Does gratitude matter? Are you a thankful person? I’m not necessarily referring to saying grace for a meal, a mumbled prayer hurriedly spoken to get on to the first fork full. I’m asking does gratitude characterize you as a person? Do people who know you say, “You know, they are really a gracious, grateful person.”
Interestingly, the Apostle Paul lists characteristics of “last days” kind of people. One of the words squeezed in a list of horrible acts and attitudes is the word “ungrateful.” As time draws closer to an end, people become characterized by ungratefulness. We aren’t thankful. You know, it requires humility to be thankful. Saying “thanks” means someone gave something to me or did something for me that put me in their debt. Gratitude doesn’t repay the debt, but acknowledges that it exists. Being gracious means I am indebted to another for gifts given that I do not deserve or could not repay.
Are you a thankful person? I believe God notices gratitude. And I also believe He notices ingratitude! Just like you do. So what do I thank God for? Here’s a rule of thumb and a place to begin: Thank Him for anything you want repeated. In reality, we thank God in everything (notice: not for everything!). But in every circumstance, every situation, every part of life….give thanks. For this, Paul tells us, is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.
Give thanks. With grateful, overflowing, indebted hearts. Give thanks. And then. …do it again.
A poll conducted by LifeWay Research found that many of us are very picky about who we will pray for. For instance, the poll revealed that we typically pray for …
- Family and friends 82 percent of the time
- Our own problems and difficulties 74 percent of the time
- Our enemies 37 percent of the time
- Government leaders 12 percent of the time.
Strangely enough, 36 percent of survey participants said they typically pray for financial prosperity, 21 percent pray to win the lottery, and 13 percent typically pray for their favorite sports team to win.
But I trust that, today, many around the world are praying for the people of Paris. The horrific episode of violence unleashed Friday night on the streets and in the stadiums and against the people of France forced the first curfew to be in place since World War 2. Many leaders around the world are calling this the first major battle of World War III.
Whether or not that is true, I am not prescient enough to say. I am, with the rest of the world, horrified and angered by this unprovoked attack by the ISIS organization. And with the rest of the world, I will say “It’s enough.”
Yet why are we surprised by these things? Jesus told us that there would be wars and rumors of wars before His return comes. He said “nation would rise up against nation” (literally “people group would rise up against people group”). That is what we are seeing.
And we will see more. Probably coming before we think, the headlines will shout similar attacks against America. And so, what do we do?
1) We must PRAY. As never before, we must take prayer to the next level in our churches. This battle will not be won on fields of combat. It is a spiritual conflict that must be waged with spiritual weapons. We must pray….swallow hard here….for the members of ISIS who are so deceived that they believe they will be rewarded for killing enemies of Islam. Their delusion leads them to don suicide vests and deploy them in crowds of innocent people. We must pray for their salvation as never before.
2) We must WATCH. Our Lord’s return is drawing nearer, but as it comes the world will continue to deteriorate politically, relationally, geographically, and even astronomically. And certainly, morally and spiritually. These things, again, have been predicted and promised.
3) We must WITNESS. As never before we must go and as we are going, speak the Gospel….share the Gospel…live the Gospel. The hour is getting late. The final call is coming. Jesus will return.
4) We must be READY. If you are living today in fear over what may come next then may I take this moment to tell you that, more than anything else, you need a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the only way of salvation….there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved. You must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, the sinless Son of God who went to the cross to pay the price and bear God’s wrath toward your sin and mine. You must confess with your mouth Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Christ from the dead.
And you must follow Him. Learn His ways. Follow His steps.
He will lead you into life as you have never known it.
Join us this Christmas Season as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
- Wednesday, December 2: Celebrate Service
Our once a month Wednesday mid-morning service will feature a special time of caroling and message by Dr. Tim Maynard. Service begins at 10 in the Worship Center.
- Sunday, December 6: Children’s Choir Celebration
Join our children’s choirs as they sing songs celebrating this joyous time of year. The program will start at 6 pm in the Worship Center. Childcare provided for preschoolers.
- Saturday, December 12 and Sunday December 13: Emanuel Christmas Musical
Our Celebration Choir and Orchestra will perform the Emanuel, an offering of praise and worship during a season of celebration and joy! Musical begins at 6 pm each evening in the Worship Center. Childcare for preschoolers is available.
- Sunday, December 20: Family Worship Service
We will have both Worship Services at 9:30 and 11. There is no Sunday School for children, youth or adults. Preschool Sunday School at 9:30 and 11 in the ROC.
- December 24: Christmas Eve Family Service
A family tradition at Fruit Cove Baptist Church. Our Christmas Eve service features a children’s story time, singing Christmas carols and telling of the Christmas story from Scripture. We will be taking up our Lottie Moon offering to support foreign missionaries. Services are at 4 and 6 pm and are identical.
- December 27: Worship service at 11 only. Preschool Sunday School at 11 in the ROC. No children, youth or adult Sunday School.
Our regular Sunday schedule will resume on January 3
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His Word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)
We are a people who expect things to happen now. Our TV viewing is oriented to the 22 minute sit-com. Most story lines can be resolved in that much time, with five minutes of commercials in the middle! We like our popcorn microwaved, our wireless signal instantaneous (and uninterrupted by that little swirly icon!), and our coffee brewed in a Keurig. We don’t like delays… in traffic, in response to our INSTANT message, or in the grocery store checkout line. We like short books (notice, they are being released in smaller and smaller sizes?), short sermons (well…), and short waits in ANY line.
And you may be certain that this tendency toward impatience in EVERY arena of life bleeds over into our prayer life. Pray all night? You have to be kidding! Be persistent in prayer? Wait on the Lord? All these concepts are foreign to us in our quick-fix, microwaved, instant messaging culture. How dare God keep ME waiting? Doesn’t He know I have… texting to get back to?? And so, along with our shorter, simpler books and our desire for shorter sermons, and our tendency toward quicker everything… there is the need for quick-fix prayers.
Now in defense, short prayers aren’t always bad… not always a sign of impatience. And the prayers really aren’t the problem. It’s expecting an immediate ANSWER that is the issue. Sometimes God has us wait… and wait… and wait…..and wait… and wait… and even then sometimes He doesn’t answer. I guess there are times that the discipline of waiting not on but WITH the Lord is more important than you getting what you think you need.
Sometimes you just need God. Just Him. Not what He can give you. Just His person, just His presence. Just God. And sometimes when we get prayer right… that’s exactly WHO we get.
And He’s always enough.
In this season when churches honor and appreciate their pastoral leadership, allow me to tell you some things this pastor appreciates about the privilege and calling of ministry. I’ve listed ten. There are many, many others.
1) Seeing lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2) Walking with individuals and families in crisis and seeing them make it through
3) Being forced to depend on God…daily
4) Reading, studying, and getting to teach God’s changeless truth in the Bible
5) Letting the children come… and go into life with the Word of God as their firm foundation
6) Serving a church that is not afraid to let me lead as God leads me
7) Leading authentic worship
8) Working with a God-called and committed staff and support team
9) Sending people out on short term…and some even lifetime… mission work
10) Getting to be a part of a ministry of telling the truth to a culture that has lost its way
Having served alongside you now for almost 23 years, I can tell you that your commitment to Christ and your willingness to allow me to lead is not only refreshing, but unique. Fruit Cove is an awesome church and I am privileged to serve Christ’s mission with you here.
And I hope YOU know how much this pastor appreciates YOU!