How thankful are you right now in your life? We may not be able to measure our gratitude on a scale, but thankfulness is not just a moment… it’s a way of thinking, attitude, and even lifestyle. One pastor even refers to it as, “Thanksliving!” We are reminded in God’s word: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Written over a century ago, Professor James Denney of Scotland called these three commands “the standing orders of the gospel.” They are “standing orders” because they always apply to every Christian in all situations. The Greek makes this very clear because these imperatives are all in the present tense, translating as “continually rejoice, continually pray, and continually give thanks.” A great challenge, isn’t it? After all, we would have no problem if the text said, “Rejoice sometimes” or “Pray occasionally” or “Give thanks when you feel like it.” About this text, R. Pritchard writes, “This suggests that the real impact of the gospel will be seen when we don’t feel joyful, when we don’t want to pray, and when we can’t think of a reason to be thankful.” We have come to the point where when we see things, go through challenges of life, and encounter changes of life, but our attitude and approach should move from complaining to contentment and from grumbling to gratefulness. Where are you on the gratitude scale? If you can find at least one thing to be thankful for every day, that will be one less thing to worry about, and one more reason to live life with resonance!
Just this past week, we officially transitioned into autumn! Are you ready for change? Recently, Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on the Eastern USA coast, in States such as North and South Carolina. Residents there have been through many a storm and storm warnings. Storms are a part of life. Someone has said that we are either coming out of a storm, currently in a storm, or will be going into a storm shortly. The question is: where are we right now? No one is exempt from the storms of life. But just as the disciples who initially feared the storm later came to revere Christ more, so the storms we face can bring us to a deeper knowledge of God. “’Who is this,’ the disciples pondered, ‘even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27). Through our trials we can learn that no storm is big enough to prevent God from accomplishing His will (Mark 5:1). Big storms can roll in fast, suddenly turning blue sky days dark with worry. It can happen with one brief conversation, a diagnosis, an accident, or some other life-altering occurrence. And we’re left, with swirling thoughts, wondering how we didn’t even see it coming. It often hits us hard, leaving us flat. We can’t stop the storms from happening, but we can know where to run… for cover. While we may not understand why God allows trials to enter our lives, we can thank Him that through them we can come to know who He is. We live to serve Him because He has preserved our lives. The storms of life prove the strength of our Anchor.
The crisp air is setting in and we can feel a new season of change upon us! Are you ready for change? Think about how much life changes we face – moving homes, switching schools, uprooting to another country, changing habits, approaches, and even attitudes! In nature, a caterpillar struggles to crawl before it is changed into a creature that can fly! Likewise, we may have to face a storm, loss, crisis, or disaster that leads us to change. In scripture Job says, “I will wait all the days of my struggle until my change and release will come” (Job 14:14). It appears that change requires some type of discomfort and struggle, but the end result is always better than the beginning.
It is the last long weekend of the summer! There are so many things that you could have done for the last long weekend of the summer – family BBQing, picnicking, hiking; going on a road trip, grabbing a last minute flight; doing an end-of season clean up, going back to school shopping, and preparing for the weather as it gets colder. With so much to do and so many distractions in the world around us, how can we keep focused on Heavenly things? A few ways we can try include: making Him a priority perhaps by making time for Him first thing in the morning, developing a habit of constant prayer, and asking God to remind us of His unconditional, constant love for us. It’s important for us to know that even when we forget God, He never forgets us! He knows what’s happening to us every moment of the day, and He also watches over us all the time. Make time for Him, rely and call on Him, and pray to Him, and He will always be there ready to answer. The answers may not be what we always want, but God has a plan for us and knows the whole story for start to finish, as we’re reminded in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Blessings to you this long weekend!
We recently had our Vacation Bible School (VBS) program; it was such a great blessings to have so many children learning about Jesus in creative ways. Jesus places a high priority on children as he rebuked the disciples who were preventing them from coming to him. In the Bible, Jesus said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. And He took the children [one by one] in His arms and blessed them [with kind, encouraging words], placing His hands on them.” (Mark 10:15-16, AMP). It is clear that our Lord wants us to consider being a little child – teachable, mouldable, and willing. By allowing ourselves to be available to God, He can do anything with anyone. His purpose and plan for our lives is to make us more like him and to make us become what were destined to be. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, that when Jesus is in us, “old things are passed away and all things become new!” How exciting and assuring that we can leave the old past behind and become a new person in Jesus. We should all want that change, we all need that change, and our prayers should be to “change us Oh Lord!” Let’s wait for our change to come!
It was an exciting week –our sanctuary was transformed into a stage of water, suitcases, rocks, and more! The theme for our VBS kids was “Shipwrecked… Rescued by Jesus!” As adults, we too can learn something from this lesson. Has there been a time when you felt alone or worried? The weight of the world around us feels overwhelming at times. Have you struggled with something – perhaps correcting a bad habit or a solution to a difficult situation? Have you done wrong to yourself or to others and needed to find a way to correct it? Has there been a time you felt so powerless, helpless of things beyond your control? Isaiah 41:10 says, “’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” If we ever feel “shipwrecked” by all that life throws at us, we have the confidence that we can always lean on our Savior, for Jesus is our great Rescuer, and He strengthen us.
We live in an age of despair. The personal and worldly dream is gasping for breath. We find ourselves amid a world in crisis a world that prefers darkness rather than light. A world that is becoming more atheist. A world that is becoming more isolated from reality and meaningful relationships. Shouldn’t the church have something to say? To do? To show? To share? To be? How can we be a church that says to promote and be something when we are really not there yet? The Bible says in John 13:35, “By this shall everyone (the world) know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” How will they know if we do not live it and practice it? How do we become that kind of people and church? How do we measure that love? Only God’s love can compel and change us (2 Cor 5:14). May God help us to become the church of the first century so the world may know that there is God of love who desires to know and save them (Acts 2:47). Will the world see Him through us? Are we there yet?
The summer is going by so quickly and we can hardly believe where the time is fleeting by. We trust that the summer days are treating each of you well. Have you ever had to make changes to your life? Sometimes change can be challenging and difficult, but change is a constant of life; change is inevitable, and we have to learn to adjust. Often times, conflict is a function of that change. By nature, we tend to avoid change and even avoid conflict as much as possible. Consequently, it is inescapable. Hopefully, this change makes us better, wiser, and moves us forward. In this life, there will be changing circumstances, challenges, and conflicts and unless we learn how to deal with change, it can get to the better of us. We much try to adopt an approach that allows us to face any changes that may affect us by “rolling with the punches” or having a “when life deals me lemons, make lemonade” attitude. Most importantly, gain assurance from the Apostle Paul’s words, “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me (to fulfill His purpose — I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace” (Philippians 4:13). No one person can do anything alone. We will fail, make a mess, hurt ourselves and sometimes hurt others, but in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ in us, we can confront any change or challenge and know that He is with us.
Let us focus on Psalm 100, a Psalm for giving thanks, which starts off with telling us to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (v1-2) Do you feel like making a joyful noise now when you come to Bronte? Do you feel like singing? When you wake in the morning and you make the decision to join us at church, what are your thoughts? Do you decide to go to church because it is part of your weekly routine? Or is it perhaps because of a burden in your heart that you need to have lifted? Is it possibly because you “Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” (v3) … and it is our part of the commandments that we are here today? Or maybe you are coming to church because something amazing happened to you and you truly do want to thank the Lord. Whatever the reason, we are to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (v4) How very true! One famous quote tells us that “in happy moments, we are to praise God; in difficult moments, seek God; in quiet moments, worship God; in painful moments, trust God and in every moment, thank God.” No matter what we are going through, no matter what our mindset may have started out like, let us be thankful to God for another day, another breath of life, another opportunity! “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” (v5) Amen!
We have been experiencing some abnormal and sweltering heat and extreme temperatures. At times it seems unbearable, unless we are indoors, find shade, or get something cold to quench our thirst. Summer is making itself known! Such extreme weather can be compared to spiritual temperatures – whether we are hot or cold for God… whether we are on fire or frozen for Him. Perhaps, the worst is to be in between. Have you ever drank something on a hot day that was lukewarm? It can not quench your thirst and might even make you warm! The Bible says that the Lord knows our works and knows if we are neither hot or cold, but lukewarm. In fact, it specifically states, ”…I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm (spiritually useless), and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth…” (Revelation 3:15-16). However, there is still hope, as the following verses tell us that if we recognize our condition and temperature, and come to God and seek Him, there is a way we can be hot for God and get our faith on fire. Despite the hot, muggy, and sticky weather outside that we might not enjoy as much, this spiritual heat is one we must have! May we be hot in faith and cool in Christ!