Count Your Blessings

“Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your many blessings; see what God hath done!” Remember this song? For some of you, this song will now be stuck in your head all day…And that’s a good thing!

Yes, it is good and right to recount the many blessings of God upon our lives. So often we tend to zoom in on all the burdens of life and neglect to be thankful for the many, many blessings of life that God has graciously given to us. Below are just a few of the many blessings that God has dumped on my life:

  1. My Salvation – Firmly rooted in God’s grace and freely bestowed upon me by my faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, I am beyond thankful for my salvation.
  2. My Wife – The Bible is clear: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). I definitely have a “good thing” in my beautiful and supportive wife, Heather Cotner.
  3. My Children – I have four young blessings in Ann-Marie (almost 9 years old), David (7 years old), Aurora (3 years old), and Derrick (5 months old). These kids give me such joy with their zest for life and learning. I have learned so much from them already and just hope that they learn as much from me as I learn from them.
  4. My Home – Every time I pull up to my house that sits at the intersection of 2nd and C Ave, I smile. I just love the little yellow house that God has provided to me and my family. It has plenty of space for all of us, keeps us warm in the winter, and has a wonderful front porch for those beautiful summertime evenings. What a blessing it is to own our own home!
  5. My Church – It is such a wonderful, joyful burden to be the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. My Associate Pastor, Tim O’Tool, is a joy to work beside and has proven himself to be a creative and stable leader. My Deacons are also some of the godliest and most hardworking men that I know, and I am incredibly grateful to serve alongside each of them. I’m also thankful for my Praise Team as they always work so hard Sunday after Sunday and really encourage our congregation to sing to the Lord with gusto. I’m also so incredibly grateful for all of the many wonderful volunteers that faithfully serve in our Nursery, Sunday School, Children’s Church, Growth Groups, Outfitters, and K4T…I’m just so incredibly grateful for my Prairie Flower Baptist Church family!

Writing this list was surprisingly refreshing…even therapeutic. How good it was to sit, reflect, and praise my King for all of the blessings He has given to me. Now, here’s your homework assignment: List the blessings that God has given you. Then, spend time in prayer, thanking Him for His many, many blessings upon your life. Yes, “count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your many blessings; see what God hath done!”

The Beauty, Difficulty, & Benefits of Faithfulness…

Just last week, I officiated the graveside service of a man who died at the age of 95. He was a believer in Jesus Christ, a World War 2 veteran, and was married to his wife for 68 years. Let that number sink in for a moment. He was married to his wife for nearly 7 decades!

Then, just this week, I was out for coffee, when I met a friend in town. I asked him how he was doing, and he responded, with great enthusiasm, “I’m great! Tomorrow my wife and I celebrate 62 years of marriage.” This man married his wife at 20 and is now 82 years old with over 6 decades of marriage behind him!

I don’t know about you, but numbers like these blow me away. I’m awestruck as I think to myself, “How do you do that? What’s the secret sauce to long-term faithfulness?” Certainly, the grace of God is one of the key factors in long-term faithfulness, but meeting people who actually have stayed tried and true is always a remarkable privilege.

I often say that long-term faithfulness trumps short-term fervency. This quote is not original with me, but it’s a powerful statement to the extreme value of faithfulness. In fact, let’s think deeply for a moment on the topic of faithfulness. I have three thoughts…

  1. Faithfulness is beautiful. In other words, being a faithful man or woman is extremely attractive. There’s just something about a loyal individual that makes them trustworthy and worth your time to get to know at a deep level. Are you such a person? Proverbs 20:6 states, “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?”
  2. Faithfulness is difficult. It’s hard to stay faithful. It’s just plain difficult. Why? Because we live in a culture that is easily bored. We live in a society that prizes things that are new, or cutting edge, or exciting. Many of us like the beginnings of things. Some of us enjoy the middle of things. However, few stick around to see the beauty and benefits of the end of things…
  3. Faithfulness is beneficial. The Bible constantly points us to the extreme benefits and rewards of faithfulness. God Himself is always faithful (2 Timothy 2:13) and He rewards those who mirror His image in this way (Matthew 25:21). It’s worth it to be faithful! Indeed, it is a requirement…1 Corinthians 4:2b states, “It is expected of managers (or stewards/servants) that each one of them be found faithful.”

May God continue to mold and shape all of us into faithful saints who glorify Him!

Little Fantasies That Comfort…

When I was a small boy, I had some strange concepts about life. Perhaps the strangest concept involved a back-and-forth development between me and my parents. I was convinced that after I grew up and became an adult, my parents would shrink and become children. I then assumed that I would be able to boss them around and get back at them for all the childhood atrocities that they had put me through (e.g., having to eat all the food on my plate, going to bed early, etc.). I honestly thought that life was a constant back and forth of growing up and then shrinking back, with parents becoming children and children becoming parents. Obviously, such a notion is ludicrous and inconsistent with reality. But I remember daydreaming of the day that I would be able to boss my parents around and get even with them once they became children again…

Why did I tell you that story? I have no idea, but isn’t it interesting that we can harbor such weird thoughts about life and reality? Even as an adult, I often wonder, are there things that I believe about life, God, and eternity that provide comfort, but are in no way dialed into reality? Do you ever wonder such thoughts?

As a local church pastor, I often encounter people who have some wild ideas about life, God, and eternity. This becomes especially pronounced to me when I’m officiating funeral or graveside services. I’ve pretty much heard it all over the years…”My loved one is an angel with wings now…”Or, “I’m sure he’s up there fishing with Jesus right now…” Or, “I put this item into my loved one’s urn (or casket) so that they’ll have it with them in eternity…” Yeah, I’ve heard many strange things that people, in their grief, turn to for comfort and encouragement. Yet, these things, according to Scripture, are not dialed into reality.

You see, the little fantasies that we tell ourselves might be comforting, but they’re not true. In fact, isn’t it better to be comforted with the truth than with a lie? “But what if the truth hurts?” Ah, you see, that’s where the cookie crumbles…Perhaps we are attracted to the little fantasies that we conjure up in our minds because the truth is too difficult to fathom…

Not sure where to land the plane on this little blog post, except to say this…Even if the truth hurts, it eventually comforts. Truth is like a surgeon…It cuts, but it cuts to heal. Too many of us are putting the band-aid of our little fantasies on our gaping wounds, when what we really need is the durable truth of God’s Holy Word. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” My admonition is simple…Test all your thoughts against the truth of the Word of God. Do not settle for comforting lies when you can be strengthened by the truth.

My Scriptural First Aid Kit…

I was recently asked, “What are your go-to verses for when you’re feeling discouraged?” Below is what constitutes my Scriptural first aid kit. In other words, when I’m feeling the pressure of discouragement, and I feel like hope is bleeding out of me, here’s what revives my soul…

  • When I feel all alone, I remind myself that God is near – “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
  • When I feel like I can’t keep up with all the changes around me, I remind myself that God remains constant – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
  • When I feel like everything is so dirty and tainted, I remind myself that God is perfect – “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory'” (Isaiah 6:3)!
  • When I feel anxious, I remind myself that God brings peace – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
  • When I feel like there is so much hate in the world, I remind myself that God is love – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
  • When I feel the weight and conviction of my sin, I remind myself that God grants forgiveness – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • When I struggle with what to do next, I remind myself that God gives wisdom – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

This is just a short list, but it’s my Scriptural first aid kit. These are my seven dynamite verses that help me in my time of need. What’s your go-to set of verses?