Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Puritan Thanksgiving Prayer

Here at thanksgiving, a puritan prayer for you to mull from The Valley of Vision

This prayer is taken from a collection Puritan prayers and devotions in a book called The Valley of Vision (highly recommended).

O My God, thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow. When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil; for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing sense to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding; for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.

Our identity redefined

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). John 1:41-42

I was reading in John today, and looking at Jesus encounter with the first disciples. One thing stuck me anew as I looked at this story. Jesus redefines who Simon. Simon is a fisherman. an angry man, a troubled man. A man adrift.

Jesus gives him a new identity. He says, Simon, you will be called Cephas... Peter. When Jesus calls Peter, He redefines who Peter is. Peter will go through a process to learn what this means, but at this point, God has begun a process of making him a new man. One who will follow Christ, and one on whom the church will be built. One who is completely God's, and will die as his Lord died.

As I think about this statement in my own life, the reminder that I see is this. Christ’s call redefines who I am. I am no longer a free agent, alone and adrift in the world. I have an identity and a place in this world. I am now God’s child. I am His son, and that means that like Peter, I have entered the process of being transformed into the image of Christ, the image of God. Will it be hard? It was for Peter. But the fruit of that process is that our lives, and my life, is brought towards its chief, most important, end- glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, and that, I want more than anything else.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Thanks In Both Good and Bad

It is finished! The thanksgiving letter is done. If you do not get the First Baptist church mailings, I hope you enjoy.

As I look back on this year, I find myself amazed by God’s provision in my life. Since I last wrote a thanksgiving letter, my family and I have moved from our small apartment in Wilkins Glen, to the Parsonage (with the help of many of you). Veronique and I have watched Joseph go from a baby that was still crawling, to a boy that is running, and as a family, we have experienced God’s amazing care, from providing for us in amazing ways financially, to getting me through the ordination process (!), to giving us a great group of friends and wonderful church family. We truly have a great God who shows His goodness in wonderful ways.

But, as we approach thanksgiving, I have found myself thinking that it’s easy to stop and be thankful when you can point to many blessings, but what about the tough years? What about those years of loss, when everything goes wrong? In 1607, German pastor named Martin Reinkardht wrote..."Now Thank We All Our God". “Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices, Who, from our mother's arms has blest us on our way, With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today”…. “All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given…All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, The Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven, The one eternal God whom earth and heav'n adore, For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.” It is an incredible hymn of thanksgiving, one of the greatest hymns of thanksgiving ever written. What is amazing about this hymn is the story behind it. In the year that Reinkardht wrote it, over 6000 people in his village died. Among the dead were his wife and children. If anyone had reason to say, “I can’t give thanks God”, it was Reinkardht. And yet, in the midst of that great catastrophic social and personal loss, Reinkardht wrote one of the most powerful hymns of thanksgiving.

How do we praise God in those kinds of years? How do we give thanks when things have gone terribly wrong, and we feel like going, where are you God? By holding fast in faith like Job, who declared, “though He slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15), and by remembering God’s character, He is good; His love endures forever. Even in the worst of years, this is reason to give thanks. He is good, His love endures forever; He is at work on the behalf of those who love him and have been called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28), and He plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Even when you can’t believe that this is true, it is, and you can rejoice in this truth.

If you look at Psalm 106, you see a painful, sad situation. The Psalmist is recounting the sins of Israel from Babylon. Israel is in exile, and the Psalmists world had been turned upside down. It would have been easy for him to have thrown up his hands in this situation and said, God I can’t worship you. But what does he do? He finds solace in the fact that God is still good and loving, and so he writes, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever (106:1), and praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting, let the people say amen, Praise the Lord (106:46).

As we come to thanksgiving, my encouragement to you is, give thanks to the LORD. Give thanks, if this has been a wonderful year of blessing, and give thanks, if this has been a year you would like to forget, give thanks because in good times and bad, in moments of triumphs, and moments of agony, he is still God, and He is still good, and His love endures…forever.
In Christ,
Pastor Chechile