Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Re-Issue of “Thanksgiving Appetites: Varying in Types and Degrees -Nov. 15, 2017

          Four years ago this month my heart was burdened, as Thanksgiving approached, about those who had little or no spiritual appetites.  As a pastor who works very hard to prepare for every service, it is nothing short of mystifying to me why so many pass up multiple opportunities for spiritual growth.  For years it gnawed at me.  But, I finally realized that the answer was quite simple.  The answer is that some simply do not have the appetite for spiritual growth that others have.  It is very similar to why some fill their plates, devour their food and reach for seconds while others hardly eat anything at all.  It is all tied to the appetite of the person.  My heart grieves for those who waste opportunity after opportunity neglecting what Jesus called “That good part, which will not be taken away” in Luke 10:42.


Allen Raynor Weblog: Thanksgiving Appetites: Varying in Types and Degrees

(Nov. 25, 2013)


          Well it is Thanksgiving time again!  Giving thanks is both a privilege and a discipline for believers.  It is a privilege because we get to receive the joy and honor of doing it and a discipline because we need to do it whether we feel like it or not!  In several places in both the New and Old Testaments there are imperatives to “Give thanks.”  We need never treat these as optional.  But, as we mature in our faith, we will see that the more discipline oriented aspects fade into the sense of delight and privilege we feel at being able to give God thanks!

          The holiday of “Thanksgiving” itself is being lost little by little in some very subtle, and not so subtle, ways.  Retailers have little to sell at Thanksgiving compared to the much more lucrative Christmas season.  Apart from food items and maybe a few decorations there is little about Thanksgiving that translates into dollars.  Instead, they have “cheapened” the holiday by making it a springboard for Christmas.  For several years now we have experienced the phenomenon known as “Black Friday” where retailers open ridiculously early offering great deals and incentives on Christmas merchandise.  I have often complained that it seems they are sending a message that “We cannot wait to get Thanksgiving out of the way and move on to ‘greener’ (no pun intended) pastures.”  But now, it is even worse.  In the last few years, more and more are actually opening on Thanksgiving Day!  They reason that some want to get out of the house and away from cooking, away from football, away from irritating relatives, etc. and would love the opportunity to shop.  Sadly, the executives making these decisions are cozy and warm on Thanksgiving Day with their families while lower level employees with little or no say in the matter are having to for-go time with their families in order to work generating profits for the guys at the top.  It is yet another example of what our culture loves to do and that is push the margins and move the goalposts if they do not like where they are located.  And it further illustrates 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

          It is the irony of ironies, that we could have a holiday called “CHRISTmas” and then make it about ourselves instead of Christ!  And equally as ironic that we could have a holiday about giving thanks to God and also make that about ourselves!  On the surface the problem seems to be about gluttony of food and of drink and gluttony of entertainment(s).  But I think there is an underlying spiritual reality which causes these other things.  These are mere symptoms of a far greater and deeper problem.

          Not everyone will eat a lot this Thanksgiving.  Those with hardy appetites will eat the most, followed by those with strong to moderate appetites, followed by those with average appetites, then those with smaller appetites.  Finally there will be those who eat virtually nothing because they have little or no appetite, for various reasons, including sickness.  Back a few years ago a lady in the church I pastored at the time had experienced declining health and was ultimately placed in a nursing home.  As her health declined further she got to the point she would not hardly eat a thing.  It turns out after a little research at the time that, medically speaking, I discovered this is a natural prelude to death.  People who are in process of dying have no appetite and food is totally unappealing to them.  Concerned family members gather around and try and coax their loved one to eat through words of encouragement, bringing in special food that they knew was once loved by the family member, or even holding a spoon to the person’s mouth asking them to open and take a bite, much like would be done with a child.  But the underlying problem is that there simply is no appetite!  Food that smells, looks, and tastes good to people with healthy appetites is nauseating to persons without healthy appetites.

          Spiritually speaking, there are people everywhere that are not hungry.  They have no appetite at all for spiritual food.  Family, friends, church members etc. try and coax them to eat.  It may be special events at the church, the allure of a new program/ministry, new pastor, revival meeting, Bible study, etc. but nothing appeals to the appetite they do not have.  Frustration often is felt by those trying to get others to eat thinking they can somehow convince them of their need to eat, or thinking if they just offer an appealing sounding “dish” then they will come and eat and drink like there is no tomorrow.  But it probably is not going to happen because there simply is no appetite.  We all have our favorite foods, but few of our own favorite foods sound good when we have the stomach flu.  The sickness has killed our appetite temporarily.  Spiriual appetites are killed by the sickness/condition the Bible calls “sin.”  In fact, sin is so serious that people are said to be “dead in their trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1-10)  Sin was such a bad sickness, it actually took our “spiritual” lives from us while Satan laughed and gloated.

          As Christians gather to give true “thanksgiving,” “honor,” and “glory” to God for his abundant provisions others will enjoy the externals but miss what it is really all about.  They will do this because they have not the spiritual appetite that others have for the things of God.  This is not meant to be discouraging, but more than anything is meant to be a reminder of the responsibilities we have at the point of showing others why we personally celebrate Thanksgiving.  Lost family members are watching you more closely than you may realize.  Be a good witness to them in the days ahead.  Also, please remember if they have no spiritual appetite then there is nothing they feel they need to satisfy.  We can pray for them that God will create an appetite and we can thank God that we have an appetite and that we can be satisfied by God’s own provision!


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Spiritual Warfare in Sutherland Springs, TX and Beyond - Nov. 9, 2017

          Tragedy is all around us.  In fact, in recent days, one tragedy seems to top another.  Last Sunday we had the worst mass shooting in Texas history when Devin Patrick Kelley walked into First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs and began shooting, killing 26 people and injuring several more.  This came on the heels of the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas when 64 year old Stephen Paddock shot concert goers from a high rise hotel killing 58 and injuring well over 500 others.  In fact 2 out of the 5 deadliest mass shootings in American history have occurred in the last 5 weeks!  Not to mention some smaller scale happenings such as a church shooting in Tennessee, a gunman walking into a Thornton, CO Walmart and killing and injuring people, a man in a rented pickup truck mowing down people on a walking trail in Manhattan, NY etc.  There are a couple of especially notable aspects to these most recent incidents that make them different.  Number 1, the frequency and intensity of these terrible attacks seems undeniably worse, and number 2 it seems the motives in most of these cases are hard to determine; at least much more difficult than in previous terrorist type attacks.

          Many in the media, politicians, and Hollywood believe the answer to violence is further gun control and that the key to stopping Islamic terror attacks is to give more sympathy toward the Muslim world as a type of concession to them because of our previous “unjust” foreign policy. 

          All tragedy in the world stems from the harsh reality that we live in a broken world.  It is sin filled and sin saturated.  What we saw in Sutherland Springs, in particular, is that the comfortable American church has lost touch with the fact that we are at war with the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly realm” (Eph. 6:12).  In light of our just celebrating the 500th anniversary of the recognized beginning of the Protestant Reformation, allow me to quote Martin Luther from his beloved hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”  The third stanza says “And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us.  We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro’ us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure; for lo, his doom is sure.”  Martin Luther recognized 500 years ago that spiritual warfare was real and a real obstacle, but also that the power of God was much stronger than anyone or anything Satan could empower to do his dirty work.

          Contrary to what some believe, becoming a Christian does not take you out of the battle.  It does, in fact, put you right into the heart of the battle!  When you are unsaved, you are already doing Satan’s work and he pretty well leaves you alone, but when you declare independence from him and declare allegiance to God, then the real battle begins.  He tries to demoralize, defeat, and destroy Christians.  Every Christian will have Sutherland Springs, TX on their mind this Sunday and Satan is strongly recommending everyone just stay home.

          No one can begin to understand any current events or most of history without understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Ray Stedman insightfully writes “The Gospel of Jesus Christ touches and explains all of history.  It has a clear and consistent worldview, and it provides a framework for every science, every endeavor to investigate reality, and every effort to understand and make sense of all the events of history.” (Ray Stedman; Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Firm in the Faith; 76)  The world likes to treat the problems and symptoms they see on the surface. But, in contrast to that narrowness of thinking, Christ takes mankind to the very heart of the problem.  Stedman goes on to say “The Gospel is not content simply to treat the symptoms of the human condition.  It offers a radical solution to our fundamental problem.  We often come to Christ asking him to resolve some immediate difficulty in which we find ourselves, like a man with cancer going to a doctor and saying, ‘I have a rash on my arm, Oh, yes, I do have cancer – but don’t bother with that.  Just treat the rash and I’ll be on my way.’  No doctor worthy of his medical degree would honor such a request – and neither does the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.” (Ray Stedman; Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Firm in the Faith; 76-77)

          One of the Scriptural names given for Satan in the Word is the Greek name “Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11).  The name means “Destroyer.”  Satan does not only disrupt, but he destroys at every opportunity.  He can destroy lives, but He cannot do any more.  The souls of mankind are what he really hungers for.  He could not destroy the souls of people in First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX but through the shock and hurt of the circumstances he can successfully turn other souls away from God.  That is certainly his aim.

          Do we need to live in fear that our church is next, or that it is just a matter of time?  We do not have to live in fear.  God has given us a spirt, not of fear, but of peace, and soundness of mind.  We can be confident in our Lord and Savior.  To quote Luther again “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing; Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus it is He; Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.” 


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor