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Monday, July 28, 2014

Thanking whom?

Posted by Gary on November 19, 2010

James 1:17 “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and many families and loved ones will gather by the kindness of God. It seems that more and more each year I hear calls for us to “be thankful” or to “be grateful for our blessings” and yet these admonitions to be grateful increasingly do not include God as the recipient of our thanks.

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God's help

Posted by Gary on August 28, 2006

Are you a child of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ? If so, take to heart this promise of God and some encouraging thoughts on it from Charles Spurgeon:

Isaiah 41:14 "’I will help you,’ declares the Lord."

The Lord says to each one of us: "I will help you. It is but a small thing for Me, your God to help you. Consider what I have done already. I bought you with My blood. I have died for you; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help you! It is the least thing I will ever do for you; I have done more and will do more. Before the world began, I chose you. I made the covenant for you. I laid aside My glory and became a man for you; I gave up My life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now. In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to you; you require little compared with what I am ready to give. Help you? Do not fear! I will help you."

Oh my soul, is not this enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the united Trinity? Do you want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring your empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Gather up your wants and bring them here–your emptiness, your woes, your needs. Behold, this river of God is full for your supply; what can you desire beside? The Eternal God is your helper!

Even down to old age

Posted by Gary on February 7, 2006

God has given me the privilege of shepherding many senior saints. Our little neck of the woods is full of retirees who have moved to the area after years of vacationing here during their working years. I’ve been learning a lot about faith and life through my sheep who are some miles ahead of me on the journey of life.

Right now a number of my people are facing difficult times mostly in relation to their age. Two of our members have recently suffered strokes. One dear lady had surgery recently to remove a cancerous growth on her lung, the surgeon had to remove much more of it than we hoped. After initially coming through the surgery well, our sister has struggled terribly spending the last 9 days in intensive care.

Another couple (married almost 60 years) has been separated since mid-November because Helen is not recovering to the degree to return home. Recently the decision was made for her husband to join her in a care facility; while they are glad that they will be reunited, this decision means selling their home, car and all their possessions, life as they have known it for so many years has come to an end.

At a recent Sunday evening service one of our saints shared a verse that God had encouraged her with, her life the past year has been riddled with illness and suffering; here is the verse she read:

Isaiah 46:4 "Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you."

As Margaret read this verse I was reminded of this verse from the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" based on Isaiah 46:4:

"Even down to old age all My people shall prove; My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love. And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn; like lambs they shall still in my bosom be born."

Sometimes I am asked by my suffering brothers and sisters why difficult things are happening to them. My response among other things often includes the statement: "Much of the suffering we experience in this life comes to us simply because we are aging and live in a fallen world". While it is true that our suffering can be the result of our sin or Sovereign prerogative (Job), much of our suffering is the result of our bodies wearing out and our minds becoming feeble. What we are all finding out is that the result of the fall is playing out on all of us, we will return to the dust from which we were taken-thank God for His salvation and eternal life!

As a pastor I sense the need to remind the people of God that suffering is a part of this life. I am amazed at times to witness the degree to which the "If you have faith you will will be healthy and prosperous" doctrine has taken root in the minds of God’s people. I must confess that while I have always disavowed this teaching, I have been guilty more times than I would care to admit of doubting God’s faithfulness and goodness when suffering. What a joy it is to witness God’s senior saints bearing their illnesses and setbacks with faith.

While in my car a few days ago I caught some of a message by Ravi Zacharias. In his message he addressed the softness of American Christians; making a statement close to this, "A toothache brings many Christians to question if God is with them". My immediate response to this statement was that it was exaggeration but as I reflected further I found myself agreeing with him. How quickly some of us saints question the goodness and faithfulness of God when we suffer. How willing we are to accuse God of wrong doing because He chooses affliction for us. God could not have made it any more clear whether through the curse or the myriad of verses that follow Genesis three that this life would be filled with trouble, often we act as if God promised us a trouble free life and has reneged.

Walking with my people as they suffer challenges me to embrace what I say I believe and teach others: First, we will suffer in this life and our increase in age will almost certainly bring more and greater suffering. Second, God is faithful and has promised to never leave or forsake His children.

Brothers and sisters, God has not promised us that we would not suffer in our lives, He has told us plainly that we will. He has told us that He will never leave us and that He will use our suffering to bring Himself glory and will through it do us and others good. I am grateful for the privilege God has given me to pastor those who are facing the suffering of later life, I feel that daily I am given the opportunity to help God’s people view their suffering Biblically. What a joy it is to leave a hospital room knowing that God used you to renew someone in their hope in Him.

"Time like an ever rolling stream bears all her sons away…" Thank God for His faithfulness, thank God that though our bodies and minds will someday fail us God will remain true to His promise to carry us and bring us safely into His eternal kingdom. "Lord, as the years roll by and our minds and bodies fail, help us to honor You with unwavering faith and joy in your goodness".