I give thanks to my God…

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

By the time we are done reading the book of First Corinthians, most of us have forgotten about this introduction that Paul offers. Through all the sins they are dealing with, all the strife in the body, all the immorality in the Church, Paul still gives thanks for them. He thanks God for the Church in Corinth and longs for their being made clean.

God is faithful

We are told that Jesus will sustain the Church until the last day. Even though these people are still wretched sinners, they will be sustained by Jesus. Jesus will carry them through. So Paul gives thanks for them, not because they are the worthy ones, but because God is faithful and worthy of all praise and he works greatly in their lives and ministries.

We ought to give thanks

With the exception of Romans and Galatians, every time Paul addresses a Church, he begins with giving thanks. Most of these remained jacked up Churches with many of the same issues our Churches have. But the point is this: Jesus died and rose again for the Church. Jesus is cleansing the Church. There is nothing that will change his love for the Church and we must lift the Church up in prayer. This includes praying for the Church as a whole and for individuals within the body- and it begins with thanking God that they are there. We thank God for their salvation. We thank God for growth. We thank God for opportunities to show grace to them (which means we are thanking him, instead of complaining to him when others mess up). We never thank God for evil done to them, but we lift them up in prayer and thanksgiving for the work that will be done in them.

Go and do. And don’t do this:

Image HT: Ben Witherington

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What We Don’t Know

Two years ago, I led a team of seven to China. Our mission was to aid in bringing the Gospel and encourage Chinese Christians in their faith in Christ. While we were there, we ministered to many people through many ways. One of those people was a woman who translated for us. She was the personal assistant of our unbelieving contact in a certain city and appeared to have it rough. She had one outfit that she wore the whole time we were there and we suspect that she was more that just a personal assistant to this man and we know that she doesn’t (or didn’t) know Christ. So at the end of our stay (we were in that city for four days) my friend Justin did something illegal. He wrote her a letter explaining to her the Gospel in hopes that she would find true joy.

Yeah, it’s illegal

In the months leading up to this trip, I had many conversations with people about what I would be doing there. One girl asked me if I would be preaching in the streets. She knew I was a believer and that this was a mission trip, but was ignorant of the fact that doing so is illegal. I graciously explained that we could be removed from the country for doing that and any Chinese people with us would possibly be imprisoned. This comes as a shock to so many people in America. They think that everyone has the freedom we do. We must graciously inform many, even those within the Church, that that is false.

Bittersweet

I am saddened, yet filled with joy when I read articles like this.

Saddened because our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, imprisoned and murdered for the faith. Saddened that they have to endure it. Saddened that so many don’t think it’s happening.

But I am joyful for them. Joyful that they are being faithful to God’s Word and Mission to save the lost. Joyful that they refuse to give in. Joyful that they continue to serve as examples to believers everywhere of true, Gospel centered mission.

Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters across the globe as they struggle to remain faithful to what God is doing.

Some great reminders

This weekend is going to be one long one for me, and longer for others. For those that don’t know, a great friend of mine, and a believer in Christ, passed away last week and his wake and funeral are this weekend. I have been given the great opportunity of speaking tonight at the wake. In light of that, I found some great encouragements in the blog-world today:

Scotty Smith has daily prayers that offer encouragement to believers. Today, it was in regards to life and death, and it is a great one to reflect on.

A few weeks ago, I posted on the fact that God is sovereign over all. A week later, I needed that reminder myself.

One of my favorite songs by Sovereign Grace is All I have is Christ. That is a great encouragement at all times, good and bad. (HT:Timmy Brister)

Pray for the Twomey family as they struggle through this difficult weekend.

What good are thoughts?

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, many photographs were taken depicting the destruction. Below these photos was a comment that I will take these next two posts to comment on. It was from an atheist man in Sweden who was condemning people for praying for the Haitians. The second part of his comment was:

My thoughts are with the unfortunate people of Haiti and their families.

Think? Uh… pray

I have never understood this statement. Ever.

As believers, we are able, and commanded to, bring our petitions to God for healing, comfort, repentance, and justice. A few of the many texts on this include:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.– James 5.13-18

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.– 1 Timothy 2.1-4

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!– Matthew 7.7-11

When you pray

In prayer, you are actually petitioning one who is all-loving and far greater than yourself. Even those who deny God must realize that the God they deny (“if He was real”) is all powerful and if they were to pray to Him, He would be able to answer any request.

So I ask, what good does thinking do? Are you, Atheist, so powerful that by your thoughts you can move mountains, feed the hungry, rescue the weary, and change the world? Certainly “thinking” about those in need is a kind gesture, but realistically, there is never progress to be made by mere thoughts. Thus we have been given the gift of prayer that we might petition a holy God to move for us.

Let’s use that power to its potential especially now.

A prayer for devotion

Lord, keep me faithful even when I become poor, unhealthy, and hungry. When my eyes fail me, my hearing escapes me, and my pocket empties- may I still be yours. Christ, sustain my heart even as you have sustained my wallet and my stomach for so long. I am not poor, but rich. I have not suffered to the point of shedding blood, but have been kept by the surpassing grace of your cross. Spirit, revive my soul that my worship may be found in you, oh God. When I lose my car, my house, my family, and my possessions, may I retain your Word and your heart, and may your grace abound far beyond the wisdom of my heart.

May I realize that I am rich in my poverty, and that all I need is the gold that has been refined by you, and the garments that you have bleached whiter than snow. All my hope is found in you, and may that be so as long as this soul inhabits this body.

How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

Psalm 137.4-6

When Jesus has become a side note…

…all else fails.

Right? That, or He is very quick to set you straight. As Matt Chandler said in a message once:

The wrath of God is best seen when He does nothing against your sin.

The sin of turning from God, or just neglecting to look his way. I am guilty. And you?

Rash Decisions

I have mentioned numerous times my experiences with my trip to China during the 2008 summer Olympics. There are many stories from the whole trip, but the most seldom mentioned one is how we came about deciding to go or not. One night in mid-January 2008, a few of my friends and I were sitting in the front row listening to one of my good friends speak on his time in China preparing for the Olympics. My buddy Cody turned to me and asked if I would go to China to play in the band with them. My response? “No.” That simple. “No, I’m not going to China with you.”

The next morning we heard the talk again and I felt a tug (not from Cody). I felt that it was a good thing to do. So I turned to the guys and asked, “Can we go to China?” They were ecstatic! So we proceeded to plan the trip.

Our prayer habits

I won’t say that we neglected prayer while having our planning meetings, but we were neglecting God’s planning. Our prayers would be similar to the cheap prayers I talked about yesterday. As in, “Lord, help us get there. Work your will in us!”

Fast-forward to June. We were getting ready to (finally) book tickets and get our visas. There was still time to drop out and I was uneasy. Things were going against (my) plans, and there began to be some dissension. So after much prayer over what God would have us do, I called a meeting with the guys, here’s essentially what I told them:

Guys, we are two months from leaving. We don’t have our visas. We haven’t raised the money yet (we were about $10,000 away from our needs being met). And consequently, we don’t have our tickets yet. We have sent music over there for them to hear, but that can be changed if need be. I am going to China. When we were planning this in January, we neglected God and his plan. We went with it without the proper planning and necessary prayer. We have a week. One week before we send out for visas. That gives you a week to pray. If by next week you don’t feel led into this trip (there were doubts in some of our minds) then you can still drop out. But by saying you’re in next week, you are sticking with it. And we will go to China.

A new prayer

We prayed that week, putting Christ’s will first, searching our motives and desires, and wondering if anyone would leave. The next week rolled around and I asked them each individually. The four guys all said that they would be going, but also said that they had considerations of leaving until the week before. God used prayer as a means to not only reveal himself to us, but also in order to set his will in stone in our hearts that we might readily serve.

Imagine…

I don’t often use “what if” questions. But in this case, it is a good one to ask. What if we had realized the need for this back in January? Would we have been in the same stressful spot by July?

I would argue that we wouldn’t have been. God was looking for that communication and lack of it almost ended the journey before we left for China. So praise God for His guidance in all of this. He is well deserving.