Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18 NIV) Yikes! "In all circumstances"? Don't skip the prepositions here — "in everything" or "in all circumstances"......"with thanksgiving…" — what we don't see is "be thankful for everything." The difference is profound. Can we learn to give thanks in every thing and for everything?

While we may never be grateful for certain painful experiences and circumstances in life, we can still be grateful during them. We can still pray with a thankful heart. Why? Because our hope is not in the potential answers to our prayers. Our hope is in the God to whom we pray! In Him we trust. He has given us life itself — freedom, salvation, grace, mercy. He chose us to be His children. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). Who can't be thankful for that?

The bottom line is that thankfulness is an attitude that we can and must develop. Why are so many not thankful? Many reasons. Perhaps because we think of what we want and do not know how to evaluate or continue to be thankful for what we have received and currently have. We compare themselves with others and feel slighted. It might be good to be thankful that we do NOT have some things we do not want! We should count our own blessings, not those of others. Oh let's be more thankful for how God has blessed us!

My dear friends, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you enjoy the time spent with family and friends

God bless,

Robert Prater

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"I Knew You'd Come"

As the old saying goes, "Charity begins at home." Jesus told the apostles in Luke 24:47 to share the good news of the gospel “beginning at Jerusalem,” and then ultimately to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem was the "home town" or the "local community" of the early church. Jesus always wants His church to begin at home, right where we live.

We as the church of Jesus Christ should always desire to bring the good news of Jesus to our community, but not only the message of His love, but also we need a great passion to show His love. We must always remember that people will not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. I know that sound doctrine is important. I believe we should earnestly contend for the faith. I believe we must enter the straight gate and walk the narrow path, and that we should count the cost. But none of those things will amount to anything if there is no love. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Love is the key that opens the hearts of the most hardened sinners. Love is the key to evangelism and outreach.

We must desire as the body of Christ to be known as a church that not only says "God loves you", but one that actually shows it by our actions. We need to do this on a personal level, but also on a church level through our various outreach efforts. I'm thankful for Central's upcoming “Warmth from the Heart” coat giveaway this Saturday. We seek to bring God's love to our community in real ways, opening the door to share the wonderful message of Christ. They may not be impressed with our Savior at first, but they will remember who really cared and who had the courage to get involved in the difficulties of their lives. Then, they become more interested in the One who motivates us to act, and we have an opportunity to tell them of His saving message.

The story is told about during a time of combat, a young soldier asked his commanding officer if he could rescue one of his comrades who was severely wounded. The officer narrowed his eyes and stood a while in thought, and then said, "I´ll give you permission, but it´s not worth it. Your friend is probably dead, and you´ll be putting your own life at risk."

Feeling the responsibility for his friend, the young soldier saluted and then proceeded on his way, dodging bullets as he ran, and managing to get to his friend. He hoisted him over his shoulder, and quickly brought him back to the trench.

The officer inspected the wounded soldier and then shook his head with grief. "Your friend´s dead." He looked at the young man and saw a red spot on his shirt and added, "And you´re wounded. I told you it wouldn´t be worth it."

The young soldier looked into his officer´s eyes with confidence and answered, "It was worth it, Sir." "What do you mean worth it? You´re wounded and it was all for nothing." "No, sir. It was worth it because when I knelt down beside him he said to me, ´I knew you´d come

Friends let’s be known as a Christian community of people who care and come to those in need. We have no agenda other than showing and sharing the love of Christ. Does service call us to help our neighbor, yes! Service is calling us. We need only to open our eyes and ears and then just maybe we might hear those around us in this community calling out to us: “I knew you’d come.”

God bless,
Robert Prater

Monday, November 9, 2009

"The Least of these of Mine"

In the song “Jesus Let us Come to Know You” there is a line that says, “Let us see you to face to face.” This is not just a song, but a prayer to be prayed as we sing. But if we sincerely prayed to see Jesus face to face, would we recognize Him? All of us have preconceived notions of what Jesus looks like, don’t we? We picture Him with long, flowing, brown hair, a beard and blue eyes. We see Him as someone who is either really muscular or scrawny and thin who wears a robe with a sash. Perhaps we get these images of Him because of the artwork and movies that have tried to portray what Jesus would look like. But those are images that the artists and filmmakers make Jesus look like back when He was walking the earth.

What do you think Jesus would like today? Maybe the question is all wrong. Perhaps instead of focusing on what Jesus would look like, we should be asking who Jesus would look like. After all, the song above isn’t praying to know the material things of Jesus; rather, it’s a prayer to know the person of Jesus.

In scripture, the idea of knowing God or knowing Jesus has to do with being in a personal, intimate relationship with Him. So, if we are going to pray to know Jesus, we are praying to know a who, not a what. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a story of two kinds of people. The first group are the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, invited in strangers, clothed the naked, looked after the sick and visited the prisoners, while the second group did none of this. To the former, Jesus blesses them with eternal salvation, while the latter are sent to eternal punishment. Both of these groups had no idea who they were helping or not helping when it came to the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick, and imprisoned, and they especially didn’t realize that they would see Jesus in people like this, as they both ask, “When did we see you?” However, the fate of these groups was determined by what they did for them because, as Jesus said, “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

I believe that, for our prayer to know Jesus, we must be able to see Jesus in the “least of these,” fully realizing that when we look into the eyes of these people, we are looking into the eyes of Jesus. He may be the person holding the “Will work for food” sign on the side of the road, or the family who needs a bag of groceries or a tank of gas, or the sick person laying in the hospital bed, or just maybe the lonely widow down the street in need. Whoever it is or whatever the circumstance may be, let’s not allow our preconceived notions of what Jesus would look like keep us from seeing Him in the “least of these” because, after all, whatever we do or don’t do for “one of the least of these”, we are doing for Jesus.

May we pray to know Jesus, but realize that we may find Him in people we would least expect.

God bless
Robert Prater