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The Sacrifice And Power Of Giving Thanks

 

The ability to give thanks may or may not come easy to us. Sometimes we are more euphoric in our gratitude as we are enjoying life and remembering to thank God for His goodness. Sometimes, however, we are forgetful. Other times, we may be not be feeling very thankful because experiencing the circumstances of life has been painful.

 

We don’t feel like we have much to be thankful for and we’re not in the mood to do it. And yet St. Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18). How is it possible to give thanks in all circumstances? By remembering that thanksgiving is sacrificial and powerful.

 

Thanksgiving is sacrificial because it means we have to stop thinking of ourselves and think of someone else. When Jesus healed the ten lepers in Luke 17, only one returned to say thank you. In fact, he is the only person to thank Jesus for his healing in the Gospels. The others simply took the healing and thought of their good fortune. The caution here is that when we have something we recognize as good, the chances may be one in ten that we remember to give thanks. That is why we need to habitually thank God. That means regularly sacrificing our time to offer prayers of thanks.

 

What if we give thanks for the good things and then we begin to experience hard and difficult times? In this case, we can remember that the only other person recorded thanking God (besides Jesus and the Samaritan leper) in the Gospels is the Publican. But what does he thank God for? That he is not like other people. We are often thankful when we compare our circumstances to others. We are thankful we live in this country and not another; that we have food when others don’t; that we have homes and others don’t.

 

We have to remember that giving thanks for good things is supposed to be a “sacrifice of thanksgiving”; in other words, that it is not about possessing the good things, but about acknowledging that we don’t deserve them. We don’t receive them because we’re good but because God is. Thanking Him takes the focus (and thus the reliance) on us and our stuff.

 

If we learn habitually thank God and do so not just for the good things, we can experience the miraculous, transformative power of God in our lives. When Jesus gives thanks in the Gospels, miracles happen. He gives thanks for loaves and fishes and they multiply. When we give thanks for having our needs met, God can multiply our time and energy to His glory. Jesus gives thanks to God for raising Lazarus before Lazarus comes out of the tomb.

 

If we expect God to raise our dying and decaying souls, we should thank Him, acknowledging that we know He can do it. Jesus gives thanks for the wine and the bread at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. If we are truly thankful for the gift of His Body and Blood, then we can receive the forgiveness of sins.

 

Sacrificing ourselves to the power of God is what makes Thanksgiving so important. May we constantly give thanks so that His presence remains with us.

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THE CALL to FORSAKE ALL – by Michael Carl.

“As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his
brother Andrew casting a net into the sea? for they were fishermen.
And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for
people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

What did it mean when Jesus strolled the shore of Lake Galilee
and call those men to serve Him without reservation?  Well, in
one way or another, it meant a complete surrender to Jesus. 
When they heard Him say, “‘If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'”
(Mark 8.34), they eventually learned that He meant it.

For most of them, it meant dying for the Lord.  We all know from
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that all of the original Apostles, second
edition (with Matthias), except John went to a martyr’s death.
Thomas, not realizing the full impact of what he was saying, said
it correctly when he said in John chapter eleven, “‘Let’s go back
to Judea, so we may die with Him.'”

Yet, we have to ask today, what does it mean when Jesus says, 
“‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people'”?  Is there any
the real meaning behind Jesus’ own words, “‘If any want to become
my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross 
and follow Me'” for us today?  Do we really believe this or have 
Christ’s own words simply become a romanticized exercise in a
formulaic religious contemplation for today’s 21st Century North 
American Christian?

In truth, we have to come to terms with the reality that if we don’t
really believe He means what He says in these Mark passages,
then, in fact, we are denying the truth and efficacy of God’s Word.
As one of my teachers along the way said, “We´re professing
believers; but in fact, we´re practical atheists.”

The good professor was blunt but brutally true.  When it comes
to obeying the Word of God, we don´t do too well with the
passages requiring personal sacrifice.

Folks, this must change.  If we’re ever to realize the depth and
the beauty of a vital relationship with our Lord, we have to let go and
be willing to trust Him with ALL of His Words.

Are we willing to do that?

If not, then our practical doubts are going to rob us of the very 
meat and meaning for which we deeply long.

Let us resolve this day that we’re not going to be spectators;
we’re going to take a step from the shore, wade in and fully
become “a fisherman”.

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GOD HAS MERCY AND PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE

 

The presence of God is a major theme in the book of Exodus: God heard Israel’s cry in Egypt. God was with His people at the Red Sea. God journeyed with them in the wilderness. God’s presence appeared majestically at Sinai. God’s presence was manifested in the Tabernacle. Moses knew that what made Israel distinct was God’s presence among them.

 

Moses proclaimed that they could not move one step without God. What distinguished Israel wasn’t their land (they didn’t have it yet). It wasn’t their wealth (they had been slaves). It wasn’t their culture (it wasn’t fully developed yet). What distinguished them? It was that God was with them. Once again, God’s presence was manifested to the people in a remarkable way. Look at how God solved this particular water problem.

 

The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex.17:5-7)

 

This story, we see how Israel doubted God’s presence. “Is the Lord among us or not?” they asked (v. 7). They doubted God was with them. But after Moses prayed, God provided water from a rock (Ex. 17:4-6). I tried to keep track of how often the Israelites grumbled against God, broke His commands, worshiped false idols, etc.—but I quickly lost count. Time and again they turned away from God, did whatever they wanted, lost God’s protection, suffered great consequences, returned to God, and begged Him to rescue them. Over and over and over again! Sometimes there were lasting onsequences for their poor decisions, but God showed more grace than was deserved (over and over and over again).

 

Sin as missing the mark: One aspect of sin is missing the mark of God’s standards set for humanity. Missing the mark isn’t simply making a mistake, but consciously choosing to sin and falling short of God’s glory as a result. We may refer to sin as a failure on the part of humans to live according to God’s standards, but we must recognize this failure is intentional. We miss the mark when we deliberately choose to cast aside God’s purpose for us

 

And, we might add, He will certainly lead us into the unknown, into uncharted territory, for “the wilderness is a place betwixt and between.” The Wilderness is that place, is life situation, between sickness and health; between grief and comfort; between rejection and acceptance; between doubt and faith.

 

How, then, shall we transverse our own particular “wilderness,” indeed the many barren times and places of our lives? Not being surprised by the Wilderness is a good place to start. Some Christians are, you know—surprised, that is. Televangelists, among others, would have us believe that, for the “true” Christian, the “born again” Christian (is there any other kind?), all the hardships of this life disappear—financial insecurity, marital discord, poor health and the like. Do not believe it. The Wilderness is real and it awaits us (if indeed we are not already in it).

 

If we are not surprised by the Wilderness, then we are much better prepared to accept it as a time for deepening our trust in God. The Wilderness remains a time of testing; but that is not in itself a bad thing. The Wilderness affords us the opportunity to allow God to lead us through it and to provide us with the spiritual stamina that we need along the way. It is not hard to trust God when all goes well. It is in the Wilderness that we come to depend upon God for our daily bread, and to learn that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4.4; Deut. 8.3).

 

Finally, the Wilderness is the proper setting for both reflection and anticipation. At each stage of our journey we can look back and “remember”—one of Moses’ favorite words in Deuteronomy. We can raise our own “Ebenezer” and gladly say, with Samuel, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Sam 7.12). At the same time, we can look ahead to the  Promised Land that awaits us, knowing that the Wilderness does not last forever even if it sometimes seems that way.

 

The wilderness seems permanent. Forty years is a long time in the old sandbox. Even that grand mountaintop experience at Sinai looks like a one-time thing; it is out of the wilderness only to be led right back in. The wilderness is beginning to look a lot like home. But the Wilderness is not home.

 

“Home” is that place Christ Jesus has gone to prepare for us (John 14.1–3). Meanwhile, we continue on our journey, living a “life beyond redemption but short of consummation.” And when the time comes for us to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, the God of the Wilderness will see us safely home.

 

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Excited 6-Year-Old ‘Helps’ The Pastor Baptize Him

 

 

We can all agree that it’s truly a blessed moment when someone makes the decision to accept Jesus Christ into their hearts. That person is giving every bit of themselves to Him and it is such a special time.

Today, this 6-year-old has made this incredible choice and he’s standing at the front of the church ready to commit to a Christ-centered life. As the preacher speaks to the congregation, the young boy looks on in delight.

You can almost feel the joy and excitement that he has as he wants to be washed in the water. But I think the boy got a little bit too excited because as the preacher was about to place a washcloth over the boy’s face, he decided he couldn’t wait any longer.

The 6-year-old shouts “I’m gonna do it!” and holds his nose and plunges into the water. He reemerges with a triumphant shout and the whole congregation erupts into laughter.

Even the pastor wasn’t quite sure what to do next. But I do know that this is going to be a baptism that this church never forgets. This little guy was certainly moved by the Spirit!

Acts 2:38 “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”