True Thankfulness - Even for Fleas

One great joy of Thanksgiving is leftovers.  For some reason, turkey and dressing tastes almost better on Thursday night or maybe even Friday or Saturday, doesn't it?  I came across a website that adds up all the goodness of leftovers and then gives us a calorie count (how bad is that?).  And then, on top of that, it tells how far you need to walk to shed those calories!  A turkey sandwich, some dressing and mashed potatoes, a little cranberry sauce, and a piece of pie with ice cream – 13 miles!  Add some gravy and you have to walk 15 miles to shake off that one meal of leftovers!!  Can you imagine?  If we were serious about getting rid of those calories, our sidewalks would be more clogged than our arteries!

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Goodness and Mercy

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  [Psalm 23:6]
It seems like many people are under lots of stress, tension, and discouragement.  We all seem to know someone close to us going through major health issues.  The job market and economy are in the pits.  Relationships for some folks don't seem to last.  Politicians can't agree on the time of day (and if they did we wouldn't trust them to tell us).  The culture is going south in a hand basket.  Are you experiencing any of this personally? Are you right now in a season of defeat or discouragement?  Does it even seem like God is real, yet not present with you in your trials...someplace far off and distant from your own reality?

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In His Time

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."  [Deuteronomy 29:29]

The first century believers lived under Roman rule.  You might remember Pax Romana from world history class in high school – a time of forced peace.  Everything was calm unless you raised a stink against the Empire.  Not a time for much personal freedom, especially for the upstart Christians, but it was a time of relative peace throughout the land.  Add to that the common language of Greek and the best system of roadway travel, and you realize the stage was set for the Christians to move from community to community.  That allowed them to carry out Christ's command of spreading the gospel into the world.  A cultural coincidence or God's perfect timing?  If you weren't taking advantage of the open doors, though, you may have been unaware of much other than difficult days under Roman rule.

How do you see God's timing in your life?  The verse above tells us there are some things that are only for God to know.  In that category, among other things, is the number of days we have here.  Who knows the span of our days?  Only our Lord.

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Evangelism, Revival, and the Holy Spirit

Earlier this week I was reading over notes I had accumulated while attending the Moody Pastors' Conference in Chicago a couple of months ago.  I was struck in a particular way by one speaker's comments in light of the current four-part sermon series I'm working on – "Belonging in the Body of Christ."  Byron Paulus', executive director of Life Action Ministries, topic was connecting revival (which we say we want) to evangelism (which we say is difficult).  Jesus' final earthly command contained in it the promise of power to carry it out...But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Here is what I noticed: The work didn't actually start in Jerusalem.  Jesus said the work would begin in the disciples – you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  Understand the empowerment is a gift given to every believer in Jesus – the supernatural desire and ability to share God's kingdom and His love.  We already have the power!  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness."  (2 Peter 2:3)

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True Faith Demands Living on the Edge

While in Chicago last month at the Moody Bible Institute, I heard one of the preachers there say something that has mulled over in my mind these past few weeks.  I wasn't quick enough to write it down, but loosely paraphrased: "God likes us living on the edge in believing Him."  I've come to the conclusion that he was right.  God does not see our faith as something designed for the mainstream.  Faith isn't based on the popular vote.  Real faith in God certainly doesn't win much approval in the culture.  Even internally, true faith will challenge your wits.  Our faith in God is what gets us up in the morning and off the fence in our decision making during the day.  So, understandably then, our faith should kick us in the rear from time to time and push us out into the world.  If nothing's at risk, then we're not talking about faith being required.

How scary can living on the edge in belief of God be?  How about life or death?  Paul put it this way, "We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one, we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.  And who is equal to such a task?"  [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]

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Requirements for Servanthood

"So the twelve called a meeting of all the believers.  They said, 'We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.  And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will give them this responsibility.'"  [Acts 6:2-3]

If people asked around about you, they would begin to see a pattern developing.  Whether good or bad, you have a reputation. The question is then, is yours good or bad?  If you want to be used by God, a good reputation will serve you better than a bad one, right?  We see from Acts 6:3 that one reason Stephen was chosen for God's service was his good reputation.  He had personal integrity.  The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy about qualifications for leadership in the church, said, "People outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil's trap"  [1 Tim. 3:7].  To have a good reputation means that people speak well of you – even non-believers.

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Spiritual Maturity

"When we were children, we thought and reasoned as children do.  But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways."  [1 Corinthians 13:11]

Have you ever noticed that kids typically want to be "grown up," even when they haven't yet earned the title?  They can't wait until they are older, but don't always want to accept the maturity that's supposed to go with age.  As I was writing notes on 1 Corinthians 13 for a Wednesday Night Bible Study, I was struck by the significance of Paul's words to the church folk in Corinth.  They had been misbehaving, placing a lot of energy in their new-found spiritual gifts (knowledge, tongues, prophecy, miracles, generosity), but they apparently weren't doing a very good job of simply loving each other.  There was division in the church based on the very spiritual gifts God had given them – abusing the gift of tongues, envious of each others gifts, selfishness, impatience – the kind of behavior that disgraces the One who gave the gifts.  Spiritual gifts, no matter how exciting and wonderful, no matter how much fun they are...are useless and even destructive if they are not shared in love.  Paul tells the church that they are just being noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, that they are of no use to the kingdom, if they choose to simply run around flashing their gifts without having any love for each other in their hearts.  If the gifts of God are worth a fortune, the grace of God is immeasurable.  And God's grace is best seen in the love He shares with us and the love we share with one another.

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