31 12 2019

This is a sermon I preached at McKee Road Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Ca. on 12-29-19.


In Everything Give Thanks

29 11 2019

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I think this short verse holds one of the most difficult commands in the entire Bible. I know it does for me. Corrie Ten Boom struggle with obedience to this verse as well. Listen to her story.

“We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.
..Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’
“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ’He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’
“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…’”
It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”
“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
“‘Such as?’ I said.
“‘Such as being assigned here together.’
“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’

She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.
“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–’ 

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.
“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call.
There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’
“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!’”
“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

The reason we can obey this particular command is in the light of Romans 8:28.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

If all things work together for our good then we can confidently give thanks for everything because no matter how bad anything seems all things work for our good and therefore deserve thanks.

The Trial of Your Faith

20 11 2017

This is a message I preached at McKee Road Baptist Church on 11/15/17


For Such A Time As This

28 08 2011

“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites… And [he] saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” Mark 12:42-44

     One of the hardest things we learn to do is to trust God. We often look at bad things in our lives(supposing from our point of view that they are bad) and we say “well God allowed this” but we never really move beyond acceptance into the realm of rejoicing. God is sovereign and therefore all things need to be looked at as not just God allowed it but God gave this to me. Once we do that we move from accepting it to rejoicing in it and being thankful for it.

     One of the best examples of this is a story related by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie’s own story is encouraging enough but this particular story demonstrates the sovereignty of God in a powerful and distinguishing way. While traveling in the region of Lithuania, on the Baltic Sea, she and her traveling companion Ellen had to sneak in to visit this lady at night to avoid detection(this was during the dark days of the Soviet Empire) They climbed a steep set of stairs and entered a one room apartment through the back door. The couple had once lived in a bigger house during better times and so the small apartment was jammed with furniture.

    The old woman who lived there was lying on a small sofa, propped up by pillows. Her body was bent and twisted almost beyond recognition by the disease of multiple sclerosis. Her aged husband spent all his time caring for her since she was unable to move off the sofa. Corrie relates, “I walked across the room and kissed her wrinkled cheek. She tried to look up but the muscles in her neck were atrophied so she could only roll her eyes upward and smile. She raised her right hand, slowly, in jerks. It was the only part of her body she could control and with her gnarled and deformed knuckles she caressed my face. I reached over and kissed the index finger of that hand, for it was with this one finger that she had so long glorified God.”

     What was her ministry that could be accomplished with one finger? Beside her couch was an old vintage typewriter. Each morning her faithful husband would rise, praising the Lord. After caring for his wife’s needs and feeding her a simple breakfast, he would prop her into a sitting position on the couch, he would place pillows all around her so she wouldn’t fall over. He would then move that ancient black typewriter in front of her on a small table. From an old cupboard he would remove a stack of cheap yellow paper. Then, with that one blessed finger, she would being to type.

    All day long and far into the night she would type. She translated Christian books into Russian, Latvian, and the language of her people. Always using just that one finger – peck… peck… peck – she typed out the pages. Portions of the Bible, the books of Billy Graham, Watchman Nee, and Corrie ten Boom – all came from her typewriter. That was why I was there – to thank her.

     Corrie said of this womans love for the Lord, “She was hungry to hear news about these men of God she had never met, yet whose books she had so faithfully translated. We talked about Watchman Nee, who was then in a prison in China, and I told her all I knew of his life and ministry. I also told her of the wonderful ministry of Billy Graham and of the many people who were giving their lives to the Lord. “Not only does she translate their books,” her husband said as he hovered close by during our conversation, “but she prays for these men every day while she types. Sometimes it takes a long time for her finger to hit the key, or for her to get the paper in the machine, but all the time she is praying for those whose books she is working on.”

     This dear woman had every reason to feel sorry for herself and do nothing, but she chose to give what little she had and spent all day typing with one finger, one letter at a time. Her condition was a blessing because the secret police never would have suspected this invalid old woman, in this cramped apartment could ever accomplish anything. Her condition was no doubt given to her “for such a time as this.”(Esther 4:13-14)

The Dangers of Self Reliance

10 10 2010

Our lives ought to be filled with times of growth, often hitting a low before learning a new lesson and growing our faith. I would like to share a recent experience in that area of life for me. Some Christians will laugh off total reliance on God by saying that “we have to do our part” or ” God helps those who help themselves.” They don’t believe that God is interested in the little issues of life. Sure if you have a major need or a serious health issue or something then God cares but they (in deed if not in word) shrug off reliance on the Lord in small day to day issues. The other group see God as their butler or servant and if they just “declare” in Jesus name He is obligated to run to their aid. They quote the Scriptures that say “Whatever you ask in my name that will I do”(John 14:13) or others that say, “ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.”(John 15:7) They leave out Scriptures such as James 4:3, “you ask and receive not that you may consume it upon your lust.”

I know God is interested in the small things because of men like George Mueller who raised orphans and bought properties without ever asking for money or making his needs known to men. He simply went to his Heavenly Father in secret made his requests and awaited the answer or direction. Reese Howells lived much the same life, as did Corrie Ten Boom, and H.A. Ironside. The Scriptures declare in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give thee the desires of thine heart.” Does this mean he will give me whatever I want? No, it means the desires of my heart will come from him. Those who delight themselves in the Lord won’t want the things of this world but the things of the Kingdom of God. Not that He will give us all we desire, but that all we desire will come from Him. This is why He said in 1 John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him,  that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us;  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

I am learning this in my life through several recent experiences. A few weeks ago I was scheduled to take part in a pro-life march and rally. I was scheduled to work mandatory overtime just a few days prior to the event. I lied outwardly and said I was praying about it and if I had to work then I accepted that as God’s will. I did pray but surely not a believing prayer but what people could not see is sadness, and anger on the inside was boiling up and my faith was weakening. Spiritually I felt crippled, but I was arguing with my boss and talking about him when he was not around. I claimed to be trusting the Lord but I relied entirely on my own efforts to change the situation and when I could not I got angry. The Lord in His mercy and through no merit of my own moved the heart of my boss to change my schedule and put me on a graveyard shift that day to enable me to go. How much easier it could have been if only I had learned to trust.

A week after that last incident I had another opportunity and this time took the challenge to grow my faith, deepen my reliance, and see God work on my behalf. I work security at a hospital and had to relieve the officer in the Emergency Room for a lunch break. He told me that there was a large and rather noisy group that he had been arguing with to quiet down. He told me I would have a battle on my hands but I decided to take a different approach and ask the Lord to work on my behalf. I in simple (very simple) faith asked the Lord to have them leave the room for the duration of my time there. Within thirty seconds, the entire group walked out of the waiting room. My relief returned about a half hour later and as I was leaving to do my rounds I noticed the entire group walk back in. I said to the Lord…point taken!

A week or so after the last incident, the Lord gave me yet another opportunity to grow my faith. We had a gang member in the hospital and about forty gang members visiting. I had been off for two days and when I came to work they told me I would have a hard shift because there was a big riot earlier and they had to call the police out. They said the group was loud and would try to pick a fight with me. I went immediately to the chapel and went to the throne for “grace to help in time of need.” I waited on the Lord before praying hoping to let the Spirit pray on my behalf so that I did not ask of my own will. After a few minutes the words just poured and to my surprise I did not request the Lord have them leave but that He would keep them quiet and friendly during the hours I was at work. Going about my business that night I heard not a peep from the group. I got to work the next day and found out that earlier in the day the police had to be called again but I felt an air of protection and found that I was not worried about it ( this is the truth of truly relying on the Lord) I went through my shift and heard not a peep again. The next day they were there for half my shift, still not a peep, and they left so quietly it was an hour before I knew they were gone.

When my co-workers asked how many times I had to respond to their group they were shocked when I said none. They said their day was filled with fights, and shouting. They could not believe that I had no issues with them. They could not fathom the battle going on in the spiritual realm and that unseen powers were at work on my behalf. When I relied on my own abilities I was miserable, frustrated, bitter, and angry. When I relied on God I saw Him work wonders on my behalf. Oh Christian, realize the authority, and power we have in the name of Jesus and that God is interested in the small, mundane issues of life. Find your reliance on God and surrender it to Him. He is a loving Father who wants to bear our burdens for us if only we will let Him.

Written By: Rick Garland

Just On Time

7 07 2010

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Daniel 4:34-35

Corrie Ten Boom got up during the initial bombing of Haarlem, and she joined her sister, Betsie in the kitchen for a cup of tea. When she returned to her bed she found a large piece of shrapnel on her pillow. She asked Betsie if she could imagine what would have happened had she not joined her in the kitchen. Betsie replied that in God’s economy there are no “ifs.” The truth of God’s absolute sovereignty in the affairs of man is a lesson that Corrie found to be true throughout the course of her life. I have often in times of low faith doubted if God would or could come through. What I have found is that God is always right on time.

When I was supporting my mom back from 2002 through 2004 I often found that I got overtime just as a new expense came up for her (just on time) When I got a job in the mountains of California, in which I had very few living expenses, I found that during that time a Christian brother needed a lot of financial help, which I was able to meet(just on time) When people at a certain job were trying to get me fired for a year they failed every time. When my mom no longer needed my help I was off that job in two weeks (just on time) When my mom was getting food stamps, she received notice in June that she would no longer get them, but starting in July we realized she didn’t need them (just on time) I found that a door seemed to be opening for me to take another job. I began to follow the leading and found that I was about to lose my hours at my current job (just on time)

I have had many jobs and worked with many wonderful people, and have missed them after leaving. Most of these jobs I had worked for several years. I was assigned to a local library branch for about a month recently. There were many wonderful people there whom I will miss seeing on a daily basis. When I left however you would have thought I had been there a year or two. I was blessed with compliments such as, “You’re the best security guard we have had in years.” “One of the reasons I love coming to work is because you seem so happy and it cheers me up.” I was given a few gifts before I left and was told how much of an impact I had made on some people there. I likewise felt blessed by their outpouring of love, especially having been there for such a short time. I was thinking on the subject and it seemed plain. God put me there because I needed them, and they needed me. We all needed each other even for a very short time. This is the joy of following Jesus; we may not always understand why He puts us somewhere, or why He tells us to move on. One thing I have come to expect and appreciate is that He seems to always be……just on time.

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