Giving Thanks Always

November 27, 2012 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Meditations, Thankfulness

Ephesians 5:17, 18b, 20
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is… be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
This last week we had opportunity as a people to celebrate Thanksgiving – remembering God’s faithfulness in our past and petitioning His grace for the future.
Today I would like us to reflect on why such feasts are fitting – and the reason they are fitting is that they express the will of God for us. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians that we are not to be “unwise” but are to understand the will of the Lord. So what is the Lord’s will? The Lord’s will is that we be filled with the Spirit. And what does it look like to be filled with the Spirit? Part of the answer that Paul gives is that when we are filled with the Spirit we will be giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note carefully Paul’s words.
Paul writes that we are to be giving thanks always. He excludes no times – we are always to give thanks. When the car starts right away in the morning, when the car won’t start at all; when there are six inches of snow on the ground, when it fails to snow at all; when we’re feeling robust and well, when we have the stomach flu; when work is going well, when we have trouble with employees; when our children obey, when they disobey. We are always to give thanks.
How is this possible? Because the One to whom we are giving thanks, God the Father, is Sovereign over all. Nothing happens apart from His will. No one and no thing can say to him, “What have you done? Or why has your hand determined thus?” Our God is in the heavens – he does whatever he pleases. So if there is calamity in the city, will not our Lord have done it? God is the Lord – He raises up and He puts down. And so our calling as the people of God is to render thanks to Him – precisely because this One who is Sovereign, who is God, is also our Father – He cares for us and works on our behalf. So we can give thanks always. Our demeanor should be one of grateful acknowledgment of the wisdom of our Father – not just when it appears wise to usbut when it is in fact wise, namely, always.
But not only are we alwaysto give thanks, we are also to give thanks for all things. All things, we ask? Surely Paul didn’t mean to say it quite that way. But I’m afraid he did. For all things that enter our lives come from the hand of our loving Father who has orchestrated them for our good and for His glory. Thanking Him – for the kind and the hard providences – is the key to glorifying him in the midst of both. And this, to some extent, explains why we are to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” – for he too gave thanks to God while suffering. So do we thank the Father for the hard providences, the failure of the crops, the loss of our job, the rebellion of a child, the loneliness of singleness, the frustration of working at a job we don’t enjoy? According to Paul we ought to. Why? Because God is the one who has brought this into our lives for a very good, distinct, and just reason. Therefore, we are to abound in thanksgiving.
And so, reminded that rather than abound in thanksgiving we frequently complain and grumble, let us kneel and confess that we are an unthankful people.

Our Father,

We have failed to be thankful for the gifts and graces which you have freely bestowed upon us. You have treated us much more graciously than we deserve – and yet we grumble and complain at your graces. Not only do we refuse to thank you in hard times, we forget to thank you in good ones. So too our culture. We refuse to give you thanks. We act as though we are entitled to the things we receive; we demand more; insist that what You have given is not enough. Forgive us for the sake of Christ and enable us to abound always in thanksgiving in all things.
AMEN.

Ascension Sunday

May 21, 2012 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
7
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” …11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Today is Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday celebrates – along with Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost – one of the most pivotal events in the life of Christ and, hence, in the history of the world. On this day, Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat of authority at the right hand of God Almighty, ruling there as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And from this position of authority, He sent forth His Spirit upon His disciples – an event we shall celebrate next week in Pentecost.
In our text today, Paul indicates one of the implications of the Ascension for the people of God. When Christ ascended on high, was enthroned in state, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, he was then the victorious conqueror, in a position to distribute spoil among his followers. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
And what is the nature of the gifts he bestows upon His retainers? Ah his gifts are numerous and glorious – for His gifts are not merely objects but persons. He gave apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – from other places we learn that he has given helps, works of mercy, humility, joy, contentment, peace, self-control, wisdom, virtue. Glorious gifts He has bestowed on His retainers.
Why? Why has he given these things? Here is the startling message of Paul. He has given them “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, the gifts that Christ has given to us are to be given in turn for the benefit of the whole body, for the Church.
So what does Ascension Sunday mean for us? First, we must take note of the gifts that our great King has granted to us. What gifts has the exalted and enthroned King bestowed upon you? He does not leave anyone out. If you have been baptized into Christ then you have a gift bestowed upon you by your heavenly King. Second, having acknowledged the gifts, our first response should be to thank the Giver. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out gifts upon the Church; he has poured out some gift on each of us; and so our calling is to thank Him both for the gifts which He has given me personally and for the gifts He has given to my neighbor– our Lord Jesus thank you for calling the Twelve and giving them to the church; thank you for Paul, for Athanasius, for Clement, for Gottschalk, for Helena, for Ethelberga, for Zwingli, Bullinger, Peter Martyr. And coming closer to home, we say thank you for George and Freddy and Sally and  – for the gifts you have given them so they might bestow them on the body. Having recognized the gifts and given thanks to Him for the gifts that He has bestowed upon us and upon the rest of the body, our final task is to use the gifts He has given us for the body. Our calling is to imitate our King and give gifts in turn. We cannot serve Christ in isolation; we cannot serve Him apart from being integral members of a local church where we can use our gifts to bless our brethren.
But frequently our attitude and actions are far from this. Frequently, we complain that we have not been given the gifts that others have received and we endeavor to horde the gifts, increasing our own cache rather than blessing the body. Reminded of this, let us kneel and confess our sins to Him.

The Blessing of Church Officers

October 30, 2011 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NKJV)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
The final thing that I would like to share with you publicly about my trip to presbytery in Minneapolis is the privilege that I had to serve on the examination committee for Kenton Spratt. Kenton is the pastor of our sister congregation in Colville, Washington. It was an incredible privilege to get to hear him preach, to read some of his writing, and then to examine him at presbytery.
But not only was it an incredible privilege to examine Kenton, it was also an incredible privilege to work in concert with other elders in the CREC during this process. The examination committee is typically composed of five CREC elders – some pastors, some teaching elders, some ruling elders. Our task is to examine the candidate’s fitness to serve as a minister of the Gospel.
 The privilege of joining in this work reminded me that one of our callings as the people of God – both officers and congregants – is to thank God for the gift he has given us in apostles, prophets, evangelists, and even pastors and teachers. God in His grace and mercy has gifted us with men to teach and articulate the Word of God – and it was my privilege to recognize Kenton as one of those men.
So how are you doing? First, have you been thanking God for the leaders, past and present, in the church? Thanking God that He has given us those equipped to read and understand and teach His Word? And not only thanking God for them, but continuing to pray for those living that they would fulfill their tasks with joy and integrity?
Second, have you reckoned with your calling to support ministers of the Gospel with your tithes and offerings? Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things [in the OT] eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor 9:13-14). And so we are called upon as the people of God to express our gratitude for those who labor in Word and Sacraments by providing for their physical needs by giving to the work of the church.
Third, have you shown your appreciation for these men by listening to what they are telling you? The way we show respect and honor is not by nodding our heads and saying how much we appreciate them, but by doing what they urge us to do when it is consistent with the Word of God. God has given them that we all might be equipped for ministry, Paul says – and so our calling is to make use of their teaching by ministering, by implementing the principles they give.
Reminded of the many ways in which we take leaders for granted, let us kneel and confess our sin to God.

Ascension Sunday

June 4, 2010 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, King Jesus, Meditations

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” …11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

As we worship the Lord today on Ascension Sunday, I want to call to your mind some of the remarks we made last year in connection with this passage of Paul in Ephesians 4. Ascension Sunday celebrates – along with Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost – one of the most pivotal events in the life of Christ and, hence, in the history of the world. On this day, Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat of authority at the right hand of God Almighty, ruling there as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And from this position of authority, He sent forth His Spirit upon His disciples – an event we shall celebrate next week in Pentecost.

In our text today, Paul indicates one of the implications of the Ascension for the people of God. When Christ ascended on high, was enthroned in state, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, he was then the victorious conqueror, in a position to distribute spoil among his followers. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

And what is the nature of the gifts he bestows upon His retainers? Ah his gifts are numerous and glorious – for His gifts are not merely objects but persons. He gave apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – from other places we learn that he has given helps, works of mercy, humility, joy, contentment, peace, self-control, wisdom, virtue. Glorious gifts He has bestowed on His retainers.

Why? Why has he given these things? Here is the startling message of Paul. He has given them “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, the gifts that Christ has given to us are to be given in turn for the benefit of the whole body, for the Church.

So what does Ascension Sunday mean for us? First, we must take note of the gifts that our great King has granted to us. What gifts has the exalted and enthroned King bestowed upon you? He does not leave anyone out. Second, having acknowledged the gifts, our first response should be to thank the Giver. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out gifts upon the Church; he has poured out some gift on each of us; and so our calling is to thank Him both for the gifts which He has given me personally and for the gifts He has given to my neighbor– our Lord Jesus thank you for calling the Twelve and giving them to the church; thank you for Paul, for Athanasius, for Clement, for Gottschalk, for Helena the mother of Constantine, for Zwingli, Bullinger, Peter Martyr. And coming closer to home, we say thank you for George over there and for Freddy – for the gifts you have given them so they might bestow them on the body. Having given thanks to Him for the gifts that He has bestowed upon us and upon the rest of the body, our final task is to use the gifts He has given us for the body. Our calling is to imitate our King and give gifts in turn.

But frequently our attitude and actions are far from this. Frequently, we complain that we have not been given the gifts that others have received and we endeavor to horde the gifts, increasing our own cache rather than to bless the body. Reminded of this, let us kneel and confess our sins to Him.