I’m going to be quaint here, something you might think for the inside of a fortune cookie – Not Thanksgiving, Thanksliving. Thanksliving: A Life that Proceeds out of Thanks to God. You give thanks, you live thanks. You could thank God, but if you don’t live for God, He isn’t being given thanks. This is how thanks reads in scripture. In Romans 1, the unthankful is the unbeliever, who lives for himself. If you are thankful, you don’t live for yourself, you live for God, because you get it. God has given you everything you have. Every good thing comes from God (James 1:17) and every bad thing comes because of men. You can’t separate yourself from the bad things, because even if you are born with a nature to sin, you also chose to sin. If sin entered into the world through the first sin, you’ve committed a sin, offended the law in one point at least, as James 2:10 mentions. Even if there is bad all around, the good things outweigh the bad, or else you would be sunk. You wouldn’t survive. The pilgrims knew that, and after they survived the Winter, they gave thanks for what God had done. Abraham Lincoln, I believe, instituted Thanksgiving as an American Holiday, fitting for a country that made its way through a horrific conflict, the Civil War, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, and coming through intact. For us, it’s redemption and eternal life through Jesus.
Bethel Baptist Church ~ El Sobrante, CA
Last week I wrote about discouragement, and I said that one cure or solution to it is to think about the right thing. I didn’t mention in that short essay how that Paul said this was the cure for anxiety in Philippians 4, that is, to think on certain things. If someone is saved, and, therefore, has the Holy Spirit indwelling him, he has the cure for discouragement on the inside of him. If he is filled with or controlled by the Holy Spirit, then he has the positive disposition or attitude of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc. Discouragement or worry would not be on that list. Parallel to the control of the Holy Spirit, we know because of Colossians 3:16, is control by the Word of God, which comes from thinking and then living the Word of God. When you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, you are filled with the Spirit, then He, the Holy Spirit, will produce this disposition for you. This relates to a lot of passage of scripture that relate happiness to doing right. When you are doing right, you’ve got right things to see in your life right at the moment. It also means you are progressing, growing, and adding to your Christian life. That is how God intended you to live. You are being a success. If you have success to look at right now, you can be encouraged with that. That brings completion or fulfillment to your life. You are fulfilling God’s purpose for you, and you’re then happy.
What discourages you as a Christian? You can look at it in a few ways. One, you could say that you are discouraged because you fail to think about the truth, such as your position in and future with Jesus Christ. That remains true during whatever you face on earth. This really is a choice to be discouraged by a refusal to think about the truth. You have the truth to think about, but instead you think about a lie. It just seems bad to you. It’s not bad. It seems bad. Even if you are suffering, scripture says you don’t need to treat it as suffering if you are suffering for righteousness sake. 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye.” “Ye suffer” is a rare optative mode in the New Testament. There are only 68 in the entire New Testament. It treats the suffering like it isn’t really happening. Key here is treating it like it is nothing. The way you do this, I believe, is by projecting yourself forward to eternity by faith and then considering the suffering to be a reward. You’re suffering for the right reason, so like it and consider it not to be suffering. That’s the point Peter is making. He uses the optative, which treats the action as unlikely. It isn’t possible or probably, but unlikely. It’s as if the suffering doesn’t exist. It is not viewed as suffering, but as an opportunity for blessing. A first way to stop discouragement is changing your thinking.
When you look at what’s happening in our nation right now, you should consider that the United States has been a very, very special country and this era in history in this country as very unique in a very good way. I know that’s a lot of “very.” It is “very” though. Most of the history of the world, true believers have not been free. In much of world history, people period have not been free. America is judged in a different way than other nations have been, held by a different standard. It’s too bad really, because things have been very good here, and that doesn’t seem to be acknowledged any more. As we go into this presidential election and the nation looks like it does, we should be thankful for the freedom we’ve had. One of the reasons we can judge things to be bad is because there is actually a standard of bad and good that comes because of the Bible, and its influence on the country. We have been able to meet freely to worship God. That has been expected for so long. We can say that we are against certain sin, preach against it, and that has been acceptable. We have been able to preach the gospel, so that everyone can hear it and has the opportunity to believe. Christians have less freedoms than they have for a long time, and I suspect it will get worse and maybe fast, but let’s be thankful for what we have had and what we have in this country.
I heard someone call his church once, “A small church with a big ministry.” By almost anyone’s judgment of size of church, our church isn’t very big. A lot gets done by our church if you consider especially what people do at Bethel Christian Academy. I recognize that I want more as leader of our church. What I want is what you can do, not more than that. I want the best life for you, which includes the best from you for our church. I could spend time talking about what we do well. However, I want to draw your attention to two ways especially that we could improve, that I’m writing this because I want you to think about it, and not necessarily in this order. One, individuals in our church need friendship and encouragement. I’m not telling you to “be friends.” I’m telling you that you could be a friend to someone else. That doesn’t mean you hang out together all the time. It means that you keep up with someone and show concern. You could spend a little time with someone. I’m talking about spending time talking about the Word of God and how that person could and should grow as a Christian. If people are not what you think they should be, how is it that you think you could help them? Anyone in our church could judge someone to be in need of a better Christian life or personal, spiritual growth. What are you doing to contribute toward that?
This month will end the 29th year since the first service here in the Bay Area, meaning that the following October 18 will mark 30. I can say in those 29 years that God has never been unfaithful to me and that He has not failed in those 29 years to keep His promises to me. I can say that I have not kept all my promises to Him in those 29 years. Despite that, He has been very good to my family. I can say that, whatever bad there is, it is not because of God. If there is anything that is bad, it is because of us, including me. If it is good, it is because of God, not because of me. If I’ve been good, it’s not because of me, but because of God. If you’ve heard good preaching, it is because God’s Word is wonderful, so very good. If good things have happened in your life, they are because of God. God deserves all the glory. Because God is faithful and He has never failed any of His promises, I am confident for the future of our church. I believe worse days are ahead for our world and this country. I can find no biblical teachings or promises that I could give you that would result in a different assessment. Things could get worse at a slower pace based on what occurs in this election. However, I believe the brightest days are ahead for our church. The world will get darker and we will become brighter. I have that confidence because of God’s promises and His faithfulness.
Most of the ten commandments are “Thou shalt not.” Based on a particular view them, one that isn’t true, you could keep them by doing nothing. Think of something parallel to that. Your child says, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” You could ask, “Did you do anything right?” If my dad said, “Come here,” I was doing something wrong if I stood there. Doing nothing was bad. In a way, it was doing what I wanted to do instead of what they were telling me to do. I wasn’t submitting to their authority, which they did possess. The way my parents knew I was cooperating was by answering them when they asked me a question, verbalizing that I was hearing and understanding what they were telling me, and then moving into action on whatever they were telling me to do. Some might call this “positive feedback.” As a teacher, I don’t allow students to rise from their desks whenever they want. They must ask permission. If a student disobeys, I might order him to rise and put his name on the board. I was with another man a few years ago who was pulled over for a traffic violation. He pulled over in cooperation with the police offer. He sat in his seat until the officer ordered him to do something. He kept both hands on his steering wheel for the officer to see. He spoke respectfully. Not doing any of these could have turned that situation in the opposite direction.
When you look at the history of government, with the exception of a real theocracy, where God ruled Israel, it seems like you see five types: some form of one man rule, the rule of the so-called “elite,” the rule of the majority, no rule at all, or the rule of law. You can eliminate one man rule, because that is either one man ruling for the elite, an oligarchy, or it is some transition to no rule, total anarchy. You can eliminate no rule, because that is usually the reaction to some form of on man rule or rebellion against the rule of law. The rule of the majority is a mob rule that turns into no rule or the rule of the few. In the end, there are two enduring forms of government that are interchange with one another, the rule of the few elite, an oligarchy, or the rule of law, some form of representation under the rule of law, a republic. Our founding fathers designed a republic. The threat to our government is an oligarchy, which will manifest itself in various ways, one of which is corporatism, where a few rich people make sure their candidate is in power. The threat proceeds from the denial of absolute truth. In the absence of faith in natural law, the revelation of God’s will to man, history shows the fall of a nation that will start with some form of oligarchy. God is displaced by man. Men submit to this form because of its accession to their own lusts.
In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus posed a question related to a tower falling with many deaths, “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Fifteen years ago today, my wife woke me to say that terrorists flew a passenger plane into one of the World Trade Center buildings. 2,996 people died with 6,000 others injured by those attacks. On September 11, 1683, the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire defeated the Ottoman Turks in their siege of Vienna, halting the Moslem advance in Europe. 20,000 Turks died in the attack. Everyone is going to die. The more important question is, where will you spend eternity? Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Jesus used a tragic event to bring a crucial reminder concerning the punishment of sin. Everybody dies and everybody deserves to die. On this anniversary of 9/11 there are many things we should never forget. We should never forget the still real potential of a terrorist attack on American soil. However, even more we should never forget the eternal punishment we will face without genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Acts 17:30, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”
When you say “church” to most people, they don’t know what it means. You hear a lot out in the world. You hear “building,” a church building is a church to many, even though it isn’t a church. It’s often a denomination, like the Lutheran Church, which isn’t a church. Some call “church,” organized religion. Church isn’t organized religion. The people who say that don’t want anyone to be in charge of their lives: they often want all the good things that God gives without having to submit to Him, which occurs through the church. To many, church is a social structure that is meant to meet physical needs, like food, and then help people out of other physical problems, like drug addiction. “Church” is an assembly of immersed believers, having New Testament ordinances and officers, and gathers together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. “Church” is the body of Christ. Christ is the Head of the church. Each body part submits to the Head, and Christ rules believers through the church. Is Christ ruling you through this church or are you somewhat influenced in your own ideas about what church is? It isn’t a club that you join to bring a certain quality of life for you. You’ve been given everything already, and through the church, you can give to God. You could never repay Him, but you can serve Him, worship Him, in light of His goodness to you.