We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.
Agreement, disagreement, listening & understanding: Steps You Can Take to Listen More Deeply [required reading]
“What if, instead of having to agree or disagree, like or dislike, you could learn to understand and be understood? What if you learned to just listen?”
Blessings, gratitude, prayer & thanksgiving: Thank You for Blessings Unknown to Me
“For all Your blessing, Heavenly Father, known to me, and for all unknown, accept my thanks.”
Christianity, Christian nation, courage, faith, ISIS, misunderstanding, persecution & witness: ISIS and “the Nation of the Cross” [essential reading]
“I’m a part of this “Nation of the Cross” and it doesn’t have a nation, it is an international, world-wide community of people who believe that this is actually not the worst thing you can do to us. Terrorism and acts that are designed as symbolic fear-driven aggressive acts of bullying only strengthen our resolve to lay down our lives. You may denounce some of our culture, and there are plenty of us that wish that the Christians in America didn’t participate as readily in consuming some of the same culture you denounce, but you have woefully misunderstood who you are talking to.
“If you want to talk to America than call it by it’s proper name, if you want to talk to the Church than this is our response for over 2000 years.
“You can’t kill people who have already died. That’s who you are talking about and who you are talking to when you address “the people of the Cross.”
Government, history, Lipscomb, Restoration Heritage, & voting: Voting More Evil than Dancing, says David Lipscomb
“One gets a sense of how important this is to Lipscomb. The kingdom of God stands in opposition to all human institutions, and the most powerful, violent and coercive of institutions is civil government.”
Morality, reason, secularism & spirituality: Building Better Secularists
“Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.”
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.
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.
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)
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.
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?
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?
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.
Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God—the one I trust!” (Psalm 91.1-2)
NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Oct. 14. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: With Your Neck on the Line. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture quotations below are from the Common English Bible (CEB).
To introduce and to explore what it means to bare our neck to God in devotion to him.
The Lord said: … Every first offspring is mine. That includes all your male livestock, the oldest offspring of cows and sheep. But a donkey’s oldest offspring you may ransom with a sheep. Or if you don’t ransom it, you must break its neck. You should ransom all of your oldest sons. No one should appear before me empty-handed. (Exodus 34.19-20)
… they wear arrogance like a necklace, why violence covers them like clothes. (Psalm 73.6)
My son, don’t forget my instruction. Let your heart guard my commands, because they will help you live a long time and provide you with well-being. Don’t let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Bind them on your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and approval in the eyes of God and humanity. (Proverbs 3.1-4)
My son, keep your father’s command; don’t abandon your mother’s instruction. Bind them on your heart for all time; fasten them around your neck. When you walk around, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will protect you; when you awake, they will occupy your attention. (Proverbs 6.20-22)
You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride! You have captured my heart with one glance from your eyes, with one strand of your necklace. (Song of Solomon 4.9)
On that day, God will remove the burden from your shoulder and destroy the yoke on your neck. (Isaiah 10.27)
… I know that you are stubborn, your neck is made of iron, and your forehead is bronze. (Isaiah 48.4)
As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and to be thrown into the lake. (Mark 9.42)
Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. (Romans 16.3-4)
Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. What is a word you think describes the physical appearance of your neck?
2. Tell us of some big risk you once took solely to benefit someone else.
These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.
1. Select one word that describes the context or theme of each of the nine Scriptures given above.
3. Read the surrounding context of Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.42. Who are “these little ones?”
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.
1. What is some good wisdom or strong spiritual instruction you “wear around your neck.”
2. What are some of the greatest burdens or yokes in life you’ve had placed on your neck?
3. What would you would say you might be a stiff-neck or hard-head about these days (cf. Isaiah 48.4)?
4. Where would you draw the line as to for whom you would lay down your life? Why?
5. What good, or harm, have you seen come from your willingness, or your unwillingness, to stick your neck out for Christ? Explain.
Thank God. Such a time in life is a gift and should be treated as such. It could be a time of rest from difficult times past. It could be a time for preparation for more trying times ahead. In either case, thank God for your friend’s blessing. They need it, as you do, too.
Rejoice with them. Inquire as to the good things you see God bringing into their life. Take the time to genuinely, deeply, and repeatedly listen to their stories of the times of refreshing. In doing so, you will not only heighten their joy, but will open the door to greater light into your own life.
Spread the joy around. This world isn’t short on dark and difficult news on a daily basis. Share the good things they share with you that are shareable with others. Deliberately set out to fill the world with some of the good news you know. You just don’t know whose life you might brighten as a result and how powerful that light might be to them.
Don’t succumb to the green monster. No one ever plans to become jealous or green with envy, but turning green starts with nurturing little, seemingly harmless questions. “Why can’t things be for me the way it is for them?” Show such thoughts no mercy. Pull them up by the roots, roots that could spread to others and work real harm.
Grow in gratitude. Sometimes it takes seeing someone else being blessed to awaken us to our own blessings. Let this time of overhearing others count their blessings prompt you to do the same. You will be made a better person in so doing and will, as a result, bless all you know.
Call attention to the future. Your friend will certainly recall how much more pleasant these times are now than some of those past, but you can bless them a bit now by reminding them of what is to be. Blessings we enjoy now are tiny glimpses into the infinitely greater jubilation and glory of being in God’s presence forever, nothing hindering. Such a reminder will likely stir up all the more gratitude and depth of appreciation for the good times now as well as the astounding times to come.
Continue to pray for them. Our natural tendency is to pray in, and perhaps even only in, the tough times. We storm heaven’s gates and petition God to bless. While God certainly encourages us to make request of him, how much more fitting it is that we’re even more passionate about rushing to his throne to praise him for who he is and his goodness at all times! By praying in times of plenty, not merely in times of need, you’ll grow in your awareness and appreciation of God, coming to love him and adore him all the more. Such can’t help but be contagious.