Giving Thanks in ALL Circumstances

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In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Given that not all circumstances are desirable and some are downright tragic and heartbreaking, how can we as believers be a thankful people no matter where we may be in life? Here are a few thoughts that will help nurture an ongoing spirit of thanksgiving in our hearts that is not defeated by temporal, fleeting, present situations.

Note, Paul doesn’t say “give thanks for all circumstances” but to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Giving thanks “in” the trial is not necessarily the same as giving thanks “for” the trial. Many times when God brings us through difficulties, we can look back and see His hand, and see how He has taught us and shaped us for His glory, and on the other end of the trial, we can give thanks for the trial. However, while we are in the middle of the trial, enduring the trial, we are not called upon to necessarily be thankful for the trial itself. There is much for which we can be thankful that will strengthen us to persevere through the trial. We can be thankful for God’s sovereign care, grace, and presence with us in the trial. We can be thankful for the good He will bring out of the trial. Paul was not fond of his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Cor 12. He prayed for God to remove it, and he called it a “messenger of Satan.” But he could see how God was using this “thorn” for good, and it was the good of the trial for which he could be thankful.
Giving thanks in all circumstances defeats the slithering sins of grumbling, complaining, worry, doubt, and discouragement that are constantly trying to slip into our hearts. If we allow these thoughts room to fester and grow, we become angry, bitter, and miserable. Giving thanks turns our hearts away from these vices and to the goodness and greatness of God, thereby filling our hearts with peace, rest, and joy in tumultuous times.
You can only give thanks in all circumstances by the grace of God, so let us pray for God to give us the grace to be thankful no matter where we are in life.
Circumstances can really wreak havoc on our thanksgiving. Good circumstances often cause us to neglect thanksgiving. Bad circumstances often cause us to forget thanksgiving and for all that we do have for which to be thankful.
Trying circumstances tempt us to give way to emotions, sin, and fleshly reactions. Recalling the faithfulness of our heavenly Father enables us to react in faith, not in the flesh, by clinging to and resting in His promises and His character.
We can only give thanks in all circumstances when Christ is our Treasure because that does a number of things – (1) it cuts circumstances down to size – circumstances change, Christ doesn’t. Circumstances can be good or bad, Christ is always good. Circumstances are fleeting, but they appear monumental. Christ is above our every circumstance. (2) When circumstances rule the heart, we sway in the wind. When Christ rules the heart, thanksgiving is present no matter the circumstances. (3) When Christ is our Treasure, portrayed by giving thanks even in the worst of circumstances, He is greatly magnified and sinners are compelled to see His glory and worth!
The way to be thankful in all circumstances is to be thankful for those things God is doing that are above our circumstances! For example, He is sanctifying us and completely preserving us for eternal glory!! (cf vv23-24)
The next phrase in v18 is a powerful aid in helping us to give thanks in all circumstances, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And there it is my friends! The position that outweighs every single circumstance in this life, whether bad or good – in Christ!
Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, neither height nor depth, nor death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor anything else in all creation! Nothing! Rom 8:38-9
Circumstances may crash upon us, beat upon us, nag at us, tear at us, but they will never remove us from our position in Christ. If you are in Christ, you are justified before God – that will never change! You are reconciled to God – that will never change!
So for what do we give thanks while in all circumstances? No matter what we face in this life, we give thanks for all that God is for us in Christ Jesus.
We can take heart this Thanksgiving Day and every day of our lives – we are not just in a circumstance, we are in Christ. We are not defined by our present circumstance, we are defined by our position in Christ. Circumstances may temporarily tear us apart, but they can never tear us away from Christ, and that my friends is reason enough to give thanks in all circumstances!

Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

In All Things….We Can Be Thankful

“The way to be thankful in all circumstances is to be thankful for what God is doing ABOVE all circumstances….

…..sanctifying us, bringing us to Himself blameless and with great joy.”

Sermon Quote, Wil Owens

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

“A truly religious life is a life of constant joy. And we should rejoice more, if we prayed more. Prayer will help forward all lawful business, and every good work. If we pray without ceasing, we shall not want matter for thanksgiving in every thing. We shall see cause to give thanks for sparing and preventing, for common and uncommon, past and present, temporal and spiritual mercies. Not only for prosperous and pleasing, but also for afflicting providences, for chastisements and corrections; for God designs all for our good, though we at present see not how they tend to it.”
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22.

The Long Silence–Preparing for Advent

shhhSilence can be more profound than words. It has a weight of its own. Silence, especially from a loved one, can become unbearable. It can accompany anticipation, precede disaster, or indicate rejection. Often, we don’t know what it portends.

The last words spoken between God and man before Christ’s coming are recorded in Malachi. The emotion of God seeps out in every verse, beginning with, “I have loved you.” (Malachi 1:1) Like a husband in pain, God recounts Israel’s unfaithfulness. The book almost reads like a cross-examination in court. The charges are simple and the proofs of unfaithfulness are easy to see. God’s final words are full of pathos:

4:1“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules[q] that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

And then….silence.

For 400 years. No prophecy. No songs. No warnings. No words of love. For generations.

And then something happened, something so wonderful we celebrate it to this day. God spoke again–breaking the dark, long silence of an age. Like the sun rising over the horizon and shining on a frosty earth, angels came and told us everything was about to change. The advent of our Savior had arrived. EBH

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Celebrating Advent: Getting the Most out of Sacred Music

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Westminster Abbey

If you’ve ever had the joy to travel to Europe or any other place with a history stretching back to antiquity, you know the value of preparation. The more knowledge you bring to a visit , the more you appreciate what you are seeing. A trip to Westminster Abbey is much more meaningful to someone who knows something of Henry the III than to someone who sees the building apart from any knowledge of its role in the burials, coronations, and weddings of history.

Sacred music is the same. A little time spent familiarizing yourself (and your children if you have any) with the life of the composer will make listening a rich experience. Unraveling the Latin lyrics or familiarizing yourself with the English ones is as simple nowadays as googling “Lyrics for Vivaldi’s Gloria.” By doing both these things the music with unfold itself for you.

To make it even easier….

VivaldiHere is a link to the lyrics for Vivaldi’s “Gloria.”

handelClick here for lyrics to Handel’s “Messiah”.

Enjoy a concert this Advent season!

Remembering Thanksgiving in Art

 

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The stores are already hung with lights and Christmas music is weaving its way down the aisle with us in the supermarket. Be that as it may, take some time to savor Thanksgiving, and not just literally. Do some research on the horrible winter the Pilgrims weathered and about their feast of Thanksgiving the next year. It’s a great story! Enjoy this piece of art created some time around 1914 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. It is entitled, “The First Thanksgiving.”

 
 

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Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want”

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“The First Thanksgiving” by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

A 5th-World Country. Poor and Rich.

african hutFirst world: highly developed, industrialized, westernized.

Second world: communist, industrialized.

Third world: still developing, usually high infant mortality, lots of poverty.

Fifth world: Just plain ancient. Primitive, no infrastructure, economically poor.

“5th World”. This seems to be a term coined by people traveling to what they THINK is a third world country and who instead find something dramatically different. They discover a world where most ways of life have stayed almost the same for thousands of years. My friend, Jerre, traveled to such a place in Africa this summer.

Remember the story of Abraham being visited by two angels and the Lord and how he served them? The meal he had prepared of freshly killed goat which he served them outside his tent was eaten thousands of years ago. On a mat outside her host’s tent my friend went back in time as her host, with able hands, chopped up their goat, tossing the horns over her shoulder to the path behind.

I always feel sad for people without adequate necessities. So I was so happy to hear, before any reports of poverty, that these people were rich as well.

Primitive in so many ways, these people were rich in certain things. According to my friend, they abounded in, “fellowship, community, smiles, sharing with others, guavas, bananas, bread,  and simplicity.”  Without media, they know their neighbors. Life requires hard work, but it is often work with a neighbor by your side. For believers, worshipping is a three-hour time to dance, sing, learn and share.

Being poor in certain things, like medical care and adequate water and food, is real suffering and it is natural for us to wonder how we can help people who have “less” than us. But it is good to remember that God gives blessings to all and that we have things to learn from all our global neighbors…lessons in sharing and in listening, in fellowshipping, and hospitality. Sometimes I wonder how I would ever make it without my washing machine or dishwasher. It is a happy thing to know that we can be rich in love, fellowship, and smiles, even without the comforts of the modern world.

Taking the Sermon Home

If you are convinced that worshipping together as a family in church is important (like me),

and if you have a preacher who takes a doctrinal stance in his teaching that can be heavy at times as an adult, much less as a child (like me),

then you have probably wondered from time to time how to help your children understand and embrace the sermon (like me)!

I’ve recently began using this method for our family worship and have found it very helpful. I believe it would work for children of any age.

For our family worship on Monday, we review the sermon together.

First, we sing one of the songs that we sang in church the day before. This helps in a number of ways. It sets the tone for family worship, provides a connection between church and home, and invites the participation of our kids because they choose which song to sing.
Second, I ask general questions to begin jogging our memories. What was the title? text? three points? I follow up with questions like, “What does this word mean?” or “How does that point explain the scripture?” As answers (or blank stares) are given, I am able to clarify anything that was missed or needs further explanation in the sermon.
Third, I go to a deeper level, making sure we have understood the sermon and are seeking to apply God’s Word in our lives. So I ask questions like “What really stood out to you from the sermon?” or “How can we apply this point in a specific way in our lives?” or “How can we pray about this?” These questions help ensure understanding and allow for points of application.
Fourth, as we discuss the sermon, it gives me the opportunity to do what God has called me to do – disciple my children. It opens doors to teach, point out where God is working in our lives, where we need prayer and grace, how we can live for Christ and reach out to others, etc.
Fifth, we pray. I try to include praise for what God has taught us in my prayer. Again, hoping to take every moment as a teaching opportunity.

Whether this simple method or another, I encourage families and couples and singles to take the sermon home, mediate over the text, and seek ways the Spirit may apply the Word of God to our day to day lives.
May the Word of Christ dwell in us – richly!!

Wil Owens