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Worship Message "Give Thanks", Thanksgiving Message #1-2015

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Thinking of that, along with the call for Christians to be thankful all the time, today’s message and the next four - all the Sunday’s leading up to Thanksgiving Day - will be devoted to some of what the Bible teaches about being thankful.

This is important because Thanksgiving Day should be about more than turkey dinners. Actually, I like the turkey sandwiches afterward, maybe more than the turkey on the holiday meal itself. And it should be about more than football, this year featuring three pro games and two college games. Thanksgiving should be about more than food and football, as important and as enjoyable as those things are. The day should be about giving thanks to God for all the blessings He gives us daily.

Again, being thankful is what this message is about. It will include an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage. May we learn the importance of being thankful, the rewards for being thankful, and how to be thankful.

For this message, the Old Testament passage comes from Psalm 106, which begins with these words, “Praise the LORD. O give thanks to the LORD.”

I looked briefly at some of the Psalms before 106. Psalms identified as being part of Book IV of the Psalms. I saw many other calls to give thanks to the LORD - to God.

Psalm 92 - “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.”
Psalm 95 - “Let us sing to the LORD. Let us make a joyful noise to Him. Let us     come into His presence with thanksgiving.”
Psalm 100 - “Enter His gates with thanksgiving.”
Psalm 105 - “O give thanks to the LORD.”

In most of those Psalms, reasons for thanking God are also given. Those reasons include His steadfast love and the fact He is great and good. His love and goodness are also mentioned in Psalm 106.

Being thankful is a recurring theme in the Psalms, including in Psalm 106, which does start with the words, “Praise the LORD. O give thanks to the LORD.”
In addition to looking at some of the Psalms before 106, I also gave some thought to what it means to thank God. What I came up with are these descriptions, some of which are suggested by some of the other Psalms.

To thank God means to express our appreciation in words. Spoken words and words that are sung.

Psalm 92 - We are to “sing praises to the name of the Most High.”
Psalm 95 - We are to sing and “make joyful noises to to the LORD.”
Psalm 98 - We are to “sing new songs,” doing so with musical instruments.
Psalm 101 - We are to sing.

All those examples instruct us to sing to praise the LORD - to sing to the LORD Himself. That is one way - a very important way - for us to thank God. But it goes beyond that. Another way to thank God is to share our appreciation of God with others.

Psalm 92 - We are to declare, I assume not only to God, but to other people as     well, “His love in the morning and His faithfulness by night.”
Psalm 105 - We are to “make His deeds known among the peoples.”

To thank God means to express our appreciation to Him, doing so in our words that are spoken and sung. To thank God means to tell others about Him. To thank God also means to show our appreciation by how we live. By living in ways that are pleasing to Him. Ways that display we know what He teaches and that we are willing, with His help, to live according to what He teaches. Including praying, worshiping, fellowshiping with other believers, telling non-believers about Him and His love and His goodness, treating other people well, continuing to develop spiritual fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At one of the sessions during a recent state ministers’ meeting, the point was made that if we say we are Christians, it should be evident. Are we kinder than others? Do we have less fear? Are we more spiritually disciplined?
We should be all those things. In fact, those are all ways to thank God. Ways that will prove we appreciate Him, that we appreciate Him not only in our heads, not only with our words, but also in our actions.

O give thanks to the LORD, doing so in our words to God and our words to others and by our actions. Give Him thanks, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Why? “For,” according to Psalm 106, “He is good.”

In what ways is God good? First of all, He is very, very good. In verse 2 are the questions, “Who can utter the mighty doings of the LORD? Who can show forth all His praise?” Those questions are reminders that we may not even know all the examples of His goodness, and that the examples we do know about are so numerous, if we tried to list them all, we would never finish.

But in what ways is God good? How about just a few examples?

How about the fact He created the universe? How amazing is that?
When my wife and I were recently on a trip in Canada, we saw so much of the beauty God created in that part of His universe, including animals like a black bear and a herd of elk, including a majestic male guarding his harem, and a moose crossing a river and the plains of central Canada that produce crops and the wonder of the Rocky Mountains.
On our flight back to Omaha from our stopover in Chicago, we were of course headed west. Out the window, which was to the north, we saw the Big Dipper. What a wonder that constellation is.
God created the universe. That is an example of His goodness. How about the way He created us as individuals, including the pleasures He built into us? I am thinking of pleasures such as the sense of taste.

I recently had a funeral for Liz, a woman who was born 66 years ago with severe disabilities that prevented her from speaking in ways we can easily understand. Her disabilities hindered her ability to move freely. Yet she still had some pleasures in life, including eating.

Unfortunately, Liz’s physical condition a few weeks ago was such that she was no longer allowed to eat. A feeding tube provided the nourishment she needed. However, that made her very unhappy. So much so that she made the decision to start eating and drinking again. Not much at any one time, but she was able to enjoy the tastes of  her favorite foods and drink, which were Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza and coffee.

Her eating led to pneumonia, which she knew was likely to happen. The pneumonia caused her death. But how she enjoyed the tastes of the foods and the coffee she liked. Taste. What a wonderful gift from God. What a wonderful example of His goodness in helping to make life enjoyable.

How about the goodness of God displayed in Him sending His only begotten Son Jesus to earth to be with us and teach us and then to die as the sacrifice for sin? How about the goodness that the only thing we need to do to take advantage of Jesus’ sacrifice is to accept Him as Savior? It was joy to share at the funeral that Liz accepted Jesus. It is a joy to know she is in Heaven, which God also created as yet another example of God’s goodness.

Especially that last example - the opportunity to be in Heaven - tells of God’s love, that kind of love meaning it is His desire for all that is good for us. His steadfast love, meaning that His love for us will never end.

But think of this, too. God’s love is also shown in the Bible where, in chapter after chapter, page after page, He teaches us how we are to live. And in how He offers us the Holy Spirit to help us to learn and apply what is taught.

You know, God could have - He still could - stay away from us. In fact, there have been many times throughout history when people - those He created - turned away from Him. I dare say there are times when at least I disappoint Him. That could cause Him to turn His back on us and leave us to our own devices.

But He does not stay away from us. Through the Bible, He continues to teach us. The Holy Spirit continues to offer us the strength we need to obey what God teaches. They are both willing to give us more and more chances to know and obey. What wondrous love that is.

And God remembers us. In Psalm 106:4,  David asks the LORD to remember him, but the sense is that he was confident God would answer the request. May we have that same confidence and know He remembers us.

Praise the LORD. O give thanks to the LORD. Why? Because He is good. Because His steadfast love endures - it has, it does, and it will endure - forever. That is one teaching about giving thanks that is found in the Old Testament.

Which might lead to the question of how we can accomplish being thankful. How can we praise the LORD as often as we should, which is always? I mean, it was not just back in Old Testament times that things were tough. Things and days and situations and circumstances can be difficult now, too. So again, how can we accomplish being thankful?

For the answer, let’s move to today’s New Testament passage, which is found in Colossians 3. In that letter Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Colossae. Quite a few times in chapter 3 - I find three examples in verses 15, 16, and 17 - Paul gave the call to be thankful, almost always with suggestions about what to do to make it possible to be thankful.

Verse 15. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. And be thankful.”

How can we be thankful, which means obeying not only this chapter, but also what God taught in Psalm 106? One way to give thanks to the LORD is by letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

Rule. In a couple commentaries I read the word “umpire.” What does an umpire do? He decides what is a good pitch and which ones miss the mark. He calls runners safe or out. He settles matters of dispute.

That is what we are to allow the peace of Christ to do for us. Not to us, but for us. So that if we are on the correct spiritual path, we can feel His encouragement, but if not, we can know that we need to change. He will tell us if we will let Him do so. And if there is any conflict within us of whether we should do right or wrong - if we are ever pulled two different directions at the same time - He will settle it for us, always for the right, always for the way of love.

It is when we have peace - the peace of Christ - in our hearts that we can be thankful, including being thankful for His peace.

And how can we have that peace? Verse 16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The word of Christ is the Bible. Dwell. That means the word of Christ is to be part of who we are. We are to live under the roof of the word of Christ. We are to be mastered by the word of Christ. It is to be our meat. Our strength. It is to be so much a part of us that we can refer to it and follow it at a moment’s notice. And richly. The word of Christ is to be a mighty force and influence on us.

And not just on us. Verse 16 continues with the challenge that we “teach and admonish one another.”

You know, one of the blessings of teaching - or preaching - is that the one who does the teaching or the preaching also learns. But teaching is a two-way proposition. Both the teacher and the student are to learn.

Admonish. That sounds a bit harsh or negative, as in scolding one another. However, the word actually refers to exhorting or encouraging. That is what we are to do for each other so together the word of Christ can and will dwell in each of us.

How are we to teach and encourage? Still verse 16. By way of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” all of which tell us of God’s goodness and love.

How are we to sing the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and teach and admonish? How are to feel when letting the word of Christ dwell in us? “With thankfulness in our hearts to God.” Thankfulness, thinking again of Psalm 106, that is to be expressed to God, shared with others, and displayed in how we live.

We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, which will help us to be thankful. We are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, doing so with thankfulness in our hearts. Verse 17. “And whatever you do [work or play, here or away, including on vacation, with people or when we are by ourselves ], in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.“ From Psalm 106, giving thanks for God’s goodness, love, and mighty works and giving thanks that He remembers us. From Colossians 3, giving thanks that He has peace available, that He has given us His word, that He gives us opportunities to teach it and encourage ourselves and others to obey it so that together we can dwell in it, and that we can, through His strength, do everything in the name of our Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

O give thanks to the LORD.

To close, let me share just a few things for which some of us are thankful. I asked those at a recent Wednesday evening Bible study to list some of the things for which they are thankful. I want to share them because to do so is an important way to express appreciation to God. I also share them to promote all the rest of us to be thinking of reasons to be thankful.

Here are things for which we can thank God.

the beauty and variety of creation, including the fall colors
fellowship, including fellowship that is found in this congregation
the fact we have brains
the Bible, including what it teaches about mercy, grace, and forgiveness and that those things are offered to us

One person wrote, “I thank God for being and staying with me, even when I was not following Him. He never left me.”

One more time, “O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Today’s closing song is the hymn In Thanksgiving Let Us Praise Him.

From the first bright light of morning, to the last warm glow of dusk,
Every breath we take is sacred, for it is God’s gift to us.
In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;
In thanksgiving, let us sing
Songs of praise and adoration
To our gracious Lord and King.

In the season of our plenty, in the season of our need,
We will find His grace sufficient, we will find His love complete.
In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;
In thanksgiving, let us sing
Songs of praise and adoration
To our gracious Lord and King.

Safe within His hand that guides us, hidden in His healing wings,
Day by day His love provides us every good and perfect thing.
In thanksgiving, let us praise Him;
In thanksgiving, let us sing
Songs of praise and adoration
To our gracious Lord and King.

Lord, You give us so much for which we can thank You. Help us to be thankful this day and every day. Help us to express our thanks to You, to others, and by how we live. Help us to encourage each other to be thankful. Thank You, Lord. Amen.


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