Not So Thankful

In some parts of Mexico hot springs and cold springs are found side by side. Because of the convenience of this natural phenomenon the women often bring their laundry and boil their clothes in the hot springs and then rinse them in the cold ones. A tourist who was watching this procedure commented to his Mexican friend and guide: “I imagine that they think old Mother Nature is pretty generous to supply such ample, clean hot and cold water here side by side for their free use.” The guide replied, “No, señor, there is much grumbling because she supplies no soap.”

Rather than grumble about the things we don’t have, we should be thankful to God for all the wonderful blessings he pours into our lives on a daily basis. We ought to be especially thankful for the salvation that he has given us through Jesus!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”—Psalm 136:1.

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Notable Donation

Paul Harvey told the story of a woman who called the Butterball hotline with a question about a frozen turkey. The bird had been in her freezer for over 20 years. She wondered if it would be safe to eat it. The customer service representative answered that a turkey that had been frozen for over 20 years would be perfectly safe to eat, but it would be very tough and quite tasteless. The lady replied, “I guess I’ll just donate it to the church.”

I think we can all do better than that! Let’s make sure that we always strive to give the Lord our very best. After all, he gave his best for us!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”—2 Corinthians 9:15.

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Between Thanksgiving and Christmas

This is an especially joyful time of year for most people. We have just spent time celebrating Thanksgiving, and now we look forward to commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

One way we celebrate this time of year is with holiday meals and special treats. I have a tendency to overeat just a bit during the holiday season. I know that I need to cut back, because yesterday I cut myself shaving, and instead of blood, gravy trickled down my cheek!

So what do we do between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Besides getting our stretchy pants out of the closet! Here are a few suggestions.

First, we can be generous. After all, God loved us so much that he gave us his only Son Jesus to die for us on the cross so that we could believe in him and not perish but have eternal life. God is the ultimate Giver. 2 Cor.9:15 says, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

One way that we can give thanks to God for Jesus is to imitate the generosity of our heavenly Father. We always have the opportunity to give generously to our local church with our tithes and our offerings. We also have other chances to be generous, especially this time of year. There are many worthy projects and organizations that help people to have a better Christmas by providing food and gifts. And most of them do this in the name of Jesus. Since “God loves a cheerful giver” (1 Cor.9:7), let’s try to cultivate a spirit of cheerful generosity that becomes an important part of who we are.

A second way to spend our time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is to extend invitations to people. The gospels give several examples of people inviting others to come and see what Jesus is all about. John the Baptizer encouraged his followers to pay close attention to Jesus, God’s Chosen One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29-34). After deciding to follow Jesus, the first thing Andrew did was bring his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. Likewise, once Philip chose to follow Jesus he brought Nathanael along also (John 1:40-45). The woman that Jesus encountered at the well in John 4 told her whole village that they needed to come and see what Jesus was all about.

People who are not currently following Jesus sometimes experience a softening of their hearts at Christmastime. They may be more likely to accept an invitation to a worship service, Christmas play, Christmas concert or some other event that promotes Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. We would do well to spend time inviting people to come and listen to the gospel message this Christmas season.

Finally, we need to put Jesus first this holiday season. After all, he is the reason for the season! Ultimately, Christmas is not about the food and festivities. It is all about Jesus—Emmanuel—God with us! He willingly came into this world to give his life as a sacrifice for our sins. The baby Jesus was laid in a manger, but he was destined for the cross! He is Savior and Lord, and therefore we need to give him the attention that he deserves. Sure, there are many distractions this time of year, but let’s keep our focus on Jesus. As the song says, “O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

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In Praise of Thanksgiving

In A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law writes:

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is more eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God willeth, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.”

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

A woman had this simple but telling epitaph etched onto her husband’s tombstone—“He always appreciated.” One very important goal that we should have is to live our lives in appreciation for all that God has so graciously given us and the abundance that he pours into our lives every day. The Bible often urges us to give thanks to God. Gratitude doesn’t come naturally. We must learn to develop an attitude of gratitude.

1 Thess.5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

First of all, this Scripture says that we should always be rejoicing. Paul the apostle wrote these words. He also wrote Phil.4:4, which says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What is remarkable about this repetitive reminder to rejoice at all times is that it was written from a prison cell. If anyone had an excuse not to rejoice it would have been Paul! But he knew something that we ought to know also—true joy does not depend on our circumstances. Circumstances are constantly changing, from good to bad or vice versa. But the Lord’s goodness to us abides continually, and therefore we should always maintain a joyful, worshipful mindset that is an important part of an attitude of gratitude.

Along with rejoicing always, we are urged to pray continually. A prayerful outlook on life is a logical expression of the joy that we have in the Lord. A lifestyle of prayer is evidence of one who truly appreciates the Lord and wants to have an on-going conversation with the One who loves them so much. And, of course, thanksgiving will be an important part of our prayers to God. We shouldn’t start to pray and immediately go to our long list of wants and desires. Prayer should begin with worship and thanksgiving. We have so much for which to be thankful! Let’s not short-change the Lord with our prayers. May they be filled with honest, heartfelt gratitude.

Finally, the above Scripture encourages us to give thanks in all circumstances. No matter what happens to us in life, we always have reasons to give thanks to God, especially for the salvation that we have been given through the crucified and resurrected Jesus! God promises that one day our pain will be taken away forever and every tear will be wiped dry. There certainly are times when we especially long for that day to appear, but until it does, we must give thanks in all circumstances, because, as the verse says, this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

The story is told about a Bible college professor who was driving along the highway with his wife when they were involved in a serious accident. When the professor regained consciousness, he looked over to see that the emergency responders were covering up his wife’s body. He knew that she was dead and that he might soon be dead too. He quickly turned to the person tending to him and said, “Make sure that my students get this message—“Rom.8:28 is still true!”

Of course we know what Rom.8:28 says—“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 in the worst tragedy, God can work to make something good come out of it. And the fact that we trust God to do this enables us to give thanks no matter what the circumstances.

So let’s always be working to develop an attitude of gratitude. Let’s rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks to God—no matter what!

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The Unhindered Gospel Message

The book of Acts concludes with these words about how Paul the apostle preached while under house arrest—“He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31). An overview of Acts shows us various ways that the gospel message was unhindered as it spread across the world.

The gospel message was unhindered by the Jewish religious leaders who wanted to put a stop to it. They ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. But the apostles replied that they couldn’t help speaking about what they had seen and heard, and they refused to be silenced.

The gospel message was unhindered when the sin of Ananias and Sapphira threatened the holiness of the church. God dealt quite severely with their sin, and the fear of the Lord filled the whole church.

The gospel message was unhindered when one ethnic group became neglected when it came to feeding the widows in the church. The leaders immediately addressed the issue in such a manner that the whole church was satisfied.

The gospel message was unhindered when Stephen was killed for preaching the truth and a great persecution broke out against the church, scattering all except the apostles. Instead, those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went, and the church continued to grow.

The gospel message was unhindered when Saul threatened Christians with imprisonment or death. The resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul, who was amazingly converted and—better known as Paul–became a great proclaimer of the faith he once tried to destroy.

The gospel message was unhindered when legalists infiltrated the church, imposing their views about what people must do to be saved. The leaders stood up and declared that it is by the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved.

There are many other examples of how the gospel message was unhindered, but rather spread throughout the land in spite of many various obstacles.

Why was the gospel able to spread so quickly? There are several reasons.

First, the early Christians were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (1:8). With the power of God working within them, the words and actions of the believers brought fantastic results.

Secondly, the gospel proceeded unhindered because it contains a simple message—the crucified and resurrected Jesus is the only way to be saved (4:12) and those who want to respond in faith to God’s offer of grace are to repent and be baptized (2:38).

Third, the Christian movement succeeded because it was fueled by prayer. They asked God to do great things and he honored their requests by really shaking things up! (4:31).

Fourth, the gospel message thrived because the world could see the great love the Christians had for one another, love that compelled them to share everything they had with believers who were in need (4:32).

Finally, the good news of salvation through Jesus continued to spread because of the boldness of the believers who shared this gospel. They were willing to die for their cause! (12:2).

So, brothers and sisters, no matter what difficulties the church might face, the gospel message will continue to spread, and many will respond to the good news that salvation is available through Jesus. Let’s be filled with his power as we prayerfully, lovingly and boldly proclaim the simple but all-important message of salvation through Jesus!

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Greatness

Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” He may have been thinking about his own experience when he uttered this quote, but Churchill touched on one of the basic teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. He called them together and pointed out, “…Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35).

Hmmm. Servant of all. That does indeed sound like a lot of responsibility. It’s no wonder that so many people try to find a way around Jesus’s prescription for true greatness!

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How We Need to Live

Someone once said, “We need to live like Jesus Christ died yesterday, rose this morning and is coming back tonight!” I agree. There seems to be a lack of urgency in the lives of many people who profess to believe in Jesus and claim to follow him. Perhaps we would live more meaningful and effective lives if we would strive to adhere to the advice given above.

First, we need to live like Jesus Christ died yesterday. The early Christians seemed to live in the shadow of the cross, so to speak. Their thoughts were never far removed from the fact that in order for them to be saved, the Son of God had to die a painful death on the cross in order to pay for their sins. The preaching in the book of Acts made a beeline to the cross. The apostles’ sermons pointed out that Jesus was the Messiah, and this Messiah was put to death. It is the atoning death of Jesus Christ that offers the hope of salvation. He is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. The early church embraced this fact and proclaimed it to all who would listen. We would do well if we meditated deeply every day on the cross of Jesus, and allowed those meditations to have a deep impact on how we live our lives each day.

The second part of that quote says that we need to live as though Jesus rose this morning. God did indeed raise him from the dead. In doing so, God put his stamp of approval on the life and teachings of Jesus. The resurrection proves that Jesus was everything he claimed to be—the Messiah, God in the flesh, Savior of the world.

The apostles included the resurrection in their preaching. They continually proclaimed the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Other Christians took this message with them wherever they went. Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” What word was it that they preached? The gospel message! The proclaimed that it was through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we have the promise of eternal life. When her brother Lazarus died, Jesus said to Martha, “…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied. ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” (John 11:25-27). What a difference it would make in our lives if we lived every day with the boldness that only comes from the confidence of having the promise of eternal life!

Finally, we need to live as if Jesus is coming back tonight. Jesus often reminds us in the gospels that we need to live our lives in constant readiness for his return. In Matthew 25 he tells three parables about the necessity of being ready for the second coming of Jesus. We can’t become complacent! There is far too much at stake! Eternity is in the balance, for us, and for everyone we know. Let’s take to heart what Jesus says in Mark 13:37—“What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

One way that we can focus on the death, resurrection and return of Jesus is to participate in communion on a regular basis. Jesus says that we must do this to remember him (Luke 22:19). However, taking the Lord’s Supper is more than just remembering his death and resurrection that happened in the past. It also encourages us to look forward to his return. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

This, my friends, is how we need to live!

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Live to Be a Ripe Old Age

The day after Halloween a man saw a young boy eating a lot of candy. The man said, “You had better take it easy on that candy, young fellow! Too much of that will make you sick.”

The boy looked up and responded, “Mister, you could learn something from my great-grandfather, who lived to be 102.”

The man replied, “You mean to tell me that your great-grandfather ate a lot of candy and lived to be 102?”

“No. I mean to tell you that my great-grandfather lived to be 102 because he minded his own business!”

I suppose we all would do well to learn to mind our own business!

“A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.”—Proverbs 14:3.

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When People Disappoint You

People disappoint us all the time. Friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, church members…the list goes on and on. Because of things they say or do—or fail to say or do—people let us down on a regular basis.

David records the following lament in Psalm 55:12—“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.”

It hurts when people disappoint us, and when they do, we are left to decide how to respond. The Bible offers several different options.

Sometimes you have to endure it. David had been nothing but supportive of King Saul, but Saul returned the favor by trying to kill David. David had at least two opportunities to kill Saul, and few would have blamed him if he did. But David refused to lift his hand against the king. He chose instead to endure Saul’s disappointing behavior.

At other times you might go your separate ways. Paul and Barnabas got into a sharp dispute over whether or not they should take John Mark with them on their next missionary journey. These two leaders were no doubt disappointed with each other that they could not come to an agreement on this issue. They decided to split up and go their separate ways. Sometimes this is the best option when someone lets you down.

Another choice would be to rebuke the one who has disappointed you. Jesus was no doubt disheartened when Peter vehemently questioned the Lord’s plan to go to the cross. Jesus’ words, “Get behind me, Satan!” would no doubt ring in Peter’s ears for some time to come. However, Peter would eventually get his priorities aligned with God’s because Jesus chose to rebuke him.

Still another option in responding to those who disappoint you is to teach them a better way. His disciples repeatedly disappointed Jesus with their requests for places of prominence in his kingdom. He consistently met their disappointing behavior with lessons on humility, service and putting others first.

Perhaps the best way to deal with those who disappoint you is to forgive them. Jesus must have been terribly disappointed with the Jewish leaders’ response to the arrival of their Messiah. Instead of giving him the welcome he should have received, they conspired to have him put to death. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11). And Jesus responded by saying, “…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34).

So, we see that there are several ways to deal with people when they disappoint you. It takes wisdom and discernment to decide the best approach to take, so let’s take some time to pray and reflect before we make those decisions.

Here are two things to keep in mind. First, remember that we sometimes disappoint others. So let’s treat others the way that we would want to be treated in that kind of a situation. Second, God will never disappoint us, so let’s trust him to see us through any and every situation we might find ourselves in.

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