Archives For thanks

Thank you

ib2newseditor —  April 2, 2018

Cooperative ProgramRecently I attended a meeting of state Baptist executive directors, like myself, from across the country. The format of the meeting included several panel discussions on topics ranging from missions giving to working with local associations, and from disaster relief ministry to ways Baptist state conventions can help one another.

One of the panels was comprised of four experienced leaders, and they were asked the question, “What have you discovered that encourages generous missions giving from churches through the Cooperative Program?”

It was a question that certainly got my attention. While Cooperative Program giving is up in Illinois so far this year, last year it dipped below the $6 million mark for the first time since 1998. Many churches understand and appreciate Cooperative Program missions and ministries, and are giving sacrificially. But many are giving nominally, or at a rate lower than in the past. That affects missions and ministries not only in Illinois, but throughout America and around the world.

Your missions giving is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world.

By the way, if you want to know how strong your church’s CP missions giving is, simply divide the amount your church gave through the Cooperative Program last year by the number of church members. Across all IBSA churches, that average is about $50 per member. The top 100 CP missions giving churches in Illinois give at least $100 per member. My home church here in Springfield isn’t large, but it gave about $200 per member last year. This “per capita” giving is really the most accurate way to compare churches of all sizes.

Anyway, so when I heard the panel discussion question about CP missions giving, I sat up straight and poised myself to take notes on whatever my colleagues might say about this important need. The first to speak was one of the most experienced and respected of all the executive directors.

“The first and most important thing is this,” he began. “Whenever I am in a church, whenever our staff is in a church, in fact whenever I have an opportunity to speak or write to pastors or churches in any setting, I always start with thank you. Thank you for prioritizing the Cooperative Program in your missions giving.”

I didn’t bother writing anything down. “I can remember that,” I thought. “What else will he suggest?” But he kept talking about gratitude.

“We all need to remember that churches, like church members, have a lot of demands on their resources. There are lots of ways they could spend their church’s offerings at home. Whatever they choose to send beyond their church field to the mission field and ministries of our state, nation, and world, deserves our humble gratitude. I always focus on saying thank you.”

Then, one by one, each of the experienced panelists began their remarks by affirming this foundational principle. “I agree, the most important thing you can do is say thank you.” “Yes, we must always remember to say thank you.” “We can never take a church’s missions giving for granted.”

Whatever else my colleagues said that morning, I came away with this note in my head. “The next time you write to Illinois Baptists, say thank you for their giving to Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.”

So, thank you. Whatever your church is giving, it is making a difference here in Illinois and around the world, and it is deeply appreciated. In fact, I would love to come to your church and thank you personally, if you will invite me. Whether I deliver the morning message, or just share a brief word about Cooperative Program missions, you can be assured that my first words will be thank you.

Cooperative Program (CP) Sunday is April 8. Downloadable CP materials are available at IBSA.org/CP.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Thanks for everything on blackboard

There are a few verses that most Christ followers at least sort of know by heart. Verses like John 3:16. Or Hebrews 11:1. Or this one:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It’s a strange passage coming from someone like the apostle Paul. He’s been bitten by snakes, shipwrecked, beaten within an inch of his life on numerous occasions, abandoned by his friends on some occasions, maligned by people he cared about on others. And yet, Paul stresses the obedience of joy and thankfulness almost as much as he stresses grace and faith.

And make no mistake—it is an issue of obedience. Often we think of joy and gratitude in the realm of feelings. Either we feel joyful or thankful, or we don’t. When we feel it, we do it. But obedience doesn’t work that way.

Obedience is doing regardless of whether you’re feeling. Thankfully, as we grow in Christ, we find the Lord not only bringing about in us the correct actions but also the correct feelings that come alongside those actions. But until we are made right and whole again, it is left to us to give ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit by continuing to do, even (and perhaps most especially) when we do not feel.

So, your gratitude—just like mine—is not a question of whether you feel thankful, but whether you are willing to obey this command from the Lord.

But there is another issue here to examine during this season set aside for giving thanks—whether there is a difference between giving thanks IN all circumstances and giving thanks FOR all circumstances.

Gratitude isn’t a matter of how we feel in the moment, but a measure of our obedience.

If there is, it means that no matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always something to be thankful for. You may not be thankful for the suffering, the pain, the hardship or the persecution, but there are other things to lift your heart. When you consider everything that the Lord is, all that he continues to do in the world, and the next world waiting for the believer, there are plenty of reasons to say “thanks,” no matter what happens to be going on.

If there’s not a difference, it means you believe that every circumstance, regardless of how devastating or marvelous, has come from God. And since you know that God is for you, not against you, then you can be thankful for the circumstance, even if you are doing so in faith. You are thankful because you believe that ultimately good will come of it.

I think people love Jesus and believe both of these things. And at the end of the day, both sets of believers are thankful.

In my own life, I have seen how, over time, you become more thankful “for.” Over time, and with perspective, you begin to see the invisible hand of God moving in times that, in the moment, you could not see. You begin to reflect on God’s providential care and love and wisdom even when he may have seemed so significantly absent. You see how he has shaped you and guided you into a deeper experience of Jesus. And so, over time, you become thankful “for.”

To bring it full circle, notice that the command here is to give thanks in all circumstances. That’s what you can do right now, even if you don’t feel like it. You can practice the discipline of gratitude, finding the grace of God, in general and in particular, at work in your life.

But as you do that, think back a bit. Think back to those moments when you thought you would never have another reason to feel thankful again. Think back, and then look and see the redemptive hand of God at work because of those times. And maybe this is the year that you are not only obediently thankful in, but also being thankful for.

Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is on Twitter at @_michaelkelley and online at michaelkelley.com, where this article first appeared.

– From Baptist Press

Hidden entrances

nateadamsibsa —  February 23, 2015

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Several years ago Beth and I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Amsterdam. As Sunday approached, we began scouting out nearby churches with English-speaking worship services. Finding only one within walking distance, we made plans to attend and committed to starting out early. But it was not early enough.

This was before the days of GPS and smart phones, and all we had were verbal directions from the place we were staying. We recognized the various street names and landmarks they told us we would find along the way. We knew we were in the right neighborhood. But we could not find the church.

Nate_Adams_Feb23Did we ask others for directions along the way? Well of course, though as a self-respecting husband who rarely feels lost, I waited as long as possible. But most of the folks in the neighborhood spoke only Dutch, and at least one of our well-intentioned helpers actually directed us to a German-speaking Lutheran service, which only cost us more time.

Finally, as the scheduled worship hour was upon us, we met a nice little man who was willing to walk with us a short way and point down a narrow alleyway. We had probably walked past it several times, but never realized that it led to where we needed to go.

Somewhat by faith, we walked down that narrow passage until it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. And right in the center was a beautiful old stone church, the place of worship for which we had been searching.

What a rich and deep worship experience we had that morning. On the way out, we inquired about a stained glass window that had caught our attention, one that seemed to depict pilgrims gathered for prayer on an ocean shore. It turns out the church in which we were worshiping that morning was the church from which the Mayflower pilgrims had departed for the New World almost 400 years ago.

When we returned to the hotel and told them of our difficulty finding the church, the staff apologetically acknowledged that the neighborhood had grown up quite a bit around the historic church. New buildings and thoroughfares now surrounded and somewhat masked the entrance to the courtyard. They were glad that someone familiar with the entrance had showed us how to find it.

In recent days, I have sometimes wondered what it is that keeps me from feeling a more consistent closeness to God. Like that narrow alleyway in Amsterdam, it seems the path to greater intimacy with God can be hard to find, even when I’m diligently looking for it.

Psalm 100 gives us a wonderful word picture of entering God’s gates with thanksgiving, and entering His courts with praise. Recalling that psalm during some recent soul-searching, I asked myself if I had been feeling or expressing genuine thanksgiving to God.

I began realizing how much my prayer life had been consumed with either asking for things to be different or expressing frustrations,  neither of which came from a heart of gratitude toward God. Like the buildings and thoroughfares that had grown up around that historic church, I had somehow allowed various disappointments and distractions to obscure my vision of God. They were keeping me from recognizing that I enter the courtyard of praise through a gateway of thanksgiving, and that God’s goodness and salvation and sovereignty merit my continual gratitude, even when things aren’t going my way.

Have your circumstances allowed obstacles such as discontentment or frustration or something else to creep in to your spiritual life and block your intimacy with God? Like that kind little man in Amsterdam, let me point you once again to the gateway of thanksgiving. You will be so delighted with where it leads.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

HEARTLAND | Eric Reed

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works Thy hands have made in 2014…

365 days marked by evening and morning, 365 sunsets and sunrises, as 143,341,000 people were born onto this planet and 56,759,000 departed, all receiving 1,640 minutes each day and blessings beyond number, I say

Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul; thank you, Lord, for making me one of the billions you have saved by grace through faith. I was sinking deep in sin, far from your holy standard, and yet you made a Way for me—for us—to be rescued.

And His Name is Jesus.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish use of time and grant that we may more wisely employ our moments and our days to share your peace with a world that has suffered its absence this year: the death-march of ISIS and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the kidnapped girls and the lost boys; the fear in Ferguson, and the failure of our social contract. We are grateful for God’s peace in our hearts, even as we realize the fragility of peace in our streets.

Sixty years after D-Day, bless the Greatest Generation who secured our freedom, and guard the young soldiers whose service today has redefined sacrifice.

calendar 2014.In this, the year of Ebola, we pray: Eternal Father, strong to save, whose arm hath bound the deadly wave with wonder drugs and rescue teams, hazmat suits and quarantines. For healthcare, though at times it’s costly, sparing lives that once would lost be; for ribbons pink and yellow wristbands and friends who live strong when faced with cancer. (And their hats.)

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for the year to come, we’re grateful for a stronger economy, steadier jobs, and the roof overhead. Our kids are warm and safely tucked in; thank you for the joy of children (those here now and those a’comin’).

For our Baptist family on bended knee lifting lost ones up to Thee; for our dear church, where would we be without your Body on earth that meets just down the street and comes over for small group?

For faithful friends and faithful givers, co-laborers in Christ who become brothers and sisters, the cloud of witnesses in heavenly places who cheer us on as we run our races.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed is all you made and we marvel still at your inscrutable creation…yet little things cheer our hearts and make us sing “Happy” songs. I love breakfast (oh it’s so good!), foods I eat and foods I should. Coffee hot and iced tea sweet, mittened-hands and sock-warmed feet; feeling glad when winter comes and gladder still when winter goes.

Clinging to the hope of spring, there are 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing…Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul…because whatever comes in 2015,
“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and IBSA’s associate executive director for the church communications team. This column was written in the style of the late Joan Beck, Chicago Tribune columnist, whose annual “thanks” essays inspired readers for 30 years.

What pastors really want

Meredith Flynn —  October 23, 2014

Eric_Reed COMMENTARY | Eric Reed

With one week left in Pastor Appreciation Month, you may be wondering how to appreciate your pastor. What does he need? Or want?

Not a Bible. He has many Bibles on his shelves, and hundreds more on his phone.

Not a painting of Jesus, and certainly not on black velvet.

Maybe a suit, if only for funerals, but let him pick his own.

Not a trip. As a church member, I once gave a pastor and his family a gift certificate for a getaway weekend. The smile on his face said, “I’d rather have cash.”

As a pastor, the remembrances that blessed me most (in addition to the occasional love offering) were handwritten cards and letters. Once while I was on vacation, a deacon had the congregation fill a three-ring binder with thank-you notes. And another time, as the children’s classes presented me with a three-foot tall card they had drawn, a young woman in the choir loft exclaimed, “He’s gonna cry!” I did.

Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, told a story that still chokes me up. Many years ago during a stormy season in his ministry, Traylor arrived home one night to find three deacons sitting on the curb. “Oh, no,” he thought. “Here it comes.”

“Pastor, remember when you preached on the mighty men of David?” one of them said, “How when David longed for water from home, they snuck across the battle lines and brought it to him?”

Traylor nodded.

“Well, we went to your hometown today and we talked with your parents.” It was a twelve-hour round trip.

The pastor was astonished to learn they had brought him a sapling native to North Alabama to remind him of home, even as he served hundreds of miles away. They fetched a jar of water from the clear mountain springs to remind him of the living water of Christ. And they delivered two large stones from the hillside ledge where as a teenager Traylor was called by God to the ministry. The men instructed him to place the rocks in his own garden and whenever he felt unsure of himself or his calling, to stand on them as a reminder that he stands on the Rock.

And the three mighty men pledged their personal support of their pastor and his ministry, whenever and wherever he needed them, “unless you do something illegal, immoral, or unethical—then we’ll take you out ourselves,” he remembered, smiling.

That’s what pastors want.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and IBSA’s associate executive director, Church Communications team.