Monday, November 21, 2016

Being content is another way to say “thanks” to God.

Being content is another way to say “thanks” to God.

All you have to do is watch news clips from around the world to see how richly blessed we are in America. We have a living standard that is the envy of most in the world. Though millions of people have migrated to our land for over 200 years – they still come. Coming to America doesn’t seem to get old. People everywhere leave their country, family, and culture behind to come to our country. Most are looking for what is called the “American Dream.” Many are willing to enter illegally and risk their lives in the process just to get here. All these facts testify to how richly our country has been blessed compared to so many nations around the world.
But there is a strange yet common irony in our land. Though our lives are filled with more blessings than we can use, our constant desire is to want more. What causes us to think that the more we have the happier we will be? I am sure it is just part of our human nature. It leads us to be unsatisfied, and always wanting more.
When we consider our incredible standard of living we enjoy, should we take take some time to think about it and to thank the One who has given it to us.
What a blessing it would be to simply honor the Father in heaven with contentment. What a blessing to rise above the national cry for more. How blest we are when we take time to consider how each material blessing has fit so perfectly into our lives and fulfils our needs. There is a famous saying taken from God’s Word which says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim 6:6)
Contentment is just not part of our conversation today. Work harder! Make more! Spend! Charge it! Enjoy it! You deserve it! Retire early! These are the cries of the world around us. Now don’t get me wrong. It is not wrong to work hard or to achieve success or to improve our lot in life. It is quite another thing to be content with what God has given us. Take a test. How happy would you be if you never got a raise; if you never were able to buy a new car; if what you have now was taken from you?
Being content, really content is a gift from God. You can be rich or poor and, if you are content, you will find happiness and peace. Contentment is the foundation of true thanksgiving.
May your Thanksgiving Day be a blessed one! O give thanks to the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endures forever!” (Psalm 106:1)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

How good must we be to please God?

An English duke was out hunting in the forest one day with his men-at-arms when they came across a tree. On the tree had been painted an archery target and smack in the center of the bull’s eye was an arrow embedded deep into the tree. It was a perfect shot. They continued on only to find more targets just like the first. A circle target with an arrow embedded right in the center of the bull’s eye. There must have been a dozen of them. The duke was amazed. Never before had he seen an archer who had such accuracy.
As they went on, they soon came across a young lad with a bow and arrows. The duke asked the boy if he knew who had shot the arrows they had just seen. The boy acknowledged that he had. Much surprised, duke asked, ‘You didn’t simply take a rock and set the arrow into the targets did you?” The boy said he hadn’t. In fact, he swore that he had shot all the arrows from a hundred paces. Immediately the duke asked the boy if he would serve as one of his archers and the boy agreed. Then the duke said, “You must tell me how you became such an expert shot.” “Well,” said the boy, “first I shot the arrow into the tree and then I painted the target around it.”
This how many people become moral or good in their own eyes. We shoot our moral arrows and wherever they hit, we draw a target around them. Some are pleased because they go to church every Sunday but think nothing of cheating on their spouse, getting drunk, or telling a lie to cover up their mistakes. It’s done by comparing ourselves to others. When we do, it’s easy to find someone who is not as good as we are and compare ourselves to them. In the end, we feel good and become convinced that God must feel that way too.
God’s standard for goodness or morality is much different. He says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). It’s clear from God’s Word that his standards for goodness are much higher than ours. In James (2:10), God says, “For whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” In other words, if we commit just one sin, we miss God’s demand for perfection.
There is only one way to become good in God’s eyes. There is only one way we can ever hope to be good enough to spend eternity with God in heaven. It is through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one who has kept the law perfectly. Never once did he miss the bull’s eye. Then, in love he took our sins and their guilt upon himself and took it to the cross. There he endured his Father’s wrath, the pain and torment of hell, in our place. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Good took our sins and put them on Christ. He took Christ’s righteousness and gave it to us. It is simple as that. Simply believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Who did you vote for?

I am writing this article just two days before we start to vote. By the time you read this, it will all be over. The elections will be over. The political ads and phone calls will stop. The daily barrage of polling data will at least slow down. The nation will know, hopefully, who will lead our country for the next four years. Thousands of newly elected officials across the land at every level of government will prepare to take over their duties or continue them.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that I steer clear of politics at least as far as endorsing a candidate or telling you whom you should vote for. That’s not my job as a pastor. I’d gladly talk politics on a personal level but from the pulpit.
I do believe that it is part of my calling and the scope of this column to speak out on moral or ethical issues that we face in our daily lives. For example, I believe that the life in the womb is a person with a soul (Psalm 51:5) and should never be aborted unless the life of the mother is in danger. I believe God ordained the institution of marriage and clearly states it is to be a marriage between a man and a woman. (Gen 2:18-24) I believe that the powers that be are ordained by God and deserve our respect and need our prayers (Rom 13:1-3).
Over the years, I have covered these and many other issues. My goal is not to share my opinion but be guided by God’s Word. I know not everyone agrees with me but my goal is to speak the truth guided by God’s Word.
I also believe our only hope for the life to come is found in Jesus Christ. I know that means a lot of people are in trouble but that’s what the Bible clearly teaches. Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). We are all sinners – every one of us. Those sins condemn us and we would end up in hell if not for the saving work of Jesus Christ. In love for every sinner, God sent his own Son to carry out the work of salvation. Jesus, God’s Son, was punished in our place. He faced the wrath of his Father because of our sin. He endured the pain and torment of hell in our place. He died in our place. He rose from the dead to testify to all that his work of salvation was complete. Trust in Jesus for the salvation and you will be saved. Reject him and you will be condemned.

Elections are important. I pray that God will give courage and wisdom, guide and bless whoever it is that wins. I pray for his blessing on our nation as well. Most important of all, I trust in the promises of God. He is the one who gives life its meaning. He is the one who keeps every promise. He is the one who will take me and every other believer in Jesus Christ to heaven when we die. Put your faith and trust in him! To God be the glory.