Thanksgiving in 2020

As I consider the goodness of God in the midst of 2020, I am amazed. Yes, this year has been difficult, and, no, I do not have my head buried in the sand. I mean it when I say, “God has been good!” He has shown Himself more than able to overcome fear and bring peace. He has proven (again) that He is faithful even when disappointments mount. He has shown Himself to have all power against that which threatens. Allow me to give some specific praise to the Lord.

First, I want to thank the Lord for His salvation. The confident assurance of the forgiveness of all sin and eternal life is a blessing that is beyond compare. God provided this to me when I was twelve years old as I recognized my sinfulness, Christ’s righteousness, and accepted what He did for me at Calvary. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Second, God’s protection has been real both spiritually and physically. I think of all that has happened in 2020. The Lord allowed my wife and me to travel to India and return right before all the lockdowns. He protected us on that trip as well as opened our eyes to the vast need of the Gospel in India. Throughout the year, whether in trips or day to day life, He has granted protection. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Beyond the physical, there was spiritual protection. I cannot remember a season of life that had more intense spiritual warfare than this year. Yet, God has again proven Himself to be infinitely more powerful than the god of this world—who is a defeated foe. 1 John 4:4 reminds us, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” 

Third, I have said that whatever brings us closer to God is ultimately a good thing. Well, the challenge of 2020 has been a good thing in this way. God has taught me (is teaching me) the importance of prayer. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God. I am learning just how true our Savior’s words were when He said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” 

Fourth, God saw fit to challenge me in my faith in a very meaningful and specific way this year. I was at a point where I thought I was going forward in faith, but my thinking and even my words were not faith-filled. I was living in respect of what I could see physically. God used a businessman to rebuke and encourage me in the matter of the fear of the Lord—living in respect of God, His holiness, and His ability. God cannot be put inside a box. He is not confined to work within the guidelines of what I have experienced, what I see, or how I think. Honestly, this is still a learning journey that I am on, but God has specifically worked in my life and I am thankful! I preached a message that flowed out of what God was doing in my heart entitled Those that Fear the Lord.

Fifth, I had been praying for a second vehicle. My family and I were getting by with one vehicle for several years, and it was getting to be very difficult. In September, the Lord answered that prayer specifically and provided a vehicle. This is a tangible thing, but I am thankful for a second vehicle!

Sixth, this year God has helped my son, Jason, with his speech impediment. God used our doctor, speech therapy, and the tireless efforts of my wife to help Jason begin to speak more clearly. It has been a huge blessing to watch him gain confidence as people can understand him as he talks.

Seventh, family is very precious. There have been times this year in the midst of all the chaos that the dinner table has been a place of refreshment. You might wonder how dinner with five littles can be refreshing. There is nothing like the carefree conversation and laughing of children. I thank the Lord for the blessing of family. I thank Him for granting my wife and me young hearts to raise for His glory. 

Eighth, I praise the Lord for my wife. This year has drawn us together so much more because this year has drawn us toward our Lord. I cannot express the blessing of a godly wife who continues to follow Christ. I have seen how her Shepherd has led and grown her in her faith and confidence. She is my best friend and my partner in the work of the Lord. I praise the Lord. 

Lastly, my church family is an unbelievable blessing to me. This has been a trying year for churches. However, we have experienced the grace of God together. God has used this year to draw us closer together. He has grown our faith. He has lifted us above fear and chaos to walk closer with Him. He has added to our number. He is opening hearts to His working and genuine Christian connection. He is restoring our broken and messy lives. It would be very hard to fully express how I feel, but I would not trade the world for the blessing of being a part of a church family that is growing together in the Lord.

The Church is Essential

In every generation since Jesus walked on earth, there has been a spiritual battle surrounding the church of Jesus Christ. satan hates the work of the church because it is a work that directly opposes his purposes. satan wants nothing more than to seduce as many people into thinking they can live life as they please and apart from Jesus Christ and yet spend eternity in the presence of God. satan desire for people to be convinced that sin is not that bad, hell is not real and there is no real judgment day coming.

The work of the church is simply the continuation of the work of Christ while He was here on earth. Mark 1:38 says,  “And he [Jesus] said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”

After Jesus arose and before He returned to Heaven, He instructed believers to preach the Gospel everywhere. Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Contrary to what some in high offices are saying, the church, the preaching of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is essential work. Whether that happens in a safe drive-in service, over livestream, via video, via text, letters, phone calls, Zoom or FaceTime, the church (believers) must preach the Gospel in our day. Why? Jesus told us in Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” What good is your achievements (status, health, financial) in this life if you spend your eternity apart from Christ in hell.

In the book of Acts, the church began to get comfortable. Rather than taking the Gospel into all the world, they stayed in Jerusalem. They were not motivated. The were had become stagnant. God allowed persecution to scatter them and the Bible tell us in Acts 8:4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

This is not a time for the church to wring its hands, to be silent or to draw back in fear. While we must honor those who are in authority over us, we must continue the work of Christ—preaching the Gospel. We must be faithful to deliver the Good News in every way available.

satan thinks he has slowed the spread of the Gospel through COVID-19. Jesus has promised that in every season that the church of Christ will continue to be built by Christ and upon the deity of Christ in face of opposition and persecution. Matthew 16:18  “And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

There is no doubt in my mind that more opposition to the work of Christ will come in our day. 2 Timothy 3:12 assures us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” However, because we are on the side of Christ, nothing will prevail against the church of Christ…we have His promise. satan thought he had won the victory over Christ at Calvary, yet on Sunday morning our Savior stepped out of the tomb in divine demonstration of His overwhelming power over sin, death, hell and satan.

May the church of the living God take courage. Our Savior is risen and we partner with Him in His essential work in the world today.

Easter Journey: Friday

Two men, who had incredible religious status in Jerusalem, chose to step out and identify with Jesus. After Jesus died, one of them requested of Pilot the body of Jesus so that He might honor Him with a proper burial. Pilot agreed to the request and these men respectfully brought Jesus to the grave. Their act of love would cost them their standing among their peers and leaves us a wonderful reminder of our need to identify with Jesus at home, at work and in our community.

Join us for our final part of the journey on Easter Sunday at 10:30am at watchGBC.com.

Photo Credit: lumaproject.com

Easter Journey: Thursday

Today we travel to Calvary and remember the most loving and sacrificial event in all of human history. At Calvary, Jesus Christ bore in Himself the sin of all mankind and receiving the full wrath of God against sin. As we think of the incredible awful death that Christ died for us, may we respond with gratitude. If you have not yet received Christ, please trust in Him today. He is the only way to have your sins forgiven and to receive the free gift of eternal life. You can learn more about receiving Jesus in the book DONE.

Photo Credit: lumaproject.com

These Have Encouraged Me

In recent days we all have had our lives disrupted. Stores, restaurants and places we normally would visit are closed or greatly restricted leaving us with no option but to be home more. I am reminded that after busy seasons of ministry and activity, Jesus often led His disciples into a desert place away from everything for reflection, rest and prayer. Though we all look forward to this crisis passing, perhaps we should look at this as an opportunity to find a place away from everything to reflect, rest and draw closer to God. I wanted to suggest some books, internet radio stations and even a college course that might help you get the most out of this time at home.

Encouraging Books

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

How to Pray by R. A. Torrey

I Am a Church Member by Them Rainer

The Crucified Life by A. W. Tozer

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkens

Giving It All Away and Getting It Back Again by David Green

The Dangers of Shallow Faith by A. W. Tozer

Margin by Richard A. Swenson

For Men Only Shaunti Feldhahn

For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

Encouraging Music —Internet Christian Radio
(Most of these have an app available at their website for smart devices)

Abiding Radio

KNVBC

Faith Music Radio

Bible Truth Radio

Educational Opportunity—Intro to Apologetics

I have personally enrolled in this class and am enjoying what I am learning! Let me know if you enroll. It would be fun to discuss it with you!

Easter Journey: Tuesday

While it is not clear from Scripture all that Jesus was doing on Monday and Tuesday of His Passion Week, it does seem that He spent time in Bethany on these days fellowshipping with friends like Simon the Leper, Lazarus and others. Among those friends was a woman who demonstrated extravagant love for her Savior. Though we do not know her name, her act lives on as a example for every believer. Jesus is worthy of our everything.

Photo Credit: http://www.LumoProject.com