Being a pastor does not give you a pass on messing up. Today was one of those times for me as I had asked one of the men in our church to give the opening prayer for our service today. Sure enough, when it was time for us to start, I had a brain freeze and hopped right up, gave the opening prayer, and started the service. In fact, my brain was so frozen that when he gave me a confused look it still did not register. However, this was not as bad as the time I called a men's group breakfast meeting and forgot to set my alarm.
When talking about it after church he made the comment to me that if he thanked God for everything he should thank Him for, he would be praying for a couple of hours. How true that is for all of us. So much to be thankful for, from our beginning to our finish, for all that He has worked together for our good, for daily mercy and grace, for the totality of our salvation, and well, for everything. God is transcendent in that all things are from Him, through Him, and to Him. To Him be the glory in all things.
One of the distinguishing marks between a believer and a non-believer is thankfulness. Romans1:21 tells us, For even though they knew God, they did not know God or give thanks... Thanklessness is a hallmark of the unbeliever, and we see here in Romans giving thanks to God and honoring God go hand in hand. To give thanks to God is to acknowledge that He is God and that He is the source of blessing. It is acknowledging that it is His hand which provides, and His will that decrees. Thankfulness acknowledges dependence upon God and God's supremacy. To be thankful to God then is an affront to the pride of man. We see this in Deuteronomy 8 when God warns the Israelites not to forget Him when they experience abundance in the promised land, because the temptation would be for them to think that it was their power and their strength that made them their wealth, instead of acknowledging that it was God who was giving them the power to make wealth.
But in Colossians 2:7 the believer is described as one overflowing with gratitude. So in our lives there should be a great abundance of gratitude, gratitude directed towards the Lord; and it is out of this gratitude that God is also praised, and in this gratitude and praise God is acknowledged as being who He is...God. We see this in Psalm 100, italics mine:
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
The Scriptures talk about the sacrifices of thanksgiving and the sacrifices of praise. The two really do go together. You can not and will not praise God if you do not have a thankful heart. It is out of thankfulness that praise springs forth. However, thankfulness is not in the heart of the unredeemed. A good example of this is in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Let's look at the attitude of the man to whom the one talent is given. Matthew 25:24 "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering whereyou had scattered no seed." Telling isn't it? Especially in the light of the other two men, as their response was to acknowledge that it was God that had entrusted the talents to them. Pretty graphic example of Romans 1:21, and the hardness of man's heart towards God.
But even as believers, we tend to take ownership of our lives and the blessings from the hand of God. For all of us, Deuteronomy 8 is never far off from our heart if we don't remain diligent in reminding ourselves that all we have is from the Lord, and practicing thankfulness.
What about you my friend? Are you thankful? Are you as thankful as you need be? Let us take the time, let us make the time, let us pause now, and be thankful and give thanks and praise to Him from whom all blessings flow.
Sorry for the run on paragraphs at the end, but I am having trouble with the posting mechanism.
What a great day we had today, Sunday, August 16th, 2009. We had our first baptismal service today. We baptized three young ladies, young mothers, young wives; all of whom gave great testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. What a joy, both as their pastor and as a fellow believer, to share in their joy on this occasion.
Another joy was in the fact that the men who baptized them were not only church members, but men who have been active in their lives and instrumental in where they are spiritually (obviously we are not Landmark). One of the men baptized two of the young ladies, his daughter and her friend. The other man was the father-in-law of the one he baptized. In my pre-baptismal counseling with these women, each one of them commented individually on how much they appreciated these men, and their spiritual influence on them. These men were intentionally active and influential in the spiritual lives of these young women. Yes, God is sovereign in salvation, and sovereign in the means of salvation, but we must do our part as well.
We baptized in the swimming pool at the home of one of our members. Each of the young women gave a short testimony and then was baptized. Following their baptism I gave a short word aimed at the unbelieving family members present and an exhortation to our church family, and then we had a fellowship meal. There was a joy present that you could both see and feel.
One of the common elements in each testimony was the fact that all of them had been baptized as younger teenagers, but had come to the realization that they had been saved much later, with two of them being saved within the last six months. This is such a common testimony for so many, and, in fact, is my testimony along my wife's. We, the church, do such a disservice to people in our rush to get them to say the prayer, walk the aisle, so we can count them as one of our converts. Each one of these ladies told me that they never really understood what they were doing, but assumed it meant they had become Christians, because they were baptized and became church members. Thank God for His sovereignty in our salvation, because we can rest fully assured that if we are His, He will save us; but, with that being said, woe to those who give people false assurance and a false notion that they are truly saved, or do not give a clear and precise explanation of the gospel that will cause a person to truly know where they stand in relation to God, and exactly what saving faith is.
It reminds me of a time many years ago, at another church, when we were gathered for an outreach meeting and the two associate pastors were trying to teach people how to lead others in the sinner's prayer. When I asked them to show from the Scriptures where anyone had ever prayed to be saved, or where we were told to get people to pray the sinner's prayer so that they would be saved; they acted like I had thrown a bucket of cold water on the whole group. Of course they could not do so and finally admitted as much, and then continued on with what they were doing. I wish I could say this was an aberration, but it is not. In fact, two of the young ladies that were baptized today were baptized in that church under the ministry of one of the associate pastors I mentioned above.
Getting the gospel right is important, life-altering important, and we must be sure that the gospel we present leaves no doubt in the person's mind concerning the reality of their position before God.
I got off track here, as this is something that I am passionate about, but God is sovereign and God is good, His lovingkindness is everlasting, and this was a good day, no, a very great day, as we were able to share and rejoice with these precious ladies the goodness of God in saving them and making them His own.