimes approach constructing a church building today. We feel that if we have a newer, bigger, state of the art building, people will flock to our church. “The other church down the road built a new building and they are doing well. We need a building just like them!”

It is interesting how we can take the Lord’s house and turn it into just steel, bricks, and lumber. There is no formula for building the Lord’s Church, although there is a plan. That plan is God’s plan and we need to seek it. I am amazed at the number of churches who are starting to plan a building expansion or relocation without any mention about God’s direction in their planning.

I know that telling you to pray about God’s plan for this church is not a big revelation or groundbreaking theology, but it is overlooked by a lot of church leaders. When you pray about a building program here are some specific items to pray for:

  1. Pray that God would provide leaders to work on the planning & building committee. The people that will serve on these committees will serve for several years! So we must seek out the right individuals, people who will be committed to the cause, willing to work as a team.
  2. Pray for what kind of ministries God wants you to provide. Children, youth, seniors, singles, seekers, and educating the flock. These are all examples of specific ministries that require different types of building spaces. Having a clear definition from God as to our church’s mission will make our planning decisions much easier.
  3. Pray about the architect and builder that God wants us to use. It is wonderful to have a committee tell us that they have selected after prayerful consideration. That instills confidence and testifies to the fact that the Lord is involved in the overall plan and He is in control.
  4. Pray for the congregation. We may or may not be introducing cutting edge ideas to our congregation. Whether we are or we aren’t, one thing is certain – people resist change. There are some who are ready today to dig a whole and start to build.  Some would just as soon sell the property and stay right here.  But I think if we pray we will see God has made it clear, He has given to us a land of Promise.  And we must seek through prayer to be obedient to His plan and purpose. Pray that we as a congregation will have a receptive spirit and pray that the planning & building committees will be able to clearly communicate the vision and plan so we the congregation may clearly and completely understand.
  5. Pray for integrity and a Christ-like attitude in our business dealings. Problems occur. It is a fact that during a building project problem will come up. Handling these problems with wisdom and maturity will speak volumes about our faith to the professionals we deal with. We can be firm in our business dealings but we must not let possible volatile situations explode.
  6. Pray for safety of the workers. Construction can be a dangerous occupation. Safety is extremely important.
  7. Pray for the salvation of the workers.The majority of construction workers are not Christians. When is the last time we had 20 to 50 unsaved, unchurched people come to our church everyday for six month to a year? When construction starts we will have a mission field right outside our door!

Of course, there are many other things we can and should pray for. Prayer before starting a building program is imperative. Whether our project is fifty thousand dollars or ten million dollars, it is all wasted money if the Lord is not directing it. Psalm 127:1 (KJV) 1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:… Remember to keep on, continue praying throughout the project. We need to start your building meetings with prayer to remind the committee that the building is not about bricks and mortar but bringing people to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!

Beginning the building process whether planning or building can be a scary, worrisome proposition. Prayer will/can bring us comfort. Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV) 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

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