Sometimes I am Not Thankful (Grateful)

Sometimes I am Not Thankful

 

I am bothered by a response that you now hear when you say “thank you” to someone

Instead of “You’re welcome” we now mostly hear “No problem!”

As I checked out with two turkeys yesterday I wanted to scream – “Of course it’s no problem. I am a gentle person, I am not angry, what I have caused you to become involved in is part of your job for which you are paid and is not really that taxing on your abilities….”

But, the real issue is how seldom you even hear people say “thank you”

As I was thinking about this all week – mostly because we were approaching Thanksgiving – God said that this was true even in my relationship with Him

That I am not expressing thanks to Him for who He is and all that He does for me

When I do something for someone I always appreciate it when they thank me for my time, my work, my concern… Read more

In Love – Encourage One Another

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

The New Testament word most often translated “encouragement” is parakaleo. This term comes from two Greek words: para, meaning “alongside of”; and kale, meaning “to call.” When people come alongside us during difficult times to give us renewed courage, a renewed spirit, and renewed hope — that’s encouragement. That is love, pure and refined.

William Barclay tells us that parakaleo is a call to arms, a rallying cry from a sergeant leading us into battle. The encourager sees hesitation and fear and he comes alongside and says, “Follow me.” He exhorts ordinary people to perform noble deeds. Life, Barclay says, “is always calling us into battle.” And for us, it is parakletos, the Holy Spirit, who leads and encourages us to move from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

The most powerful source of encouragement is the Bible. Paul tells us that those ancient chapters of the Old Testament inspire and encourage us for today’s living. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The New Testament also is jam-packed with inspiration and encouragement for Christians. It contains a number of passages exhorting us to encourage other. For example:

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

“But exhort [encourage] one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We are to soak up God’s Word in order to maintain our own courage and keep in step with the Spirit. And we are to be diligent in passing on that encouragement to others.

In his book, A Simple Blessing, singer Michael W. Smith tells of Justin, a high school freshman who was walking home from school one day when he saw a group of students bullying a smaller boy. They knocked him to the ground, scattering his books, sending his glasses flying. Justin started to walk on, but when he saw the hurt in the boy’s eyes, he stopped, found his glasses, and helped him pick up his books. The boy was so overloaded with books that Justin offered to help him carry them home. On the way, he learned that the boy, Kyle, was a recent transfer to the school, had no friends, and was often harassed by those bullies. 

Out of sheer pity, Justin invited Kyle to come over and toss a football with him. The two became fast friends, and at the end of his senior year Kyle emerged as valedictorian of the graduating class. As he began his valedictory speech, Justin was stunned. Kyle told of his early misery. Uprooted, friendless, bullied, and hopeless, he had decided to end his life and was taking his books home so his mother would not have to clean out his locker. But this time when the bullies attacked, Justin came along with kindness and encouragement, which turned Kyle away from despair and gave him a new grip on life and hope. 

Encouraging words carry a special power, and it’s a power you can exercise every day. Think of those around you who may have a deep need for one word of positive inspiration that you, in the service of God, could provide. How many of these opportunities do we tragically overlook every day? I am constantly thankful for those who encourage me in my life. I can think of many times when someone sent me a note or called me to offer a word of loving encouragement precisely when my spirit was dragging and I was down and almost out. Their words lifted me from drudgery, fueled me in the Spirit, and spurred me onward. Encouragement puts the wind in our sails.

Wouldn’t you like to be that person for someone? Enlist today. Simply tell God you are ready for service, and I guarantee that He will show you the when and the where. Be a blessing, and He will bless you. 

In Love – Build Each Other Up

The Bible states that we love one another by edifying one another. Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

We can better understand the word edification if we take it apart and put it back together again. In Greek the word is oikodome, which is a combination of two words: oikos, meaning “house”; and dome, meaning “to build.” So to edify means “to build the house.”

Paul took this common Greek term and applied it metaphorically. We are called to edify, to build up one another just as a house is built brick by brick. We are called to promote spiritual development in other believers.

Along the roads of our culture we encounter decrepit, decaying lives. They can’t fix themselves; they need people filled with the love of Christ to come along side and perform the ministry of holy renovation. Sadly, I have seen too many churches filled with demolishers instead of renovators. They judge, they exclude, they condemn. Like residents of exclusive neighbourhoods, they tolerate no substandard structures within their boarders. Tearing things down requires no thought, no skills, no care. A few angry vandals can do it. We who have received the love of Christ must be builders and not demolishers.

Even believers who have been renovated need continual repair. The building that is my life needs your hammer and nails, and the building that is yours needs mine. We must help each other simply because God designed the church to work that way.

We flourish when we are under the loving care of each other and we wither away when we try to go it alone. We must be about the intention business of renovating one another. As Paul said, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding …  So also you seek to abound for the edification (building up)  of the church.”

Erwin McManus observes that we seem to have lost sight of this core value of the church, allowing the self-absorption of the world to infiltrate the body of Christ. People want to talk only about themselves, and they’re interested only in the parts of the church experience that do something for them. They seek tingling sensations in worship, classes that help them cope with their problems, and sermons that make them feel good about themselves. It’s a consumer mentality based on what’s in it for me. Though we are sheep needing to be fed, we must also learn to be shepherds who feed others.

McManus pleads for us to get away from the “meet my needs” mentality, stop church-shopping, and start looking for ways to minister to others. Our battle cry should be, “We are the church, here to serve a lost and broken world” and not “What can your church do for me?” Just as we are a physically obese society, we may also be a spiritually gluttonous one fixated on consuming rather than serving.”

The ultimate tool for building one another up is the unchanging Word of God. The immortal book has changed lives for thousands of years, and it has lost none of its power. When we feel ineffective and fear that we have no encouragement to offer those whose heads are down and hearts are broken, maybe the problem is that our Bibles are closed. 

God’s Love – Part Ten

As we draw our study of John 3:16 to a close … a true story:

In 1912 the Titanic, the largest, most luxurious, and most advanced ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, taking the lives of 1,514 passengers. Though the disaster occurred over one hundred year ago, several movies, documentaries, and books have kept the horror of that night alive in our minds. We’ve all heard of passengers such as “the unsinkable” Molly Brown and the entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV. But one of the most astonishing stories from the Titanic has received little press.

It’s the story of Pastor John Harper, a widower who was travelling with his six-year-old daughter at the invitation of the great Moody Church in Chicago. Not only was he to preach there, he intend to accept the church’s offer to become their next pastor. His hopes were high, and it seemed he had a brilliant future ahead. 

After the ship hit the iceberg and it became apparent that it would sink, Harper got his daughter safely aboard a lifeboat. It’s likely he could have joined her, being her only parent, but he chose to stay aboard the sinking ship because he knew that with this disaster, God had given him an urgent message.

Harper immediately began to go from one person to another, telling them about Christ’s love and urging them to accept Him. He shouted for Christians to let the unsaved fill the lifeboats so that would live to come to belief. When one angry man rejected the message, Harper removed his own life vest and gave it to him, saying, “You need this more than I do.”

Harper was still actively pressing his urgent evangelism when the ship tipped upward, wretched in half, and slipped beneath the frigid North Sea. Even then Harper did not stop. Seeing the many passengers struggling in the water with little chance of rescue, he swam to as many as he could, urging them to accept Christ’s loving offer until hypothermia finally overcame him.

Four years later, at a Titanic survivors meeting in Ontario, one survivor told the story of his own encounter with John Harper. He was clinging to a piece of flotsam when Harper swam to him and urged him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The man rejected the offer and Harper swam away. But soon Harper came around again, and this time, knowing death to be only minutes away, the man gave his life to Christ. Moments afterwards, he watched the near-freezing waters finally take Harper’s life just as a returning lifeboat approached to rescue him. At the conclusion of his story, he said simply, “I am the last convert of John Harper.”

The titanic left England with three classes of passengers aboard. But when accounting for their fate, the White Star Line set up a board listing two classes: KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. These categories provided a fitting analogy for what John Harper already knew. There are only two classes of people in this world: those who have chosen to accept Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven, and those who have not chosen Him and will not.

Which class are you in?

God’s Love – Part Eight

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

To review:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

5> God’s Love is Expansive

6> God’s love is Exclusive

7> God’s love is Exceptional

Today: God’s love is Eternal.

There is a gravestone for Les Moore in Tombstone, Arizona (an appropriate place to have an epitaph, I would think). Apparently his departure was not overly mourned, for his epitaph reads:

Here Lies Les Moore

No Les, No More

The humour rings true, but the theology falls flat. Somewhere, more or less, Les Moore abides. If Les found the love of God in the gift of Jesus Christ, then Les is more. In God’s eternity He is more alive, more himself, more abounding in every good blessing, and more fully in loving fellowship with his Lord. 

If Les Moore is experiencing the ecstasy of eternity, you can be sure that it began to happen before he was laid in the ground under that tombstone. Eternity is more than a someday promise to be fulfilled on the other side of a funeral. Eternal life is our present position. Eternal life is now. If this seems confusing, think of it this way: When we accept Christ and begin living in His love, heaven’s door opens to us, letting a pure light into our lives that we never had before. We receive the life of God’s Spirit and experience the joy of fellowship with Him (see John 17:3). In a real sense, we begin to live in heaven before we actually get there. This foretaste of heaven sweetens our lives now; and with life in heaven already in our grasp, “now” is suddenly a very good place to be. As Paul put it, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Either way, we win.

Someone told me about a little girl who misquoted John 3:16 as “whoever believes on Him should not perish but have internal life.” This time the theology is as sound as the humour. Indeed, we have new life internally even before we arrive in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. Jesus offers us more than a life insurance policy, more than a stamped ticket to heaven. He came that we might have life, and then we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). That’s how much God loves you. 

John 3:16 tells an amazing love story, doesn’t it? It begins with God who has no beginning, and concludes with life that has no ending. That’s life with no limits, and it can begin now. Think of it, no limits to joy, no limits to kingdom service, and no limits to how much we will come to resemble His Son as we grow more like Him every day. 

God’s Love – Part Seven

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

To review:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

5> God’s Love is Expansive

6> God’s love is Exclusive

Today: God’s love is Exceptional based on the words “should not perish.”

To perish does not necessarily mean to be annihilated — to cease to exist. The currently popular idea — annihilation of the soul or destruction of the individual — is not found in the Bible. What we do find is that every single human being has an eternal soul that will live somewhere forever.

John Phillips explains that we have all seen what the work of sin gradually does to a human life. Drugs, sexual promiscuity, and unhealthy living ravage both body and soul and, if unchecked, lead to death. When we reject God, we allow sin to continue its deadly work. The result may be the death of our bodies but not the annihilation of our souls. That part of us is eternal and accountable to God. The final effect is that if we die unrepentant, we carry our ungodly passions into eternity with us — our cravings, lusts, hatred, and fear. In hell these passions continue to rule the soul, They never satisfied us here, nor will they satisfy us there. Phillip concludes, “The word perished notes the final condition of the soul, the awful state of those who are ‘filthy still’ under the eye of God.”

Phillips is alluding to this verse from John: “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Revelation 22:11). Heaven will complete our sanctification, or hell will complete our damnation.

To perish, then, is to remain aware of but separated forever from the loving God. Yet the Bible promises that once we receive God’s love, separation from Him will become impossible. As Paul gloriously put it, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). 

We choose. 

God’s Love – Part Six

As we look again at John 3:16 we see that the fifth element of God’s love is that it is exclusive.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

To review:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

5> God’s Love is Expansive

6> God’s love is Exclusive

We now come to what is really in a crucial way the key word in John 3:16. I don’t mean it’s the most holy word, which would be God, or the most affecting word, which would be His love, or the most astonishing words, which would be the gift of His Son.  But the word believes is crucial because it is the hinge upon which the door of heaven turns.

To show you just how important this word is, notice that in three consecutive verses (16-18), Jesus uses variations of believes four times. If you were to speak three sentences, and you included one verb four times, I would get the feeling you were stressing a highly critical point. And indeed He was.

John 3:16 begins with God and His love, and it ends in heaven — all stable and unchangeable elements. But the one variable in the equation is this word believes. Will we believe? You might say the verse is shaped like the letter Y. God is at the base, the foundation. His love and sacrifice gets us to the fork where the upper arms begin. At the tops of the two arms are “eternal life” and “perish.” At the fork in the Y is where we find the word believes. And that’s where you and I stand. Whether or not we believe will determine whether we choose to perish or accept the offer of eternal life. 

God’s love is infinitely deep, infinitely wide, and poured out for every single person who ever lived or ever will. And yet all of that is for naught if you or I choose not to believe in Christ. What a tragedy that God could love a person so deeply, only to have that love rejected!

Nicodemus thought God was in the business of condemning. But in the following two verses, Jesus told him that God doesn’t exclude people; they exclude themselves: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). There’s that word again — three times. John wants us to see the life-or-death urgency of our choice. 

In terms of how we relate to the love of God, there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who do not. Those who believe will receive the salvation of God and all it brings. Those who don’t believe will miss out. As I have been stressing, God loves everyone, but in order to receive His love, we must believe.

God’s love gave us Christ, who died giving us our only access to heaven. Therefore, salvation is not in question. It is there for the taking. The only thing in question is our response. Will we believe? So, salvation does not turn on the point, ‘Did Christ die for me?’ But on the point, ‘do I believe on Christ.’

God has done everything possible to rescue us. If we refuse to jump into the net, it’s not because of anything He has failed to do; it’s because we didn’t offer the simple and natural response of the heart to the supreme act of love — we failed to believe. 

God’s Love – Part Five

We are looking at John 3:16 which states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And., we have examined some of the meaning behind these famous words. So far we have seen:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

3> God’s love is extensive

4> God’s Love Is Expensive

Let’s continue today …

5> God’s Love is Expansive

We see this in the words “…that whoever…”

Richard Baxter once wrote that he was glad that God put the word whoever in John 3;16. He would rather have that word in the verse than his own name. “I thank God,” he said, “for the word ‘whosoever.’ If God had said the there was mercy for Richard Baxter, I am so vile a sinner that I would have thought he meant some other Richard Baxter; but when he says ‘whosever’ I know that it includes me, the worst of all Richard Baxters.”

Whoever is what we call a “big tent.” It can hold everyone who wants to find shelter beneath it. It’s a wonderful., loving, inclusive word that reaches out to invite all hearers. Leave your résumé at home; your qualifications don’t matter. If you live and breathe, if you are born into this human race, here’s a place for you.

Mr. Klein, it is said, was a miserable old man. He had lived every which way but good, fought every battle but the good fight, and he knew it. He wasn’t worthy of anyone’s friendship, so he reached out to no one. He didn’t go to church, because the back pew was too far forward for someone like him. He wasn’t proud of his sin, and he was painfully aware of it. 

And then one Sunday evening, he walked by the church. He heard the people singing and rejoicing, and he felt that old familiar pang of loneliness. For just a moment, he paused in his steps and listened. He had heard the melody before, and now he listened to the words of the hymn:

Saved by grace alone

This is all my plea,

Jesus died for Old Man Klein,

And Jesus died for me.

He was astonished! Jesus died for Old Man Klein? How could there be a hymn that identified him specifically? And why would these people be singing it? He couldn’t resist slipping into the church building and sliding secretly onto that back pew. He had a lump in his throat, knowing for the first time that the Gospel was for him. Then he picked up a hymnal and found that what he had really heard was “Jesus died for all mankind.”

Or was it?

It didn’t matter: Old Man Klein knew what his heart had heard, and after all, “all mankind” had to include him.

I try to help people understand that word whoever, one of the most breathtaking, outrageous words in all of Scripture — a word with implications that make the devil tremble. I want people to see that this word allows each person to plug his or her own name into the verse.

For God so loved Ralph Howe…

For God so loved John Jones…

For God so loved Mary Johnson…

…that if Ralph Howe believes in Him…

…that if John Jones believes in Him…

…that if Mary Johnson believes in Him…

Now would be a good time to put your own name in this verse. Go ahead — give it a try. Personalize John 3:16, write it down, speak it aloud, let it soak into you’re mind, and see how your day goes. I challenge you. 

God’s Love – Part Three

As we continue our look at John 3:16 and the love of God, we have seen:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

Today, let’s look at the fact that God’s love is extensive. The verse we are looking at is John 3:16 which states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s love is extensive deals with the sixth word of John 3:16 where we discover the object of God’s love: the world. It is doubly amazing for a Jew to write such words. As I noted when speaking of Nicodemus, it was basic to Hebrew culture that a Jew loved fellow Jews, and others not so much or not at all. He looked down with proud distain on every Gentile, knowing that the Jews were God’s chosen people with whom He had a special relationship.

One writer comments: “The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian ideal that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all humankind. His love was not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It was a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (1 John 4:8).

Jews like Nicodemus would be aghast: God loves – so loves – the world? Surely not! God so loves the Romans, with their cruel tyranny? God so loves the Assyrians and the Babylonians, who carried the Jews into bondage?

Absolutely. The world was put on notice that God loves the lovable (whoever they may be); He loves the unlovable; He loves Jews and the haters of Jews. He loves all people, and all fall under the love of Christ. No one is too evil or too far away for His love. 

We need to be aware that the term “world” is used in two different ways. John says here that God loved “the world.” But in another place he says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). This seems contradictory; God loves the world, yet He tells us not to love the world if we want to be like God. How do we reconcile these two verses?

There is no contradiction. In 1 John the reference is to the world system that rejects God — the world Satan invaded at man’s fall and blighted with lust and pride and all other evils. Later John will say, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). The Greek word for “world,” kosmos, has different meanings in the Scriptures based on the context. In his Gospel, John is telling us that God loves all the people of the world, sinners though they are. In his Epistle, John is telling is that we must be careful not to fall in love with a wicked and godless world system, which would be a form of idolatry. His message is to love the world’s people but not its program. 

Just as the world carries shades of meaning, so does the word love. C.S. Lewis wrote of four different kinds of love: friendship, affection, erotic love, and sacrificial love. And it’s here that many people get confused. We know that God loves us, and we need to understand just what kind of love that is.

I happen to love the country where I live. I’m deeply thankful to have been born here and live here. And I love my country will all my heart.

But I also happen to love my grandchildren and great grandchild. And my love for them is not at all the same kind of love that I have for my nation. As much as I love my country, my love for my grandchildren is far deeper, far more emotional. I love them with all my heart — and then some. That may not make logical or mathematical sense, but I know what I feel and what I mean.

God loves every individual in this world with the same profound devotion with which I love my grandchildren. The whole truth is, God’s love is far deeper and more profound than even my love for my grandchildren simply because His love is perfect and infinite, as no human love is. No one loves you the way He does — not your spouse, not your mothers, nor your child. No on. 

God’s love is extensive!

SOMETIMES I FEEL INCREDIBLY LONELY

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3smms-10254a6

 

When God created the world, He declared that everything was good (Genesis, Chapter 1)

The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars — all good!

  • He was pleased 
    • Pleased with the animals
    • Pleased with the mountains
    • Pleased with the oceans
    • Pleased with the trees

Above all, God was most proud of His best work: Man (“very good”)

All was good — except one thing… Read more