Pleasing God is the Pathway to Peace and Joy

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-14

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

OBSERVATION:

Some shepherd dudes are rolling around on the outskirts of a small, off-the-beaten-path place called Bethlehem (house of bread). All the sheep have been gathered and secured and they are ready for a good night’s sleep. As they are about to get some much needed shut eye, they are interrupted by a close encounter of the 3rd kind when “an angel of the Lord” (presumably Gabriel – the messenger of Good News) bursts through the space-time continuum to alert them that a universe rocking, world shaking, and hell-breaking event has just occurred: the long-awaited Savior/Messiah/Lord has just been born.

This angelic announcement scares the fright right out these shepherds (as it would us) but the angel reassures them that this event means mega joy for humanity. After their hearts rates begin to slow somewhat their senses are again bombarded by another supernatural invasion. This time a myriad of heavenly hosts materializes out of thin air singing the great hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest” and pronouncing a beatitude: “On earth peace to whom God is pleased.” Who said what to who now?

APPLICATION:

The angelic pronouncement of “Joy to the world and on earth peace” has provided inspiration for a zillion hymns, carols, and songs over the millennia. However, what many folks tend to skip over is the qualifier, “To those with whom God is pleased.” Who experiences the angelic promise of unshakable peace and unbreakable joy? God gave us the answer thirty-three years later at another supernatural event called Mount of Transfiguration when he said “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

Three ways we listen to the Son and thus obtain God’s favor:

(1) We believe Jesus. Particularly his divine claims as the Son of God and God the Son.

(2) We follow Jesus. “My sheep hear my voice and follow me” (John 10:27).

(3) We obey Jesus. “If you love me you will do what I say” (John 14:15).

Listening to Jesus is the pathway to eternal peace and joy. Do it this Advent Season and enjoy God’s favor forevermore.

PRAYER: Dear Eternal Father,

Empower us to listen to Jesus and do as he says. For your eternal glory and our everlasting peace and joy, Amen!

 

Guard Your Heart by Not Losing Heart

Guard Your Heart By Not Losing Heart 

I thank God that I have spent the majority of my adult life being healthy and energetic. My life motto is, “A body in motion stays in motion.” Other than the occasional sports incident, (muscle pulls, sprains, bicycle crashes) I have been blessed with good health, hardly remembering the last time I even had a cold or flu. However, the month of November changed all that. I had major reconstructive shoulder surgery and shortly thereafter contracted the virus. Talk about a double whammy! Although the prognosis for full recovery is good, the worst part is life coming to a screeching halt. Being a self-avowed, “impatient patient” I don’t know what’s worse, the pain of surgery or the stir craziness of the recovery? When you feel like your bullet proof one moment, and then suddenly you are not, it affects you and for the first time in my life I am experiencing that.

Philo of Alexandria counseled, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” We are all in a great battle right now, especially against this pandemic and all the mini skirmishes it has spawned, i.e., isolation, depression, economic, relational and spiritual difficulties.  However, as we conclude our “Guard Your Heart” series today, we will see how not to get discouraged even during life’s biggest battles. Let’s go to I Corinthians 4:16

We do not lose heart…

We Do Not Lose Heart 

“We do not lose heart!” Paul proclaims. He began chapter four with the same grit and determination. What was happening that prompted Paul to repeat the encouragement for us to not be discouraged? “Outwardly we are wasting away”he laments. Our physical bodies, which he also called, “earthly tents,” (2 Corinthians 5:1), “jars of clay” (v7 cracked pots) and“bodies of humiliation” (Philippians 3:21) are continually being broken down by the disease and decay of this fallen world. Even under normal circumstance it takes a lot of heart to not lose heart, but Paul’s circumstances were anything but normal.

Paul’s Persecutions 

For Paul it wasn’t just the regular wear-and-tear of life or a chronic illness that was eroding him physically. Listen to the threats on his well-being (4:8, 9, 11)  

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;

persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

11 We live under the constant danger of death because we serve Jesus …

Here Paul is talking about his personal challenges of trying to spread the message of Jesus to the ends of the Roman Empire. It was not easy, neither financially, emotionally, spiritually, and certainly not physically! In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 he elaborates even more on how doing his part to fulfill the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20) has physically wrecked him:

As you can see Paul payed an extraordinary physical price to fulfill his calling as a missionary to the Roman World. He was, as one person put it, “Subject to a thousand troubles and under the sentence of death.” Can we imagine paying such a heavy physical, emotional, and spiritual cost for the sake of the Message? Although parts of the global Church are being persecuted today, we thankfully are not. We enjoy religious freedom, which, at least for now, is vouchsafed by our Constitution. How much longer is anyone’s guess given that PC and identity politics are rotting out the underbelly of our nation and Church. I believe the winds of change are beginning to blow ill against the Church in America as a fulfillment of end-time prophesy. I am convinced that we need a great revival and historically speaking, nothing fans the flame of revival more quickly, or more brightly, than persecution. Whether or not it comes in our lifetime, however, remains to be seen. What we do know is that today each of us is fighting our own set of battles, physical, spiritual, and otherwise, so here’s why we must guard our hearts by not losing heart.

The Greatest Treasure 

We guard our hearts by not losing heart because we have possession of the greatest treasure. In v7 Paul says

We ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.

Our mortal bodies, as weak and frail as they may be, contain the greatest of all treasures, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the “Treasure hidden in a field” and the “Pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:44-45). It is the “Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6) and the “Power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The news that God sent his only begotten Son into this world (John 3:16) to save us from sin and reconcile us to God, is of priceless and inestimable worth. If “physical health is wealth” then how much greater is the wealth of the “Good News?” It pays dividends in this world and in the world to come. I could go on, but we guard our hearts, by not losing heart, because we possess the greatest treasure of all, the Gospel of Jesus.

The Greatest Power 

We possess the greatest treasure because we have the greatest power residing in us. And what is that power? The Holy Spirit! He is the supernatural power that indwells our inner being the moment we put our faith in Jesus (4:14). This is why Paul could boast that despite the external deterioration our (v16)

Inner person is being renewed day-by-day.

Although our physical bodies are in constant decay our inner person is being redeemed, renewed, revived, and regenerated, each and every day. The HS makes us stronger whether or not we are in “good shape for the condition we are in.” I could go on, but we guard our hearts, by not losing heart, because the greatest power lives within us.

The Greatest Future 

The third reason we guard our hearts by not losing heart is knowing we have the greatest future. Paul says in v17

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.

Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

When newly minted Supreme Court justice Amy Barret discovered that she was pregnant with her third child she was naturally delighted. However, just hours afterward, the adoption agency in Haiti notified her that they were ready to deliver her long-awaited special needs child. Her joy immediately turned into panic! Two kids at once! Too much! However, after prayer and conversation with her husband, she decided to carry through with the adoption. Her rationale, “Life is hard but at least it’s short.” That’s true but what comes next, our eternal future in Christ, is the greatest of all futures, one that far outweighs any temporary afflictions, troubles, problems, challenges we endure in this life. No matter what happens to us now, we guard our hearts by not losing hearts by realizing we have the greatest future!

Conclusion 

They say success is getting up just one more time than getting knocked down. Success in our “fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12) means that getting knocked down but not knocked out! Success means getting knocked down but we always getting up again because we guard our hearts by not losing heart. We never lose heart because we have the greatest treasure, the greatest power, and the greatest future of all! Amen? Amen!

Divine Surge

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 40:28-31

28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

OBSERVATION:

In all their exhaustion and weariness, the beaten down and enslaved Israelites have forgotten some essential things about God which the prophet Isaiah endeavors to remind them:

God is the Everlasting Creator.

God never gets tired or loses energy.

God himself is beyond human comprehension, understanding, definition, and imagination.

Although God is “wholly other” (i.e., totally unlike us) when we trust him, he does two amazing things for us:

            He gives us power when we are weak.

            He gives us strength when we are powerless.

Living off divine power is something David revealed in utilized in Psalm 27:1

“The LORD is my light and my salvation. The Lord is the strength of my life.”

APPLICATION:

One prominent symptom I have been experiencing since contracting the “virus” is an absolute zap of physical energy. Simple daily tasks have, at best, been slow and laborious. However, I have been surging recently, not only because my antibodies are finally kicking in but also because I have been waiting on the Lord more often than usual. As such, I feel more of his sustaining energy within me. So today, spend some time waiting on, and trusting in, the Lord. Allow him to be the strength of your life and experience a new surge of energy you never thought possible.

PRAYER:

Everlasting God,

Dose us with your power, energy, and strength so that we might be all that you want us to be and do all that you want us to do. For your glory and our joy, Amen!

How To Get A Piece of Peace

We begin our Christmas Sunday message with the stunning passage of Luke 2:8-14

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.

9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,

10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.

11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those whom God favors.”

Supernatural Interruptions

A bunch of rag-tag shepherd dudes are milling around on the outskirts of an off-the-beaten-path place called Bethlehem (Hebrew: “House of Bread”). After a long and exhausting day of mobilizing sheep the shepherds are ready to grab some supper and hunker down for the night. The flock has been gathered and secured. As they are about to get some much needed shut eye, they are rudely interrupted by a close encounter of the 3rd kind. An “angel of the Lord” presumably Gabriel, the “Good News” messenger (Zechariah, Mary), appears to them in all of his effulgent radiance. He bursts through the space-time continuum to notify them that a universe rocking, world shaking, history making, and hell-breakingphenomenon has just occurred: the long-awaited birth of the Savior/Messiah/Lord has just occurred in that wee-little-bitty city just up the road.

Supernatural Interruptions Part Deux

As it would any one of us, this angelic announcement scares the fright right out the shepherds. The angel reassures them, however, that this singular event means “mega joy” for humanity. After their hearts rates slow somewhat, their senses are again bombarded by another supernatural invasion. Like the angel before them, a myriad of heavenly harmonics materializes out of thin air and do so singing the great hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest.” After they finish their praise set, they confer a beatitude onto the terrified shepherds:

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on earth…

On Earth Peace

The angelic pronouncement of “Peace on earth” has provided inspiration for a zillion carols and Christmas cards over the millennia. However, if we are honest can we really say and truly claim that this world has enjoyed peace since the birth of Jesus? I mean sustained peace, between countries, nations, families, and neighbors? I would beg that history tells a totally different story, one of never-ending violence, war, struggle, fratricide, disunity, and disruption. Jesus himself promised that “In this world we have tribulation” (John 16:33) and once cryptically proclaimed, “I came not to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). That sounds pretty anti-peace or unpeaceful to me.

Even if we just include modern history, beginning with the Renaissance (15-17th centuries) and moving forward to the Enlightenment (18-19th centuries), we have fared no better when it comes to peace.  These eras, heralded as the pinnacle of human advancement still gave way to the 20th century, the deadliest and most violent of the 20 centuries since the birth of Christ (110 million people). I think it’s fair to say that peaceful times on this earth are at best, rare and fragile.

On Earth Peace????

Was the heavenly praise team mistaken then? Lying? Kidding? Or just messing with us? Or were they just being overly optimistic, idealistic, and positive? Even as they uttered this glorious peace promise the world was tearing itself apart rebelling against Roman Rule, which ironically, was called the “Pax Romana” or “Peace of Rome.”

Perhaps they weren’t wrong and maybe we just glossed the most important detail of the promise. I’m here to tell you, we have. Of all the carols and cards that have this angelic scene plastered on it, I have yet to find one that included the conditional qualifier. If you know how to read, you can’t miss it (v14)

Peace on Earth to those whom God favors.

 “To those who God favors.” It may be too hard for hell-bent sinners to believe that finding favor with God is possible. But it is!  The virginous Mary found it. At her annunciation, the angel Gabriel addressed her as, “Highly favored one” (Luke 1:28). Who favored her? God himself and as such, he chose her to bear his “Only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Mary’s multiple great, great, grandfather, David, found favor with God because of his BHAG of building a temple which would be suitable for God’s majesty (Acts 7:46).

God Favors Those Who Listen to His Son

Who finds God’s favor and subsequently his peace? Or as I like to say, “a piece of peace.” God actually gave us the answer 33 years later at another supernatural event called the “Mount of Transfiguration.” Here, he proclaimed from the heavens (Luke 9:35) 

This is my Son, whom I favor, listen to him.

It makes sense doesn’t it? The Bethlehem baby was already given the name, “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) 800 years before he was born. Therefore, those who are eager to “listen” (trust and obey) to the Son find favor with God and receive peace. Prior to exiting this world, the Prince of Peace promised his faithful listeners (John 14:27) [SLIDE 12]

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

Jesus went on to explain that the peace he gives is far different from that of the world’s. Worldly peace is based on tranquil circumstance and/or mind-over-matter discipline. The peace he gives is permanent because it is based in him-the person of peace. He not only gives peace but is peace which is why Paul stated, “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

As the Prince of Peace, Jesus found it tragic that so many did not accept the peace he is and the peace he gives. Speaking to his own people, the Jews, he lamented, “If you had only known…what would bring you peace (Luke 19:42). The Jews thought peace would come once the Romans were vanquished and their country flourished, economically and politically. Sound familiar? How wrong they were and anyone else that doesn’t seek the Prince of Peace for a piece of peace this Christmas.

Conclusion: God Favors Those Who Listen to His Son

To get a piece of peace we got to listen to  the Prince of Peace. Basic addition tells me that the more people that are filled with his peace the more peace we will enjoy on earth. Are you one of those people? If not, pray with me now.

Bold With God!

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 3:12

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

OBSERVATION:

Totally opposite to how to approach God in the Old Testament, i.e., via the Temple/Tabernacle with its myriad of prescribed liturgies and protocols, Paul wants Christians at Ephesus to approach God’s throne, via prayer, boldly, not meekly, because of Christ’s redeeming and atoning work on the Cross. The author of the Book of Hebrews and John the Apostle also encouraged this new found boldness:

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…”

1John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

APPLICATION:

When I hear that reforming sinners and rookie saints like us can boldly approach the infinitely holy Omni-God without condemnation or precondition, I can joyfully intone, “Who said what to who now?” Indeed, our loving Heavenly Father INSISTS that we come to him at any time, in anyway, and from any place. Whenever we do he gladly grants us an audience and smiles favorably upon our requests. All praise to our sinless Savior for making all of this possible. Now let’s be like Nike and just do it!

PRAYER: Heavenly Father,

With great confidence it is our joy to come boldly to you. Thank you Jesus, Amen!

A Heaping of Hope

Romans 15:13 (Message)

Oh! May the God of hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

Under normal circumstances or B.T.P.H. (before the plague hit) we would have lit the first candle of the Advent Season, the “Candle of Hope” last Sunday. This candle reminds us that the incarnation (Christmas Event) is the ultimate symbol of hope for humanity. This hope, however, is not just a symbol, but a person, and not just any person, but Jesus Christ, the unique One, fully divine and fully human.

When God decided the time was right to send his Son he did so when humanity was at its lowest ebb. Most of the world was enslaved under Rome’s brutal domination with its band of egomaniacal emperors. The world’s economy was in shambles as taxation was roughly 85-90% (got to figure out how to finance all those wars and nice roads). Mortality rate for children was around 50%. Poor distribution of essential food stuffs and clean potable water not only perpetuated a continual health crisis but also capped off life expectancy at 35 AND was a constant source of rebellion both within and outside of the borders of the Empire. I could go on but let me sum up by saying, by the time the 1st century rolled around world civilization was a train wreck in a dumpster fire serenely heading into an endless abyss.

Galatians 4:4 tells us the God of ALL Hope sent Jesus, “at the perfect time.” Why was a deteriorating world the perfect time for the 1st Advent? Well, there are many views but my own non-scholarly one is that the world was on its last legs and God knew that. So he sent Jesus to not only save us but to also physically reminds us that ultimate hope is, was, and always will be found in him.

After nine months of pandemic, civil and political unrest, economic uncertainty (and pain) it’s pretty fair to say that we can all use a good heaping of hope these days. One that will never disappoint and infuse our souls with joy, energy, and peace. Take a few moments today and lean into “God of Hope” and I guarantee you will have it.

Agape,

Pj

God Is There

Scripture: I Corinthians 10:13 (Message)

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

The calendar just flipped to December. Thank you Jesus! Momma said there’d be days like this, not months like this! I started November with major reconstructive shoulder surgery. Three major tendons were either ripped and frayed and needed to be repaired and reattached to the bone. Plus, the surgeon had to smooth out the rotator cuff and insert some cow cartilage to stabilize things. Now I know why I have had this insatiable craving for milk. I now have three titanium anchors in my shoulder. Wonder how I’ll make it through airport security? After a year plus of pain I’m glad to have finally gotten this surgery behind me but let me say, that even as a pretty skilled ambidextrous, living as a one-armed person in a two-armed world is fraught with challenges. Can’t wait for joyful rehab process to begin sometime after Christmas.

So as I’m healing up from the surgery, BOOM! I get nailed with the virus. Here are some of my symptoms: intermittent chills and fever, chronic fatigue. I’ll feel ok one moment and then the bottom just drops out. I also have a little bit of loss of taste and smell. Not bad all things considered.

A few things I’m learning during this down time.

(1) Patience. Although I know that biblically speaking patience is a virtue and a “fruit of the Spirit” I still think God designed it for slow people, not for me LOL. I am by far the most “impatient patient” so please pray for me because God does his best work on us, and in us, when we are patient.

(2) Respect. This surgery has shown me that it’s not just about the surgery itself but everything surrounding it, all the prep, pre-work, testing, MRIs, X-rays, medications, clearances, insurance stuff, etc.,… I have never spent so much time running around to doctor offices and medical appointments. I think all that wore me out even before the surgery. But its taught me respect, huge respect for the medical professionals and also for those with chronic issues. I don’t know how they do it? My respect and prayers for them has grown exponentially. Respect Five!

(3) God’s Nearness. We all know that God will never leave or forsake us, let anything separate us from his love, or snatch us from the palm of his hand. That he indeed is the Emmanuel “With God” of Isaiah 7:14. But when you head into the “Valley of Surgery and Recovery” you experience his  presence more, or, better put, become more aware of it. I guess it’s all about focus and this past month I have felt closer to God than I have in a long time. He’s there, we just go to reach out and grab him!

So as each of us continue to deal with our unique and specific challenges, remember to keep your sunny side up and your bottoms dry. I love you and there is nothing you can do about it. God is good and the future is bright.

Agape,

Pj

Guard Your Heart With Gratitude

A Healthy Heart
After a few weeks off we now refresh our “Guard Your Heart” series. We always need to be about guarding our hearts because the heart is the core or our being and doing. If our hearts are healthy our being and doing will be God glorifying, others edifying, and self-satisfying. Thus, we must continually guard them from hard heartedness brought on by onset spiritual arteriosclerosis. And this is not always easy to do. However, today, we will see how to guard our hearts against one of the worst spiritual diseases of all. Let’s turn to Psalm 73:21. Here Asaph the psalmist confesses:
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered…
I have seen bitterness choke the spiritual life out of even the best of Christ followers. Like the virus, bitterness is a toxin that can easily spread and infect and affect everyone (Hebrews 12:15). But what was causing the psalter’s, heart to be grieved and his spirit to be embittered? He sees the prosperity and arrogance of his enemies and it drives him to envy (v3). Furthermore, he believes his enemies have “made in the shade” kinds of lives. Early in the chapter he grumbled 4-5
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to people; they are not plagued by human ills.
This lament reminds me of how Garrison Keillor used to sign off on his weekly radio show, “The Tales of Lake Wobegon”:
Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking,
and all the children are above average.
Theodicy
They say we should never judge our personal lives on the public lives of others. To do so is a big mistake but the psalmist does so anyhow. However, in a moment of self-awareness, Asaph reasons within himself (v16).
When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me.
The longer he ponders the question, “Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people?” the moodier he becomes. Try as he might he can’t understand why negative events happen to God’s people while positive things happen to pagans. One of the oldest and most enduring problems the Old Testament saints grappled with was that if God is good how can people who ignore him prosper while those who love him don’t? On top of that, the pagans that are prospering in Asaph’s world are the very ones that are making him miserable. Much like the person who takes credit for your work and ends up getting the promotion and eventually becomes your boss. None of this makes much sense especially if a loving God is up there running things.
Gratitude List
There is a strong correlation between what we think about and how we feel and how we feel and how we behave. Asaph knows that bitterness is infecting his heart. To arrest this disease he heads towards the sanctuary. There’s no better place to get some spiritual surgery done. Once there, his heart begins to change. What was the catalyst for this change? A gratitude list. Listen to Asaph’s in v23-26
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Notice that Asaph’s gratitude list includes three big items:
God holds me by his right hand. God guides me with his counsel.
God takes me into glory.
Gratitude always leads to praise (v25)
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And praise always leads to greater desire for God (v25)
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Asaph realizes that no matter what happens in life, no matter to whom it happens, and whenever it happens, it doesn’t ultimately matter because of who God is and what he has promised (v26).
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Who has the time to be bitter, or to even care whether or not the pagans prosper if one has gotten God and all the blessings and provisions that he alone supplies?
A Family Thanksgiving Tradition
Growing up my family and I had this Thanksgiving tradition whereas one couldn’t taste even one morsel of the bounty until each person gave at least one thanks for each person sitting around the table. Some years this was more of a chore than others especially if life wasn’t going really well or if one was mad at other family members. This tradition was really hard on my dad as he vowed to never eat anything on Thanksgiving Day until the turkey was ready and we always ate mid-afternoon.
Let me confess that growing up with three sisters this was not the easiest exercise. But we would slough through it and at the end of the day it was powerful to see our familial love and appreciation grow because of this one simple tradition. Can you imagine how quickly our nation would heal if we had Thanksgiving once a month? How about our families once a week? How about our relationship with God if we did a gratitude list every day?
Power of A Gratitude List
It’s true that gratitude changes everything and that everything good springs from gratitude. Therefore the best way to guard our hearts from bitterness is by practicing gratitude and the best way to do that is by developing a gratitude list. During my downtime due to surgery I have been doing this very thing. For the sake of transparency I want to admit that you will encounter a couple problems when you begin a gratitude list:
(1) Like the 1983 Lays potato chip commercial, “No one can eat just one.” No one can list just one. Once you get started you can’t stop! There’s way too many things for which to thank God. Like David said in Psalm 103:2, “Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not ALL his benefits.” And the old saint Matthew Henry after he was robbed:
1 I am thankful that he never robbed me before. 2 I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life. 3 Although he took all I had; it was not much. And 4 I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.
(2) It doesn’t matter how you feel when you start you will be feeling groovy when you are done. The sheer writing of the gratitude list will simultaneously wipe out bitterness from your heart and fill it with joy. God will again become the “Strength of your heart.”
Conclusion: Bitter Proof Your Heart
Unfortunately, bitterness will always try to “worm” its way into our hearts. So the next time you start thinking negative and feel negatively, bitter proof your heart by getting alone with God and start working on your gratitude list. You’ll always be thankful you did!

Worship Cancelled for Sunday November 29

Dear Bay Pointers:


I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving and were able to joyfully connect with family and friends over tables laden with turkey, ham, and stuffing. As you know tomorrow kicks off the Advent Season. It is an exciting time in the church season whereby we celebrate both the 1st Advent of Jesus, as a child, and also anticipate his 2nd One, as the King. 
 
Unfortunately however, we will need to postpone our celebration at least one week given that this past days a few church leaders have tested positive for the virus and others have had primary exposure to it, including yours truly. 
 
We will keep you updated on how things develop as we hope to resume worship services on Sunday December 6. Until then, please pray for those infected.
 
agape,
 
Pj

Extravagant Blessings = Extravagant Thanksgiving

 

Tomorrow the families of our nation will huddle around mountains of feasts as a way to render thanks to our Creator/Redeemer/Forgiver God for the abundant provisions he has lavished upon not only creation generally, but to each of us specifically. God is the God of abundance and we thank him in two ways: (1) We delight in, and have joy over all that he has blessed us with and (2) We delight in, and have joy in him over and beyond all that he has blessed us with.

So with each slice of turkey, each nibble of the dressing/stuffing, and with each sip of hearty beverage, let our hearts be filled with merriment and our lips full of praise to our heavenly Father who has bestowed so much upon. Let his extravagant blessings demand from us an extravagant and corresponding thanksgiving.

 

Happy Thanksgiving,

 

Pj