Give Thanks

November 20, 2015Psalm 103Thanksgiving. 

 

      In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years' War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, an average of fifteen a day.   Could you imagine preaching after burying 100 of your congregation in one week?   Just think about that!  You buried 100 of your church members in one week and then bring a message to the people at church.     His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster.  In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this prayer for his children:  “Now thank we all, our God; with heart and hands and voices; who wondrous things hath done; in whom His world rejoices.  Who, from our mother's arms; Hath led us on our way; with countless gifts of love; and still is ours today.”   I read and have heard people say that our times are dark and not good.  We do live in an interesting day.  It is good to give thanks when things are dark and difficult.   It is good for our soul and our attitude.  

    This Psalm starts out with praise the Lord O my soul; all my inmost being , praise his holy name or bless the Lord Oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name.    Do you think that is a good thing to do?   It is good to be a person of blessing and thanksgiving.  God blesses you.  God has blessed you.   Should we not then give God thanks?  Should we not then praise and bless the Lord?   A thankful blessing person is a better person.   They are a bigger person not physically but as a person.   A thankful person is better balanced.  It is pleasant to be around a thankful person.  

    Praise or bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits.  Several times this Psalm says to praise or to bless.  It is a command.  We are told to bless.  It is a command we are to do it.  It is an act of your will.  I choose to do this.  I decide to be thankful.   I decide to worship.  I decide to be a thankful person.  Worship and thanks is active.   It is something that I do.  Sometimes we do not want to do the right thing but when we do our attitude can change and usually it will change.   When we choose to do the right thing our attitude changes.   Praise or bless the Lord is an act of adoration.  We thank God for what he does.  When we think about God’s character that is an act of adoration.  There is a lot in this passage about God’s character.   When I do not feel like being thankful that is when I need to remember and give thanks for all of God’s benefits.  God has been so good to us.  God has blessed America. 

   We need to be a people of blessing.  Christians desire to bless.  We ask for God to bless us.  I want God to bless me.  I want God to speak to me.  I think it is important for God to bless me.  I think it is important to ask God to bless me and I am not good at that.  If God does not bless me then I have nothing to offer you.  I can offer to someone else what God has blessed me with.  I want God to use my life.   When I go out to minister to people I want the Lord to use me and that time.  I prayed for 2 people who were in pain this week and the desire is that God would answer that prayer and lift some to that pain.  At times we need to pray that God would use that pain in their life. At tiers God puts or allows pain in a person’s life.   This world is not pain free.  Jesus did not live a totally pain free life.  God the father experiences pain.  Jesus said when you minister to the least of these you do it for me.   Jesus so identified himself whit those who suffer.  As we bless we are blessed. 

     The apostle Paul lived in some pretty difficult times and yet he rejoiced.   Paul gave thanks for the most difficult churches the Corinthian church.   They were like a thorn in Paul’s side.  Paul even writes give thanks for everything for this is the will or God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  That does not mean that everything is good but certainly we know that God can bring good out of the darkest of situations.   I think as Christians today we need to re think about being thankful.  I know I need to work on being more thankful.  I would challenge you today to give more thanks than petitions to God.  I think we need to thank God far more than seeking prayer requests.   I think we should give a lot more thanks than asking for something.  In our prayers we need to be thankful to God.  We need to acknowledge how good God is and what a wonderful God he is.  We are so blessed today. 

       I like what John Beehler said.  The biggest Thanksgiving killer is the day after Thanksgiving when Christmas shopping begins in earnest and we stop thinking about what we have and start thinking about what we want.  We are moving away from the black Friday deals to a longer time period of sales now.     Many of us like to peruse the Christmas catalogue looking at all the neat stuff we want.    We ought to spend more time looking at the neat stuff we already have.    In Psalm 103 we find Gods catalogue of Blessings, not a Christmas catalogue of physical things but a Thanksgiving catalogue.   This passage of scripture is loaded with things to thank God for.  We see what a great father God is.   What a wonderful father.  What a loving giving father.   He forgives our sins, He heals us from our diseases, He redeems our life, He crowns us with love and compassion and He satisfies our desires with good things. Do you want to be like your father in heaven?   He is a good father.  He is a loving father. 

    Brad Russell shares when I was a teenager, my mother decided to try to start a new tradition at Thanksgiving. She made us all take kernels of corn and she passed around a bowl. We each placed the kernels in the bowl while telling “something or someone we were thankful for.” Needless to say, as a brat of a teenager, I thought this was cheesy. Now, as a parent of two young girls, my wife and I constantly struggle to find ways to draw our children to moments of thankfulness when we find them constantly whining or complaining.  We might ask what is it with this complaining whining negative and critical culture that we live in today?    Brad continues we have to remind them of all the blessings of the Lord: our family, our church family, our home, God’s provision.  We struggle to remember even the most obvious of blessings in our lives.   But I wonder… are we strategically and sufficiently teaching our children (and ourselves) to thank God for the difficulties, and even more so, the difficult people in our lives?  We might think for a few minutes of a new thanksgiving tradition that we can start of getting our family to be thankful.  How many thankful children do you know?  Joyce Meyers said that a man she knows said he wants to be the most thankful person in the whole world.   That is quite a goal.  

       During the Depression, William Stidger was in a restaurant with friends who were all talking about how terrible things were: suffering people, rich people committing suicide, joblessness. The conversation got more miserable as it went on. A minister in the group interrupted. “In two or three weeks I have to preach a sermon on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “What can I say that’s affirmative in a period of world depression like this?”  Stidger felt the Spirit of God saying to him, “Why don’t you give thanks to those people who have been a blessing in your life and affirm them during this terrible time?”   He began to think about that. He remembered a schoolteacher who was very dear to him, a wonderful teacher of poetry and English literature who had gone out of her way to put a great love of literature and verse in him, which has affected all his writings and his preaching. So he sat down and wrote a letter to this woman, now up in years.

    It was only a matter of days until he got a reply in the feeble scrawl of the aged:  My dear Willy, I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my 80s, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. You’ll be interested to know that I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received.   It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years. “I’m not sentimental, but I found myself weeping over that note,” Stidger said

     Then he thought of a kind bishop, now retired, who had recently faced the death of his wife and was all alone. This bishop had taken a lot of time giving Stidger advice and counsel and love when he first began his ministry. So he sat down and wrote the old bishop.     In two days a reply came back. My dear Will, Your letter was so beautiful, so real, that as I sat reading it in my study, tears of gratitude fell from my eyes.  Before I realized what I was doing, I rose from my chair and I called my wife’s name to share it with her, forgetting she was gone.   You’ll never know how much your letter has warmed my spirit. I have been walking around in the glow of your letter all day long.  — David A. Seamands, “Instruction for Thanksgiving,”

   Did you notice that the school teacher said that she taught for 50 years and that his thank you was the only one she ever received.  Are we a thankful people?   The Christian should be.   Jesus commented about the 9 nine lepers that he cured that did not return to give thanks.  The world is not a thankful place.  The world is full of fear, anger, confusion, and certainly it is filled with greed.   I plow the drive way snow for one of my neighbors.    I think this is the 3rd or 4th season that I have plowed her out.   It would cost her hundreds of dollars or a lot of shoveling to keep it clean.  They do not pay me anything nor have they ever once said thank you.  I married her and have shared Jesus with her.  I imagine she is thankful just like we often are but she forgets to express it.   Some of you probably think why do you keep doing it?  I do not want to spend a lot of time thinking about other people’s lack of thankfulness.  I need to work on my own lack of being thankful.   

    There is so much to be thankful for.   There is so much good in this passage about God that we should be thankful for.  He is holy.  The Lord works righteousness and judgment and when it is all done God will mete out justice and judgment perfectly.   I guess we could say in a sense except those that receive Jesus.  Jesus took our punishment and God will not hold our sins against us.  The Christian does not pay for his or her sins because Jesus paid the price.  There is sense that we reap what we sow but God forgives us through Jesus sacrifice and Jesus blood.  But we certainly live in a world that is unjust.  God is compassionate and gracious.  God is slow to anger and he abounds in love.  God removes our sins.  Sin is shameful and God covers us with the blood of Jesus his son.  God does not hold those sins against us.  His wrath has been appeased in Jesus sacrifice.   

    God is a gracious God that offers forgiveness.  Jesus at the cross said forgive them Father for they do not know what they do.  Forgiveness is such a blessing.  I think this person got it.    Not far from New York, there is a cemetery with a grave, which has inscribed upon its headstone just one word—“Forgiven.” There is no name, no date of birth or death. There is no epitaph, no elaborate eulogy—just that one word, “Forgiven.”   I think that forgiveness meant a lot to that person.  Lord Jesus thank you that if we confess our sin you will forgive us.  There is healing in forgiveness. 

    God has blessed us with a new or additional family.   The Christian is part of the family of God.   God has blessed us with his presence.   He has blessed us with peace.  He has blessed us with the bible.  He has given us a hope.  He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit.  He has made available all the resources of heaven to us.  His wrath has been taken away through the blood of Jesus. 

    As we approach Thanksgiving our ability to give thanks is not based on how much we have or how difficult life is today.  It is based on our attitude.   It is based on our walk with God.  In writing the hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, Pastor Rinkart had it right!  This is what it is to know with certainty that thanksgiving comes from knowing Who God is, not from outward circumstances.