Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone once again. I have so many things to be thankful for this year, I can't even count them all. I did a quick word search for things pertaining to thankfulness in the Bible. Thankfulness needs to be a bigger part of my life for sure. Here are ten things that I am thankful for. These are by no means the only ten things I am thankful for, but these are things that have been important over the last year.
  1. I am thankful for the Word which continually shapes my heart through the power of God.
  2. I am thankful for His faithfulness when I am unfaithful.
  3. I am thankful for His unending grace and compassion when I sin.
  4. I am thankful for my family and the unending love they show me even when I hurt them.
  5. I am thankful for my church and the teaching of the Word through Pastor Tim.
  6. I am thankful for friends that encourage me in the Lord during the hard times.
  7. I am thankful to God for providing the necessary finances to get through school without loans and to have the jaw surgery this summer.
  8. I am thankful for the trials that He brings me through in order to change me to be more like Himself.
  9. I am thankful for a job that is flexible with hours and is enjoyable.
  10. I am thankful for His conviction when I sin, and His encouragement when I am obedient to Him.

Here are just a few things that I found in the Word about thanksgiving...
  • The Israelites had a sacrifice dedicated to thanksgiving to the Lord (Leviticus 22:29).
  • Some Levites were appointed for the purpose of thanking and praising God (1 Chronicles 16:4).
  • We are told both to give thanks to Him and to make known the amazing things that He has done (1 Chronicles 16:8).
  • The Levites were to thank and praise God every morning and every night (1 Chronicles 23:30)
  • Throughout the Psalms, we see a whole lot of thanksgiving (Psalm 6:5, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 9:1, Psalm 18:49, Psalm 26:7, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 30:1, Psalm 30:4, Psalm 30:12, Psalm 33:2, Psalm 35:18, Psalm 42:4, Psalm 44:8, Psalm 45:17, Psalm 50:14, Psalm 50:23, Psalm 52:9, Psalm 54:6, Psalm 56:12, Psalm 57:9, Psalm 69:30, Psalm 75:1, Psalm 79:13, Psalm 86:12, Psalm 92:1, Psalm 95:2, Psalm 97:12, Psalm 100:4, Psalm 105:1, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 106:47, Psalm 107:1, Psalm 107:8, Psalm 107:15, Psalm 107:15, Psalm 107:21-22, Psalm 108:3, Psalm 109:30, Psalm 111:1, Psalm 116:17, Psalm 118:1, Psalm 118:19, Psalm 118:28-29, Psalm 119:7, Psalm 119:62, Psalm 122:4, Psalm 136:1-3, Psalm 136:26, Psalm 138:1-2, Psalm 138:4, Psalm 139:14, Psalm 140:13, Psalm 142:7).
  • We should thank Him for His goodness (Jeremiah 33:11).
  • We should thank Him for wisdom and power (Daniel 2:23).
  • We should give thanks for our daily sustenance (Matthew 15:36).
  • We should thank God for the faith of others being proclaimed (Romans 1:8).
  • One of the characteristics of foolishness is a lack of thanksgiving (Romans 1:21).
  • We should give thanks to God for victory over sin (Romans 6:17).
  • We should thank God for His grace (1 Corinthians 1:4).
  • We should thank God for helping us avoid tough circumstances (1 Corinthians 1:14).
  • We should thank God for the victory we have in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
  • We should thank people for their prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  • We should thank God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
  • We should never stop giving thanks for others (Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3).
  • We are to make our requests known to God with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
  • We should thank God for the inheritance that He has given us as His children (Colossians 1:12).
  • Everything we do should include an attitude of thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).
  • We should give thanks to God for our strength (1 Timothy 1:12).
  • We will worship Him, giving thanks to Him forever (Revelation 4:9).

There are so many more, but I wanted to go through these to show you the importance of thanksgiving. It is not that Thursday in November every year... we need to be giving thanks daily! I challenge you to think of three things you are thankful for as soon as you get frustrated or upset at someone or a situation. I think it will completely change your outlook. There really are so many things we have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Presenting a Heart of Wisdom

I am very grateful for Thanksgiving break. I actually get the entire week off minus one class tomorrow morning! It really isn't a week off in that I have a whole lot of work to do, but I am very thankful that I have time to work on my projects and papers. God is good! It's hard to believe that I will be graduating in less than 30 days (Lord willing). I read Psalm 90 this evening and found verse 12 to be very practical and encouraging.
So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

The verse is very simple, but very important as well. It is important to realize that we do not know how many days we have on earth. I was thinking about this the other day when I was driving by a road construction area. They had several huge tractors digging up the road and dumping it to the right. I was thinking about how one wrong move could cause that huge metal digging thing (whatever they call it) to go right into me. The same could happen with a car or truck on the freeway. It really doesn't take much. It serves as a good reminder to me that I need to make good use of my time here and be wise in my decisions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two New Experiences

School has been rough the last couple weeks, but God has been good. I took a test on Tuesday for Discrete Math and it was nothing like I expected it to be. I hate that! I know that God is in control though... and humility is a good thing. I honestly thought I got something like 65%, but I ended up with 76%. While I am very much less than thrilled with the grade, I am thankful for His help and grace while keeping me humble. You may find this to be funny, but I had two new experiences today. The first one was that I played ping pong at school. Since I started going to La Sierra, I have not participated in any extra things other than baseball. A guy that is in most of my classes asked if I wanted to play ping pong when we got out of lab early today, so I did. I have had quite a few opportunities to talk with him about stuff that really matters. I am quite confident that he is a Christian and is growing in the Lord. It has been a great blessing to see God working in his heart over the last couple years. The second new thing is that I went to the music practice rooms for the first time since I've been at La Sierra. When I was at Cal Baptist, I used to spend at least 30 minutes a day in the practice rooms. It was time that I was able to spend alone with Him. I really miss that time. I had some extra time where I didn't need to be cramming material in my head for a test or something, so I spent over a half hour in there. It was very much refreshing. I'm not sure how profitable the ping pong time was although I was surprised when I met a couple other guys that were freshmen... they both said, "I think you are the first senior that I've met." This was encouraging to me in that it reminded me that as a senior, I do have a little bit more natural influence than I would otherwise. It was good making a couple new connections with guys and learning about them. If you would pray that God would open some doors of opportunity to talk with them more about Him, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm not big on the social life there (obviously), but I do want to make an impact for Him. I know that it is easy to get sucked into all the trash out there, so I need His wisdom and guidance to balance this with my time spent alone with Him.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Next Step

I have officially joined the first team handball league in the US. I am quite excited about it. It should lend itself to many opportunities to talk about Christ with other guys. Please pray that God would open doors of opportunity. :) My first real game is tomorrow! I am stoked! Right now, it's looking like I'll be working when I graduate and doing graduate school online. I'd like to go for my doctorate and skip the masters degree, but we'll see what God has in mind. I was just thinking tonight about the times in Awana when we were studying for Bible quiz on the book of Romans. We were challenged to read the whole book of Romans every day for a week. What an incredible blessing that was. I really miss that kind of longer reading. I greatly look forward to having time to do some massive studying of the Word like that again. Anyway, I decided to go back to Romans and take it a chapter at a time (chapter 1 today). With the whole proposition 8 issue here in CA, it seemed to fit in quite well. Please do take a look at what God says about homosexuality in Romans 1:21-32, but there is a whole lot more to it than this passage. Remember that we can never justify our sins because someone else is sinning.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Here are several things that jump out to me...

1) The importance of honoring Him and giving thanks.

2) The importance of humility.

3) The importance of not choosing our own way, but trusting and being obedient to the One who created us.

4) We must realize that sometimes God gives us what we want and allows us to bear the consequences of our decisions. Just because we feel like we are getting away with sin for a time doesn't mean that consequences aren't coming. They are!

5) One of the results of going are own way is homosexuality. Homosexuality is simply telling God that we think we have a better way than how He ordained.

6) Rather than getting stuck on the homosexuality issue (which still is important), I think that most of us do not struggle with that issue. Most of us struggle with the other things such as... unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, strife, deceit malice, gossiping, slandering, hatred of God, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, inventing evil, disobeying parents (or other authorities), choosing not to understand, being untrustworthy, being unloving, and being unmerciful.

All of these things (as well as homosexuality) are worthy of death, but God in His grace has sent Christ to take our punishment. While I think homosexuality and other sexual sins are somewhat on a higher level because it involves another person, it is deserving of death just like all other sins. As Christians, we need to put a whole lot more focus on the sin that we struggle with daily than we are right now. I realize that homosexuality is a hot topic right now, and it is important to fight for truth. I don't believe that homosexuals are born that way, and if they are, God has promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 to give them a way out of sinning. In the same way, God has given each of us a way out of all of these other sins too. We cannot get so focused on the issue of homosexuality that we miss all of these other things that we struggle with on a daily basis. We need to fight for truth in all of these areas! Maybe if we stepped it up as Christians and were obedient to His ways, God-honoring marriages would be seen in America again. Frankly, it is pretty sickening that half of Christian marriages end in divorce. God hates divorce just like He hates homosexuality and yet we seem to be so permissive about divorce. I am not saying that we should be any more permissive about homosexuality, but rather than we shouldn't be so permissive when it comes to divorce. It is something God hates! Let's step it up and be fully committed to Him in all areas of our lives... not just the obvious external ones. God looks at the heart!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A New President

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, but I have been extremely busy. I have three tests and two quizzes this week as well as tons of homework due. For this reason, I am going to keep this very brief, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the election. While Obama is not the candidate that I wanted to see in office, he is the one that God has put in office. I find great peace in this! I also find great peace in Proverbs 21:1.

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Honestly, I don't think he is a natural born citizen of the United States, but regardless, he has been placed in this position [by God] for now and I completely embrace it and trust God in His decision. To be honest, I am excited about what God is going to do. I know that He would not do it if it wasn't best. This may result in tougher times for us as Christians, but I think it will make us stronger and more committed to Him. I can think of no better words to describe my feelings than what Paul said in Philippians 1:18 "... in this, I rejoice. Yes, I will rejoice!"