Grateful Ones Give

A week ago tonight, I returned from a great trip overseas with a couple brothers from our church and some other brothers in the area. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with friends to visit old friends in Turkey. Praise the Lord!

One of the things all seven of us men wanted to do while we were in Turkey, was get gifts for our wives. Why? Well, not only because we love our wives but because we are grateful for their sacrifice in letting us go.

Five of us have small children at home, so our wives graciously agreeing for us to leave the country for two weeks is no small thing. And, when you realize that and are filled with gratitude, you want to give. While we did not have a lot of extra time while in the country, it seems like every little bit of extra time we did have was spent trying to figure out how we could bless our wives.

Although I do not believe I did a very good job in the gifts department, I am definitely reminded of the truth that grateful people are giving people.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing my short Thanks & Giving sermon series, preaching from Exodus 35-36 on how “Gratitude Leads to Giving.”

Do you desire to give of your treasures, your time, and your talents for the glory of God? Do you long for the gospel to advance and, as a result, long to be a part of that advancement (via your treasures, your time, and your talents)? If you cannot answer those questions with an enthusiastic yes, I believe something critical is missing in your life. Only a changed heart and life – a new heart and a new life – will generate what is necessary to experience this kind of passion for God’s glory and God’s gospel.

Turn to God and to His Word today. Surrender your all to Him. Let us be grateful people who, as a result, are giving people.

If you recognize your need for growing gratitude to God but have not yet received the new life that is required for such ongoing gratitude, check out the Story.

Two Steps to Attitude Transformation

No one wants to be known as someone who has a bad attitude. Well, at least no one in his right mind wants to be known as someone with a bad attitude. And, part of having a good attitude is having a grateful attitude.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our Thanks & Giving sermon series and be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, talking about how “Gratitude Is Ongoing.”

1. GIVE PRAISE.

The Bible does not put conditions on God’s commands for us to be joyful and thankful. You will not read anything like, “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Again I say rejoice sometimes,” or, “Rejoice when you feel good and healthy, and rejoice when life is comfortable.”

Instead, you can read commands like, “Rejoice always!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

What does “always” mean? Well, it means always. In fact, we are to “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

That sounds impossible, does it not? Rejoice always? Give thanks in everything? How can we possibly do that? We cannot, not in our own strength and ability. We cannot possibly, by ourselves, rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Unfortunately, we tend to be too quick to complain, be discouraged, and be ungrateful. For that reason – because of our sinful nature – we need the next step, too.

2. GO IN PRAYER.

Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). By this simple and yet critical command, Paul is reminding us of our constant need for God. To “pray constantly” does not imply that we ought to have a 24/7 quiet time. What it does mean, though, is that we are never in a situation in which we do not need the Lord’s help, the Lord’s wisdom, the Lord’s grace, the Lord’s mercy, and the Lord’s favor. Thus, we need to always be looking to Him, depending on Him in prayer.

Prayer is not our last resort; prayer is our first priority. And, when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your heart, you realize that. As God transforms our hearts, he transforms our attitudes. He grows in us a desire for fellowship with Him and with His church, growing in us a recognition of our need for constant prayer and dependence.

Pray on your own. Pray with your family. Pray with your church. We need to go in prayer – all day, every day.

WHAT NEXT?

If you are headed into the Thanksgiving holiday without much desire to give thanks, turn to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word, and pray His Word back to Him – prayers like Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Psalm 5:11; 32:11; and 40:16.

Please realize, though, that none of the above is possible unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only His sacrifice on the cross can take away our sins and make a way for us to truly rejoice and rightfully go to the Lord in prayer. Only His resurrection from the dead secures our victory from sin and death, giving us the ultimate reason for praise. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, please click HERE for more information.

If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, give praise and go in prayer – always.

If you recognize your need for attitude transformation but have not yet received the new life that is required for such a transformation, check out the Story.

“What do you saaaaay?”

Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.

We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation, we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?

Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.

Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?

THANKS AND GIVING

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?

THANKS AND GOSPEL

If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.

While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).

Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?

I am grateful for THIS view from my office window, and Micah is grateful when he gets to kill flies (what he was on a mission to do when this picture was taken).

Transformed and Talkative

Since getting our yellow lab, Lottie, in August, our lives have changed. We are not surprised about that, as whose life would not change when getting a puppy? Puppies take time, money, patience, and energy. They are also a lot of fun, though, and our kids (usually) like to talk about their adorable puppy. Life is different now. And, talk or no talk, no one in our family would claim that our lives are the same today as they were in July.

All this to say, Lord willing, I am going to be talking about an even bigger transformation Sunday morning. A new life in the family, like a baby or a puppy, changes the family. Bigger still is the change that comes with a new spiritual life.

NEW LIFE LEADS TO CHANGE…

Like the undeniable change our family has experienced in adding a puppy to our lives, the change that comes with a new life belonging to Jesus Christ is undeniable. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Acts 16:11-15, the passage I plan to preach through Sunday morning, you can read about some of that change. The Apostle Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Christian faith, was changed in and through a personal relationship with Jesus and became a bold, courageous missionary for Jesus. And, that is where we find him in Acts 16.

Then, a changed Paul is used by God to bring about a change in an entire household – Lydia and her household. God is the One who does the changing, but He tends to use His followers to be agents of that change.

A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14-15).

Lydia and her household were changed by God, repenting of their sins and surrendering to Jesus. Then, Lydia demonstrated that change through biblical hospitality. New life leads to change.

CHANGE LEADS TO CONVERSATION…

When life is dramatically different, we tend to talk about it. One cannot experience life with a new puppy, for example, and tell no one. More importantly and more dramatically, one cannot experience a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not desire to talk about Him.

Paul and his companions, consequently, could not stop proclaiming the gospel. They had been changed by Jesus, and that change led to conversation. That conversation, then, led to more change. And so it goes – the cycle of change continues. God changes lives and uses those changed lives to change more lives.

ARE YOU CHANGED?

We are unable to change ourselves, at least in a way that lasts. Sure, we can fix some things temporarily and develop some decent habits through repetition, but we are incapable of producing change that changes our lives eternally. Only God can do that, and He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit who takes over the lives of all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus Christ for new life. That is a new life we, just like Paul, love to talk about!

If you want to experience the change that leads to conversation, would you consider watching The Story by clicking the picture below?

Video can also be viewed by clicking HERE.

Real Faith Feeds

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself (James 2:15-17).

This coming Sunday is Global Hunger Sunday, and Lord willing, I will be preaching from James 2:14-18 and challenging those in our church to consider, “What good is your faith?” This passage in James, as well as other teachings in the Bible, like Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46, make clear that real faith feeds the hungry. Saving faith cannot be separated from sacrificial action.

FAITH AND WORKS

Faith, of course, is where this work begins (and continues). We must believe the right things about Jesus, especially who He is and what He has done for us. We must believe that only He can save us from our sins, change our hearts, and give us eternal life. We must believe that only He can and does sustain us and enable us to live a life pleasing to God.

Believing all that, though, is useless if we do not also surrender our lives to Him. Believing the right things about God without a changed life makes us no better than demons (see James 2:19). Real faith – saving faith – leads to action, to works. If we turn away from our sins and follow Jesus, we will not only believe the right things; we will increasingly do the right things. And, that certainly includes loving others, who obviously include the hungry.

Is your faith feeding – feeding the physical needs and the spiritual needs of others?

WAYS FAITH CAN FEED

If you are a genuine faith-filled follower of Jesus Christ and are looking for ways your faith can be proven through the action of feeding the hungry, below are some ideas. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, as there are many things that can be done. Remember, too, that when you serve others, pray for wisdom from God about how you can serve them with the most important blessing – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything else is ultimately meaningless apart from knowing and following Jesus.

Here are some things you can do now to feed the hungry:

1. Serve in a local soup kitchen.

Our church, for example, serves at the Fulton Soup Kitchen (214 West 4th Street, Fulton, MO) on the first Thursday of every month from 4 – 7 p.m. Ministry in a local soup kitchen is a very simple way to serve those who are hurting.

2. Give food to a local food pantry.

Our church has a food pantry that is filled and run by volunteers. In more than six years of serving at our church, I have never seen us run out of food, and we do not turn away those in our church family and surrounding community. People in our church sure do step up in providing food for the food pantry!

3. Give financially to feed the hungry.

I hope to challenge our church family to do this and do so sacrificially this Sunday, and if you want to join us, you can do so simply and securely by clicking HERE and selecting “Global Hunger Relief” from the dropdown menu. One hundred percent of our gifts designated to “Global Hunger Relief” go to Baptist Global Response, and they in turn distribute 100% to those in need, with $0 going to overhead expenses. What a great way to be a good steward and put your faith to action!

4. Participate in the “Happy Plate Challenge.”

Lead your family and friends to know and care about world hunger. Start a discussion about #chronichunger at your next family meal! By the time your plate is empty, your heart will be FULL! Use the below picture to spread the word on social media.

Share a picture of your family’s #GHRhappyplate and tag @globalhungerrelief to let them know you’re praying and giving for MORE happy plates around the world! #MyRichland #Richland GHR #GHR #breadoflife #endworldhunger #chronichunger #worldhunger #southernbaptistconvent

Will you frolic?

Indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:1-2).

When I think about what it means to “playfully jump,” I cannot help but think about our yellow labrador puppy, Lottie. She is really good at frolicking.

Will you frolic (“playfully jump“) like those described in Malachi 4:2, or will you face eternal judgment in horror like those described in verse 1?

The answer to that question is determined by your standing before our almighty God. The reality is that we all deserve eternal judgment because of our sin. If you have a right relationship with God, though, then you can frolic now and more importantly for eternity because of the hope, peace, and joy only He gives.

To understand how to have a right relationship with God, would you consider watching a video and/or reading more HERE?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing our Greatness of God sermon series through Malachi, preaching through the last six verses and discussing “Our Great God of Promise.” Do you believe God’s promises? What is your response?

Please remember that every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Jesus. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 1:20).

The Visible Difference between the Righteous and the Wicked

There are several differences, of course, between those who know God and those who do not. God points out a very distinct difference, for example, in Malachi 3: “So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (verse 18).

SERVING AND NOT SERVING

Many claim to serve God but really just go through the motions, not really serving Him at all. What a dangerous trap that is, especially when people assume they will be counted as righteous, only to find out they are among the wicked.

When I was a teenager, for example, I considered myself to be a Christian. In fact, I considered myself to be a devout Christian. I was in church services every Sunday and Wednesday. I was actively involved with our church youth group. I read my Bible often. I prayed even more often. I talked and sang about Jesus.

I was serving God, right? No, I was not. I was not following Him and thus certainly could not be serving Him. Sure, some people may have thought I was. I even thought I was. But, everything I did was for myself. I was going through the motions in hopes of impressing girls, pleasing my parents, and getting what I wanted from God (not what God wanted from and for me).

Really, I was worshiping myself and my happiness. The lords of my heart were my pleasures and my dreams and my goals. All the while, I claimed to be a follower of Jesus and claimed to belong to Him. I did not, however, “fear God and have high regard for His name” (Malachi 3:16). Rather, I feared what others thought about me and had high regard for my own name.

Although I thought I was considered righteous by God because I was a “good person,” I was headed straight toward hell with no earthly idea.

WHO KNEW?

Living in mid-Missouri, I do not often see many of the people I knew as a teenager in north central Iowa. I cannot help but wonder, though, who knew I was living a lie? Who knew I was going through the motions? How many people did I actually fool?

Of course, I cannot accurately answer those questions, but I am confident that any genuine followers of Jesus who truly knew me then surely knew I was not who I claimed to be. I wonder why no one told me, though? Why did no one challenge me with the truth? Perhaps they tried, and I just would not listen.

One who definitely did know that I was counted among the wicked and not among the righteous, was God Himself. He knew, and, thankfully, He put people in my life during my college years to reveal His Truth to me. For the first time, as a sophomore in college, I heard and understood the gospel. I turned from my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me and take over my life.

Finally, I was made right with God in and through a personal relationship with His Son.

JESUS IS THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

The truth is that none of us is righteous. Not on our own anyway. None of us can do a single thing to make ourselves right with God. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is terrible news! And, the terrible news is for all of us.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That is the good news.

Jesus is the difference-maker. He is the One who made a way for us to be righteous – counted righteous today and made righteous for eternity. If you have yet to experience the joy of knowing and following Him, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today? Check this out for a helpful summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

There are very few things I believe differently today than what I believed as a selfishly wicked teenager on my way to hell. What I do and how I do what I do with my beliefs, though, are drastically different. Not because I “have arrived” or figured out the tricks. No, I am different because Jesus is the difference-maker. Jesus has changed me.

I am no longer content to go through the motions and call that “serving God.” If and when I do go through the motions, God’s Holy Spirit convicts me to repent and follow Him faithfully. Daily I need His help, His guidance, His provision, His leadership, His grace, and His compassion.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I hope to preach on our “Great God of Compassion” from Malachi 3:13-18. I pray that I can encourage and challenge you to believe in and be changed by the Greatness of God.