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.

He Already Sees!

Several years ago, I heard the song “He Already Sees.” The words are a striking reminder that during the storms of life, God has a different perspective. He sees the totality of the storm from the beginning to the end. He sees what the storm is accomplishing in your life. May God encourage you with the message of this song. Take heart, God already sees the other side of your storm!

When the storm raged about them
The disciples were afraid
For the waves were high and the ship was tossed
They could not find their way
Then they awoke the Master
Saying Lord please save us now
He rebuked the winds and the sea grew calm
And they all wondered how

God sees the storm from the other side
He knows the lessons learned
And just beyond the clouds
He sees clear skies
He speaks peace to the raging storm
When peace cannot be found
He already sees the rainbow when we see only clouds

Like the man on the sea did
I have called on God in prayer
When it seemed to me all hope was gone
And in my deep despair
I remembered what the Lord said
When He calmed that troubled sea
And I know once more how
He sees the storm
And peace floods over me

God sees the storm from the other side
He knows the lessons learned
And just beyond the clouds
He sees clear skies
He speaks peace to the raging storm
When peace cannot be found
He already sees the rainbow when we see only clouds

And when the storms of life come crashing in and trouble me
I can feel God’s arms around me and He whispers
Let it be, Let it be

God sees the storm from the other side
He knows the lessons learned
And just beyond the clouds
He sees clear skies
He speaks peace to the raging storm
When peace cannot be found
He already sees the rainbow when we see only clouds

Why? Why? Why?

Police.jpg

In the days following a weekend of horrible acts of murder in El Paso, Texas and my own city of Dayton, Ohio, the common question everywhere is “Why?” “What is the motive?” “Why did the two murderers do what they did?” “What are the specifics?”

While most of the specifics will eventually come out in the investigations as the fantastic men and women in our law enforcement communities wade through the evidence, likely there will be some questions that still remain. Questions like: “How could they let themselves do this?” “Why would someone kill his own sister?”

To get some answers, consider the very first murder that was ever recorded for us in human history. We find the story in Genesis chapter four. Remember, this is before there were fatherless homes, a culture of glorifying violence in video games and movies, guns or weapons of any kind. Before this murderous act, a murder had never been witnessed. We find two brothers named Cain and Abel. Abel had a heart to obey God and worship Him by obeying God’s instructions. Cain went through the motions of worshipping God but did not listen to God’s instructions.  Cain’s actions revealed a heart that had rejected the authority of God in his life. His actions were rebellious toward God because his heart was rebellions toward God.

Cain did not appreciate God’s blessing on Abel’s obedience, and so in jealousy, he murdered his brother. Genesis 4:8 tells us, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Remember, Cain had never seen a murder before. Where did that idea come from? In order to understand, we must go back one chapter to read about how sin entered into the world. Adam and Eve were created by God and placed into the Garden of Eden. They lived in a world that we have never experienced, a completely perfect world. They enjoyed daily interaction and conversation with God, their Creator. God had created them for relationship. He did not force a relationship but gave them a free will to choose to fellowship with Him. God gave ONE instruction to them that they needed to obey. In Genesis 3, Eve and Adam chose to disobey, and by that single act of disobedience, sin entered into the world. Romans 5:12 comments on this, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” This meant that the relationship between the holy God and man would now be severed and separated.

There would be many consequences of this separation from God. Sin of every kind imaginable would now be thought of in the human heart and carried out in actions. Sin of any kind always has its root in the heart. Jesus talked about this in Mark 7:21–23,  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness [unrestrained sinful behavior], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” 

That is quite a list that Jesus gives us, and it is so true. So as we look at the murders that have taken place in these two cities and ask why, let us remember that it is the sinfulness of man’s heart that makes him capable of doing such wicked things. As long as man lives in rebellion against his Creator, sins like this and more will continue to be committed.

There is HOPE! Jesus Christ came into the world to reconcile us (mankind) to our Creator. John 3:16–17 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Every man and woman alive needs to be saved from their sin and the consequences of it. The only hope of changing our actions is dealing with the problem of the heart. It is sinful and needs to be reconciled to God. Have you been reconciled to God? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You can today!

Yes! I want to know more!—Salvation Explained

 

Related message preached on Sunday, August 11, 2019

In the Valley

We’ve all had a cold before. No big deal…right!? Unless you are five weeks old. This week has been a bit of a roller coaster for my wife and I and many who know us. As I write this, I am sitting at Children’s looking at my little girl hooked up with oxygen and monitoring wires. Earlier this week she was diagnosed with RSV. I have visited people who had their children in the hospital with this, but none of our children have had it. It is really quite scary.

We have been in the hospital three different times over this week. The first two times we were sent home because it was not bad enough for the doctor to admit her. We understood and did our best to follow instruction and care for her.

Earlier today, after having been up all night with her, it got worse…much worse. She was having a very difficult time breathing because of all the congestion. We decided to take her in for a third time. She was admitted to ICU and placed under good care.

Sheila and I were sitting here talking about the things that God allows into our lives. I commented how that this past Wednesday night I mentioned in my sermon that God often teaches us to pray as we go through difficult times. Even as a said that, I wondered what He would bring us through in order to learn to depend on Him in a greater way.

I simply write these thoughts to convey how good our God is while He allows us to go through valleys and leads us to greater dependance on Him.

I am reminded of this thought: I heard some time ago that anything that leads me to God is a good thing. This certainly makes sense in light of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.