Giving Heartfelt Thanks

By Craig Condon  

Thanksgiving was approaching, and a family had received a Thanksgiving card with a painting of a Pilgrim family on their way to church.

Grandma showed the card to her small grandchildren and observed, "The Pilgrim children liked to go to church with their mothers and fathers."

"Oh yeah?" her young grandson replied, "So why is their dad carrying that rifle?"

Today we are celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving. It is a time when we pause to celebrate and give thanks for everything he has given us, and the best way to give thanks is to pray. Giving thanks is one of three types of prayer, the other two being supplication and intercessions (which means speaking to God on behalf of someone else). Regardless of the type of prayer we use, we must remember that prayer is not just for our sakes or needs.

Supplications are petitions for certain definite needs. They are humble requests made because of certain situations, which God alone can help. When our supplications are granted, we need to give thanks. When we take our concerns to The Lord, the Holy Spirit speaks to us.

In the reading from 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul tells us to pray for those in authority. Here in Canada this is appropriate right now because we are in the middle of a federal election campaign. Complaining about people in authority is easy, but God also tells us to pray for them. These prayers should include requests for the peaceable and wise rule and prayers for their salvation. Such prayers acknowledge that all authority is that God is the ultimate King.

We are also to pray for salvation for lost souls. This puts us at odds with Paul. He argues that although God wants everyone to be saved, that does not mean that God will save everyone. People must either accept the Gospel or reject it. Believers should still pray for everyone, even those who seem unreachable. If we think that some people do not deserve the gift of salvation, then we are not as all-loving as God is. Scripture clearly states that God wants everyone to be saved and know the truth of salvation. There are no exceptions. No one is beyond God's saving love. - Discover Christian Gifts from the Holy Land

Salvation is available because of the one person who was both man and God and who could represent humanity and reconcile humanity to God. That person is Jesus. Jesus served as a mediator between these two otherwise irreconcilable parties. Jesus is the only way to God.

The cross is the site of the most important transaction in history. Jesus served as a ransom to redeem humanity from slavery. The image is that of a slave market, with human beings as the slaves of sin. The price paid to free them was Jesus' own death. Jesus substituted his own innocent life for our lives as slaves to sin and dying the death we all deserve and sparing us from the judgment we deserve.

False teachers were probably saying that salvation was restricted to the Jews, prompting Paul to write that Jesus gave himself for the sake of everyone and that God appointed him to teach the Gentiles. Paul's calling has authority because God gave it to him and because he was faithful to it. Godly obedience makes a Christian's testimony believable so that unbelievers may hear it and receive it.

We have many gifts from God to be thankful for. These gifts range from the universal offer of the Gospel and salvation to everyone to God's love for everyone to Christ's sacrifice on the cross for everyone to a church that is for everyone. The last one is hard to believe when you consider that some churches have allowed the world to control their agendas.

The passage from 1 Timothy links God's grace with our concern for the church's conduct in a world that lives by non-Christian customs. Churches that appeal to their own kind are the churches that most often grow in numbers. A church that reflects a culture of affluence and success is more likely to be successful. While God can and does bless people with success, we must remember to give thanks to God for that success. We must use that success to show God's love to the world. One way we can do this is to pray.

Paul's desire is for us to have compassion for the lost, to understand the depths of their pain and misery, and to come ultimately to God pleading for their salvation. Paul wants us to come to God on behalf of people who have no standing with him. We are to intercede for the lost.

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We must not be "carnal Christians." We must not live to please and serve ourselves instead of pleasing and serving Christ. It's so easy for us to get caught up in asking God to provide us with what we need or want that we forget to pray for others. We need to ask God to help us be sensitive to the needs of others, just like many people in this area are being sensitive to the needs of Syrian refugees by coming together to arrange to bring some of them to this area. We must take advantage of every opportunity to approach God and lay our concerns at his feet.

Things do not happen in this world because we pray. Then happen when we pray. We are changed as we discover that the deepest desires of our hearts and the world are changed in some way because of God, the source of light and life, the ground of our being and the lover of our souls. God is the source of all things. If there is matter, God created it. If there is meaning and purpose to life, God determines it. If there is power, God yields it. These are great gifts from God for us, and we need to keep our sights on God's kingdom and not on the politics of the day.

Because of the gift of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension, we have the power to choose what is right. Our love for Jesus motivates us to live for Jesus, and if we live for Jesus, we are to share our faith by praying for people. God loves doing miracles in the lives of people, especially people who are not believers.

The act of praying can involve lifting hands to heaven. This act is a picture of coming before God with clean hands and a pure heart. How can we lift our hands to God if we are not seeking to relate to everyone we meet-people God loves without distinction? We can't lift our hands to God if we don't speak and work for the elimination of things that would destroy us. We must raise our hands without anger or doubt.

One of the greatest gifts from God, and one that we truly need to be thankful for, is the leaders in our church. We must pray that God will give them the wisdom they need to lead us in faith. We must also pray that God will give them the wisdom to administer church affairs according to his will. This includes praying for the decisions they have to make-decisions such as the decision to build a new church in Milton. We must also pray that God will give all of us the strength we need to overcome the hurt some people have experienced as a result of this decision.

At God's Table, which is one of the greatest gifts God can give us, we learn that we need to show an attitude of gratitude. We don't need to wait until Thanksgiving to give thanks. We need that deep spirit of influence. It keeps us from having an attitude of selfishness. We need to give thanks for all things because there is always something to be thankful for. We can give thanks to God today and every day, and we can be thankful for the one who loved us so much that he paid the ultimate price for our sins-Jesus.

Spirit and Judgment in the Last Days

By Bob Faulkner  

The final days: Spirit and ultimate judgment. Turn in your Bible to Joel 2:28-3:3

The most famous passage of Joel is this one that is quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The assumption is that the Holy Spirit gave this passage to Peter, to link what he was experiencing there to the end times that Joel is here prophesying. The link is real, and very instructive, but not what even Peter was thinking in his natural mind. One gets the distinct impression from reading the New Testament that the early church, from messages like this, assumed that Jesus' return was to be very soon. What they and many of us need to comprehend is that the grace and mercy of God has caused Him to place a huge gap of time right in the middle of Joel's prophecy. Let's go verse by verse.

v. 28. Where Joel says "afterwards", Peter, in quoting Joel, tends to interpret him instead by saying "in the last days." Perhaps the Spirit changed Peter's quote in this way to let us know that Joel was speaking of events that would not come directly after the last things he was talking about (Israel's full restitution in the Millennium). Instead Joel was starting a new paragraph, as it were. As that restitution was to be, in a generic sense, in the future, so is this pouring out of God's Spirit. Verse 28 begins a new topic altogether, the only thing similar to the prior topic being that it will come about later than now.

All mankind is to be affected by this latter day outpouring. We read in Acts only of the beginning of that work, as representatives of all the Gentile nations receive a measure of the Spirit. Supernatural revelations from Heaven are promised not only to leadership, but also to sons and daughters, young and old.

v. 29. Even the lowliest of classes are to be touched by this Spirit of God in the last days.

v. 30. But then comes a gap. Suddenly it is not Pentecost. Peter quotes this portion also, to show us something important, but the events of 30-32 have not happened in their fullness yet. Here is pictured the chaotic times also portrayed in the Bible's final prophecies.

v. 31. Matthew 24:29 is in agreement with Joel's statement here about how the sun and moon will not behave as they have for so many millennia. Notice that this entire period is called "the last days". Hence we have been in "the last days" for over 2,000 years. But this verse says that one of these "last days" is the "great and awesome day of the Lord."

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v. 32. More "puzzlement" added to the difficulties of this passage. While it is true that whoever calls on Jesus' Name will be delivered from his sins, there is a physical deliverance being mentioned here. When the awfulness of the Tribulation period begins, Revelation tells us that Israel will escape to an appointed place in "the wilderness" outside the reach of antichrist. That is when a horrendous persecution of Christians takes place, But elect Israel escapes, and thus fulfills the words of Joel.

Chapter 3

v. 1. One often wonders who put chapter divisions in the Bible and why... verses 1-3 are simply a continuation of the previous chapter.

Here again is declared the full restoration of the Kingdom to Jerusalem. People can argue today about what the capital of Israel is. In Scripture there is no argument. For eternity past and present, this city, whether old or new Jerusalem, is God's chosen headquarters. The city of David. The city of Jesus. The shining city on a mountain called Zion. The city with foundations whose builder and maker is God. The city even now being prepared for those who love Him.

v. 2. When God wraps up history He will make public His feelings about Israel by gathering all the nations to a final showdown. This too is spelled out in Revelation. Those who have divided up Israel improperly (as is true quite dramatically in our day) will have a price to pay. Those who brought such evil pressure on them as to make them leave Israel for places all over the world, these too will pay.

v. 3. Here is described the callous treatment of Jews by Romans, Romanists, and others who despised Israel and Israel's God. They all will be judged on that final day.

So what begins with an outpouring of Divine Love and Power ends in a display of Divine wrath, from the God Who is a consuming Fire.

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