Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

I wish I could write a personal letter to the hundreds of people who call Ogletown their home church. If I did (in the spirit of the first part of Colossians 1), it might say something like this...
Dear OBC,
I want you to know that I thank God for you. Many of you I know by face, many of you I know by name, but it is a privilege to be a shepherd to you all. I am blessed, actually we all are, to be at a church where God is moving. When I hear of people coming to Christ, when I hear of parents teaching their children, when I see people loving their neighbor, when I sense the desire to be a part of God's plan for the nations, when I hear the congregational singing, when I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services, when I know people are crying out to God in prayer, when I talk with those who are sharing their faith, when I see people suffer in a God-glorifying way, when I talk with people who have laid down personal preference, when I see a humble, submissive heart, when I know people are giving generously and sacrificially, when I watch a teenager humble themselves before God and their parents, when I know of college students who are boldly stepping out in faith, when I see people sacrificing time, money, energy for the sake of Christ and his church, just know I am blown away to share this time with you as your pastor. I could say more, but I never could say "thank you" to God enough for Ogletown!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fighting self-centeredness and pride

I was reminded yesterday how easy it is for us to be consumed with ourselves. Pride is such a subtle thing, that we often don't notice it until we are affected by it.

But, there is a way to weaken the indwelling pride in our lives. Actually, I think there are many ways, but I will mention two here (it is very likely that I have heard these elsewhere, but I don't know who to give credit to - so these are unoriginal to me, but very helpful).
  1. Be filled with gratitude and express it. It is hard to be prideful when you realize that you are in the debt of many people. I find that expressing gratitude to others shows me (1) that God is at work in others' lives, and (2) He desires to work in my life to reflect Christ.

  2. Attempt to look at what you would be without Christ. Not a pretty picture. Self-centeredness is such a downward spiral that eventually pushes every one away, turns inward, and destroys. Thank God that He has rescued us from ourselves!
Both of these things quickly blaze a trail to the cross, where I am grateful and reflective, not desiring to boast in anything except Christ, my God!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I am thankful for people I don't know

Sometimes, you are influenced by people you don't know very well or have not met (or who are dead). I thought about how I am thankful for

  • Pastors whose messages I have listened to
  • Professors whose books I have read
  • Puritans whose prayers I have prayed
  • Theologians whose thoughts I have studied
  • Missionaries whose compassion has inspired me
  • Followers of Christ whose passion has stirred me
  • Martyrs whose dedication has humbled me

And the truth of it is they never knew of that impact on my life. Thank God for what we may not know or see in this life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I am thankful for vets

I was listening to sports radio on the way to work this morning, and one of the people being interviewed spoke of one of the most outstanding qualities of veterans and their families. That quality is selflessness. In reading about veterans from several American wars, I always come away impressed at their bravery, their ingenuity, and their leadership. But, I also am impressed greatly by their selflessness as well.

The sacrifice of many men and women (and their families) has given us so many freedoms. One of the greatest of these is the ability to worship as the people of God without fear of harassment or punishment. Thank God on this Veteran's Day for those who make such sacrifices.

My prayers are with several friends who are overseas serving our country, as well as many Americans that I don't know!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tasks waiting to be done

In preparing for today's message I came across this thought from John Stott. How challenging!
We still regard security as our birthright and 'safety first' as a prudent motto. Where is the spirit of adventure? Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease? Thousands of pioneer Christian tasks are waiting to be done, which challenge our complacency, and which call for risk. Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 288.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am thankful for my wife

Without question, the best thing that happened to me (this side of Jesus and eternal life) was marrying Shawna.

I am thankful for her parents. I am privileged to have godly in-laws. But I am also grateful for so many things about her...
unpretentious love for Jesus, sensitive conscience, ability to nurture our children, patience with my job/calling/ministry, humble spirit, creative and artistic ability, desire for obedience, flexibility, patience with me in general, a great home-keeper, a super teacher, sacrificial

also, she is not (or at least hardly ever)
a person who runs late, high maintenance, moody, domineering, prideful, boring

No one is perfect, so they say, but I think Shawna is as close as you can come. She embodies the fruit of the Spirit, and I am overwhelmed that God brought us together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am thankful for a new heritage

I don't come from a long line of Christians. My parents both came to faith in Jesus as adults. So, my heritage is not of an earnest praying grandmother or a godly grandpa.

Instead, my heritage is that of parents who were walking in darkness, until God's light shone on them and they repented and believed in Jesus. I was 4 months old at the time. But, I am grateful for what God has done in our family. Although most of my grandparents, and other relatives etc. lived their lives as unbelievers, I now have
  • a dad who has walked with God, taught Sunday School classes, led Bible studies, witnessed for Christ, given to the church faithfully and generously, ministered to handicapped adults
  • a mom who prays earnestly, who knows the Bible well, who has taught thousands (literally) of children the Bible, who has played the piano for people in nursing homes and homeless shelters, who has led dozens of people to Christ (even one in the last few months)
  • a brother-in-law and sister who serve faithfully at a church
  • a brother-in-law and sister who work at a camp that had a huge impact on Shawna and me
  • nieces and nephews who have come to faith in Christ and been baptized
That is only the tip of the iceberg. Thank God for a heritage like that. I am face-in-the-dirt humbled by a God who would be so good!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I am thankful for...

I thought it might be worthwhile to take some time over the days of this month to post what I am grateful for. The list could undoubtedly work its way into 2012, but I will have to be content with a few.

I am grateful to God for the "good news" that He made me to see and understand, and then believe and be changed by. I have heard of Jesus nearly my entire life, but it does seem that I have grown in my appreciation for what Jesus Christ did on the cross for me and my sin. It seems like lately God has regularly brought me to the place of "surveying the wondrous cross."

I could be without hope. I could have a miserable life. I could be spiritually dead in sin. I could be without God in this world. I could be enslaved. I could be an unbeliever. I could be blind to what Christ has done. I could care less.

But, I am grateful for God's work of grace in my life.