January 29, 2021
The word says, “In everything give thanks.” A glance back at the year 2020 could cause one to search for a reason to give thanks. The hope is that you do not mind me sharing some personal thoughts about the year.

I am thankful that temptations have waned. One of the temptations is to waste time watching television. Even though our watching habit has never been a big thing, getting rid of the screen on the wall that turns the thinking negatively and in many cases to anxiety was a spiritually positive move. Now, as never before in our lifetime, has there been more of a need for Christians to reflect the joy of the Lord and a positive rejoicing spirit. Another temptation that went by the wayside is the urge to watch a steady diet of sports. While watching football has never been an addiction it was definitely a diversion of time that could have been given to more profitable things. I have been a Green Bay Packer fan since my youth, but when the players chose to stay in the locker room or the tunnel during the playing of our national anthem I lost all interest. As far as I was concerned they should stay in the locker room. Perhaps they never had a folded flag handed to the family at a funeral for their loved one who gave his life for the defense of the country. Why take time to honor ingrates who dishonor the patriots who shed their blood to give pro-athletes the opportunity to become multi-millionaires? Cuba and Venezuela do not offer such a privilege. The new focus is helping me to not dishonor
the One who shed His blood that I could have eternal life.

I am thankful for the unexpected events of 2020 because I am experiencing a greater hunger for God’s word. The amount of time that has been redirected has afforded many precious hours in the word with a greater thirst for righteousness and a greater sensitivity to the indwelling Holy Spirit. More time focused on what God has to say reaps a confidence in the precious promises He gives. Wasted time which is turned into worship and praise time is always a good thing. The promises are a great enhancement to a life that responds in worship and thanksgiving to our gracious God. For a brief example, just meditate on the promises that God gave to Joshua as he was handed the responsibility to lead the Israelites the remainder of the journey to the promised land. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Josh. 1:8 Consider the promises of Psalm chapter 1:1 - 3. The scriptures are loaded with promises , but neglect of the word will cause one to miss what God has for the believer.

I am thankful fo the events of 2020 because our prayer life has been refreshing as our evenings at home are free of distraction. Charlene and I spend time discussing the pressing needs recorded our prayers list. The time in prayer and praise to God seems to relieve the pressures of the day. What a joy it is to have direct access and an open invitation to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

I am thankful for the events of 2020 because of the reminder from the word that Christians are strangers and pilgrims who are not in harmony with this world’s system. Genuine believers will never fit the mold of Marxism and other anti-god philosophies, but are exhorted to be salt and light in a decaying dark world that is desperately needing the message of God’s love and forgiveness. Spirit-filled believers should live with boldness and confidence while proclaiming the truth of the Gospel even if it means persecution or even martyrdom.

As a side note, the death of family members, dear servants of God, and close fellow laborers has caused me to realize anew that time is short and eternity is sure. We, like Moses in Psalm 90:12, should renew our hearts to pray as he did, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
In a recent conversation with a dear pastor friend who was told by a staff of doctors that he had a 10% chance of survival from the covid virus, he relayed that he was advised to call his family in. By God’s mercy and grace he was spared and is in a slow recovery. He said that “ in all my life as a Christian and in all the years of ministry, there has never been a time when I have had such a passion for Christ or a boldness to proclaim His word.” He vowed to God that he would not be a Hezekiah and waste the remaining years. What a refreshing conversation it was, as I want that same passion to grow in me. Perhaps there has never been a more opportune time to see revival in the church so that a lost world can witness real Christianity.

What are the believers’ responsibilities now in light of coming events?
Peter exhorts the child of God to live holy and godly lives without spot or blame. He also is told to be at peace with Christ. II Pet. 3:11, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”
Be WATCHFUL Peter also exhorts the child of God to be watching for the coming Day of God.” II Pet. 3:12 “Looking for and hastening unto the coming Day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
John reminds the born again believers that if they have the hope of his they will live pure lives. I John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, and man that hath this hope in him purified himself, even as he is pure.”
Peter encourages the saints to continue growing in their conformity to Christ. Just as he began his first letter with the challenge to give all diligence, add to their faith that they might know Jesus Christ more fully, he concludes the second letter with the same theme. II Peter 3:18, “ But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory, both now and forever.

January 1, 2021
It is interesting that some of the praise and thanksgiving psalms are intermingled with pain and suffering of some sort. Psalm 30 is one of the psalms that illustrate that point by contrasts such as God’s anger versus God’s favor, weeping versus rejoicing, night versus morning, and a moment versus a lifetime.

The focus of this challenge will highlight the contrasts given in chapter 30:5: His anger and His favor, our weeping in the night and our joy in the morning. Perhaps we look back at our decisions that reaped less than ideal circumstances and experienced the displeasure of God; but, be assured that the favor and mercy of God have not ceased.

Knowing God’s character anchors the believer’s soul resulting in calm joyful assurance. Consider David’s situation described in Psalm 30 when he was reaping the consequences of pride and self confidence by numbering the people. In spite of being counseled by friends to not do such a thing, David pressed on with his plan. He consequently experienced the disfavor of God and reaped a devastating consequence. Gad, David’s seer, revealed three options that David had for his judgement (I Chron. 21:8-13). David chose to put himself into the hands of God because he knew God’s character. I Chron. 21:13...”and David said unto God “I am in a great strait: let me fall into the hand of the Lord: for very great are His mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.” Notice the contrast between God’s anger and God’s favor that David experienced. Psa. 30:5 “For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favor is life: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Many seemingly hopeless things happen in our night experiences. As a christian, you may be going through what seems like an endless night with no hope of morning light, but know by the grace of God that morning is coming with the joy that is promised. Sometimes the pain of the night seems unbearable and will never end. Keep the eternal perspective and rest in the unchangeable character of God and the grace He provides. James Montgomery Boice gave a fitting example in his commentary on Psalm 30 which helps to keep the eternal view when going through dark nights. “I acknowledge that some Christians do suffer a great deal, and sometimes their suffering is so intense that it seems longer than it truly is. What do we say of such circumstances: In the face of such suffering, we need to see our experience not only in the light of this world but of eternity.” (emphasis mine). Harry Ironside tells that when his father was dying he was suffering a great deal. A friend visited him and leaning over said, “John, you are suffering terribly aren’t you?” The father did not deny it. “I am suffering more than I thought it was possible for anyone to suffer, and still live,” he said. “But,” he added, “one sight of His blessed face will make up for it all.” That is the true
Christian’s ultimate perspective. It is faith that triumphs strongly over everything.” An Expositional Commentary on Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 264, Baker Books

Dr. Ironside’s dad was echoing the words of Paul in Romans 8:18 which states, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul also emphasizes a similar truth when encouraging the Corinthian christians to keep their gaze on an eternal mindset. II Cor. 5:16-17 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, which is for us a far more and eternal weight of glory.”
These reminders by the Apostle Paul to keep an eternal gaze are refreshing in light of David’s words that we considered earlier in Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Let us not lose heart, even in the midst of troubling times. Remember, nothing is out of God’s control and He cares about every detail of our lives.

On a personal note, the year 2020 is behind us with all of its joys, pains, successes, failures, and unexpected frustrations. For Charlene and me it was a year of postponed or cancelled meetings because of Covid 19. It was also a year of new experiences by having to zoom some conferences, as we did to Harvest Ministries in Guam for their staff inservice. The conference with Gospel Mission of South America was cancelled, which included missionaries serving in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, because their governments would not allow large group gatherings. The mission groups in each country decided to meet with just their field workers, so we electronically sent seven of our 30-minute television telecasts from the Building Great Leaders TV programs which air on VCY Channel 30 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thankfully, the VCY producer was gracious to send the selected programs to them for their conferences.

On the downside of 2020, Charlene and I both had sisters pass away unexpectedly. Charlene’s sister Glenda from Missouri went home to be with the Lord at age 80, and Les’s sister Dorothy from Colorado met her Lord at age 83 just before Thanksgiving. Our hearts were heavy but God has given grace. We were quite close to both of them.

On a positive note, many meetings did go on as scheduled and we rejoice in how God used His word in hearts. Also, we now have 100 complete episodes of our Building Great Leaders TV Leadership Series with more recording to be done in each month of 2021.

Among the blessings of 2020 was the special honor of co-officiating the wedding ceremony of our granddaughter, Jamie Bennett, to Jonny Harm on October 23 in South Carolina.

Let us have a greater hunger to know our God and reflect His communicable attributes in the New Year 2021. Phil. 3:10