Being Thankful

Psalm 100 (NIV)
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100 is my favorite psalm for giving thanks and praise to God. It serves to remind me that God is my creator and I belong to him. And that alone should cause each of us to give daily praise and thanksgiving to God for his goodness and his love that endures forever. In a world where violence, hatred, disease, and war dominate the daily headlines, it’s important for those of us who believe in God to remember that God is in control of this world. And if you believe in Jesus Christ the Son, you will one day live in a place where there will be no more tears, no more suffering and no more pain. That alone gives me hope and encourages me to thank and praise God daily.

As I was reading Psalm 100 tonight, I was reminded of a saint that left this world for her home in heaven earlier this year. Ms. Gene, who was a member of our church, wanted Psalm 100 to be read at her funeral service. As I read the psalm again tonight, I remembered back to April of this year when I read it at her funeral. She had certainly spent a lifetime giving praise and thanksgiving to her Lord. She knew that the Lord is God – that we are his creation – his people – the sheep of his pasture. Ms. Gene knew that she was not self-made but rather God-made. And she always, and I mean always, gave thanks to God in all circumstances.

I looked back at two cards tonight that Ms. Gene had sent me over the years. The first was to my wife and I after my father-in-law passed away and the second was after the passing of my mother. She wrote about how good parents were a “special blessing and a gift from God” and she wrote that she was “thankful” and “grateful” for her parents. She gave wise counsel as I grieved the death of my mother. Ms. Gene wrote, “Our mothers are very special and kind. We miss them when they are gone, but we have so many good memories to keep in our hearts and to comfort us. Remember that God is always with us.” She knew – as did the psalmist – that God’s love and faithfulness endures throughout all generations. God is present with us in the good times, in the midst of pain and suffering, and in all of the many ordinary moments of life.

I am thankful to have known the many faithful believers that God has placed in my path over the course of my life. Many of them were just ordinary people who served and understood God in extraordinary and even in simple ways. What set them apart was their unwavering faith in God and their recognition of his presence in our daily lives. Thank you God, for these faithful witnesses to your everlasting love and mercy. And please God, send more of them my way. 

Spiritual Warfare And The Church Of The Way

Ephesians 6:10-13(ESV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ever since I began to write about the type of church that I feel called to establish, I have come under what I can only describe as a relentless attack by the evil one. Satan’s objective is to cause me to doubt God and my calling and to believe that God can’t really do what God promises to do. As a believer, I am at my best when I am in constant communication with God. When I read my Bible, pray, or just talk to God, I am at peace and open to listening for God to speak to my mind and my heart. I sense God more fully in my life when the communication line with God is open and unbroken.

The devil desires to break that communication link and he does it through lies and deception. He wants us to doubt God and His promise to be with us and guide us as believers. The mind is the arena where spiritual warfare is waged and Satan will do anything to turn out thoughts away from God. Satan wants us to doubt God and His good promises for our lives.

This week for me, I have endured many obstacles that have been placed in my path that were designed to take my focus away from God. As I have been overwhelmed with problems that have suddenly surfaced, doubts have begun to set in that I can’t do what God is calling me to do. I don’t believe that however, because I know that God can do whatever He sets his mind and will to accomplish. It’s God’s power that is at work, not my own, and God is more powerful that the evil one. So I cling to my faith and trust in God and when God’s ministry for me is realized, God will receive ALL of the glory!

Today, I read a familiar passage that reminded me in a powerful way that God is with those of us who are faithful and willing to take a bold step of faith. In Joshua, chapter 3, the Israelites are very close to entering the Promised Land, but they must first cross the Jordan River which just so happens to be at flood stage! The people had camped out at the Jordan River for three days and then the officers gave the people their instructions: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it” (Joshua 3:3). Then the LORD told Joshua, “Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river’” (Joshua 3:8). After the priests go into and stand in the raging river, God then stops the water upstream from flowing and the priests found themselves standing on dry ground. They remained there until the whole nation of Israel passed by and completed the crossing on dry ground.

God calls us to take a step of faith; to put our feet in the raging waters, so that when the calm comes, we will know without a doubt that God’s power was made evident. Often in life, we are called to take risks or steps of faith in order to follow God’s call upon our lives. When the evil one attacks with spiritual warfare (and he will if you are truly doing God’s work), put on the “whole armor of God” so that you can stand against the many schemes of the devil. Stand firm, knowing that you serve a God who promises to be with those who follow and have faith in Him.

Usually, it takes me about 30 minutes to write a typical devotional post. Today, it took over two hours because of a constant stream of interruptions, problems, crises, and intense spiritual warfare from the evil one. I take comfort in knowing that I am on the right path to serving God because it is obvious to me that Satan is determined on doing whatever he can to make me question my calling from God and to prevent me from establishing a church that gives God all of the glory.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Encouragement for the Week

As you begin a new week, I hope that these words from scripture will prepare and encourage you for whatever circumstances you will encounter. None of us knows what the future holds and often we are afraid of things we can’t control. It is during these times that we must remind ourselves that we serve and worship a God who walks with us and goes before us. God is ready and more than capable of bearing our burdens and worries. Trust in God, let go of your anxiety and believe that God is ready to shower you with His peace that transcends all understanding.

Philippians 4:7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 55:22: Cast you cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 56:3-4: When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

The Lord prepares a way for us, a path that ascends and descends. Remain on that path and God will be with you through the blessings of the week and also during the difficulties that you will surely face. As believers, we are not promised an easy, problem free life but we do have the assurance that Christ is present with us. He walks alongside us and carries us when the road that we are traveling on is too grueling for our weary souls.

Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 14:1: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Are you tired? It could be your job that is wearing you down. Maybe you have the responsibility to care for family members that are aging or ill. Just being a parent these days is a difficult job and it seems that problems just continue to multiply. You do so many things for others. Often it feels like no one seems to appreciate it and as a result you feel weary and burdened. Turn to the one who has already conquered this world and can take away the weight of the world.

John 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 6:25-27:  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Remember that God the Father and Christ the Savior loves you and wants all things to work out for your own good. Nothing in this world can come between us and the saving grace of Christ our Lord. Remember that Christ has already conquered the world and nothing can separate us from His love.

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.

Romans 8:37-39: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Be blessed this week and know that you are a beloved child of God. May the peace of Christ be with you and your family in the days ahead.

 

The Way, The Truth, And The Life

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

As I begin to write about the type of church that I would like to start, these words from Jesus will serve as the core belief for our church. I believe that Jesus is the way – the only way – to God the Father and heaven. I have believed and trusted these words from Jesus for many years. I find that now, I have even more faith in this scripture passage, as I mature in my faith.

My calling is to establish a church where people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicity come together to worship God the Father, Christ our Savior and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit who powerfully guides the church. We will be a church that prays constantly for the Holy Spirit to lead and inspire the church. We will be open and accepting of anyone but we will not compromise and give in to the “world” when it comes to preaching the Gospel message. Jesus is the only way to God and eternal life – that truth from Holy Scripture will be a foundational belief for our church.

My children have grown up with friends from many different faith backgrounds. I have always told them to be respectful of the beliefs of others but to never compromise on what we as followers of Christ believe. I don’t believe in attacking another person’s beliefs – that only serves to push them farther away from the truth that is found only through Christ. I have tried to teach my children to live a Christ led life that shows mercy and compassion towards others. When you truly care about people, regardless of their beliefs or circumstance in life, you become a powerful and more effective witness for the risen Christ. This is what the church today is called to do and to be.

These are my beliefs about Jesus Christ:
• Jesus was born of a virgin
• He was fully man and yet fully God
• He lived a sinless life and resisted temptation
• He was crucified and died for our sins
• He was buried in the tomb
• He arose after three days and defeated death once and for all
• Forty days after the Resurrection, He ascended back to God the Father in heaven
• He now sits at the right hand of God in heaven
• He will return to earth again at the Second Coming

The early Christians were often referred to as “the Way” (Acts 9:2 and other times throughout the book of Acts). In looking through a file on my computer yesterday, I found something that I had written down over two years ago. This was something that was impressed upon me during a time of prayer one morning. The title of the file was “The Way Church of Athens.” Now I don’t know where God is calling me to start a church (or even if God is calling me to start a church) but what a fitting name for a group of present day followers of Christ – The Way.

I continue to pray that God will open a door for my ministry and that He will also open up the hearts of people who want to be part of a faith community that shares the belief: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I ask you to pray with me that God will make His vision clear to me and will put me into contact with more people who have the desire to start a community of faith based on Christ as “the Way.” May God bless you and always be with you.