Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1) Give Thanks

Christians have much to be thankful for! We ought to be the most gracious people on earth because of the joy and forgiveness we have experienced in Jesus Christ! How much has thankfulness found its ways into your prayers? When was the last time you spent just thanking God for all of the wonderful blessings he has poured into your life?

2) Govern your Circumstances with Thankfulness

As Christians we will face hardship. We cannot control what will happen to us, but we can control how we react to hardship. Like Chuck Swindoll has said, ""Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." Are you thankful in all circumstances?

The following was read in HOME LIFE: "Some years ago in Nashville, Tennessee, my wife wanted to buy some additional items for our Thanksgiving dinner. The cart was almost full and we were about ready to go when my wife was addressed by a man wanting to know how big a turkey he ought to buy. Then he wanted to know how to cook it. My wife told him patiently as much as she could standing in the market. 'But could you tell me what I ought to cook it with?' At that point my wife more fully understood the man's need for assistance and went up and down the aisles selecting the things he needed for a good dinner. She told him how each should be cooked. As we turned to go the man with a great deal of emotion sought to express his gratitude for my wife's courtesy. I think I shall never forget that man's final remarks: 'We have just come from the cemetery where I buried my wife. The children have just lost their mother, but I don't want them to lose their Thanksgiving dinner—we still have much for which we are thankful.'"

3) Glorify God with a Thankful Life

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (see above) says that thankfulness is the will of God. As we fulfill the will of God we bring glory to him and experience greater joy. It is therefore true that a thankful heart is a happy heart!

May we bring glory to God this week with our thanksgiving!

- Bro. Dave

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What is Forgiveness?

Today I would like us to look deeper at the question: what is forgiveness? What does it look like? We have heard from Jesus that it is essential. It is not icing on the cake of Christianity. If we don't experience it and offer it to others, we will perish in our sin. So it is tremendously important to know what this is that is so essential to our eternal life.

Let me begin with a definition of forgiveness that we owe to each other. It comes from Thomas Watson about 300 years ago. He is commenting on the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we for give our debtors," and asks,

Question: When do we forgive others?

Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)

I think this is a very biblical definition of forgiveness. Each of its parts comes from a passage of Scripture.

Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."

Don't seek to do them mischief:

1 Thessalonians 5:15, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil.

Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, "Bless those who curse you."

Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles."

Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."

Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."

Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him."

Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means:

resisting revenge,

not returning evil for evil,

wishing them well,

grieving at their calamities,

praying for their welfare,

seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,

and coming to their aid in distress.

All these point to a forgiving heart. And the heart is all important Jesus said in Matthew 18:35—"unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

May God bless us in our efforts to reconcile with those who have wronged us.

- Bro. Dave

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dealing With Anger in the Church

Grab your Bible and open it to Ephesians 4:25-32. This is the passage we looked at this past Sunday, and there are some more applications from this text that I would like to talk about today. This past Sunday we began a series on forgiveness. Sadly, it has been my experience in every church where I have served to see bitterness and anger between Christians within the church. There have been times when I have personally wrestled with feelings of anger and bitterness towards Christians who had hurt my family or me. We all eventually encounter these feelings, and God's word warns us against their consequences in this passage.

In dealing with my anger within the church, I must…

1) Give no opportunity to the Devil (27) "and give no opportunity to the devil"

Anger against another Christian gives the Devil an opportunity to attack a church. If we let our anger continue without dealing correctly with the situation, Satan enters the scene and has a great opportunity to do irreparable damage.

2) Guard my speech (29) "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths"

Anger also leads us to share gossip and slanderous speech about the person with whom we are upset. We must fight, with God's help, to make sure that the words that come out of our mouths are filled with the same grace that God has shown us in Christ.

3) Grieve not the Holy Spirit (30) "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God"

Nothing can quench the work of the Holy Spirit within a church faster than anger. Anger leads to corrupting talk (29), wrath (31), bitterness (31), clamor (quarreling) (31), slander (negative gossip) (31), and malice (a desire to see the offender physically harmed) (31). When anger is present in the body of Christ, it affects the pulpit, offering, worship, and outreach of a church. This grieves the Holy Spirit.

What is clear from these verses is that when two people within the church are angry at one another, it does not just affect them. It affects the whole church. And the church cannot effectively share the forgiveness of God with the world when we are unable to forgive each other.

What is the only solution to the anger between Christians? Forgiveness. Verse 32 says it best: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

If you have been harboring anger towards another member of our church, as the pastor I encourage you to work through those feelings in light of the forgiveness you have received in Jesus. Study these verses good and hard, and pray about how God would have you resolve those feelings of bitterness in your heart.

May God protect us all from grieving the Holy Spirit in this area, and may he continue to bless us with the joy of unity!

- Bro. Dave