Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
I really can't think of a more appropriate "Monday morning" scripture selection. It's another example of the question I posed last week: "Do you have to go scrambling for some useful scripture to custom fit your circumstance...? or is the Word already at hand?" For me, increasingly, The Word is already at hand. Consequently, the stories I'm sharing this morning are attaching themselves to the scripture selection that's already written on my heart and mind.
I'll start with this (above) photograph from yesterday's "Annual General Meeting" at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon (I apologize for the image quality but it was a last moment snap to help me remember). Many congregations dread these meetings because they're typically full with dismal news, contentious, and loaded with negative statistical reports along with spin and defensiveness from staff.
Not so at First Brandon. Average weekly attendance (396) showed an increase every month as compared to 2010. Membership (508) posted a small gain. Giving is up despite the economy. "Over-and-above" special mission initiatives added close to another $100,000. Ministry team leaders gave reports that were positive and inspirational.
Then there is the building. We're all moved in, yes, but the real excitement is the expansion of ministry the space facilitates. Bill Hellman summed up by saying, "Remember the initial quote for cost? Well, we're all done and we have over $100,000 remaining. Remember how the plan didn't have enough money to finish out the second story? We were able to do the whole thing and now we're using it. Remember that the plan didn't include money to do anything at this end of the fellowship hall - now it's completely done. Remember... Remember... Remember...?"
Say what? We came in under budget plus we did a bunch of stuff extra? Holy moly!
I'd like to say "Thanks, God." Plus I believe the whole "pray without ceasing" ethos has had a lot to do with the positive results.
BOOK THING: First thing Sunday morning I drove over to Lakeland to speak at First Presbyterian over there; two or three adult Sunday school classes are studying "Reaching Toward Easter." So they asked me to do a "kick-off" talk.
Well, they expected around 75 participants. By this weekend they had sold 100 books. Then Sunday well over 100 people showed up to hear me speak. The church plans to order more copies.
MORNING: Today the skies over Valrico were partly cloudy in the early A.M. and the air temperature hovered just below 60. I enjoyed the way the cool morning light worked its way over the eastern horizon and onto the underside of the low clouds before spilling over onto my street.
I know it's easier to give thanks when life is so positive. But look at the instruction at the end of the Thessalonians admonition. It says that giving thanks is the will of God for me. That sounds like a commandment, and one with no less direct authority than the original Ten.
Be thankful. In every circumstance that we encounter. It is the will of God for us!
In thanks - DEREK