Thanks For “Nothing”

CornucopiaEmptyPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: Thanksgiving Devotional/ Thanks For “Nothing”

Giving Thanks In All Situations  Job 1:21-22, Philippians 4:4-7,4:11b-13

Do you give God the thanks that He is worthy of…all the time?  It is easy to give thanks when everything is going great, but how about when you feel nothing?  How about when life is going dreadfully wrong?

Job was a man who had it all and then lost everything bit by bit without an explanation.  When Job lost his sons and daughters in a tornado his response was praise!  He gave God thanks for the blessings which had been his for so many years.  He realized that they were on loan to him and not his to keep forever.

There are two promises eternal, given only to those who have received Christ.  The right to become children of God ( John 1:12) and to live eternally with Him (John 3:16). These are God’s amazing acts of grace (unmerited favor) towards us.  We do not deserve them because we have sinned against Him time and time again.  This is why we should always give thanks to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:14).  So many “Christians” get this wrong.  They say that “blessing and prosperity are their divine right and they order them from God like they are at some free fast food restaurant.  These are like spoiled children who demand more from the parent who has given everything.  They appear to have great faith, but what happens to these people when bad times come?  Where will be their faithfulness in tribulation or trial, when health fails or loved ones die?

We need to learn to give thanks for the nothings as well as the somethings, realizing that the two things  that can never be taken away from us are sufficient and given to us as a priceless treasure by an awesome God.

Neglecting Thanksgiving  Job 2:9-10

The Pilgrim’s first year after landing at Plymouth Rock in December of 1620 was miserable.  By spring they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower;  however, their faithfulness to God remained. God sent them a blessing in Squanto, a native American who taught the Pilgrims how to farm, hunt and live off the land.  That second year proved to be prosperous and so a “Thanksgiving” was recognized in which the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for their friends and their abundant harvest.

The Pilgrims neglected a “thanksgiving” in their second year because they were to caught up in their work and prosperity.  Once again they suffered so greatly in their harvest that even the natives exclaimed that they had never seen the likes of such bad weather.  Like Job, they sought the Lord rather cursing Him and dying, as Job’s wife so foolishly suggested that he do.  They fasted and prayed and repented for their  independence from God.  Soon the rains came and Thanksgiving became a yearly festival in both good and bad years of harvest.

Sometimes Nothing Is a Blessing James 1:2-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16

James says we should consider it a joy when we encounter trials because they build character and faith. Consider Paul and Silas in a Roman prison singing praises to God while in stocks.  This praise shook the very prison and released them from their chains.  Consider Joseph who praised God while in the Egyptian prison.  Later released to become second to pharaoh.  Consider Job, who lost his family, fortune, health and friends, yet continued to give God praise.  He too was rewarded not only in this life but in the one to come.

As Thanksgiving approaches are you feeling nothing?  Then rejoice…for you have nothing to keep you from the hope of God’s eternal promises to you.  They are indescribable gifts which are too often ignored among the somethings in our lives.  Always give thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filled #2: Running Over

Overflowing

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Filled#2: Running Over  To hear this message and more download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering connect.

Running Over  Luke 6:27-38, Psalm 1:1-3, John 7:37b-39a, Matthew 5:13-16

Last week we learned that those of us who have made Jesus Lord of our lives should never be pessimistic and consider ourselves “half empty” when it comes to God’s      blessings.  In fact we are neither to consider ourselves optimistic by calling ourselves “half full”.  According to God’s abundant promises, revealed to us in His word, we are “overflowing!”  That’s right—in any situation we are to consider ourselves overflowing with God’s grace and mercy because “we live by faith and not by sight” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and “He who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23b).  “He has given us everything that we need” (2 Peter 1:3).  “Nothing can ever separate us from Christ” (Romans 8:31).  Since we are “overflowing” with God’s blessings (promises), Christians should be “running over” in good works and service to others.  In fact, God’s word tells us so. 

In Luke’s gospel he records Jesus telling His disciples to show love and mercy to people because God had been so merciful to them.  He promised blessings “running over” to such a person.  Do you want to be that person who runs over with God’s blessings?  If you do then seek God to help you to be loving and merciful to others.  We can do good to those who hate us, give without repayment and forgive because Jesus has done this and more for us.  He has planted us, so to speak, in the “streams” of His “living water” (Psalm 1:1-3, John 7:37b-39a) and the result of His watering (blessing) should bring fruit from our lives that will nourish others with the good news of Christ and “glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). 

Stagnant Water  1 John 3:18, 4:7-11, Revelation 3:15-20

The whole concept behind the Spirit of God “flowing rivers of living water (blessing) out of the Christian’s life is just that—the blessings are living, active and flowing.  God’s blessing in our lives are not to be hoarded selfishly for ourselves.  Like a river, we are to be running over with God’s love, mercy and grace.  We are to be “splashing Jesus” all over the place in deed and truth and not just with words like “I’ll pray for you” or “God bless you”.  A  stagnant pond of still water refreshes no one.  It stinks, breeds disease and makes anyone sick who takes it in.  Sadly, some Christians are like that stagnant pond—lukewarm (Revelation 3:16-20). We must not be like that.  When God’s blessings flow into our lives we must pass them onto others to keep the river of life living, active and flowing.  Do you have a river of life flowing out of you?  

Purifying the Bitter Heart  Psalm 51:10-12, Job 1:21

It is so easy to become bitter when we take our eyes off of the promises of God by faith and look instead at others who seem to have “blessings” easily seen.  When we are sick and others are well, when we are struggling and others have plenty,  when we are grieving and others seem happy— bitterness can set in.  We must look beyond our      circumstances and remember in faith…”God has given me all that I need and His promises are sure.”  At times like these we must especially seek God and ask Him to create in us a pure heart.  Only He can bring the refreshment we need.  Call on Him…He is enough. 

Amazingly, giving of yourself even in your time of need will purify and refresh even the most stagnant of hearts.  When someone gives even in their need it is a  powerful witness of Christ.  Consider the Widow at Zarephath who made food for Elijah the prophet when she had no more for her son and herself  (1 Kings 17:12-13). Think of Jesus hanging on the cross and saying to the weeping thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42), or the Apostle Paul encouraging the churches with letters while he himself was a prisoner in chains (Philippians 1:12-14).  Consider Job, at the end of himself, who fell to the ground and worshiped the Lord saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21  Christians we are called to live by faith and “bless” God and others as long as we have breath…let us show them that He is truly all we need! We are not “half empty” or even “half full”.  We are “running over” into  eternity!  As the prophet Habakkuk said in his time of need: Though the fig tree does not bud and no fruit is on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce  no food, though the sheep are cut off from the fold and no cattle are in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!… Habakkuk 3:17-18 

My Cup Overflows  Psalm 23

As we come upon this season of thanks let us practice being rivers of life.  Let us           remember and live out the words of Jesus, who according to the Apostle Paul said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35).  

The Lord is our great shepherd and as His children we lack nothing.  So let us give         generously from our hearts! He refreshes our soul and directs our paths so we will fear no evil.  He is our comfort and we are running over with His blessings.  His goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives, and we will be with Him forever more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILLED #1: Half Full

GlassOfWaterPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  FILLED #1: Half Full  To hear this message and others download our free app at the App Store.  Search The Gathering Connect.

Half Empty or Half Full?   Romans 8:24-39, 15:13, 1 Corinthians 2:9

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you see life’s blessings as being almost full or  almost empty?  Are you one to say “my life is half gone” or “my life has so much more?”  When you get a cough are you one to say “just a little scratchy throat” or one who checks the internet for fatal illnesses related to coughing?  Are you one to say  “I wish I had this or that or the other” or “I have so much now what can I give?”  Do you see the many blessings that God has given or are you always looking for something more?

Being an optimist actually optimizes your living: A recent scientific study at the Boston University’ School of Medicine- found that most optimistic people live an average of 11 to 15 percent longer than their more pessimistic peers. Women who are optimists are also 50 percent more likely to live at least to age 85, while male optimists are 70 percent more likely to live that long. Researchers have found that more optimistic people tend to have lower risk of chronic diseases and premature death. Studies show this holds true regardless of other factors, including socioeconomic status, body mass index, social   integration and alcohol use.  This research compared results from two independently conducted  studies — one that followed nearly 70,000 women for a decade and another that followed about 1,400 men for 30 years. People self-reported their optimism on  questionnaires. The findings were published Aug. 26, 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Now there is a difference between a worldly optimism and a Biblical optimism. Worldly optimism is not based on faith in God. Many unbelievers simply refuse to worry because life is more pleasant that way. “Don’t worry; be happy” is their motto. They may place their faith in any number of lesser gods, such as karma, denial, the “universe,” or        intentional ignorance. This may work temporarily, but optimism with no real foundation will eventually crumble— That’s not just me being pessimistic it’s written in God’s word! 

Whatever tendency you lean towards, God’s word instructs us all to be Biblical        optimists. Biblical optimism is the result of faith in the character of God. The Bible   refers to this as “hope.” Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When we hope in God, we put our trust in His sovereign plan above what our circumstances might scream at us. Romans 8:23–35 explains this “unseen hope” which is the Spirit of God who intercedes for God’s people.  Paul is speaking of our present help with our weaknesses and our future reward in the things that “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). “So what shall we say then?” If God is for us, then who or what can be against us?  We have every reason to not only see our cup of blessing half full but overflowing!  

Everything We Need   2 Peter 1:3-11, Hebrews 10:23-25

The Apostle Peter said that the divine power of Christ has given us everything we need.  He has given us His great and precious promises so that we can participate in all that is His.  We have escaped damnation by salvation in Christ.  The corruption (decay, rot)  that evil has brought will not destroy us.

For this reason we must stop walking around like we are half empty!  On life’s worse day we have all we need.  With or without earthly wealth and pleasures we have all we need.  In sickness and in health we have all we need. Surrounded by people or alone we have all we need. We live by faith and not by sight. 1 Corinthians 5:7 For this reason we must make every effort to live by faith and to believe in the promises that God has given us as believers. For He who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23b).  We “spur one another on” towards love and good deeds (continuing to meet with one another).  Together we are encouraged to make every effort to grow in goodness, the knowledge of God’s word, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection for one another and love.  These are the things that will pour out of us as believers and spill onto others.  Desiring and working on these things will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We must remember above all that our greatest blessing of all is the salvation (being cleansed from our sins) and eternal promises that we have in Christ.  

We can keep from stumbling into being an unthankful pessimist by continuing to walk in faith and making an effort to practice these things at all times.  Not only will we receive a rich welcome into Heaven (Matthew 25:31), but we will likely bring many with us who have come to know Christ as a result.

More Than Positive Thinking 1 Peter 5:7, Philippians 4:4-7

Without realizing it, some Christians have a misunderstanding of faith. They may    stubbornly cling to the belief that they will receive whatever they want simply because they believe it hard enough. They take care to appear outwardly optimistic because they fear that “negative confessions” might cancel out their prayer requests. Or they simply cling to the notion that there’s power in positive thinking. This is false optimism because it is not based on the sovereign nature of God but on their own ability to believe hard enough to get what they want. This can lead to confusion and disillusionment with God (even doubting salvation) when their requests go unfulfilled.

Regardless of what happens in life real faith knows that God sees, cares, and will “wipe every tear from our eyes” when we are forever with Him (Revelation 21:4). That confidence gives us an optimistic outlook, even on the darkest day. Biblical optimism (Faith) does not place so much emphasis on earthly things. It believes that “all things work  together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose(Romans 8:28). Godly hope looks even beyond what we understand (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Biblical optimism (faith) is a choice and it is built up as we practice living by it. Rest in His promises to take care of you the way He sees fit (Philippians 4:19; Luke 12:30–31). “Cast your care upon him” (1 Peter 5:7).  Present your requests to God and be exceedingly thankful to Him (Philippians 4:4-7).  He is all you need! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acts#21 Open Minds & Calloused Hearts

 

PaulVaticanPastor Barry/ The Gathering   Acts #21 Open Minds & Calloused Hearts (conclusion)   To hear this message and others download our free app @ the App Store.  Search The Gathering connect.

Just Like Paul! Acts 28:1-10, Mark 16:17-18, Luke 10:17-20

Just when you’ve thought you’ve seen everything someone comes along and proves you wrong, oftentimes, it is some religious nut case!  It happened for the first time in 1910 near Cleveland, Tennessee.  George Hensley, a 30 year old self-taught Pentecostal  preacher, took a rattlesnake out of a box at the end of his sermon and told the men to “handle it, or face the fires of hell” as an outward and visible demonstration of their faith.  Hensley went on to preach this same message off and on for 45 years until he died of a snakebite himself in 1955.  Before Hensley’s death, he started several churches in the Tennessee-Kentucky area loosely affiliated with the Pentecostal Church of God (The Church of God with Signs Following). For the Church of God with Signs, the belief is that snakes are incarnations of demons, so if a church member truly has the Holy Spirit within them, they should be able to handle venomous snakes– as well as drink poison and suffer no harm. Naturally. And if you get bitten, or start convulsing from the poison, well it simply shows a lack of faith or failure to follow leadership of the Holy Spirit.

There are still  scattered snake handling-cyanide drinking, fire touching churches.  The most recent statistics in 2013, show that a figure of roughly 125 snake-handling churches can still be found in the United States from central Florida to West Virginia and as far west as Columbus, Ohio, as well as across the border in Edmonton and British Columbia. Most states however have now outlawed such practices although laws are rarely enforced.

The passages above do not tell believers to pick up snakes or to drink deadly poison to prove their faith , what they do say is that “these signs (and not necessarily only these signs)  will accompany those who believe”.  Paul was protected by the Lord in Malta when he was bit by the snake, just as he was protected from the storm at sea.  God protects those who are doing His will, but He will not protect a fool who puts Him to the testChristian or not!  Many Christians act like it is a contest to see how many supernatural gifts they can display.  Some churches even go so far as saying that you are not saved unless you can speak in tongues. (This is not scriptural teaching.  The apostle Paul actually taught that speaking in tongues was worthless without love and that prophecy was the greater gift (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 14:4-5).

When the seventy-two returned to Jesus after He sent them out to share the good news, they too got lost in the power of protection that God gave them.  Jesus reminded them to keep their focus and to rejoice not in the supernatural power He had given them but in the fact that they were saved!  We must remember that we are not gods!  We simply belong to God.  Without Him we would have no power at all.  God uses His power through his children as He chooses and when He chooses.  When we are willing to let Him use us and step out on faith (as Paul did) unusual things may occur, but we are just ordinary people in the hands of an extraordinary God. If you have learned anything from our study in Acts then I pray this is what you’ve learned. 

Ever Hearing  Acts 28:11-28, Isaiah 6:9-13, Acts 1:7-8

After Paul made it clear that he was not a god, he prayed to the One True God and healing came to the island full of sick people. Paul and his companions (remember there are 276 of them from the ship wreck) were “honored in many ways.” For three months on that Island they were well taken care of by those thankful people.  They were also provided with a ship and the supplies they needed when it was time to sail for Rome.  When Paul arrived in Rome he was encouraged to discover that many brothers and sisters in Christ had traveled as far as 35-45 miles to see him.  While Paul stayed in Puteoli for a week with Christians others obviously went on ahead with word that Paul was on his way. Note: 3 years earlier the church in Rome had received Paul’s letter from Corinth.  

When Paul got to Rome he was allowed to live in his own house with a soldier to guard him.  This was a political decision to keep Paul away from the main stream and avoid any riots while treating him civilly as a Roman  citizen. This was actually God’s plan which   allowed many guards and people to hear him speak without interruptions. 

Paul’s last discourse with a large crowd was to the leaders of the Jews who had gathered at “the place where he was staying”.  They announced that they had heard nothing “bad” about him from Judea (Jerusalem) which is odd because of the riot that broke out there. There is historical evidence; however,  that Roman law punished unsuccessful prosecutors of Roman citizens. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem likely decided it was wisdom not to oppose Paul in Rome.  From morning until evening he tried to win Jews to Christ by showing them what the Law and Prophets had said about the Messiah (Jesus)Some were  convinced but others would not believe.  Paul’s last recorded words to the Jews was a prophecy from Isaiah 6:9-13.  Paul would fulfill the first part of this prophecy in taking the gospel to Gentiles as the Jews refused to hear, but the latter part of the prophecy refers to a remnant of Jews who will be saved throughout time by the “holy seed” who is Christ.  

Today our call as believers is the same.  We are to share the gospel of Christ with anyone who will listen even while many are calloused and will refuse to hear.  The words of Jesus that began the ACTS of the CHURCH (Acts 1:7-8), are the same words that we are to act on today.  It is “not for us to know” the times or dates, but we are to receive power from the Holy Spirit and be witnesses of Christ. 

Paul’s Martyrdom in Rome  2 Timothy 4:2-8

Luke ends the book of Acts abruptly after covering over 30 years of early church history. Why he did not include further works of Paul in Rome or his martyrdom there we don’t know. We do know that Luke was with him in Rome when he wrote his last Epistle just before the end of Nero’s reign (2 Tim. 4:11). Luke likely witnessed Paul’s beheading at the hands of a Roman executioner, but Paul’s message would survive the Roman empire! 

Perhaps, Luke didn’t want to end his book with his friends death, but rather with his living. As Paul himself said: “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Now it is our turn to act. Let us be worthy of the apostle’s charge. 2 Timothy 4:2-8