Category Archives: Christian Living

Give Thanks Even for Bad Years.

As 2020 closes we look bad on what was for many the worst year of their lives. Covid, lockdowns, death in the family, mask mandates, and lost employment have taken their toll. How is a Christian to respond to such trials?

There could be several answers but I want to focus on the words of the Apostle Paul.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Paul says we are to give thanks for everything. Not somethings, not even just good things. We are to give thanks for Covid, the death of loved ones, lost jobs, and even government overreach. It doesn’t mean we don’t speak out against injustice but we give thanks for even the trials because those work for our benefit.

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1 :2-3)

This year let’s practice 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The world will take notice and Christ will be exalted.

Free But Servant To All

Pastor Thomason recently preached from Romans 14 about Christian liberty. The Bible makes it clear that we are not under the law.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)

We have liberty having been freed from the curse of the law by Christ who was our perfect law-keeper and who met the demands of the law on our behalf. The text in Romans 14 deals with judging others for using their freedom differently then we use ours.

While we are free the Bible also teaches that we are servant to all. We are to serve one another and live our lives for the benefit of the brethren.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

In Acts 15 a council was called in Jerusalem to consider what was required from the Gentile believers. The answer was given by James.

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20)

The argument was that since they were justified by faith why put them under the law which was a burden that even the Jews couldn’t keep. James said the Gentiles had to abstain from a few things but why?

The answer is unity. There were tensions in the Jewish/Gentile church and many Jews were trying to bring them under the law. James didn’t take away the liberty of the Gentiles but instead affirmed it then advised they abstain from certain things offensive to the Jews.

Often times we boast in our liberty yet we forget that things we enjoy in liberty others cannot and we may weaken the faith of our brother.

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:15-21)

We have tremendous liberty in Christ but with that liberty comes great responsibility to act in a manner that conveys love for our brother. The faith of others is more important than the liberty we possess. All things must be done in love looking to the things of others before our own things.

Resolutions

New Years time is the time for resolutions. We all now how it goes don’t we? We resolve to lose weight, stop swearing, read our Bibles more or whatever it is and by the end of January it’s all over, if it even lasts that long.

I want to encourage us today to make some valuable resolutions for the coming year. I don’t want to challenge you as much as to invite you to join me in making these resolutions because these are my resolutions.

These are areas that I need to work on and I’m willing to bet that you do too. If we will practice these I believe we will find that at the end of the year we will look back at a year of more victory in our Christian lives. These 5 resolutions are important keys to successful Christian living.

In 1896 a book was written called In His Steps. It’s a terrific book that I wholeheartedly recommend and while it makes good fiction it struggles in real world application.

The book is about a pastor who challenges his church to not do anything for an entire year without first asking themselves what would Jesus do if He were in this situation. This led to a cultural slogan in the 90’s which was WWJD or What would Jesus do?

It made it’s way into bracelets, bumper stickers, shirts, hats and all manner of Christian merchandise. The failure was not with the slogan but with our amazing ability to justify ourselves in any situation. The problem is that we felt that we were good Christians so if we did it or said it then of course Jesus would as well.

We rationalized that anything we did is what Jesus would do no matter how un-christian that thing would be. All of our anger was righteous anger, punch the wall? Jesus toppled tables. Hit someone? Jesus used whips. Surround ourselves with unsaved friends? Jesus ate with sinners. Cuss people out? Jesus used strong language against His enemies.

Jesus became our homie, our cool hip friend who was okay with anything we did. The slogan failed because we rationalized everything we did as something Jesus would do. These resolutions are similar to the WWJD challenge but they are taken directly from Scripture and leave little wiggle room to rationalize.

I want to give us 5 verses and challenge us not to do or say anything this year without first asking can I do or say this in light of these specific verses?

1. Do and say to others as you want them to do and say to you. (Matthew 7:12)

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

The golden rule. This is probably one of the most famous verses in the Bible. Even among the unbelieving world. It’s very basic truth and should be a regular guide for all Christian behavior. Treat others the way we want to be treated.

We far too often treat people the way they actually treat us but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. He isn’t even saying to treat others the way we know they would treat us. Those ways of dealing with people are common in the world.

We are to go against that and treat others like we would want to be treated if we were in their place. I fail miserably at this. There is a reason it’s a resolution for me.

This changes how we interact with each other and with unbelievers. In fact this will change entirely how we act online where it’s easy to get behind a keyboard and lie about ourselves or slander others. Before we say or do anything we have to ask if we would want this said or done to us.

Before we get angry with the bad service at the restaurant and complain to the manager we need to ask would I want someone to complain about me? What if it’s their first day? What if their child recently died? There is so much we don’t know. We need to react with the same grace we would want.

I want to challenge you this coming year to not do anything to anyone without first asking yourself: would I want someone to do this to me? Don’t say anything to anyone or about anyone without first asking yourself: would I want someone to say this to or about me?

2. Don’t Worry about Anything, Pray about Everything. (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.”

I want to focus on the phrase “be careful for nothing.” In modern language that means don’t worry about anything. What Paul is telling us is don’t worry about anything pray about everything. That’s the resolution.

One of my besetting sins is worry. My mom always tried to normalize worry by saying it was her job to worry. The truth is that worry is a sin. It’s an accepted sin in most circles so we don’t stigmatize it like others but it’s a sin far too common among Christians.

“…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23b)

Worry is the enemy of faith. Faith is trust, settled, confidant trust in God. Worry is to take upon ourselves concern for the future. Worry is not settled and it’s not confident.

Remember the account in Luke 8 of the apostles and the Lord in the boat during the storm? The were terrified thinking they were going to die and Jesus was asleep in the boat. He was completely confident.

You say, “Well He was the Son of God” True but can we trust our Father any less that Jesus. In fact in our salvation the Father treats us as He treats Jesus. Should our confidence be less than His? Jesus woke up and stilled the storm and then asked a stunning question in Luke 8:25, “Where is your faith?” He expected them to have the same trust He did.

What if He asked us that very question tonight? When we worry we worry over things we have no control over, but God does. Are we worried that He will do something bad for us? Are we worried He has forgotten us? If the answer is no then why worry?

When we worry we concern ourselves with a future we don’t know, but God does. Are we afraid something has escaped His notice? If not then why worry?

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom

Worry denies the sovereignty of God. If we really believe that God is sovereign which means over all things and in complete control of all things and if we believe that this sovereign God is good and is working out a plan in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son then why would we worry?

Paul commands us not to worry about anything but he doesn’t stop there. He is not saying be passive because he gives us something else to engage in besides worry. He says to pray about everything. Take the problems or concerns to the one who said in Matthew 28 that all authority in heaven and earth is given to Him.

“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35)

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

When we worry we fundamentally deny the God described in these verses. Resolve with me this year to not worry about anything but pray about everything and when we pray don’t check it off like a list.

Don’t say I prayed so now I can worry. Partial obedience is disobedience. Leave the worry there. If you struggle with it pray the prayer of the centurion in Mark 9:24 “I believe help my unbelief.”

3. Have a mind of humility. (Philippians 2:5)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”

This point comes in the middle of what Paul is saying. Look at verses 3-4:

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

Paul is telling them to not do anything through selfish ambition or conceit but rather in humility to consider others as better than themselves. He follows that up by telling them how its done, by looking to the interests of others over their own interests.

Then we come to verse 5 where he tells them to have this same mind that was in Christ Jesus. We hear preaching on humility all the time and it seldom makes a difference because we all believe we are humble.

Some of the proudest people I know believe in their heart of hearts that they are the most humble person on earth. The command to be humble isn’t enough because we are often self deceived.

So Paul holds up Christ as the ultimate example. If we compare ourselves to others we can justify our false humility but not compared to Jesus. So what was the mind of Christ that should be in us? Look at verse 6:

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Christ was the only person deserving glory and honor and He lowered Himself and became a servant to those who should have been His servant. None of us are deserving of the place of honor that Christ is.

If Christ deserved honor and made Himself a servant then we should never lift ourselves over others. Even if we believe that we deserve something we don’t deserve what Christ did. This year we need to make ourselves servants not masters.

If your the boss then serve those under you don’t make them serve you. Don’t consider anything beneath you and if your not treated with the respect you think you deserve treat them with the respect you think you deserve.

This year look to the interests of others before our own, consider everyone we meet as better than ourselves, treat everyone with the honor and respect we think we deserve.

4. In Everything Give Thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

This is a hard one. It can be easy to be joyful in bad circumstances or even content in bad circumstances but this verse actually commands us to give thanks for everything, good or bad.

I have heard men stand up and testify that they are thankful for being in prison knowing they wouldn’t have sought the Lord without it. Thanks flows from realizing that good came out of the bad situation.

So how do we give thanks for everything? The key is Romans 8:28. In that verse we are told that all things work together for good to those who love God. All things all the time work for our good.

This is why we need to give thanks for everything because God is using everything good or bad to conform us to the image of Christ. This year let’s give thanks for everything that comes our way.

From the bonus check to the car accident. From the birth in the family to the death in the family. This command will change how we react to everything if we obey it.

5. Do Everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Colossians 3:17)

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

This will change our lives if we apply it consistently. If we only did things that bring glory to God or said things that bring glory to God. You can’t commit adultery in the name of Jesus, or do drugs in the name of Jesus, or get drunk or watch pornography in the name of Jesus.

You also can’t gossip in the name of Jesus. You can’t backbite or speak against others in the name of Jesus. You can’t be rude to your spouse in the name of Jesus.

A lot would change in our lives if we ran everything we said or did by this one filter: does it bring glory to God? Can I do it in the name of the Lord Jesus?

Conclusion:

These 5 verses are resolutions for the coming year. I want to encourage you to adopt these and post them up somewhere.

How much would change in our families and our church as a whole if we didn’t do anything or say anything this coming year without first asking ourselves: is it in line with these verses?

Do and say to others as you want them to do and say to you.

Don’t worry about anything instead pray about it.

Become a servant. Consider everyone as better than yourself, look to the interests of others before your own and treat everyone with the respect you fell you should be treated.

Give thanks for everything…everything. This will eliminate a lot of complaining.

Whatever you do in word or action do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. If you can’t say I am doing such and such to the glory of God or in the name of Jesus then don’t do it.

In Everything Give Thanks

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I think this short verse holds one of the most difficult commands in the entire Bible. I know it does for me. Corrie Ten Boom struggle with obedience to this verse as well. Listen to her story.

“We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.
..Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’
“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ’He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’
“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’”
It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”
“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“‘Such as?’ I said.
“‘Such as being assigned here together.’
“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’

She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.
“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–’ 

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.
“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call.
There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’
“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!’”
“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

The reason we can obey this particular command is in the light of Romans 8:28.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

If all things work together for our good then we can confidently give thanks for everything because no matter how bad anything seems all things work for our good and therefore deserve thanks.

 

Broken Chains

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

One of the greatest truths in salvation is that God didn’t just forgive our sin but He actually freed us from the power of sin. Jesus said in John 8:34 that whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. Picture sin as a giant rock that we are chained to.

We can’t get away from it, we are connected to it and powerless against it’s influence. Jesus didn’t just declare us sinless before God but He actually broke the chain that bound us to our sins. The strength of sin was in the law (1 Corinthians 15:56) and Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands of the law for us (Romans 8:3-4).

We were given the nature of our father Adam from birth. When we are born again we take on the nature of the second Adam. Just as we inherited Adams guilt and sinful nature, in salvation we inherit Christ’s sinlessness and righteous nature. This means the power no longer belongs to the old man but to the new man.

If sin has power in our lives it’s because we have given the power to the old nature. Scripture commands us not to do this.

“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:11-16)

Each day we need to remind ourselves of the Gospel. Remind ourselves that we are no longer chained to sin. We are no longer under it’s control. We need a daily surrendering of ourselves to the new man who is renewed in righteousness.