Unrecognized Blessings

God freed the people of Israel in the book of Exodus and yet God still identified Himself as Israel’s savior centuries after this happened. Why would He do this? Didn’t Israel know their history and everything God had done for the nation? Yes and no. They knew the events, but they became blind to the implication of what the events meant. They took their knowledge and allowed it to become equal to bedtime stories and fairy tales. God saving them from bondage became a distant memory Israel no longer cared anything about. Since they did not care about their history, their history lost its impact. Since the impact was gone, gratitude went with it, and thus started their downward spirals into sin. All of this because of unrecognized blessings.

 

Sometimes the path of destruction begins with unrecognized blessings. America has set a world record by having one form of government since 1789. Now let’s have some comparison for the sake of perspective:

 

France—15 forms since 1789

 

Ecuador—20 forms since 1830

 

Russia—4 forms since 1918

 

Thailand—17 forms since 1932

 

South Korea—6 forms since 1948

 

Ghana—4 forms since 1957

 

America has a level of stability unknown in the world, and yet how often is this addressed in schools, colleges, politics, etc? In a period of time when the uniqueness of America is downplayed, and some parts of our society teach how evil our nation is, do we sit back and thank God for how blessed we really are to be here? We have been blessed with stability for so long-in comparison to the rest of the world- we think the stability is normal, but it is not normal throughout the world.

 

If we are not careful, we can become lackadaisical to the blessings of God. We can take the blessings of God and become unimpressed by them to the point of contempt with God. If blessings become unrecognized then for what will we thank God? This thinking led to the downfall of Israel in biblical times. Pray we continue to recognize God’s blessings, so we do not follow the same path.

 

 

Living for Christ

The correct attitude that we as Christians should have toward the call of the world versus the call of God, is exemplified in the apostle Paul when he told the Galatian church:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Simply put — a worldly lifestyle is foreign and inconsistent with the life we are to live “in Christ,” because we have been crucified with Him.

To be crucified with Christ means that we have died with Him with regard to the lusts and sinful desires of this world. Our “walking in newness of life” — separate and apart from the world’s influence — is fully explained in Romans 6:3-7. Our dying with Christ means that we no longer live for self, but for our Savior.

Through our faith in the Lord, we can successfully determine the best course in life to follow by His standard for our life — His word. The desire of our heart should always be, “Lord, help me to make Your will, my will.” Until we determine in our mind to do the Lord’s will instead of our own, we will find ourselves caught between God and the world — the result being inconsistency in our daily Christian walk. By our determination to live for Christ, we can transform our life to His example, thus having Christ live in us.

As we daily strive to walk with the Lord in our Christian walk, may it never be said of us that we look like those in the world. May we never knowingly live inconsistent lives before people we come in contact with on a daily basis, but instead, be willing to continually examine our faith by the inspired will of God and conform our lives to it. When the people of the world truly see Christ living in us, by our daily living and example, they will more likely be motivated to seek that same lifestyle. They will then be more conducive to hearing the gospel of Christ and rendering obedience to it themselves. This week, live for God’s will and not your own.

 

Summer

Summer is a time when many of us experience a change in our routines. Kids and grandkids are out of school. We schedule vacations and look forward to summer activities. The days are longer, and we may work longer. There are summer concerts, summer picnics, summer sports, and many other events taking place. Summer is fun and it is a great time to enjoy all the blessings God has given us.

 

Although our routines may change in various ways during the summer, we should make sure our spiritual routines are not disrupted. We must guard our times of prayer and Bible reading. We must maintain our practice of helping people in need. We must not forsake the assembly of the saints. All of these routines and practices are essential to our spiritual formation and maintaining a healthy relationship with God. It may be difficult at times to continue our spiritual routines in the summer, but we must make sure we are prioritizing our devotion to God above everything else.

 

The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). We show our love for God in many different ways, but one of the main ways is by our commitment to Him. We are faithful to God no matter the time or season. We should never neglect our relationship with God just because we get busy. If it were not for God, we would never be able to enjoy all the activities of summer (or any other season), and so we should take every opportunity to praise and thank Him.

 

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Let me take this opportunity to say thank you for all of the calls, texts, and messages that we received since the passing of Mandy’s granny. Thank you for the flowers that were given for her service. Most importantly, thank you for your prayers. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 12:15 where he says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Mandy and the family have been blessed by your prayers, and by your support. This past week, though trying, was another reminder of how blessed we are to be a part of the church family here in Jacksboro. Thank you for your love and willingness to mourn with us during this time. We love and appreciate you.

Father

God is called by several names and metaphors in the Bible, but the one that Jesus used most often was the name “Father.” He called God “Father” many times in the gospels.  His first recorded words were when he was twelve years old and He said to Joseph and Mary, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39). While hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).  When He rose from the dead, He instructed Mary to tell the other disciples, “I ascend to my Father” (John 20:17). He told them, “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Later, when they asked when the kingdom would come, Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know times or periods which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

 

Jesus also taught us to call God “Father.” What we know as the Lord’s prayer begins with, “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). The apostle Paul wrote that we can cry out to God saying, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). “Abba” is an Aramaic word that carries the same meaning as our English word “daddy.” “Father” and “Abba” speak of closeness, affection, connection, intimacy, protection, safety, guidance, and direction—everything God gives to His people.

 

According to the Bible, the only way that God can be your Father is through faith in Jesus Christ. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).  John says, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (I John 3:1). Are you a child of God? If so, pledge today to live accordingly. If you haven’t yet made that decision, today is a good day to believe in Christ, be baptized, and begin a new life with God as your heavenly Father.

Whatever You Do…

There was an old preacher who loved his children dearly and longed for them to live right.  As they grew older, he did not want to browbeat them or make them think he was always “preaching at them,” so he looked for a way to lovingly and gently encourage them.  He came up with his own heartfelt catchphrase, “Whatever you do, don’t miss heaven!”

As each child graduated and moved out of the house, he heartily urged, “Whatever you do, don’t miss heaven!”  As they began to experiment with the pleasures and the ways of the world, he gently implored, “Whatever you do, don’t miss heaven!”  Then, as they all gathered around his bed, with tears in their eyes, watching their adoring father take his last breaths on this side of eternity, they heard him whisper again, “Whatever you do, don’t miss heaven!”

What great advice! Consider how this should become the motto for each of us.

When Satan comes calling, whatever you do, don’t miss heaven! Moses learned to weigh temptation in the balance and see the lasting pleasure in “the reward” that awaited him (Hebrews 11:24-26). View every temptation through the eternal ramifications that it can have.

When considering your choice of career and your choice of hobbies, whatever you do, don’t miss heaven! Some things in life (like a job) are a necessity; some things in life (like hobbies) are optional. Yet, all things in life (whether we consider them necessities or options) must be evaluated in light of that which is “earthly” and that which is “eternal” (II Corinthians 5:1-8). View every decision of life through the eternal effect that it will have on your soul.

When considering the place of the church in your life, whatever you do, don’t miss heaven! The church cannot take a secondary role in your life, off to the side, with occasional attention. Jesus taught us we must “seek first” His kingdom (Matthew 6:33). View the priority to which you give the church through the eternal magnitude that it will have on you.

What is heaven worth to you? Have you “set your mind on things above” or “on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2)?  Whatever you do, don’t miss heaven!

 

Counter-Culture

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

 

One of the greatest challenges of being a Christian is living in a culture with so many negative influences, while not giving in to these influences. Just because our culture might adopt something like slavery, racism, sexism, abortion, etc. and say it is ok, does not make it ok. Paul’s command in Romans 12:2 is for Christians to have our minds transformed by the word of God so that we will be able to recognize what is right and what is not. Our ability to do this distinguishes us from the rest of the world and allows us to become the holy community God expects us to be.

 

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus calls us to be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). He expects us to be leaders, not followers. We are to be examples of how to live. We are not to follow the world in ways that demean, devalue, or even destroy human life. If we fail at this, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This call to live as a unique people who resist evil cultural influences is one that God assigned His people from the very beginning. Israel was expected to be unique among the nations. When they began to act like the nations around them, God held them accountable and they were punished.

 

Cultural influences can be quite strong and influential, but our love for God and His truth should be stronger. This is serious issue because many of the evil cultural influences we are tempted by cause harm to others. People are enslaved. People are treated as less than human. People are treated as objects and abused. People are even put to death. God will have none of this! We cannot praise God with our lips and then mistreat people who are created in His image. As God’s people, we must love our neighbors no matter what the culture around us is doing. God has called us to be unique, to be set apart, to go against the grain of our culture. Lead by example this week.

Endure

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost penned those words, but Jesus could have spoken them with far more truth and conviction. Jesus lived in an age when his Jewish contemporaries expected God to send a Savior, a Messiah, to rescue Israel. Most expected that the Messiah would pursue prestige and power to mold Israel once more into a political force to be feared by the rest of the world. Jesus was the Messiah. He knew the expectations, and yet, He resisted that temptation. He took the road less travelled, and that made all the difference for Him, for you, and for me. Jesus chose the path that led to Calvary – a path marked by controversy and filled with suffering.

 

In I Peter 3:13-22, after describing how the Christian should conduct himself in several social relationships, Peter reveals how Christians may have to suffer even though they are living lives that do not hurt anyone, that do not violate any laws.  Peter states that the path of suffering, for the Christian as it was for Christ, is the road to glory.  He tells how to walk that unappealing road, even while he stresses that suffering by itself accomplishes nothing. If you suffer because you violate the law, you receive what you deserve.  As Christians, we seek to do right, not to suffer, but to realize that even if we do what is right, we still may suffer. He advises, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” (I Peter 3:14-16)

 

We endure because we have been brought to God by Jesus, made alive by God in baptism, and saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even if suffering should come our way, be strong and endure!

Perspective

As I was driving around one afternoon, I drove behind two different vehicles that both had a left brake light that was out. I thought this was sort of odd. I remember thinking the only way you know you have a tail light out is usually after someone that has been following you informs you of that fact. It is not something we consciously think about or check ourselves. Someone has to take the initiative to tell us we have a bulb that needs to be repaired.

Life can sometimes be like this. Usually we assume life is pretty “normal” and “OK.” It’s difficult to get outside of ourselves and give a true, honest evaluation as to who we are and what we represent with our attitudes, words, and action. As people observe us, however, they do get a more neutral and objective view of our attitudes, words, and actions.  I hope our desire is the one that is pictured in Ephesians 5:10 which is, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” If our desire is to please the Lord, it may require us to humbly listen to the advice of others on how we need to be changed and transformed.  If someone gives you spiritual advice, your first inclination may be to say “No, I am OK there.” How many of us when someone tells us our tail light on our car is not working, would immediately tell the person “Oh, no you are actually wrong about that?” We would assume they are correct. Why do we assume people are wrong when they give us spiritual advice that may help us grow closer to the Lord?

I encourage you to listen to Paul’s instruction to find out what pleases the Lord. I encourage you to listen to those who give you spiritual advice.  They can see you in a way you cannot (and do not) see yourself. We, as humans, do have some blind spots. We may not like to admit it, but if we can bring those blind spots into view we can begin (and continue) the repairs necessary to bring things back to working order. Blessings as you endeavor to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

You’ve Got Talent!

I was watching “The Voice” one night and I was reminded of something that is interesting about this show and others like it (America’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc.). One part that appeals to all of us, to some degree or another, is that these people come from almost nowhere and become stars. Some of the individuals have never sung in a concert and some are very young.  Almost no one knows them, but they are able to share their talent with the world. It is amazing to see the raw talent that many of these artists and entertainers have as they share their talent with everyone.

 

Sadly, sometimes we may be tempted to look at ourselves and think/say that we have no talent…nothing to offer anyone else. For the Christian, that is a lie that the world feeds you to try to shut you down. As I Peter 2:9 puts it, Christians are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The Christian has a story to tell, a journey to take, praises to sing! Peter goes on to contrast the pre-Christian life to the converted life in verse 10: “For once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” You are a person of God! Folks, we should go out and exhibit this nature to the world.

 

Don’t let anyone say that you don’t have anything to offer, or that you are worthless. Live up to the standard that God sets rather than down to the standard the world sets. You’ve got talent! Go forth and shine like a light for the Lord! That may look different for different people in different places, but I encourage you to discover what that looks like for YOU.  What does it look like in your home, in your workplace, in your school, and in other walks of your life?

Watching

“so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

 

I recently read a story about a father that had arrived at the church building to pick up his son after a youth group meeting. As he drove up, he saw his son outside, completely oblivious that his ride had arrived. The father decided to wait and see how long it would take his son to discover that he was there. Twenty minutes went by before the father finally honked his horn to get his son’s attention. When he got in the car his son asked, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!”

 

Being observant might not be one of your better qualities. Sometimes I’m not good at it either. Whenever I can’t find anything at the house, I ask my wife. Isn’t she supposed to know where everything is? I’ve heard someone say, “Sometimes you have to move things around so you can see behind them to find what you’re looking for.”

 

It is easy to say that we are alert, aware, and watching for the return of Jesus, but are we really? We can be very distracted by all of the details and events of life that keep our minds occupied. Some of the things that have our attention can be rather mundane and useless, others are necessary and weighty matters.

 

Neil Lightfoot wrote, “The one sure way to be ready on that day is to be ready every day.” What are we doing each day to be sure we are ready for the return of Jesus? I think it has to be a perspective of our entire lives. In all that we do we remember that Jesus is coming again, and we want to honor Him now, so we can be joyful then.

 

“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” (1 John 2:28)