Nov 29, 2013

Psalm 111

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the LORD;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.

(Psalm 111)

Nov 28, 2013

A Theology of Thanksgiving

"Tomorrow we will celebrate the distinctly American holiday of Thanksgiving. Many already know the story behind the holiday: In the fall of 1621, after enduring a harsh and deadly winter, the Pilgrims, led by their governor William Bradford, organized a celebratory feast of thanksgiving, and invited some of their Native American allies from the Wampanoag tribe to attend. Of course we also know that Squanto, an English-speaking Pawtuxet, had also taught the settlers how to catch fish, hunt, and grow corn. The settler’s first successful corn harvest was the occasion for the feast. Periodic thanksgiving celebrations were practiced throughout the colonies, and in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day be observed each November.
In 2013, Thanksgiving looks much different than it did to past generations. While many still carry on the holiday traditions of feasting and family gatherings, we’ve added new traditions in the form of the Black Friday and football. Worse yet, the simple and necessary practices of giving thanks and being thankful seems to be ever-declining in our culture. Americans simply are no longer thankful people. American Christians have followed suit.
We could theorize on the reasons why, but in this blog I’d like to take a look at what the Word says about thanksgiving, thankfulness, and giving thanks. I believe we’d do well to refocus and retrain ourselves to be a more gracious and thankful people. We need to develop a theology of thanksgiving.
The Bible is clear that God’s people should be thankful people: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:12) is a recurring theme throughout the Psalms and both Testaments. In the New Testament, Paul exhorts the church to “give thanks in all circumstances“ (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and to always be “giving thanks… for everything” (Ephesians 5:20). In other words, Christians should be thankful always at all times, and in every situation.
Being thankful is often hard for us to do when things aren’t going our way. We’re not very thankful when we lose our job, when our spouse walks out on us, when our washing machine goes kaput, or when our insurance premiums rise. More often then not, we complain. We become frustrated and angry. We know the Bible says we should be thankful, but in our hearts we are not. We’re bitter. We’re resentful. We’re mad. We are not thankful in all things, nor do we thank God for the rain, only the sunshine.
We’re this way because we’ve been conditioned to be. Sadly, many of the most popular Christian culture authors, pastors, and celebrities preach a lifestyle of thanksgiving only when we’re on top. We don’t know how to face disappointment. The words “Thank you, O Lord” will not roll off our tongue if aren’t content, and if all our circumstances don’t meet our expectations. We need to turn away from our American idea of thanksgiving and turn to the scriptures which will help us develop a proper theology of thanksgiving. We must be thankful people because being thankful, even when it hurts, is part and parcel of our lot in Christ (Colossians 3:15-17). It’s just who and what we are as Christians.
We also need to learn how to show thanksgiving. I’m often surprise  (and disappointed) that with the proliferation of “How To Be Missional…” articles and blogs out there, few of them spend any time talking about being thankful. Sure, we can invite our lost neighbors over for dinner, take hotdogs to everyone at work, and leave big tips, but are we living gracious, thankful lives before all people? Do we tell them “thank you,” and do we show thanksgiving by our actions and our attitudes? I’m not going to tell you how to do it, you can figure it out.
This Thanksgiving let’s not be superficially thankful. Let’s be biblically thankful. Let’s not just be thankful when it’s convenient, but also when it isn’t easy. Let’s not limit our public gratitude and praise of God to our Facebook status. Let’s be thankful for all God has given us, namely a new life in Christ. Let’s let our thankfulness spill over to everyone: our family, our co-workers, or fellow church members, and to everyone we meet. Let’s get into the Word and develop a theology of thanksgiving!"
This article by: 

Nov 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

~This from Bill Wilkins...
"I have memories of a lot of wonderful Thanksgiving family get-togethers, but the one that really stands out in my memory is one in the early eighties.  We were celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughter LuAnn and her family at their home in Plainwell, Michigan.  Our first grandchild, Jessica, was about four years old at the time.  When we were all gathered at the table for dinner, I said let's ask for the Lord's blessing on the food.  As we bowed our heads, little Jessica spoke up and said "Grandpa, couldn't we go around the table first and each say what we're most thankful for - I'll go first".  That's when I lost it."

~From Louise Moore ...

"To me, Thanksgiving should be a way of life, and not something we celebrate one day a year. Thanksgiving should be an attitude of the heart, not something we 'do' once a year.

As many of you know, I have chronic health issues and I can say that I am at peace with them for the very first time in my life. This is the path our Lord has chosen for me, who am I to question Him about the way that He knows is best for me?  I thank God for God! I thank Him that He knows far better than I the way I should take. I thank Him for His grace and His mercy that is new every morning. Does that astound you? It does me! HIS mercy ....  New! To us!! This morning!!! And it will be new tomorrow! What a wonderful Savior, what an awesome God we have the blessed honor to serve.

I thank God for my husband Clyde, for our sons David and Shawn and their families. Jane, Wendy, Jackie, Stephanie, Sydney, Perri and Erica. I thank God for my Mom and our brothers and sisters. I thank Him so very much for our Pastor and the Elders of our church, who look out for our well being as scripture tells them to. I thank God for my church family. They are faithful to pray for us when times are hard, and they are a joy to worship with on Sundays.

My everlasting thanks go to God for electing ME to be HIS child. "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling..." It is All of Him and nothing I have done that makes me His. I stand of awe of His great goodness.

May your Thanksgiving truly become a way of life for you and yours. 
Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving!"

~ From Kevin Godin ...
"When asked what we are thankful for our minds often turn toward blessings we can reach out and touch or see. We are thankful for wives and husbands, for homes and jobs, for food and clothing, and for family and friends. We may even be thankful for the love others have shown to us, for our churches, and for various circumstances in our lives.

These are all appropriate things to be thankful for, the Word of God tells us to give thanks in all things. The ultimate thing we must be thankful for, however, is Jesus Christ. It is only when we realize the He is the blessing of greatest value that we can remain thankful to God when all of the other comforts of life depart. It is only when Christ is an end rather than a means and every other blessing reflects His glory that we can truly be thankful to God not just because of what He does for us, but because we have Him.
I am therefore most thankful to God for God. For who He is. I am thankful that His love for me was so great that He overcame my sinful rejection of Him and joined me to Christ through faith so I might enjoy Him forever. The greatest gift that God ever gives is Himself and I am thankful that solely because of His great love and mercy I have Him!"


A New Thanksgiving

"Those who call Thanksgiving "Turkey Day," I suppose, take some such view as this: Unless we have Someone to thank something to thank Him for, what's the point of using a name that calls up pictures of religious people in funny hats and Indians bringing corn and squash? Christians, I hope, focus on something other than a roasted bird. We do have Someone to thank and a long list of things to thank Him for, but sometimes we limit our thanksgiving merely to things that look good to us. As our faith in the character of God grows deeper we see that heavenly light is shed on everything - even on suffering - so that we are enabled to thank Him for things we would never have thought of before. The apostle Paul, for example, saw even suffering itself as a happiness (Colossians 1:24, NEB).

I have been thinking of something that stifles Thanksgiving. It is the spirit of greed - the greed of doing, being, and having.

When Satan came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, his bait was intended to inspire the lust to do more than the Father meant for Him to do - to go farther, demonstrate more power, act more dramatically. So the enemy comes to us in these days of frantic doing. We are ceaselessly summoned to activities: social, political, educational, athletic, and - yes - spiritual. Our "self-image" (deplorable word!) is dependent not on the quiet and hidden "Do this for My sake," but on the list the world hands us of what is "important." It is a long list, and its both foolish and impossible. If we fall for it, we neglect the short list.

Only a few things are really important, and for those we have the promise of diving help: sitting in silence with the Master in order to hear His word and obey it in the ordinary line of duty - for example, in being a good husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, or spiritual father or mother to those nearby who need protection and care - humble work which is never on the world's list because it leads to nothing impressive on one's resume. As Washington Gladden wrote in 1879, "O Master, let me walk with Thee/in lowly paths of service free ..."

Temptation comes also in the from of being. The snake in the garden struck at Eve with the promise of being something which had not been given. If she would eat the fruit forbidden to her, she could "upgrade her lifestyle" and become like God. She inferred that this was her right, and that God meant to cheat her of this. The way to get her rights was to disobey Him.

No new temptation ever comes to any of us. Satan needs no new tricks. The old ones have worked well ever since the Garden of Eden, although sometimes under different guises. When there is a deep restlessness for which we find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being - what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptant of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth - embracing all that the Father willed Him to be, usurping nothing - no work, not even a word - that the Father had not given Him.

Then there is the greed of having. When "a mixed company of strangers" joined the Israelites, the people began to be greedy for better things (Numbers 11:4, NEB). God had given them exactly what they needed in the wilderness: manna. It was always enough, always fresh, always good (sounds good to me, anyway, "like butter-cakes"). But the people lusted for variety. These strangers put ideas into their heads. "There's more to life than this stuff. Is this all you've got? You can have more. You gotta live a little!"

So the insistence to have it all took hold on God's people and they began to wail, "all of them in their families at the opening of their tents." There is no end to the spending, getting, having. We are insatiable consumers, dead set on competing, upgrading, showing off ("If you've got it, flaunt it"). We simply cannot bear to miss something others deem necessary. So the world ruins the peace and simplicity God would give us. Contentment with what He has chosen for us dissolves, along with godliness, while, instead of giving thanks, we lust and wail, teaching our children to lust and wail too. (Children of the jungle tribe I knew years ago did not complain because they had not been taught to.)

     Lord, we give You thanks for all that You in Your mercy have given to us to be and to do and to have. Deliver us, Lord, from all greed to be and to do and to have anything not in accord with Your holy purposes. Teach us to rest quietly in Your promise to supply, recognizing that if we don't have it we don't need it. Teach us to desire Your will--nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. For Jesus' sake. Amen."

~by Elisabeth Elliot, from the book Keep A Quiet Heart,  pages 124 - 126

Thanksgiving by Elisabeth Elliot

Thanksgiving for What is Given
"Some people are substituting "Turkey Day" for Thanksgiving. I guess it must be because they are not aware that there's anybody to thank, and they think that the most important thing about the holiday is food. Christians know there is Somebody to thank, but often when we make a list of things to thank Him for we include only things we like. A bride and groom can't get away with that. They  write a note to everybody, not only the rich uncle who gave the couple matching BMWs, but the poor aunt who gave them a crocheted toilet-paper cover. In other words, they have to express thanks for whatever they've received.
Wouldn't that be a good thing for us to do with God? We are meant to give thanks "in everything" even if we're like the little girl who said she could think of a lot of thing she'd rather have than eternal life. The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source that his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul. It takes us out of the stuffiness of ourselves into the fresh breeze and sunlight of the will of God. The simple act of thanking Him is for most of us an abrupt change of activity, a break from work and worry, a move toward re-education.
I am not suggesting the mouthing of foolish platitudes, or evasion of the truth. That is not how God is glorified, or souls fortified. I want to see clearly what I have been given and to thank Him with an honest heart. What are the "givens"?
Thankless children we all are, more or less, comprehending but dimly the truth of God's fathomless love for us. We do not know Him as a gracious Giver, we do not understand His most precious gifts, or the depth of His love, the wisdom with which He has planned our lives, the price He pays to bring us to glory and fulfillment. When some petty private concern or perhaps some bad news depresses or confuses me, I am in no position to be thankful. Far from it. That is the time, precisely then, that I must begin by deliberately putting my mind on some great Realities.
What are these "givens"? What do I most unshakably believe in? God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ His only Son. The Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Not a long list, but all we need. "The necessary supplies issued to us, the standard equipment of the Christian." We didn't as for any of them. (Imagine having nothing more than we've asked for!) They are given.
Take the list of whatever we're not thankful for and measure it against the mighty foundation stones of our faith. The truth of our private lives can be understood only in relation to those Realities. Some of us know very little of suffering, but we know disappointments and betrayals and losses and bitterness. Are we really meant to thank God for such things? Let's be clear about one thing: God does not cause all the things we don't like. But He does permit them to happen because it is in this fallen world that we humans must learn to walk by faith. He doesn't leave us to ourselves, however. He shares every step. He walked this lonesome road first, He gave  Himself for us, He died for us. "Can we not trust such a God to give us, with Him, everything else that we can need?" (Romans 8:32 PHILLIPS). Those disappointments give us the chance to learn to know Him and the meaning of His gifts, and, in the midst of darkness, to receive His light. Doesn't that transform the not-thankful list into a thankful one?"

Nov 23, 2013

The 10 Marks of the Holy Spirit in a Believer

1. The Spirit awakens a person’s heart.
2. The Spirit teaches a person’s mind.
3. The Spirit leads to the Word.
4. The Spirit convinces of sin.
5. The Spirit draws to Christ.
6. The Spirit sanctifies.
7. The Spirit makes a person spiritually minded.
8. The Spirit produces inward conflict.
9. The Spirit makes a person love the brethren.
10. The Spirit teaches a person to pray.
These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
 Put the question to your conscience and ask:
Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?
~ J.C. Ryle~

Article taken from the J.C. Ryle Archive

Nov 21, 2013

Why We Lament When We're Not Lamenting

"A few months ago our church sung a song of lament for two consecutive weeks. Such songs aren't foreign to our church's song selection, but since they showed up in consecutive weeks, they stuck  
out to a few people. In one conversation someone asked me, "But what if I'm not sad? Why would I lament if I'm not sad about anything?"

The question, as far as I could tell, came from two sources. First, it came from a misunderstanding of why Christians would sing a lament song when there didn't seem to be any particular occasion worth lamenting. Aren't Christians supposed to be joyful?

JeremiahRembrandt-300x394Second, this man came from a church background that never sang songs of lament. Their services were meant to give members a boost for the week. A lament song would seem out of place, maybe even inappropriate. Sundays were for lifting us out of the mire, not putting us back in.

This man was not the first to scratch his head at our lamenting, and he likely will not be the last, because his church experience is shared by many, if not most, evangelicals in the West. It's quite possible that most readers of this article do not regularly lament in their congregations on Sundays and might taken aback just as this man was if they experienced it.
But the Bible gives us several good reasons why lamenting should be a part of our normal Christian worship, even if we are not lamenting our own circumstances. In no particular order of importance, here are four such reasons.

1. We sing songs of lament even when we are not lamenting in order to weep with those who are weeping. 
Although you may not be weeping or lamenting, it's likely someone in the congregation is going through something deeply mournful: a wife who has just found out her husband has been having an affair; a couple returning from the hospital after having a miscarriage; a single woman who has lost her mother and now fears the loneliness ahead without her last close relative. On any given Sunday, many people are going through lamentable seasons of suffering, pain, and loss.
Paul calls us to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). But we are often ill-equipped to do so. Our individualistic culture has taught us to care for ourselves, not others. We know how to give high fives with our friends, but we don't know how to weep with them. Singing lament songs together as a congregation not only allows us to fulfill that command to weep with the weeping, but also teaches us how for when we will need to do it in a living room or across a table.

2. We sing songs of lament even when we are not lamenting so that when seasons of mourning come, we know what songs to sing and what prayers to pray.
Few of us understand how unprepared we are for suffering and trials until they come. Only then do we sense just how empty of resources we are. This is especially true of younger Christians, because we are inexperienced in suffering or out of practice.
But on Sundays, when Christians gather to hear the Word taught and sung and prayed, we have an opportunity to practice lamenting. Does that sound strange? Let me illustrate what I mean.
If a Broadway actress comes to her performance with few rehearsals under her belt, she will be stiff, second-guessing cues, lacking confidence in her lines, and so on. But if she's rehearsed over and over, hundreds of times, she comes to her performance with a kind of freedom and spontaneity that can turn a good performance into a great one.
In a similar way, Christians gather on Sunday to rehearse the things we hope for and sing about the things we have confidence in. We regularly lament because we know that seasons of lament are coming. That's part of living in a world where lamentable things happen to everyone. Lament even when you're not lamenting so that when those dark clouds come, you will be spiritually nimble and know what songs to sing and what prayers to pray.

3. We sing songs of lament even when we are not lamenting because the New Testament calls us to.
Paul tells the Ephesians to "be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" (Eph. 5:18-19). If we're addressing each other in psalms, we're going to lament. In fact, so many of the psalms include lament that an easy case could be made that lament should be part of the steady meditative diet of the people of God.

4. We sing songs of lament even when we are not lamenting because maybe you should be lamenting more than you are. 
A wise reader will soon discover that he doesn't merely come to the psalms to be comforted, but also to be afflicted. As we read, we learn that we don't often feel what we ought to be feeling. But God's Word teaches how we ought to feel. When we feel comfortable, the Bible regularly calls us to reconsider what's giving us comfort.

The apostle James addressed a congregation full of spiritual pride that didn't recognize the need to lament their sin. And he told them, "Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom" (James 4:9). Their sin, James claimed, was making them enemies with God (James 4:5), yet they were laughing and joyful. Remember, these were Christians!
Laments poke us in the chest and force us to wonder whether we are making light of our own sin or making light of the suffering in our own congregation and community.

Make room in your singing and in your public prayers for lamenting. Pastors, prepare your congregation for seasons of mourning so they won't be surprised when it comes. Christians, be acquainted with grief, even if you are not grieving, so you can sympathize and mourn with those who are. That's what our Savior taught us to do by his example. He left the joys of heaven to be acquainted with our grief, and now he stands as a sympathetic high priest."

Why We Lament When We're Not Lamenting avatarJohn Starke is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and lead pastor of All Souls Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Nov 20, 2013

Something to think about...

You Cannot Sneak into Heaven without a Cross
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)
Samuel Rutherford
"If your Lord calls you to suffering, do not be dismayed, for he will provide a deeper portion of Christ in your suffering. The softest pillow will be placed under your head though you must set your bare feet among thorns. Do not be afraid at suffering for Christ, for he has a sweet peace for a sufferer. God has called you to Christ's side, and if the wind is now in his face, you cannot expect to rest on the sheltered side of the hill. You cannot be above your Master who received many an innocent stroke.

The greatest temptation out of hell is to live without trials. A pool of standing water will turn stagnant. Faith grows more with the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withers without adversity. You can't sneak quietly into heaven without a cross. Crosses form us into his image. They cut away the pieces of our corruption. Lord cut, carve, wound; Lord do anything to perfect your image in us and make us fit for glory.

We need winnowing before we enter the kingdom of God. O what I owe to the file, hammer, and furnace! Why should I be surprised at the plough that makes such deep furrows in my soul? Whatever direction the wind blows, it will blow us to the Lord. His hand will direct us safely to the heavenly shore to find the weight of eternal glory.

As we look back to our pains and sufferings, we shall see that suffering is not worthy to be compared to our first night's welcome home in heaven. If we could smell of heaven and our country above, our crosses would not bite us. Lay all your loads by faith on Christ, ease yourself, and let him bear all. He can, he does, and he will bear you. Whether God comes with a rod or a crown, he comes with himself. 'Have courage, I am your salvation!' Welcome, welcome Jesus!"

– Samuel Rutherford, The Loveliness of Christ
(c. 1600 – 30 March 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian Pastor, Theologian and Author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.

Nov 14, 2013

Oh How Good It Is ....

Oh how good it is
When the family of God
Dwells together in spirit
In faith and unity.
Where the bonds of peace, ...
Of acceptance and love
Are the fruit of His presence
Here among us.

So with one voice we’ll sing to the Lord
And with one heart we’ll live out His word
Till the whole earth sees
The Redeemer has come
For He dwells in the presence of His people.

Oh how good it is
On this journey we share
To rejoice with the happy
And weep with those who mourn.
For the weak find strength
The afflicted find grace
When we offer the blessing
Of belonging.

Oh how good it is
To embrace His command
To prefer one another
Forgive as He forgives.
When we live as one
We all share in the love
Of the Son with the Father
And the Spirit.

"Oh How Good It Is"
Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Ross Holmes, and Stuart Townend
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Nov 10, 2013

The Lord's Day, November 10, 2013

**Please Note: Our Thanksgiving Service will be
held on Sunday, Nov. 24, not Nov. 17
We invite you to be with us**

Nov 7, 2013


the pain that you
have been feeling
cannot compare to
the joy that is coming
Romans 8:18

I believe in God...

like I believe in the sun,
not because I can see it,
but because of it all things are seen.
C.S. Lewis

Nov 3, 2013