November: Thanksgiving, Bonfires, and Leaves

Thanksgiving.

It’s a holiday. But it’s also an attitude.

One day of giving thanks to God isn’t enough. A lifetime of giving thanks to the Lord isn’t enough. God deserves to be glorified by all people, in all things.

I have found that giving thanks for the small things, helps me give things for the big things, whether they are good or bad. It is when I focus on the good that I can endure the bad.

When I face daily struggles and frustrating situations, I write in my notebook things for which I am thankful. Here are a few from my little notepad:

124. The crackle of a fire

125. Sparks that disappear into the night sky

126. Crunchy leaves

This idea comes from “One Thousand GIfts” by Ann Voskamp. Ann writes with a very poetic style, and she tells a tale of loss and grief. But it is when she begins to give thanks that she begins to heal. When a friend challenges her to keep a journal with 1,000 things that she is thankful for, she takes the challenge, and begins her journey towards joy.

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.”

Psalm 95:1-4

Joy and thanksgiving go hand in hand. They are complementary to each other.

In our joy, we give thanks, and when we give thanks, we find joy.

Will you take the challenge to write 1,000 things that you are thankful for? Will you seek joy through thankfulness?

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“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

He glances at the card, slows down, and turns back.

“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

A response: “No, sir.”

A couple more steps and he turns again. “Are you Mormons?”

“No. We’re Baptist.”

“Okay, good.”

Then some encouragement that none of us could quite decipher because the man was already walking across the road.

That is a real-life story from last Saturday while a group of teenagers stood on a street downtown waiting for the last 4 people of our group of twelve. The teenagers and downtown scene is a regular one, but we aren’t down there for drinks or parties. Instead, we go downtown to share the gospel. (Okay, I’ve only been downtown to do this twice so far, but there are some solid people who are there every week.) This is a group of people who have taken a stand to obey the Great Commission. We go to talk with people, sharing the gospel and praying for them. (Notice, I said talking with people, not just talking to them or at them.)

This past Saturday we split into 3 groups, one headed for the transit station, one headed for the state house, and one handing out tracts on the street and near the park. (By the way, these aren’t the thin, three-fold tracts – these were legit tracts that one of our own had made.)  It was a bit of a slow day when it came to conversations, but we were running out of tracts fast. This one sophomore guy, we’ll call him C., was really cool about just being friendly (and a little competitive) about giving out tracts. He was the one who handed out the last of what we had to the guy who walked past with his buddy, resulting in the above conversation.

What that conversation really tells me about evangelism is that we as Christians are slacking on sharing the gospel. If we really believe we have the Truth, why don’t we share that with people more urgently, more passionately, and more frequently? Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are known for their door-to-door outreach. Most Christians are scared to death to tell others this simple truth:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully God and fully Man, lived a perfect life. He then died, was buried, and physically rose again to give us salvation by grace and through faith. Christ’s sacrifice is the only payment for man’s sins. (Click here for a passage in the Bible similar to my summary.)

I often face a lot of conviction when this question is asked: “When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone? A family member? A friend? A stranger?” I freak out because I know this is something I should be doing, but I don’t do it regularly. That’s why I am so excited about a group of teenagers who are like-minded and want to step up to bat when it comes to obedience in discipling the nations.

So I want to leave you with this question:

When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone?

Perfection

Perfection.

Everyone strives for it in one way or another, whether they realize it or not. Finding the perfect college, the perfect job, the perfect car, or the perfect house are a few huge desires for perfection. But what about things like making the perfect goal, writing the perfect paper, running the perfect mile? Don’t we look for perfection in various areas?

I can honestly say that it has been so long since I have blogged because I wasn’t sure how to follow up my last blog post (which got a BUNCH of views). I needed a “perfect” follow-up blog post. (Plus, I’ve been pretty busy.) But is the goal of perfection realistic? I don’t think so.

 

Within Christianity, salvation does not mean perfection.

 

When God declared someone righteous, he is JUSTIFIED. An individual’s first act of repentance and confession is the person’s part of justification, but God was the One who made salvation possible through His son.

 

Believers are set apart – or sanctified – by God at salvation. First Peter 2:9 says that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and we are set part to declare the marvelous light of Christ. God declares believers holy, now brought to Himself because He has washed us white as snow. This sanctification declares the believer’s position in relation to God – we can now enter into His presence.

 

Progressive sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Holy Spirit convicts believers to live a life of increasing holiness, as new creations set apart for the glory of God (Colossians 3:9-10). As spiritual beings, we struggle against the desires of the flesh daily (Galatians 5:16-18). The believer’s desire should be holiness because his Father in heaven is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). {Click the Bible verses to read the passages on Bible Gateway.}

 

And then, one day, we will see God. His glory will be revealed, and we will be made perfect, never tiring, always praising our Father. We will reach the ultimate goal of perfection. Until then, Paul writes of this goal:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Philippians 3:12

 

So is it wrong to aim high in our earthly goals? No. Colossians 2:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” But remember, we, as humans, are not perfect. And nothing we do is perfect. But we can “press on,” seeking the God who made us His own.

Be the Change

Saturday night, I got back from a fantastic trip to Georgia to visit my best friend, Victoria!  Spending time with good friends, in fellowship with strong believers, and at the youth group of my middle school years was so encouraging and challenging to me.  This is an important thing that Tori reminded me of:

You have to be the change that you want to see.

You can go into a new place with a vision, and with ideas, but it is so easy to set those on the back burner when no one else sees what you have in mind.  Ideals fade as you try to adjust to a new place with new people.  There is so much I have learned throughout my moves, and I am still learning how to put those lessons into play at every new church.  A couple very, VERY important things I have learned over the years are discipleship and mentoring younger youth, involving yourself with visitors and making them feel welcome, and growing a personal relationship with God every day.

You  have to be the change that you want to see.

In every youth group, there are pros and cons.  I have lived in 11 different places, and I remember the churches we attended from six of those locations.  Through these six different churches, I have had times when I’ve needed to hear this:

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:5, 8-9, 15-18  (Check out the whole chapter of 2 Corinthians 4; it’s so encouraging!)

“Do not lose heart.”  Even when things are tough, frustrating, or difficult, God is renewing us, day by day.  The eternal glory outweighs the struggles we will face here on earth.  And Christ will strengthen and satisfy us in every situation.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-13

So here is my goal: to take what I have learned throughout my life in different youth groups, and show my current youth group that they have so much potential to mentor, to welcome, and to grow in a personal and intimate relationship with Christ.  I want to take my goals, and show those around me how they can be achieved.  I want to show everyone that I interact with that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship with the Lord.  I want to be the change that I want to see.