LIFE group guide: give thanks, because …

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Nov. 24). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon. This sermon is entitled “Give Thanks, Because …” and is my “Thanksgiving sermon.”

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this particular sermon.

To remind us of the value and blessings of a grateful spirit expressed in thankful ways.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

• Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. (1 Chron. 16.8 NLT)

• Give thanks to the God of heaven— God’s faithful love lasts forever! (Ps. 136.26 CEB)

• This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough! (2 Cor. 9.10-15 The Message)

• Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … And be thankful. (Col. 3.15 NIV)

• … since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship … (Heb. 12.28 NRSV)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. What movie character or scene do you recall as profoundly depicting gratitude?

2. Tell us of something for which, over time, you have come to grow deeply thankful.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Read 1 Chron. 16.7-13,14-18,19-22,23-27,28-30,31-33,34-36. Then do vs. 36b.

2. What specific reasons can you find in Psalm 136 to be thankful for God?

3. What exactly is the “relief offering” in view in 2 Corinthians 9.10-15?

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. Consider what you often thank God for … and then consider what rarely shows up.

2. What tends to move you to grateful, thankful prayer to God?

3. What benefits can others enjoy from overhearing you unashamedly thank God?

4. Someone asks you, “How do I become a more grateful person?” What would you say?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Train yourself to make your very first thought/prayer each day to be one of thanks.

2. “Count your blessings, name them one-by-one.” Make a list. Add to it daily. For life.

3. Compose your own simple song of thanksgiving. Let  1 Chron. 16 and Ps. 136 aid you.

a prayer of thanksgiving for matters for which God is rarely thanked

 

Holy Father, in the name of our Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank you:

for our weaknesses. For without our weaknesses, we would be all the more tempted to rely on our own strength rather than on you and your strength;

for our critics. For our critics keep us ever mindful that though we may think at times we are made of iron, we too, like them, have feet made of clay;

for our limitations. For without our limitations, we we might grow proud and have little room in our heart for others;

for our enemies. For without enemies to love, our love would remain forever stunted in growth;

and for our troubles. For without our troubles, we might come to think that we can get along just fine in life without you.

Amen.

sermon follow-up: worry

If I was a gambling man – and I’m not – I’d be willing to wager you’ve not heard a sermon on “worry” before on Mother’s Day Sunday morning. It was no doubt a slight surprise to most, but I decided this year I’d just stay “in series” rather than jump off track for a “traditional” Mother’s Day sermon. And judging by some of the remarks I received following the sermon’s delivery, I think this was something of a needed scratch to a troublesome itch.

Worry is one of those things we may frown about a bit, but we don’t usually consider much of a “big deal.” Jesus thought otherwise. Among the wide variety of subjects Jesus dealt with in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spent more time elaborating on worry than any other subject, except prayer. That’s impressive given that he talked about matters such as anger, adultery, false teaching, revenge, etc. If worry is known by the company it keeps, it keeps some truly “bad company” and if Jesus spent the most amount of time on the matters that need the most attention, worry ranks up near the top. That’s something to think about!

But what exactly is worry? Worry is more than just “too much of a good thing” (concern); it’s something based on the wrong thing entirely: fear, not faith. Worry is, at best, a lopsided measure of concern built on a foundation of  a larger-than-life measure of fear.

The clear and present danger with worry is that it shifts our attention from our God to our goods, from our Savior to our situation and our stuff. It can, if left untreated, metastasize and take over a person’s life, becoming an “idol” to the person caught up in it. In short, worry replaces God as the center of things with our needs as the center. Worry, then, is no “second-class” or “side” issue, but is, as Jesus spoke of it, a front-line issue that must be confronted.

So will we ever get to the place where Jesus says “Don’t worry?” If so, when will we get serious about it and start? And when we set out on this mission to conquer worry in our life, with what shall we be armed?

You’ve heard me say before that the best way to have a great looking yard is to spend more time feeding the grass than you do fighting the weeds. I believe that holds true for most matters spiritual, certainly in regard to how to deal successfully with worry. Telling yourself not to worry will more often than not just keep you focused on your fears and viewing things as a struggle. In such an environment of the mind, worry can grow like weeds. However, if you deliberately feed your spirit with reminders of God’s goodness and generosity, if you deliberately look for the good and count your blessings, though you might not realize it at the time, you will be doing some of the best things you can possibly do to push yourself and your fears from the center of things.

Thanking God for the smallest of things – even things you might at face value consider “bad,” not good – is where our personal battle with worry will be won or lost. It is exceedingly difficult for worry to gain anything like a permanent foothold in a Christian heart that feeds on a steady diet of gratitude and thanksgiving to God. I believe that’s true no matter the context or person.

Have you ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom? She was a survivor of the Holocaust. Her account of how the prisoners in her bunkroom in the horrific Ravensbruck concentration camp came to thank God for fleas is a powerful illustration of how a heart seeking for things for which to be grateful to God is a heart that can bear any load placed upon it. Worry has no hope of survival in the soil of a heart full of thanksgiving.