1 January 2000

"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil"- I Thessalonians 5:16-22 One of the great themes of the Bible is starting over. To begin afresh with a heartfelt desire to do better is a most profitable endeavor. It is one of the most wonderful opportunities that God's grace affords the believer. It is by His grace that we recognize our need for improvement. It is by the same grace that we will be able to accomplish the task. Surely, we all have many areas that need improvement. As one of our songs declare: "Oh may we all improve, the grace already given; And wear the crown of perfect love, And show we're heirs of heaven!" Paul closes out his letter to the brethren at Thessalonica with several Christian encouragements that we might continue in or improve upon. As I read these, I recognize several areas in which I need to improve. Perhaps there are those who will join me this year in an honest attempt to live up to Paul's divine instruction. REJOICE EVERMORE To "rejoice evermore" means to be calmly happy or well off at all times. That might seem like a tall order to us, but consider the gravity of the statement to a church that was presently being persecuted by its enemies and had recently buried family and church members from the onslaught. It must be attainable, or the apostle would never have encouraged such an attitude for the believers at Thessalonica. Therefore, to rejoice at all times must be an attitude or state of mind that rises above the circumstances of this world. It must mean that Christians are to be noted by the joy manifested in their life. The day does not order their attitude, their attitude orders the day. I can think of no other people that have more occasion to rejoice than those who confess Christ. They have many reasons to rejoice. He died for them; their sins are paid for; He presently intercedes for them; He knows them by name; He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother; He is coming back one day to receive them to Himself; and they shall spend eternity with Him in glory. Paul would rejoice with Silas at midnight in prison. Perhaps, we have come to expect too much in our present day. Unless tragedy has entered my life, there must be something wrong with me when I do not put on the garments of rejoicing. May we all improve. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING Some have suggested that the remainder of Paul's list contains the recipe to help us "rejoice evermore". In our busy life, our "Sweet Hour of Prayer" is many times a hectic moment of requests. I do not think it possible for a person to pray every moment, nor do I believe the Lord would require that of us. I believe the apostle encourages us here to be in the constant attitude of prayer. To be constantly aware that the Lord is ever present and converse with Him during our daily routine is not only possible, but profitable. The cold and impenitent heart frequently comes from a lack of conversation with our Father. Perhaps we have forgotten Him or perhaps we would not let Him in on our present occupations; we have ceased to occupy the attitude of prayer. Paul's suggestion will keep the spiritual lines open and prevent our feet from stumbling. This would be a wonderful way to begin the new year, to "Pray without ceasing." IN EVERY THING GIVE THANKS Some count their money, some their titles and honors. But the Christian counts his blessings. This list we must ponder as we give thanks to the Father for every good and perfect gift. It must begin with Christ, the channel through which every blessing must flow. Blessings, both natural and spiritual are too numerous for us to comprehend if our eyes have been opened. A constant perusal of these graces will keep the pilgrim from the valley of despair. An unthankful child is impossible to please. Giving thanks will keep us in the posture of prayer. It is the best cure for P.L.O.M. disease(Poor Little Old Me). And if we are to give thanks in "every thing" it must mean more than a generic "thank you for my blessings." We must be specific and name each blessing "one by one". It will be a constant reminder of our Father's love and kindness. Though there will always be "thorns in the flesh", let us be careful to thank Him for the "grace" that is sufficient for every trial. I stand in constant amazement that our Lord continues to shower His blessing upon us, even when past blessings are enjoyed without a word of thanks. Our Father is so faithful even when I am not. I must improve. -to be continued- Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor