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Thankfulness

In our nation, we set aside time this week to consider the things we are thankful for. I hope we spend a lot more than these few days each year doing that. God has done so much in our lives that we should be thankful for Him daily.
 

In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul spends a lot of time emphasizing thankfulness. Each chapter of the book contains each one statement of thanks written by Paul while he was imprisoned. That should serve as a reminder to each of us that we have plenty to be thankful for even when it seems things are not going well for us. What did this prisoner for the Lord say about being thankful?

  1. He is thankful because the church was doing what it should be doing: showing faith and love. “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.” (Colossians 1:3-4)
  2. He wants them to be thankful too, and his thankfulness is contagious. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
  3. Being thankful helps to make peace, and peace is something to be thankful for. It’s a wonderful cycle. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
  4. If we are not thankful by nature, it is something we can improve through action and habit. “ Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

 

Let’s all be more thankful this weekend and all year long. 
 
Brian

 



Getting Along

In our Wednesday evening Bible study, we are nearing the end of the book of Romans. Paul covers a lot of ideas in his letter, but a frequent topic is the need for Christians coming from different backgrounds to get along. In chapter 14 he addresses two major issues that are causing disagreements within the church at Rome: food and special days. The Christians that come from a Jewish background had a stricter view on these things, and those from a non-Jewish background were more free in their view. A big part of their struggle was the demand from one group that the other group do things their way.
 
Although our issues are different our struggle can be the same. We want people to see things the way we see them. We have a hard time listening because we are too busy trying to convince. All of Romans 14 is valuable to help us learn how to work through conflict, but I believe we find the key in verse 19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Make every effort. We are not to make every effort to convince. We are not to make every effort to destroy the argument of a brother or sister. We are to make every effort to make peace and to improve. In his book about Romans,
How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious, Fritz Ridenour describes three ways to put this into action.
 

Be genuine.

In other words, be honest and open with other people. Appropriateness and sensitivity are vital.

Be acceptant.

Respect and like people for who they are rather than trying to make them over to suit your values.

Be understanding.

Have empathy by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Doing these things can lead us to the kind of mutual respect that a good family needs. Learning to get along is just another part of  GROWING, WORKING, SHARING…TOGETHER.   
 
Brian

 



Knowing What We Need

I have recently been reading a book entitled Grow Your Church From the Outside In
by George Barna, who is an expert in church related statistical studies and analysis. In this book, Barna spends a lot of time comparing the churched and the unchurched. I was struck by the way he introduced a chapter about the faith of the unchurched:
 

“Every time they step on the brakes of their cars, they exhibit tremendous faith in gadgets that most of them know nothing about. Each time they go out in public, they demonstrate faith in the behavior and morals of humankind, believing they will not be shot or mugged. When they take a bite of food that has been prepared in a restaurant by a chef they never see or do not know, they show the faith that they possess, believing that it was properly cooked and not poisoned. Each time they make a bank deposit, they engage in an act of faith, believing that their money will be returned to them, perhaps with interest. The issue is not whether they have faith; rather, it is where they place their faith.”

That can be true of many of us too. We place our greatest faith in the wrong things. We can be blind to what we really need.

In Acts 3, we find the story of a beggar who was unable to walk and thought money was his greatest need. Peter and John did not have money to give, but they had something much greater to offer: healing. Instead of just getting a little more money to get by, his life was changed that day. His reaction in verse 8 is wonderful. “He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” While the man focused on one need, Peter fulfilled a need that seemed unfixable. Are we placing our faith in the things of this world, or do we jump to our feet to praise the God who loves us and knows what we need?

 

Brian

 



Growing

Earlier this week, I was shocked when I saw two pictures of me and my sons. The first picture was taken three years ago this week when we dropped Stacey off at the airport to fly to Eugene to interview for her current job. In that photo David is barely above the height of my shoulder, and Nathan is a few inches below it. The second was taken this week during a day trip to Crater Lake.  In this one David is taller than me by 1/4 inch. He thinks it’s height, but I attribute it to thicker hair. Nathan is closing in on both of us. I’m glad they are growing, but the pictures really took me by surprise. There are people who are even more surprised though. Friends from Arkansas can’t believe it, because they saw those boys as toddlers and remember them as the guys in the first picture. The whole thing made me think about our spiritual growth. Would people around us or those who have not seen us for a while be amazed by our growth in our walk with God?

 

We read in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Even Jesus grew, and that growth was in ways much more important than height. Paul also considers maturing and growing in 1 Corinthians 13:11 where he writes, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” In Hebrews 5:12-14 we find an even more forceful message about growing: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Spiritual growth is even more important than our physical growth. Let’s keep GROWING, WORKING, SHARING…TOGETHER.
 
Brian

 



Remembering

A few years after the end of the Civil War, General John Logan gave the order that May 30 would be designated as Decoration Day it was intended to be a day to decorate the graves of soldiers who had given their lives in defense of country. About a century later that day would be moved to the last Monday in May and be known as Memorial Day. Days like these are important because of our need to remember and give honor.
 

As we continue our study of Genesis this week, we will share the story of Noah. In this account of ark building, rain, flood and destruction, it’s easy to forget that it is also a story of deliverance and faithfulness. Because of God’s grace through the ark, Noah and his family are given a new beginning. God remembers Noah at the beginning of chapter 8 as the flood nears its end. “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” (Genesis 8:1) Noah remembers God later in the chapter as he stands on dry land again. “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” (Genesis 8:20)

Each week as we join in communion, we remember the grace of God that is offered to us through His Son’s sacrifice.  “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-25)  Let’s remember all that God has done in our lives and His love for us this week and every week.         
 
– Brian