Thanks To God

by Pastor John Kim

2 Thessalonians 1:3
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

If there is anything that I hope to see as a pastor, it would be exactly what Paul shares to the Thessalonian church in this verse. I want more than anything for every brother and sister at Lighthouse Bible Church to be growing abundantly in your faith in Christ as well as to be increasing in your love for one another. Thanks be to God that I see both taking place in the life of our church.

There are a few things that I would like to share with our church family. First, I am learning to be more thankful to God for you. Being the senior pastor often exposes me to more of the problematic side of church life and it doesn’t take too much to get discouraged or a bit darkened in my view towards people, especially as I have to confront or take part in dealing with conflicts or other unpleasant circumstances. These situations frequently narrow my perspective toward a very negative outlook and so it is no surprise that I find myself either discouraged or even depressed.

But God is good to show me that there are also positive things going on in the life of the church and it really does show itself in those who are growing spiritually and those who exhibit genuine love for one another. So instead of focusing on those who aren’t growing or those who aren’t loving, I have become more conscious of those who are and I am incredibly blessed to see what God is doing.

As Paul shares in this verse, I ought to give thanks to God because it is the right thing to do. Now this is not merely an issue of duty or obligation, though it obviously has some aspect of that. It is right to do because it is the most God-honoring thing to do that also brings the greatest blessings. For when I am thankful, I have a greater sense of seeing the hand of God at work rather than just focusing on the immediacy of the circumstances around me. That’s why I can even experience joy in the midst of trials (James 1:2) because the focus is not so much on the trials as it is on the purpose for which God is building my character. I have to admit that it is not necessarily so easy to do. But when I do give thanks out of heart that truly is thankful to God, I realize that there is so much that I can be thankful about because there is so much to be thankful about who God is and what He has designed for me.

The second lesson that I have been learning is to be specific in my thanksgiving. There are two things that Paul shares that he is thankful for and as I mentioned earlier, I am thankful for these two things as well – the growing faith and the increasing love of the members of our church.

I have been greatly encouraged as I consider throughout the church that there are those who are really growing in their faith. Starting with the children’s ministry, I am so thankful to see that the hearts and minds of our young ones are being given every opportunity to be exposed to the truth of God and be directed toward the Savior. I will hear Olivia singing songs that she has learned and she even knows at times how to appropriately engage in our sharing time as a family when we share what we have been learning at church. Alyssa continues to grow in her understanding and has been quite inquisitive about things that she is learning.

The youth ministry continues to be a bright point in the life of the church as the youth soak up what they are learning. My great hope is that they will be spiritually well prepared to face the challenges that come as they look forward to college. I believe the youth staff are doing a great job in helping nurture and cultivate the youth in their walks with God. It gives great hope looking forward to the future.

I have been very encouraged to see our collegians as this year they have been challenged to really expand their capacity for participation. The campus ministries at UCSD and SDSU are continuing to move forward and it has been encouraging to see the staff step up to provide leadership. The third hour on Sundays for a joint time of teaching and fellowship for the collegians reveals how committed some are as they are literally at church for most of the day. It has been great getting to know some of the collegians and hear how they are growing.

The Singles ministry has been enjoying a study on the person and work of the Holy Spirit on Friday nights. It has been encouraging to see the response of many who have not had much background regarding the Holy Spirit. It has actually been a great study for me as well as I had never done any kind of focused study on the Holy Spirit other than in dealing with charismatic issues.

Grace Life has just started their men’s and women’s meetings during the mid-week and it has been good to hear how many of them are actually taking sermon notes for the first time and interacting with what they are learning on Sundays as they discuss the sermon. I know that it is not easy to do this when you are busy with life and work and children and other things that seem to drain you of life energy. But it is definitely a big deal that when the father and mothers of the church are growing spiritually, the benefits will be wide spread.

This past weekend, Pastor Carl Hargrove preached several powerful messages in light of our theme for this year, “For the love of Christ.” One thing that he mentioned was something I thought was very significant, though it was just a side comment he made. It is when we become too familiar with holy things. I think this really is a big factor when it comes to how our faith is growing. If we take the things of God and do not treat them as holy but become so familiar with them to the point of breeding contempt, it should not be a surprise to see that affect our spiritual growth. I think especially of those who come to church and have a very lax attitude or a critical attitude, revealing a self-centeredness that would even demand that God Himself would orient His thoughts and plans around them. It is unfortunate but true that this happens all too often and it can happen to any of us if we lose sight of how precious and holy God is. Carl mentioned the example of how people treat sermons, how even in preaching class he would admonish the men to pay attention when the others are preaching, even if it was for an academic exercise. How often do we treat the time of preaching or teaching lightly by taking care of other business, of being too easily distracted and given over to other things when we should be focused on hearing the word of God?

It is a great challenge but one that I am sure many are up to facing because it was encouraging to hear how many of you shared what you were learning with one another, not only during the retreat but even afterward. It is encouraging even to see how people would note on their Facebook status that they had been blessed in attending the retreat. I hope that we can make it a point to really share how we are growing as often and in as many ways possible through the various relationships as well as even the various media that we have at our disposal.

Coupled with growing in our faith is the increasing of love for one another. Note what Paul writes in his greeting to the Thessalonians – “and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” He points out that “every one of you” is involved in the loving of one another. It is not only for some, or for those who find it easy to love. It should be the fact that every one of you at Lighthouse Bible church should be loving one another and increasing in that love day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. As God has already granted us ten years as a church, I would hope that in that time the love would have increased tenfold because we have been given the opportunity to be a part of each other’s lives and though it isn’t always easy or convenient, we should see everyone and each year as an opportunity to grow in our love for one another in Christ.

This has been such an encouragement to see in many of you as I see your service of love toward one another. Whether it be through serving in the church in some capacity, writing a note of encouragement, sharing your food with someone who looks hungry on Sundays (i.e. the pastoral staff =), or even coming in after work to help fix things or catalog books, there have been so many manifestations of love and they all are quite meaningful.

I give thanks to God for so many of you who have been growing in your faith and have been increasing in your love for one another. As we approach the holiday season when things get fast and furious and people get impatient and uncooperative, let us continue to walk in faith, exercising love, looking forward with hope in knowing that Christ will complete the work that has been started in us.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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