Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks to an Ungrateful God

The title is perhaps alarming to you.  I must confess I purposefully chose the title to engage the mind and heart to truly ponder the texts which I believe lead to the conclusion implied in the title. At first glance, it may sound like it is intended to strike against God by labeling Him as ungrateful but after careful consideration my hope is that we might understand that God’s being ungrateful is the best news in all the world for us.  It means He has no need which can be met because he has no need.  He has no want that hasn’t been fulfilled by His own powerful will and therefore He cannot give thanks to any other being or object for meeting a need or want.  That is truly good news because if He could offer thanks to anyone for anything He would cease to be the God from whom all blessings flow!

Webster’s dictionary defines grateful as “appreciative of benefits received”.

 Meditate upon Acts 17:22-28

I. God is Self-Sufficient
Paul here is addressing a crowd in the Areopagus which was a high court of appeals for civil and criminal cases.  He looks out and says to the men of Athens, this unknown God (Possibly referring to an altar to the twelve god’s at Athens) you worship is not the one true God who created all things, who doesn’t dwell in temples made by man and who  is not served by human hands.

 I’ll risk making another controversial statement to provoke deep thought.  I implore you not to serve God!  Can you really serve God?  The answer is Yes and No.  You can serve God in the respect of being dependent on, delighting in and following Christ.  But surely we do not think that we are the answer to God’s problems and serve Him in this way.  That is blasphemy.  He is not served by Human hands as if He needed anything; as a matter of fact, it is from Him that life, breath and everything come.

Meditate upon Mark 10:43-45

II. The Servant Savior
James and John approach Jesus and basically say, Lord we want you to grant whatever we ask of you.  Jesus entertains the question and they request that they be allowed to sit on the right and left hand of Christ in His glory.  Christ responds but speaks to them the truth of servanthood and gives a perplexing statement: " Whoever would be first must be servant of all, for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many".

Christ did not come to be served but rather to serve.  This teaches us that He did not come to recruit others to do the work of the kingdom but rather He came to do the work of the Kingdom upon which God ordained Humanity to play a part.  It might be likened to  a play with plots and scenes and actors.  The play has a cast which play parts but the story has an author and it is the author who gets credit. God has a part for us to play but He doesn’t need us; instead He has chosen us.  The point is that the gospel eliminates any service we might try to offer to God in vain attempts to earn favor or find merit in His eyes.  Jesus didn’t come to be served that we might find our way to God by service.  Jesus came to die on a cross that the way to God might be paved through His servant-like sacrifice. 

Meditate upon 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

III. The Sovereign Supplier
Paul was writing to motivate the Corinthians to give generously by using the Macedonians as an example.  The Macedonians had experienced poverty and affliction and yet still overflowed in joy by the grace of God and therefore begged for the chance to give more even though they themselves were in hard times.  (Beginning in Ch. 8)  In the passage we see that God is the focus of thanksgiving since He is the source from which all giving flows.  Notice the phrases which indicate that God is behind the supplying of every need and even every desire to give.

     A. God is the supplier of Grace and material goods (2 Corinthians 9: 8-11)
     B. Service to others is also about thanksgiving to God ( 2 Corinthians 9:12)
     C. The utlimate end of thanks is the gospel and the inexpressible gift of Christ (2 Corinthians 9:13-15)

 Take a moment to pause and offer thanks to God for all of His provision but most importantly meditate on the provision of Christ as the inexpressible gift !  God is the self-sufficient, servant Savior and Sovereign Supplier.  Let us therefore give thanks to an ungrateful God!

**Adapated from "Giving Thanks to an Ungrateful God" sermon

Saturday, November 12, 2011

7 Warnings to Any Church

I have been working on a few articles for upcoming issues of The Free Will Baptist magazine.  The below list is a  preview of some of the items I will share.  I welcome any input you have on this items.  Perhaps add one...perhaps subtract one...or two?! But stay alert, lest one of these become true for us...

1. Churches begin to suffocate when they no longer welcome change.
2. Churches begin to suffocate and die when they new longer welcome new members with different ideas.
3. Churches speed up the process of suffocation when their leaders grow to prefer the status quo.
4. Churches begin to suffocate when they discourage dissent.
5. Churches quit breathing when they quit praying.
6. Churches begin dying when the Holy Scriptures no longer occupy a central place in their services, in their classes, and in their preaching.
7. Churches suffocate when they turn their focus inward and use the great bulk of their resources and energy on themselves rather than on missions.  

I welcome your feedback.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 7, 1905 a Birthday!

It was a chilly autumn Saturday when people gathered to begin writing a story.  Perhaps we don't know the essence of what sparked the journey.  I imagine the anticipation of those believers the Monday night before (the church was organized on a Tuesday before the Central Conference on Wednesday).
I can almost imagine the conversations around dinner tables with handmade biscuits and molasses.  How many days, weeks, months, or even years did it take these gathered believers to decide to start a congregation?  But with the arrival of new industry, Winterville was born and with it a new congregation.  
I imagine the meager purses and wallets that opened as people gave sacrificially.  I wonder how many chickens and pigs were "fully committed" to the pots of chicken and pastry or ham biscuits at that first homecoming.  There is no way I could touch on the true experiences of those early years.  I can only dream! 
I wonder how they selected the first deacons and preacher?  I wonder if they had to beg people to serve as treasurer or clerk?  I wish youth programs could be as simple as they were in those days! I wish I could have been there for the first business meeting! My only source is the Tuesday, November 7, 1905 minute of that first meeting.  
Upon confirming membership of the original 49 charter members, the next item of business was to elect delegates and send a donation to the Central Conference meeting what was held at Gum Swamp Church.  Those 49 voted to send $1.50 as a contribution to the conference.  It was not until after those items that they church elected its first pastor, Reverend T.N Manning and elected J.R. Smith clerk. 
As the congregation grew, two deacons were selected, Bryant Tripp and William S Nobles.  The first trustees, A.M. Stox and J.W. Harper were elected.  Then the building program began by appointing A.M. Stox, J.W. Harper, Bryant Tripp, David McGhlohon, William S Nobles, and J.R. Smith was the building committee.  From this historic beginning, Winterville Free Will Baptist Church was born. 
What a rich heritage of missions!  It is important for us to realize our church was birthed out of a mission…not out of division.  Our DNA holds the essence of the original congregation’s calling and mission.  To this mission, and to Christ’s high calling, we must be committed.