thankfulness

THEY ARE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Sunday morning as I was walking through our church, I noticed three people praying together

Then several steps further I overheard a young woman discussing how she was encouraging a friend to become more rooted in her own church

Then a reality suddenly struck me

I was surrounded by graces of God

Not just the amazing graces of God toward me, but also the countless evidences of God’s active grace and works in the lives of his people!

My heart easily becomes mired in the discouragements of this world

A world that has turned itself upside down

The messy half-heartedness of many who claim to love Christ

Believers who are under immense burden

My own weaknesses which are ever on display

These realities seem to slap me in the face each day

Yet, these are not the greatest realities in this world or in my life!

God is ever sovereign over all things

Christ has already conquered sin, death and Satan

The Holy Spirit is actively preparing each believer to be glorious images of Jesus

Sometimes these realities are submerged under the flow of events and my own activities. So I must seek them out. Every believer is called to glorify God, which means we are responsible to look for and hold up the evidences of God’s glorious grace at work

The Holy Spirit not only freshly reminded me that he is abundantly at work; he also freshly convicted me that I need to live with greater awareness of his graces around me

God deserves that I do this

My soul needs me to do this

Gospel mission impels me to do this

As God’s people, may we look for and celebrate the graces of God in us and in each other. Although they may seem small and at times mundane – they are actually marvelous evidences of our God wonderfully at work

When we see an evidence of grace – exalt it in your heart and praise it with your lips

But don’t stop there; let’s get in the habit of identifying those evidences of grace to one another as a way of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:11 which instructs us to “encourage one another and build one another up”

Let us exercise faith as we celebrate these evidences of God’s grace, for they are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. For God is working at a level that will eternally display his transcendent standard of glory!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 1.04.16

‘Rejoicing Over God’s People’

Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians is one of Paul’s prison letters, written to a church which faithfully supported him. The tone and content of this letter indicate this was a healthy church

Paul Shares Why He Is Thankful For This Church (vs 3-8)

Paul is thankful for their “partnership” in ministry (v5)

  • v19 the Philippian Church prayed for Paul 
  • 2:25 they were involved in Paul’s ministry, sending Epaphroditus to serve with him
  • 4:14 their hearts were with Paul, ‘sharing his trouble’  
  • 4:15 they gave faithfully to his ministry

This was a church deeply committed to gospel mission

God established the Church to be a place where we grow together, and where we fulfill mission together

The Philippians recognized these truths, which resulted in their being part of meaningful ministry

If we have the fruit of the gospel, how can we not partner in gospel work?

Gospel work is our comprehensive job. It’s who we are in what we do

Paul is thankful for God’s ongoing “work” in them (v6)

This “work” is God making us a people fit to spend eternity with him

This “completeness” will be according to God’s standards, not ours

We could never accomplish such thing! It has to be God’s work

Because this outcome is “sure”:

We can find fresh joy in our striving

We can find fresh patience for fellow-believers, because this completion will be true for them too

 Confidence in our “completion” is part of our motivation for mission

vs 6 & 10 remind us “the day of the Lord” is coming! 

v6 assures us, we will be completed for it

 The Bible ends with the book of Revelation to help us keep in mind life’s trajectories (for the faithful and the faithless)

 Paul’s thankfulness results in a heart filled with “affection” (v8)

Paul declares “it is right” that he has joy and thankfulness for the Philippians

This is because they shared the gospel, they shared Christ, and they shared in ministry

These wondrous realities should dominate how we interact as a church

 

Paul Shares How He Prays For This Church (vs 9-11)

1. Paul prays that their love will keep growing (v9)

We cannot mature unless our love for God and others is growing

Love is the fulfillment of the great commandment

Love is the great motivator for all that should and should not be in our lives

Paul mentions two ingredients that growing love requires

Knowledge“:  in some ways love comes naturally, but we have many distortions about love. Our love is mixed with emotions, expectations and selfishness. We need knowledge about love

Discernment“:  This is knowing how to apply love in life’s situations. When our children frustrate us, or a co-worker misuses us, love will always lead us to be gospel focused

2.  Paul prays for their growth in godliness (vs 10-11)

God’s desire for us, is character fit for eternal communion with him

Our intentions for one another, should have the same agenda

 

Be Influenced by Paul’s Heart For the Philippians

(1)  Consider how we think about fellow church members

Guard against seeing them without the eyes of the gospel

Do we primarily see fellow members for their weakness and offenses against us?

Do we see one another as people that merely pass through our lives?

 Instead, Paul saw fellow believers through the gospel

v7 fellow believers are partakers with us in grace (they are people of v6)

We should see one another as our forever family with Christ

(2)  Commit to being prayerful for your church – which means the people in it

We need those prayers for ourselves

We need the attitude and heart that comes when we pray for them

If this is not your habit please begin to pray for your church!

(3)  Share Paul’s joy over the church

This joy is not due to perfect circumstances or perfect people; it is joy over the progress of gospel victory

Each believer represents wondrous works of God

Each believer is becoming a person of Christ-like beauty

 If Christ takes joy over the church, so should we (Isaiah 62:3-5)

 Love the Church, love your church, and love each other

OUR TRUE THANKSGIVING MEAL

Communion-Cross-with-Jesus

 

By all means, enjoy whatever bountiful meal is placed before you on Thanksgiving. God who provides all good things, delights in our enjoyment of them!

However, may all who are in Christ be mindful that our true THANKSGIVING meal is the Lord’s Supper.

 

AND THEY LIVED THANKFULLY EVER AFTER

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

Thanksgiving Day is now past. However, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, every day is Thanksgiving! All Christians should live “thankfully ever after”.

AN UNUSUAL REMEMBRANCE

The city of Enterprise, Alabama has a Greek classical statue of a woman holding aloft a large boll weevil. I wonder how many drivers get whiplash when they pass by this monument?

The boll weevil was a serious agricultural pest that destroyed large portions of the cotton crops which drove the economy of Enterprise and much of the south.

The “blessing in disguise” of the boll weevil is that its attack on cotton forced farmers to diversify their crops which led to a much healthier economy. The citizens decided to commission a monument as a reminder of the benefit this hardship brought to them. The monument inscription reads:

“In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.”

How has God used obstacles, defeats, tragedy and hardship in your life. You can probably point to several immense blessings (including spiritual growth spurts) that came directly out of what at first looked like nothing but trouble!

Do we celebrate these works of God? Are we willing to label them as graces? Do we thank Him for our difficulties? And do we keep these lessons in mind when new problems come over our horizon?

I imagine we all have reason to put up some rather unusual monuments in our yard.

IT’S A RESPONSIBILITY

Thankfulness to God is our responsibility

“Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” Romans 1:21

This verses describes how mankind abandoned God. Nothing in this verses should still bear true for the Christian

Thankfulness is part of what we owe God as our creator. While thanklessness to God is sinful considering we exist by His glory and every good thing we enjoy is from God.

Of course we all have complaints about life and this world, and most of those complaints are valid. However, we need to blame the right culprit for our sorrows and burdens – which is sin! God created everything “good”. It was not until sin entered creation that the mess began.

How much more then, does the responsibility for thankfulness rest upon those who are saved by Christ sacrifice for us?

Because of Christ’s death there is “no condemnation” left for us

Jesus paid in full the debt we owed for our sin

Jesus loves us as much as the Father loves him (John 15:9)

God adopted us and made us “joint heirs” with Christ”

Everything that happens will be for our eternal “good”

We get new perfect and eternal bodies as we will live in an perfect and eternal kingdom

Each breath brings us closer to perfect “rest”

If you are having difficulty being clear about why you should be thankful to God, read Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 slowly, with pen and paper in hand to record the “riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). Then spend a little time responding to God for each item.

Our thankfulness is right for us, it is deserved by God, and it is needed by the world as part of our witness to the glorious gospel. Why should people listen to our testimony if they don’t regularly see we are thankful to our God?

It is not enough to be thankful in a generic “life is good” way. Unbelievers routinely make that profession. We specifically owe the Lord God gratitude for His grace

We owe Him lavish gratitude

We owe Him continuous gratitude

What are basic evidences that we have some depth in our thankfulness toward God?

1.  We will be contentment in Him

Ephesians 1:3 says “God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”

We simply have no room for discontent. Everyone who trust in Christ is totally and forever saved. FOREVER SAVED!  Discontent rests on a dis-connection between our perspective and the reality of the magnitude of God’s grace. 

2.  We will be confident in Him

Confidence in what God is doing around us, shows God that what He has already done is worthy of complete trust.  Doubt and complain about temporal issues, places them above what He has eternally done for us

3.  We will have joyful in Him

We live amidst continual reasons for praise. Our eternal reasons for joy are always greater than the frequent reasons for disappointment.

Oh, may we be a thankful people, to our deserving God!

CELEBRATING GOOD THINGS

As Christians have much to celebrate in our country, in our prosperity, and in our relationship with Christ. Thankfully, I can also add ‘in my family’.

May we be more mindful of our blessings than our burdens.

SERIOUSLY THANKFUL

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) was a pastor in England who authored one of the most famous commentaries on the Bible ever written.  Three centuries later, this 6 volume set is still a helpful tool for understanding and applying the Bible.

While on his way to preach in a country church, Matthew Henry was stopped and robbed by a highway thief.  Afterward in a desire to always have a thankful heart toward God, he wrote these words in his diary:

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;

second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life;

third, because although they took my all, it was not much;

And fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”

May we be as mindful that in Christ we have abundant reasons to be thankful; and may we also recognize the beauty of a thankful heart.

ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO TOUCHED YOU

Last week I received an email from Taylor University where I went to college. One of my teachers, Professor Phil Loy, is retiring after 48 years at Taylor. The school invited those who are interested to sent a note to him. Immediately I knew I should do so because of the benefit I received from him. Professor Loy was a challenging teacher. He made us integrate all we were studying in order to think about it as a whole. He was the most helpful teacher I have ever had; and I gained life long lessons from his classes, yet I have never told him.

I can think of other people who have touched my life in meaningful ways. I am sure you can to. We cherish the memory of how people have impacted and helped us along the way, yet we often don’t take the simple step of letting them know about these feelings of appreciation.

The Practical Shepherding blog encourages us in this article to reach out to those who have discipled or mentored us.

A few years ago I was thinking about someone who invested in me as a young man in ways that still influence me today. On that occasion I decided to try and contact him. Thankfully with the internet it is easier than ever to find people.  I remember how thrilled he was to receive my call and how thankful I was to have taken that step.

There are people in your life who are merely a phone call or a letter away from you. Your contact will not only encourage them, it is fitting that we acknowledge the people who bless us. Remember they go through struggles just like you and most likely question at times whether or not their life has made a difference. Why not let them know today that the difference they made in you is something you treasure in your heart.

 

TIME ALONE

Debbie joined 85 other women from our church last weekend for a woman’s retreat in Lancaster, PA.  Actually she was in charge of the event, but that does not matter for today’s post.

I had the weekend mostly to myself, so I took full advantage of it!  With Debbie gone I was free to do many things that I could not normally do, like eating directly out of containers and . . um, . . well . . that was about it.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t like Debbie being away at all.  As I wandered moping around the house, I was reminded of the many things she does every day to care for me that I receive with expectation rather than thankfulness.

I missed her presence, her smile, her provision of delicious meals, the way she takes care of our home to make it a place of enjoyment, and her untiring desire to demonstrate that she loves her family.

My exciting alone time convicted me of the poor job I do of expressing the appreciation that I really do have for Debbie every day.  And it would not take much thought to come up with other people in my life who provide me with many reasons to be grateful.

Who should hear thankfulness from you?