GIVING THANKS

One winter, while a junior in high school in Fairbanks, a friend of mine invited me to have dinner with his family (we called the evening meal ‘dinner’ in Alaska). As his dad was plating the food and delivering it to the table one at a time, his mom began eating having been served first. As my plate was set before me, I refrained from eating as a courtesy toward the host. Mr. LaPerierre noticed me waiting and asked, “Spencer, are you waiting because you’re wanting to say grace?” At that moment, his wife, fork in mouth, looked at me with wide mortified eyes, filled with the realization that she may have committed a grievous faux pas.

Has something like that ever happened to you, folks begin shoveling food in their mouths before everyone even has a chance to sit down, much worse, discovering mid bite that a prayer of thanksgiving was going to be offered? Perhaps you’ve been the one with the fork in your mouth.

It’s called different things in different places. Some call it, ‘giving thanks’, ‘saying grace’ ‘asking a blessing’ or simply, ‘the blessing.’ As families come together this week to celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, the above scenario will likely repeat as folks stumble through an awkward and unprepared prayer, while the rest choke down a premature mouthful or pause mid chew.

Is it your habit to ‘say grace’ for your food?

It may not, and not just for Thanksgiving. According to a recent poll, only about 43% of Americans pray before a meal. Of those that pray, the researchers discovered they only pray 2-3 times per week. When they examined denominational backgrounds, 52% of Catholics, 60% of Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals prayed before taking a meal. Interestingly, 80% of African American families prayed, regardless of religious affiliation.

It was surprising to learn so many folks were actually praying in America. However, surprise gave way to disgust as the pollsters found that it wasn’t necessarily God being thanked. Eleven percent who claimed to be atheist, agnostic or irreligious said a prayer. An atheist man, cited in a news article about the poll, said that he and his wife give thanks to the spirits of his food. When they eat beef, they thank the four-legged spirits, and the winged ones whenever they eat chicken. When eating veggies, he thanks the veggie spirits. Sounds like a veggie tale to me.

What does the Bible say?

Many who are reading this article already have a good handle on this subject, and I hope that had we been asked, we would have skewed the polling higher. Prayer is as much a subject of scripture as God Himself. We all know that it says, “Pray without ceasing” in 1Thessalonians 5:17, but did you know that verse 18 says “in everything give thanks?”

Among the “everything”, food is a daily opportunity to “give thanks.” We ought to be thankful for our daily food, “which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth” [1Timothy 4:3b].

Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, lived an example of praying before eating. In John 6:11 He, “took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would.” Then, during His final meal with His disciples, “he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” [Luke 22:19]. On the very night that he would be betrayed, Jesus knowing all things, was thankful. How simple a thing it is, and so worthwhile, to pause and to pray.

 

 

Our most Holy and Righteous Father,

Thank you for this beautiful day

For we know Father, only you can make our day.

Thank You for this food,

Which You created

And for the nourishment within it.

May it provide us the strength

For continued service in Thy Kingdom.

Please forgive us our trespasses,

For they have been many,

And we have been weak.

Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever.

Amen.

School, Money and Nuclear war

ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR has arrived for our young ones. Parents are scrambling for last minute school supplies, a panic that will be repeated for another reason the day after Thanksgiving. Excitement (or anxiety) is building up in the little hearts as the 1st day of school approaches. Their minds wondering, will the teachers be nice, will their friends be in the same class, will the lessons be difficult, all in anticipation of the chiming bell that brings school into session.

Moms are asking themselves, “will my little baby have friends, play nice and excel in all that he does?” Dads have worries too, “will my kid have the courage to face the perils of the playground, will he stand up for the weak, or will he be one of them, or worse, will he be one of the bullies?”

Let us remember the teachers who are under pressure to teach to a test instead of helping our children to fully understand the 3 R’s in favor of political correctness. The struggles of maintaining order in the classroom as more children enter the school from broken and dysfunctional homes. Just one question…

Did you think to pray?

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. [1Peter 5:6-7]

In many homes, the worries about money loom large as the accounts dwindle under the mounting pressures of debt and doubt. Moms & dads hoping their jobs will still be there tomorrow, fearing what new program the government will roll out to “help.”

Did you think to pray?

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. [Matthew 6:20-21]

Then there’s the constant worry about food, water and health. Is our food GMO’d into poison, has our drinking water been contaminated, and when will cancer affect me? All of it seems so impossible to control, what are we to do?

Did you think to pray?

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? [Matthew 6:25]

Did I mention North Korea? The threat of war, the rattling of sabers, by a despot in a foreign country that many of us will never see. A dictator who appears to be channeling the likes of Hitler, Mussolini or Mao. The uncertainties of our own leaders who appear to be more concerned for the next election rather than the current conditions. What are we to do?

Did you think to pray?

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [1Timothy 2:1-2]

There are plenty of things to worry about in this world. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the chaos we call life. But there’s comfort in the scriptures. It tells of a man named Lot whose soul was ‘vexed (tormented) daily’ by the lawless deeds of those around him. [2Peter 2:7-8] The comforting part is in vs 9, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:”

Our world is beset with Sweat, Sorrow & Sin and our Souls are tormented every day to the point we don’t know what to do. Remember, “God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” but we’ve got to remember to pray!

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6]

Lastly, we don’t serve a God who doesn’t understand. Our Savior lived on this earth and faced the very same things we face, and He prayed.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” [Hebrews 4:15-16]

What do I do now?

The Franklin St church of Christ in Borger, Tx

IT IS WITH GREAT joy that we announce a new sister in Christ, Margie. Just as there is joy in the heart of the one who obeys the gospel, there is also much joy in heaven and we are also full of joy for her [Luke 15:7, 10].

After a person obeys the gospel, the most oft asked question is, “what do I do now?” However, this question is asked by both the new convert AND the members of the local congregation. The new convert, full of joy and gratitude, has a desire to serve and to do what is right. The older members want to help them, but where do you begin?

For the answer, let us turn to Acts 2, the place where the church of Christ began.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. That’s where we are with Margie, and all others who obeyed the gospel recently (a young man was also baptized into Christ on the same day.) Nobody joins the church; the Lord adds to the church [47].

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Here’s where we find our answer to the question, “what do I do next?”

Continue in the apostles’ doctrine. The Apostles’ doctrine is Christ’s doctrine. Jesus said to the Apostles, that in addition to making disciples, as one who has all authority, teach them “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Mat 28:19-20]. Paul said about his letters, “let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” [1Cor 14:37]

So, the first thing we need to do is to continue to learn through study of the Scriptures what Jesus expects from us. The most effective way to do this is for the new convert and the “old” members to get together and study the scriptures. We need to note that “continue” means to do them. It’s not enough to learn what Jesus wants, we must obey Him [John 14:15]. We can also learn when we gather to worship on the first day of the week.

And Fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The new Christians worshiped together. They had fellowship, which means that they were in partnership with one another. This partnership begins when we, “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” [1Cor 1:10]. The partnership also includes the collection of money for the work of the church. (As you continue to study, you’ll begin to understand the work God has given the church is to spread the Gospel, Teach the saints and practice limited benevolence). The Philippians gave money to spread the gospel, and were in fellowship in the gospel [Phil 1:3-7].

One of the parts of worship (there are 5 activities in sound worship) the disciples ‘broke bread’ which is to remember the death of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Supper” the first Christians met on the 1st day of the week, Sunday, where they would take unleavened bread and fruit of the vine to commemorate His death. The Apostle Paul wrote the early Christians how to properly observe this important part of our worship [1Cor 11:23-34].

They also prayed. Prayer is the privilege of the saints. Christians are called saint in the Scriptures [Rom 1:7; Eph 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1]. In obeying the gospel through baptism, we have “put on Christ” [Gal 3:27] and have been given access through Him to the “throne of grace” [Heb 4:16]. Prayer is an incredible part of becoming a child of God. We know that God does not listen to sinners [John 9:31] but He hears us!

God is not our “genie in a bottle,” to gift us with everything we want like a spoiled child. Rather, He wants to help us in our time of need. It says in Hebrews 4:16; “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Temptation doesn’t stop when we become Christians, neither do troubles & pains, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” [1Cor 10:13]. So, all Christians need to pray.

Finally, let us note one more thing from Acts 2…

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. As you begin your journey as a new Christian, and every Christian, let us never forget from whom we received the gift of grace. We received it from God through Christ Jesus [Eph 2:8-10]. May we never forget, may it never grow old and may we never grow tired of praising God for His indescribable gift.

Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift.

2 Corinthians 9:15

What if I don’t want to?

IMAGINE WHAT THE world would be like if we only did those things they wanted to do. What if we only ate the things we wanted to eat or got up only when we wanted to and only did things that felt good?

Actually, I’ve done that on the food side of things, eating only what I wanted, and the results are devestating. Weight gain, health and heart problems as well as the total lack of energy.

All success is predicated on the idea of doing those things we don’t want to do. Successes in business, in relationships and health are found when we do things that others don’t like to do. The fact is, we should do MORE things we don’t like to do. Better, we should find things we don’t like to do and learn to like doing them.

Paul said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” [1Cor. 9:27].

Rather than success, let’s use the word grow. Growing means more than just getting physically bigger, it also means getting better. We can grow in many areas, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Peter said, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.” [2Peter 3:18]

Growth requires effort, it requires us to train our bodies and our minds by doing those tasks that seem unpleasant at the time. This is the full idea behind the word ‘chastening’ in Hebrews 12:11. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The word we often use to describe training is exercise. Not only should we exercise our bodies, we should exercise our minds. This training of the mind and the body prepares us to respond in those times of need.

Doing laps may sound horrible (they do) and boring, but come gametime, you’ll be glad you did. Michael Jordan said, “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.” The same can be said about the hours spent in the study of God’s word. Come gametime (ie. Evangelism,  times of trouble etc.) you’ll be glad you spent the time. No one is ever faithful during difficult times or times of persecution that wasn’t first faithful during times of ease.

Success (growth) or failure in any endeavor is not an event. Successful marriages, financial well being, educational degrees and the like are only ever achieved by multiple tiny decisions to do unpleasant things over and over until.

Yes, I intentionally ended the sentence with ‘until’, because the next question is, “how long?” Until you’ve made it, until you have it, until you face the judgement.

“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:” [1Tim 6:14]

Can Mary Put in a good Word for you?

FOLKS ARE ENCOURAGED to pray to God through Mary as mediator. One false teacher said, “Praying to the saints is praying to God, in a fundamental way. We’re praying to those who can ask God to help us in our various needs in accordance with His will.” This false doctrine has many sidekicks, i.e., people pray to St. Anthony for lost items; to St. Jude (or perhaps St. Rita) for lost causes; to St. Gerard for motherhood; to St. Peregrine for Cancer victims; and to St. Dymphna for those with mental or nervous disorders, or epilepsy. For many years, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel was included at the end of Mass for his help in defeating Satan.

This is not new, some have tried to make more use of Mary than God ever intended. On one occasion as Jesus taught, a woman cried out to Him saying, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed.” Jesus quickly replied by saying: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” [Lk. 11:27-28]. Mary was not and is not deserving of worship in any way. She is not deity. She was a humble servant of God [Lk. 1:38], as we all ought to be. Only God is deserving of worship [Acts 10:25-26; Rev. 19:10, 22:9]! Neither is she our mediator. Only Christ serves in this role, and He is our only arbiter between us and God [Job 9:33; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 1Tim. 2:5-6; 1Jo 2:1].

While she served a very important role, she is unable to add to our prayers today. To elevate her or to glorify her in some divine way is error. We can approach God’s throne through prayer but only if we’re IN CHRIST [Heb 4:16]. Let’s learn from our True Mediator, he ended this false doctrine.

4 duties toward Government

YOU’RE EITHER HAPPY with the result or not. Now what? What if your candidate wasn’t picked? What are you, as a Christian, supposed to do? To figure that out we must do what we always do. We ask, “What does the Bible Say?”

4 things every Christians must do for Government

The Word of God teaches us how to function with the civil authorities, especially those with whom we disagree. Whether we like who won or not, there are 4 things the Scriptures teach us about our duty to them.

1) SUBMIT –  God expects His people to submit to the civil authorities. Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” [Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1Peter 2:13-16].

It’s more than just because God said so. He explains why we are to submit. The civil authorities are “God’s minister to you for good” [Romans 13:3-4]. When we resist, we bring judgement upon ourselves. We have no fear of government even if they, unjustly, cast us into prison for our faith [Acts 5:18; Revelation 2:10]. The civil agents, when acting as God intended, are not a terror to good works [1Timothy 2:1-2; Romans 13:3].

2) RESIST – There are limitations to the above rule. When the Apostles were commanded “not to teach in this name” Peter stood up and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” [Acts 5:29]. We are citizens of a Superior Kingdom and follow a Superior King, Christ Jesus. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” [1Peter 2:9]. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” [Colossians 1:13].

We can call out the authorities when they act unjustly. This is what Paul did when he was arrested & beaten in Phillipi. Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out” [Acts 16:22-24, 35-40]. We submit when they act justly & resist when they don’t. In either case, without sin; “Be angry, and do not sin” [Ephesians 4:26a]. Submission is not authorization for abuse [1Peter 2:16].

3) GIVE HONOR & PAY TAXES – Though few ever enjoy paying taxes, God has authorized government to collect them. Jesus taught this through His own example during His time here on earth. “They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” [Matthew 22:21; cr. Matthew 17:24]

God explained why, they bear the sword of justice, “For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” [Romans 13:6 -7]. Tax evasion is against both the law of the land and the Law of Christ, but tax avoidance is legal under both.

4) PRAY FOR THEM – “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” [1Timothy 2:1-4].

We should be thankful for living in a place that allows us to choose our government. We should be thankful for the peacemakers (police / military) who place themselves in harms way to maintain order. God has given us these authorities so that we can live in a free country and enjoy peace. This peace allows for us all to have a quite life and to worship God.

This peace serves another purpose. Paul continued, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The peace brought to us through the civil authorities allows free course to the gospel. This can and must be done when there is no peace, but I’m grateful that, for now, we can teach the Gospel without fear.

CONCLUSION: Regardless the winner, we remain citizens of a heavenly kingdom and God still reigns. In this we can take comfort and have joy. No government, president or king should ever stop us from glorifying God nor stop us from spreading the good news.

“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”  (KJV) [Daniel 4:17]

A Sower Went Out to Sow

A SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? Luke 8:5-9

This parable, as told by our Lord and Master, teaches us about the difficulties of spreading the Gospel. In His explanation [Luke 8:11-15] He shows us that we have good seed, which is the word of God, and that the only failure that occurs in spreading the gospel is on the part of the sower or the receiver, God’s word never fails [Isa 55:11].

There are only 2 reasons why someone rejects the Gospel, you or them. They are responsible for the rejection of the Gospel due to the lack of a good & honest heart [Luke 8:15], or because they do not have a love for the truth.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. [2Thess. 2:10]

We fail the master for the same reason, a lack of love for the Word of God. When we obeyed the Gospel, confessing that Jesus was the Christ, we committed ourselves to His service as lights of the world [Mat 5:14]. Therefore, when He said, “go” we said “ok” [Mat 28:18-20]. When we don’t, we become like the son who disobeyed his Father [Mt 21:30].

Here’s where the lack of love comes in, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” [Mat 22:37]. He also said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” [John 14:15]. Love is exemplified in our obedience toward Him. Which command of God shall we omit? Jesus went on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What better way to demonstrate our love toward a Borger neighbor than to share with them the soul saving Gospel message? There are several ways we can share the Gospel with those closest to us…

ONE, we can show it by acting like Christians every day. This was the case with a woman who had an unbelieving spouse; “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” [1Peter 3:1-2]. When we take an honest look at our behavior and attitudes, will we find that extra special difference from the world? Do we have an above average positive attitude, an above average speech, an above average hope, an above average kindness, an above average show of love, an above average level of service? Rather, and I’m no exception, our daily “conversation” would hardly win anyone.

TWO, we can share the Gospel through our love for each other. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:35]. We are like any family, we have disagreements from time to time, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving one another or treat each other poorly. Folks are watching us and judging us by the way we treat each other. If we’re having trouble with loving each other, then pray for them. It’s hard to keep hatred in your heart when you pray for them.

THIRD, we can talk about the Gospel with others directly. This requires an intentional mindset toward spreading the Gospel. With enough practice we can turn nearly any conversation toward spiritual things [Acts 8:35]. Of course, not everyone cares for these kinds of conversation, in those cases just remember Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Do you WANT others to hear the Gospel and obey it? If we want eternal life bad enough, then we can’t help but have the Gospel burst forth from us. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

FOURTH, we can help others in their evangelism efforts. Some folks are really good at starting Bible studies or inviting to services. Your part may be in being the hospitable host or hostess. Perhaps you can help a young mom with her fussy child, allowing her to concentrate on the study. Paul described this kind of evangelism in 1Corinthians 9:19-23. “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” As in the previous point, we have to WANT it bad enough.

FIFTH, we can refer interested parties to other members more experienced in leading a study. A new convert friend of mine is really good at generating contacts, but has yet acquired the skills to lead a study. One day he shall, but for now he is invaluable in making contacts. Cornelius, as well as Lydia & the Philippian Jailor, referred their entire families to those who could teach the Gospel. [Acts 10:33; 16:15, 32]. We can give our friends and family study material. We have tracts or books or we can pass out the Ready reference of Bible topics bookmark. You can even pass along the weekly bulletin.

LASTLY, we can evangelize through our own joy in the midst of all our sorrows and pains of life. This is the meaning of 1Peter 3:15; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” As Christians, if Heaven awaits us, we can endure even the most difficult of lives. That’s how Job got through the worst tragedy of life, the loss of a child. When people see our struggles, but at the same time see us remain hopeful, they’re going to ask why. Sorrows are key moments in a person’s life and if we can’t trust in the Lord, why would anyone want to know about Him.

3 step method for Overcoming Discouragement

THERE ARE MANY reasons why we become discouraged.

Life is Difficult. Job faced this more than any other person. Problem after problem after problem just kept coming upon him and he didn’t know why [Job 1-2]. Let’s face it, life is hard and it’s dangerous. We face the loss of jobs, or stuff through things outside of our control. Sometimes tragedy strikes us with the loss of a friend or family in death.

Life’s challenges appear too big. This seems to be the challenge for the Israelites as they came into the promised land, even the people were giants! [Num 13:26-33; 32:9] The Lord knew that the challenge of taking the land would look too big and warned them about becoming discouraged [Deut 1:21]. Do the obstacles you face, money, health & relationships, appear too big to handle?

Other folks get us down. Then there’s the trouble that comes upon us through other folks. Their bad behavior affects us. The sin of David in numbering the people did this [2Sam 24:15]. Often we’re troubled by the sin of another. Whether it is their apathy, carelessness or outright wickedness, we become discouraged.

Consider the many tragedies our brother Paul faced during his life as an Apostle of Jesus Christ;  …in labours … in stripes … in prisons … in deaths …five times …forty stripes … Thrice … beaten with rods, once … stoned, thrice … shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; … journeyings often, …perils of waters, … robbers… mine own countrymen, … heathen, … city…wilderness… sea,…false brethren; …weariness … painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. [2Co 11:23-28] It would make almost anyone want to give up, but friend, that is not the answer. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” [2Th 3:13]. What are we to do?

3 STEPS TO OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT

STEP 1TAKE COMFORT IN JESUS – REALIZE THE POWER OF CHRIST WHEN WE ARE WEAK… Paul is referring to this when he makes the statement in 2Cor 4:16 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” As we have seen, Paul suffered greatly for Christ [2 Co 4:8-9], but he saw it as an opportunity for God’s power through Christ to be shown [2Co 4:7,10-11]. Christ taught Paul this lesson as he struggled with his “thorn in the flesh” [2Co 12:7-10]. When we are weak, that is an opportunity to depend upon the Lord for strength! So infirmities and tribulations can be occasions to rejoice, not despair!

STEP 2LOOK AT THINGS NOT SEEN…FAITH Heb 11:1. Looking at things not seen refers to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2Cor 4:16-17]. This is what renewed Paul inwardly day by day. This attitude makes our AFFLICTION appear light! It’s this mindset that gives us comfort that if our earthly house is destroyed (our bodies) we have…” a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” [2Co 5:1-5]. If looking to things unseen can renew Paul, it can also do the same for us.

STEP 3TAKE ACTION – DO SOMETHING – FEAR BOREDOM We must keep on keeping on, or as Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Php 3:14]. We can all do something. It’s easy to say, “nobody’s there for me, so why should I be there for them?” Friend, this is not Christ’s way. Even though all had forsaken Him, Jesus didn’t stop serving us all the way to the cross! He left us an example in which to follow.

We can all do something; For OTHERS For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” [Mt 25:35-36]. When we’re serving the brethren, we’re in effect, serving Jesus. I’ve yet to find the passage which states, “Serve thy brethren AFTER they have served you.”

We can also do something for the spreading of the GOSPEL by inviting someone to read the scriptures with you, or inviting them to a worship service. Let me remind you that one of the methods of evangelism is through our HOPE & GODLINESS [1Peter 3:1, 15].

And finally, we can do something for the CHURCH by participating in the worship & in our Bible classes. Colossians 3:16 teaches how we help one another in our songs, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

As one of our songs says, “Let us labor for the Master from the dawn til setting sun, let us talk of all His wondrous love and care; Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”

The one oar Christian

THERE’S A STORY TOLD OF an old wise man of God who was continually criticized for his motto, “pray and work.” A young pupil, struggling with the mounting problems of life, asked the wise man, “If God is so powerful, why then do you teach us also to work?” The wise man of God invited this youth to go fishing. As they entered the boat, the youth noticed that the old man only used one oar and said, “If you don’t use both, we’ll just go around in circles and you won’t get anywhere.” “That’s right, my son,” the elder man replied. “One oar is called prayer and the other is called work. Unless you use both at the same time, you just go in circles and you don’t get anywhere.”

Over the years I’ve learned that prayer alone, or work alone, is just like trying to row a boat using only one oar. All you ever seem to do is just go around in circles.

There is no doubt that prayer ought to be a part of every Christians day. Jesus taught this on several occasion, exemplifying it in His own life [Mat 14:23; 26:36,39; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18,29].

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And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Luke 18:1

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Unfortunately, that is where many of us stop. We pray and pray and pray, wondering why nothing ever changes. What we forget is that God has also required us to act. Let us consider two Godly men Abraham, and Moses, men who are noted for how God spoke to them as a friend [Gen 18:17; Ex 33:11].

In reading Hebrews 11, we see that these two men had a great faith. Was their faith only seen in their prayer life? Are these men remembered for their inactive faith only? Do you recall reading about these men sitting in their easy chair, lifting up praise and prayers to God and softly drifting off to sleep comforted with the thought that God would take care of their troubles? No, never. What we DO READ is that these men of faith prayed and worked.

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By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb 11:8

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Heb 11:7

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When Abraham heard God, he acted upon those commands. In the case of offering up Isaac, it is said that he “rose early” that morning to fulfill the commands of God [Gen 22:3].

Moses also acted upon the commands of God.

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By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Heb 11:24-26

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Did either of these men think that they were accomplishing anything out of their own power? No, they had placed their trust in God, but this trust was manifested by a remarkable demonstration of action.

When we pray according to God’s will, we’re praying having sought to know His will through the study of His word [2Tim 2:15]. Then after we pray, we get up and apply that knowledge to our lives. We act, not because we think highly about ourselves, rather, because we are trusting God to bless our godly activities.

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But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22

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For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  (KJV) [Jam 1:23-25]

Did you think to pray?

Dallas prayers

 

Late Thursday evening, as bedtime approached for many, gunfire rang out in downtown Dallas. In an apparent response to violence against black lives, a shooter (or multiple shooters), took aim at Dallas Police officers, injuring 12. The trouble continued well into the morning and we awoke to the news that 5 officers had been killed.

This article makes no attempt to clarify the issues surrounding the racial tensions of our country, it’s only purpose is to ask; DID YOU THINK TO PRAY? In our songbooks we have a song of the same title. The scriptural reference for this song is Philippians 4:6.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

So, did you? Did you think to pray as peace has seemingly turned to chaos? For Christians, prayer is our first line of defense against chaos. Prayer should be continually offered by those calling themselves the children of God. It’s commanded; “Pray without ceasing.” [1Thessalonians 5:17]

Certainly we offered prayers for our family, friends and the innocent who may have been affected by the violence. Friends (sisters in Christ) of mine were mere blocks away from the Dallas shooting. Is that where our prayers ended? DID YOU THINK TO PRAY for the others? Did you pray for the police officers, the peaceful protesters, or the myriad of others caught in the crossfire? DID YOU THINK TO PRAY for the shooter? We are commanded to pray, but those prayers are to go beyond just the folks we like. Our Lord and Master taught;

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you[Matthew 5:44]

It may be difficult to pray for someone who has committed such heinous violence, just as it’s difficult to pray for those with whom we don’t agree, but the command is there. Can we ignore the commands we find uncomfortable? As a matter of fact, Christians ought to pray for ALL MANKIND…

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth[1Timothy 2:1-4]

It’s good that we pray for those we may call enemy, or those we dislike, along with those we love. It’s good because it’s nearly impossible to hold hatred in your heart for whose whom you’re praying. That is good, our God is so wise, for it’s hate that is the promoter of violence [Proverbs 10:12]. Hate can end in our prayers. It’s only then can we experience peace.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus[Philippians 4:7]

Remember to Pray.

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