As we enter the final month of 2019, traditionally, this is about the time when I sit down and ponder what I accomplished this year. What went well, what didn’t quite go so well. The heartaches, frustrations, and disappointments. The victories and the defeats. One thing is consistent, is that each year contains all of the above- it is just the number of each that changes. In the end, I always conclude the same. Life is never the way you plan it. Along the way there are many unforeseen events, diagnoses, and actions that were never considered when the plan for the year was being formulated. All of these things once again remind me, there is a God and I am not he. All the things that constantly change are the things of this world, while the things of heaven that we read about, never change. Only God knows what will be, and when it will be- we are powerless over such things. Therefore, it is important that we learn to follow HIM, seek HIS ways, and to focus on the lasting things that HE says to focus on. The one fact that constantly stares me in the face is James 4:14 that reminds us, our lives are but a vapor- how true. I guess that is why I struggle to see why so many live their lives as though there is no eternity, and that they are going to live here forever.
So what did I learn from 2019? That it, like every other year that preceded it, is unpredictable and we MUST trust God in ALL things.
What about you? What are your reflections of this year? Did you accomplish the goals that you set out to accomplish? Did you do anything that required a sacrifice from you beyond your comfort zone, for the benefit of the kingdom of God? Did you set spiritual goals for yourself this year? Did you reach those goals?
As you reflect on what the year meant to you, I want to encourage you to spiritually challenge yourself. To use whatever time you have on this earth to make a significant difference for the kingdom of God, to bring others to Christ, and lastly to ensure when your time on this earth is up, that others will see the great spiritual legacy that you left behind. We still have four more weeks of 2019, do something wonderful; there is still time.
This time of the year always takes me back to when I was a child. Although we had a small family, Mom always made our Thanksgiving meal with ”all the fixins.” She designated me as the official taste tester for her dressing, (which I always viewed as the centerpiece of the meal). For some reason unknown to me, Mom trusted my palate, and would modify her dressing based on my recommendations. I loved that job, I always felt like I contributed something to the meal, even though I never really cooked anything.
Back then I saw Thanksgiving through the tunnel vision eyes of a child. It was all about the meal, even though Mom made us say what we were thankful for before we could eat. As I grew older, my view of Thanksgiving began to change. Little by little the emphasis on the food began to fade, and shifted towards those who were less fortunate, and didn’t have the opportunity to sit down with family and friends and celebrate this holiday that I call the “4F holiday” (food, family, friends, and football).
That brings me to this year, and the joy I now have of celebrating this holiday not with a table jam-packed with food, but joined arm-in-arm with a wonderful group of people; who with hearts of Jesus, seek out the less fortunate and ensure that on this day, they (like everyone else) get to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. I am proud of our Port Huron CoC family, for although we are relatively small in number, we still manage to ”go beyond” what is expected and reach out (and into) the community on this wonderful holiday. May our heavenly Father continue to guide our hearts into being selfless servants of his, who are willing to do whatever he places on our hearts, to bring glory to HIS name.
May God bless you in a bountiful way, my Port Huron family, for your kindness, generosity, and hearts that you are eager to use to show this city how much God loves them.
Blessings to you all.
In this season of giving and sharing, the air is filled with hearts that reach to those in need. Also, in reciprocation the recipients respond with gratitude (most of the time). It always warms the heart to extend the gift of kindness and blessing and receiving back in return- gratitude; because that is a natural response. Gratitude is much like the pain we feel when we lose a loved one. I have found there seems to be a direct correlation between the pain we feel, and the love we had for the person. Without question, the greater the love- the greater the pain; and according to God, so shall it be with gratitude. Great blessings deserve great gratitude. A blessing the magnitude of Calvary, demands and deserves a life of gratitude in thanksgiving back to God. But how? How can we demonstrate this gratitude we feel in our hearts for the gift of salvation we have received? The answer is simple in words, but challenging in practice. We live it!! Everyday as we go about our day, gratitude demands that we show the love of Jesus in all we do. The fruit of the spirit should be evident in our speech, our actions, our footsteps, our communication and our heart. That is how our gratitude looks to God. Jesus put it this way, if you love me you will keep my commands. Paul reminds us in Philippians that we are to have the mind of Christ. He also told us in Romans 12, that we are to RENEW our mind. Gratitude this season is much more than sitting around a table stuffed with food of every kind, reciting what we are thankful for. It’s more. It’s a dedicated life to Christ, that sings his praises for saving us. Let us strive to live a life of great gratitude.
This month our focus is on being thankful for the many blessings God has rained into our lives. As you read the words from this simple poem, it is easy to see just how blessed we are. Today is Veterans Day, share your blessings by doing something kind for a Veteran. Kindness doesn’t boast or make loud noises, it speaks gently and quietly from the heart.
by Max Lucado
This wasn't the first night that Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. After all, he was a fisherman. He, like the others, worked at night. He knew the fish would feed near the surface during the cool of the night and return to the deep during the day. No, this wasn't the first night Peter had spent on the Sea of Galilee. Nor was it the first night he had caught nothing. There was that time years before …
Most mornings Peter and his partners would sell their fish, repair their nets, and head home to rest with a bag of money and a feeling of satisfaction. This particular morning there was no money. There was no satisfaction. They had worked all through the night but had nothing to show for it except weary backs and worn nets.
And, what's worse, everyone knew it. Every morning the shore would become a market as the villagers came to buy their fish, but that day there were no fish.
Jesus was there that morning, teaching. As the people pressed there was little room for him to stand, so he asked Peter if his boat could be a platform. Peter agreed, maybe thinking the boat might as well be put to some good use.
Peter listens as Jesus teaches. It's good to hear something other than the slapping of waves. When Jesus finishes with the crowd, he turns to Peter. He has another request. He wants to go fishing. "Take the boat into deep water, and put your nets in the water to catch some fish" (Luke 5:4).
Peter groans. The last thing he wants to do is fish. The boat is clean. The nets are ready to dry. The sun is up and he is tired. It's time to go home. Besides, everyone is watching. They've already seen him come back empty-handed once. And, what's more, what does Jesus know about fishing?
So Peter speaks, "Master, we worked hard all night trying to catch fish" (v. 5). Mark the weariness in the words. "We worked hard." Scraping the hull. Carrying the nets. Pulling the oars. Throwing the nets high into the moonlit sky. Listening as they slap on the surface of the water. "All night." The sky had gone from burnt orange to midnight black to morning gold. The hours had passed as slowly as the fleets of clouds before the moon. The fishermen's conversation had stilled and their shoulders ached. While the village slept, the men worked. All … night … long. “Trying to catch fish." The night's events had been rhythmic: net swung and tossed high till it spread itself against the sky. Then wait. Let it sink. Pull it in. Do it again. Throw. Pull. Throw. Pull. Throw. Pull. Every toss had been a prayer. But every drag of the empty net had come back unanswered. Even the net sighed as the men pulled it out and prepared to throw it again.
(Continued next week)
by Max Lucado
The Sun was in the water before Peter noticed it—a wavy circle of gold on the surface of the sea. A fisherman is usually the first to spot the sun rising over the crest of the hills. It means his night of labor is finally over.
But not for this fisherman. Though the light reflected on the lake, the darkness lingered in Peter's heart. The wind chilled, but he didn't feel it. His friends slept soundly, but he didn't care. The nets at his feet were empty, the sea had been a miser, but Peter wasn't thinking about that.
His thoughts were far from the Sea of Galilee. His mind was in Jerusalem, reliving an anguished night. As the boat rocked, his memories raced:
"What was I thinking?" Peter mumbled to himself as he stared at the bottom of the boat. Why did I run?
Peter had run; he had turned his back on his dearest friend and run. We don't know where. Peter may not have known where. He found a hole, a hut, an abandoned shed—he found a place to hide and he hid. He had bragged, "Everyone else may stumble … but I will not" (Matt. 26:33). Yet he did. Peter did what he swore he wouldn't do. He had tumbled face first into the pit of his own fears. And there he sat. All he could hear was his hollow promise. Everyone else may stumble … but I will not. Everyone else … I will not. I will not. I will not. A war raged within the fisherman.
At that moment the instinct to survive collided with his allegiance to Christ, and for just a moment allegiance won. Peter stood and stepped out of hiding and followed the noise till he saw the torch-lit jury in the courtyard of Caiaphas.
He stopped near a fire and warmed his hands. The fire sparked with irony. The night had been cold. The fire was hot. But Peter was neither. He was lukewarm. "Peter followed at a distance," Luke described (22:54 NIV).
He was loyal … from a distance. That night he went close enough to see, but not close enough to be seen. The problem was, Peter was seen. Other people near the fire recognized him. "You were with him," they had challenged. "You were with the Nazarene." Three times people said it, and each time Peter denied it. And each time Jesus heard it Please understand that the main character in this drama of denial is not Peter, but Jesus. Jesus, who knows the hearts of all people, knew the denial of his friend. Three times the salt of Peter's betrayal stung the wounds of the Messiah.
How do I know Jesus knew? Because of what he did. Then "the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61 NIV). When the rooster crowed, Jesus turned. His eyes searched for Peter and they found him. At that moment there were no soldiers, no accusers, no priests. At that predawn moment in Jerusalem there were only two people—Jesus and Peter.
Peter would never forget that look. Though Jesus' face was already bloody and bruised, his eyes were firm and focused. They were a scalpel, laying bare Peter's heart. Though the look had lasted only a moment, it lasted forever.
And now, days later on the Sea of Galilee, the look still seared. It wasn't the resurrection that occupied his thoughts. It wasn't the empty tomb. It wasn't the defeat of death. It was the eyes of Jesus seeing his failure. Peter knew them well. He'd seen them before. In fact he'd seen them on this very lake.
(Continued next week)
It was a typical day while on vacation, when one phone call changed everything. The wife of a great friend of mine, called to tell me Mike was in the hospital suffering with an aggressive form of cancer, and was being moved to hospice- two days later, Mike passed. It felt as though I had been hit in the chest by a sledgehammer - I felt empty and began searching for something to hold on to that would enable me to grasp the situation. Immediately, I thought of the disciples the night Jesus was crucified. I imagined what it must have been like for them after all the dust had settled, and they were safely huddled in one place, trying to absorb what they had just witnessed. How do you put something like that into words? Thoughts of what they would do now that Jesus was gone, must have dominated their thinking and conversation. He had told them a lot about this night- but now, it is all just a blur. He was their teacher, their protector. They followed him day and night for three years, going where he led them, eating what he ate. The conversations he had with them. The special moments, as they listened to him talk to others- especially the religious leaders. They lost more than a teacher; they lost a great friend. Sure, he said he would return, but what if he didn’t. Fast forward and imagine how they felt the day Jesus appeared among them. Imagine the joy and jubilation in their hearts as once again their friend and teacher was among them. After this, I began to reflect on the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth in chapter 15, as he explains to them the resurrection. It’s there in the resurrection where the power of God overcomes death. It’s there that makes all the difference. It’s there what was broken is fixed. Even though we hurt today, as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “Don’t grieve like others who are without hope.” Did you catch it? There is more. That’s just the end of a chapter, not the end of the book. As we turn the page, we read of this great reunion of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb, in that place where there will be no pain, no crying, no mourning, no sickness, none of those things. I’m confident one day we will see those who have died in Christ. That’s the point. God has fixed it all. For now it’s just a short separation, followed by a reunion that will last throughout eternity. Father we thank you for loving us so completely to forgive our sins against you. We thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of his resurrection that will one day raise us! We praise you and thank you for this wonderful grace. So therefore, let us continue to march on, until victory is won!
One thing taught throughout the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament, is that the Christian life is a progression, a journey of the redeemed soul toward God.
Another is that Satan stands to resist every step and to hinder the journey in every way possible. To advance against his shrewd and powerful opposition requires faith and steadfast courage. The epistles call it “confidence.”
In his Philippian epistle, Paul declares his own determination to advance against all obstacles. He says in effect that while he is not yet perfect and has not yet attained unto the goal set before him, he is putting the past behind him psychologically as well as chronologically that he may go on to find in Christ his all in all. “I press on toward the goal,” he says, “to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Then with a fine disregard for apparent self-contradiction he urges, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (3:15).
(Borrowed from A. W. Tozer)
We are concluding our series on “Finishing Strong.” If you recall, Paul admonishes us to run the race to get the prize. That is a very important phrase, because it not only encourages us to run, but to finish - well. My final thought on the subject comes from another statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Did you catch it right at the end of his statement? He is concerned about being “disqualified.” When we consider who Paul is, and how much he has done for the kingdom, how can a person like that even think of being disqualified? Paul has had (personal) conversation with Jesus, instrumental in planting churches everywhere, wrote almost one half of the New Testament, and lastly considering all Paul has done, how can he have something in HIS life that would/could disqualify him? Because he is human and frail like the rest of us- that’s how. Paul is well aware that his life is an example to those he instructs, and if his life is out of control - it voids his message.
I contemplated the thought of being “disqualified.” Can you imagine the joy of finishing a grueling marathon race only to be officially disqualified because you were caught cheating? What about us? Can we be disqualified once we reach our spiritual finish line? I believe so. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus uttered these stinging words, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Imagine happily going to church every Sunday only to find out in the end, your lifestyle has disqualified you, and heaven will not be your eternal home. Perhaps these words of Paul should serve as more than a mere admonishment, but strongly considered as a warning. Sound advice says that we should be willing to do all we can to make it to heaven, even if it means beating our bodies. Better to show up battered and bruised than not at all.
Nehemiah, the good, rose up from his weeping to do something about a vision God had laid on his heart. Under divine providence, he was soon transported from Shushan to his beloved city, Jerusalem, armed with authority and equipped with materials to rebuild the ruined city. . .
The first device of the "enemy," upon hearing of the undertaking, was to heap ridicule on the whole plan. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem laughed Nehemiah and his helpers to scorn. Undeterred, Nehemiah replied with firm assurance, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us." And the work went on according to plan.
After all other means had failed to hinder the reconstruction, the conspirators tried to arrange for a conference with Nehemiah. The man of God saw in this an evil purpose to do him mischief and divert him from his monumental work. His reply to the would-be mischief-makers is classic and might well be adopted for the all-time stock reply to all such overtures: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:3).
The great task to which God had called Nehemiah was so important that every other consideration must be waived. Would that we might have such an overpowering sense of being about our Father's business and be so impressed with the grandeur of our task that we would reject every suggestion of the evil one that would bid us take up some lesser pursuit. Let us rout him with the words that date back to 445 B.C., and which cannot be improved upon: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down."
By A.W. Tozer