How To Provoke At Thanksgiving

Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25 and Mark 13:1-8

The word provoke usually means an act that could, in turn, lead to a “poke” as in “poke back!” A provocation between nations has been known to lead to armed conflict! This does not seem to be the best direction for a calm and thankful family Thanksgiving does it?

But to provoke in Hebrews 10:24 is to provoke to “love and good deeds.” Another translation uses the words “to stir up!” Either translation is a strong encouragement to earnestly demonstrate how Christians feel toward one another out of thanksgiving for what God in Christ (our final High Priest) has done for us! Gratitude leads to a good attitude! Especially toward the brothers and sisters as well as the neighbor, the stranger and even the enemy!

So, we arrive at being “provocative” around the Thanksgiving table. If used in the manner most often thought of “provoke” could lead to family feuds before everyone departs for their homes! Thus, we use it as intended in Hebrews 10:24!

Book ending this thanksgiving expressed in love and good deeds, however, is Daniel 12 and Mark 13 both speaking of a Final Wrapping Up, a great Stirring Up of all creation as God brings a great apocalyptic ending to non-love and bad deeds in all Creation.

Again there is Thanksgiving that God’s purposes will be fulfilled both in the work of Jesus on the Cross and in the Resurrection of all coming after the Resurrection of the first born I.e., Jesus!

When all is said and done the final word from us to God is “thanks.” From this response there is a great freedom to “provoke” love and do good to all. Sort of what you hope for at each Thanksgiving table or Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends, saints and sinners, the least and the lost, the loved and the forgiven!

Our hope is built on nothing less…..
Happy Provocative Thanksgiving!

Brother Barry

God’s Gym

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. —James 1:3–4

It’s a good thing to go to the gym, but if you don’t do anything while you’re there, it isn’t all that helpful. If you sit around on an exercise ball and use it as a pillow, that won’t help you much. If you want to get stronger, you need to actually work out. You need to do things like cardio and weights. As they say, no pain, no gain.

That can be true in our spiritual lives as well. We have to go through times of testing to be built up spiritually. Testing and trials are God’s gym in which we are broken down so we can be built up. To build muscle, you must break down muscle. The same is true of the spiritual life. To get stronger spiritually, we need to go through this process.

It is true of our faith as well. Faith is not given to us as a trophy to put into a display case. It is not given to us as something that we just stand back and admire. Faith is given to us to use, to put into action. And if we want our faith to get stronger, we will go through times of testing.

Hebrews 11:35–39 describes the kind of hardships that great men and women of faith from the Old Testament endured. These included torture, imprisonment, and stoning, to name a few. These heroes of the faith were world changers, and their faith grew stronger through experience.

Do you want to be a world changer? If you answered yes, if you say you want God to use you, then you’re in effect also saying, “Lord, send me trials.” Trials are a part of the Christian life. And if you want to be a world changer, you will be tested.

May God walk with you today,

Blessings

Chaplin Rob

TURNING SETBACKS INTO STEPPING STONES

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”—Genesis 22:2

God had asked Abraham to make the greatest sacrifice imaginable. Finally, Sarah did bring forth that promised child in her old age, and he became the light of Abraham’s life. His very name, Isaac, which means “laughter,” says it all. They loved that boy. But then God asked Abraham to sacrifice him.

In many ways, you would have to say that to be tested on this level was quite an honor because the Lord knew Abraham could handle it. God knew that Abraham would rally. He knew that Abraham would pass this test. He knew that Abraham would take this setback and turn it into an opportunity.

A disability can become an ability when it’s dedicated to God. Maybe you’re facing a hardship . . . a tragedy . . . the death of a loved one. My friend Joni Eareckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic due to a diving accident when she was teen, wrote these amazing words: “God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit . . . glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.” Joni has turned a disability into an ability. She has traveled around the world and inspired countless people.

Maybe you’re going through a test right now, and you’re saying you can’t handle it. Yes, you can. Otherwise, God would not allow you to go through it.

You can’t control what will happen in your life. All you get to do is decide how you will react to what comes your way. God is in control. You are not. But you can control what you do with what comes your way. World changers turn seeming setbacks into stepping stones.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Growing in Christ

That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works. – Psalm 26:7

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

People today are striving for personal improvement, self-empowerment, and inner strength. Yet, Christianity has a completely opposite way of thinking; it’s full of paradoxes. We die to live; we lose to find; we surrender to gain strength.

When Jesus overcame death, he defeated the worst enemy of all. Today we’re left to battle with far lesser foes, knowing that He’s already won the war.

When we stop trying to control the outcome of every situation and stop demanding that God resolves our problems according to our dictates, we unlock the door for God to show us his redemptive purpose.

Praying, ‘Your will be done’ gets us out of God’s way and removes our ideas as to how things are supposed to work out in our lives, and allows God’s ideas to take control.

Are you struggling to be a better follower of Jesus? Spiritual growth results from trusting Jesus. A life of faith will enable you to trust God increasingly without knowing what’s around the corner.

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith. – Henry Ward Beecher

Chaplin Rob

The Fallen World

2 Samuel 23:8-12, Luke 6:27-36 and Romans 13:1-5

Sunday November 11, 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I. For most of us alive today that is only history long behind us. But such an event has had lasting impact on all. What should have been a convincing moment to commit to world peace seemed to have only set the stage for World War II; and wars and large scale violence ongoing still into the 21st Century! Something is wrong.

Yet, the remedy is always before us in the struggle to be people of faith in a fallen world. And ultimately as the Creator and Savior, God makes a way for all creation. There is hope.

Our texts today cover only a portion of the vast sweep of scripture addressing the human condition. We should hope for peace yet ask what is to be done before the fullness of the Kingdom arrives. We will look at King David’s “mighty warriors,” Jesus call to “love our enemies,” and Paul’s look to the state as a way to constrain evil.

I dare say we will still struggle with lived faith each day even with Biblical guidance but we will have guidance which comes from beyond mere human wisdom and human planning.

Pray without ceasing even in the midst of “wars and rumors of wars.” Remember those who have served and continue to serve this Sunday! Remember all who walk by faith and not by what they see in a fallen world.

Pastor Barry

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers. – Philemon 1:4

The great English writer G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

Wow! What a reminder! There’s no doubt in my mind that I could give thanks more often. We set aside meal time, Sunday mornings, and my favorite holiday; Thanksgiving. But, don’t let an hour go by without giving thanks . . . for your work, school, kids, health, your spouse, your blessings and your challenges.

When you have a God-awareness about life and when you see and sense Him in your day (in the big things and the little things), it’s hard not to be thankful.

My prayer today is you will take a moment and be thankful for all that God has given you.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Saints Come Marching In

Ruth 1:1-18, Hebrews 9:11-14 and Mark 12:28-34

I write this on Halloween. Or rather All Saints Eve. Kids of all ages tend to enjoy the “scary” night of costumes and candy! Fun scary not really scary. Behind the ghosts, zombies, Frankensteins, action heroes, and cartoon characters, there is a whiff of the real thing: our death. And also those of whom we love.

All Saints Day celebrates those who have become the Church Triumphant, the Church at rest, the Church at the Eternal Banquet Table. But the only way there is through Death and Resurrection and that too only through the Risen Lord Jesus. Our scriptures have the “bookends” of the grief of Naomi and the utter loyalty unto death by Ruth AND the High Priestly death of the sacrificial Lamb of God in Hebrews 9. In between those we have Marks’s Jesus describing the full life in loving God, neighbor, and self!

Death is real but love of God, neighbor, and self is greater still. And so we remember Jesus and all our hidden-in-Christ family and friends this Sunday. Dead, not forgotten, and ultimately alive in a Kingdom that has no end and has only the Light of God in whom there is no darkness!

Come to worship and Fellowship in this All Saints Sunday!

Pastor Barry

Thankful Pilgrims

But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD! – Jonah 2:9

On September 6th, 1620, seventy men and women and thirty-two children climbed aboard the Mayflower headed for the ‘New World.’ Some of the people were looking for religious freedom, others in search of wealth. The ship was crowded. There was little room to sleep or eat. There were no bathrooms and little privacy.

Soon the treacherous ocean tossed the ship about, forcing the people to remain inside the foul-smelling quarters. Many suffered from seasickness. For two long months, the people endured these conditions. Until November 9th when they spotted land.

Now the voyagers faced new challenges. Hard land. Wild animals. A harsh winter. And little to no medical supplies. More than half the adults became sick and died. What were they to do? They considered returning to England. Then God brought a miracle to them: an English-speaking Native American named Squanto.

Squanto is a remarkable man of history. Kidnapped by Englishmen, Squanto was taken to England and taught English for three years. Many years later he was returned to his people only to be once again kidnapped by British seamen. This time, he was taken to a Spanish slave port. He was purchased by Spanish monks. They took him to their home, fed him, and told him he was free. He learned that it was their love for Jesus that prompted them to purchase him and set him free. These Christian brothers taught him the Christian faith and soon Squanto came to love and trust Jesus Christ too.

In time, he returned once more to his native village in the ‘New World.’ But this time, he found only desolation. His friend Samoset, another English-speaking Native American, told him that a sickness from the white man had in one year wiped out Squanto’s entire village. Six months later more white men arrived: the pilgrims. Squanto hid and watched them, these people looked different to him than the men who had once taken him from his native land.

Eventually, he visited the pilgrims with his friend Samoset and decided he wanted to stay and live with them.

He could have easily harbored bitterness over the lost years he spent kidnapped and enslaved. He could have watched the pilgrims die; after all, wasn’t it their kind who were responsible for the extinction of his entire village? But Squanto did not choose to hate or abandon these people. Instead, he showed them where they could find fish. He taught them where and how to plant. And he had the joy of celebrating the first Thanksgiving with them. The feast lasted for three days. The pilgrims gave thanks to God for their Native American friends, especially Squanto. Squanto gave thanks for his new family. And they all gave thanks for the One who rescued them: Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Always There

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”- Hebrews 13:5

I remember one of the first times as a young believer when I didn’t feel God’s presence. I woke up one morning and just didn’t have the great feeling I had before. And being new in the faith and not knowing the Bible very well, I thought, “I think God left me last night. What happened?”

When I talked to a Christian friend about it, he told me, “You’re going through a trial.”

“What? I’m on trial?”

“No, you’re going through a trial.”

“What’s a trial?”

My friend explained there are times in our lives when we don’t feel the presence of God, but He is still there. And in time I came to realize that God will allow us to go through trials.

For instance, you might walk outside tomorrow, and it’s an overcast day. So you say, “The sun was here yesterday. But I don’t see the sun today. I don’t feel its warmth. I guess the sun must have gone away last night.”

No, the sun hasn’t gone away. It has been merely obscured by a cloud covering. And if you don’t believe that, then try going to the beach without wearing any sunscreen. When you return home resembling a ripe tomato, you will realize the sun was out.

In the same way, some people falsely conclude that when they don’t feel God, He is gone. He has disappeared. But He is there, even when you don’t feel Him. The Bible tells us in Hebrews, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5).

It is during these times that we must walk by faith, not by feeling, because God has promised in His Word that He will be with us. That is how we know He is there.

May today you all find that God is as close to you as the air you breathe!

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Hiding God’s Word

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

What sorts of things find their way into your heart and mind? If you’re exposing yourself to a constant barrage of ungodly words, music, or images, you’re not taking full responsibility for your life.You can fill your heart and mind with God’s Word, and when you do, you’ll create a defense against some of the evil messages the world so frequently sends your way.

The writer of Psalm 119 declared, “I have tried my best to find you–don’t let me wander from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10-11). “Hiding” God’s Word in your heart essentially means memorizing and meditating on the Bible. God uses his Word–the Bible—to speak to you and show you how you ought to live.

You’ve been given the responsibility to guard your heart and to keep track of the things you hide inside it. So, what’s in there? Anger? Lust? Ugly images from TV, the movies, or the web? Are you harboring bitterness? Greed? Are you envious of others? If you’re struggling with these things maybe it’s because you have more of the world’s wisdom in your heart than the true wisdom of God.

Are you having a hard time finding God and following his commands? Hiding God’s word in your heart will foster spiritual growth by guarding against those things that hurt you and displease God.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob