Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Attitude

Attitude of Gratitude, 20 November 2016

Attitude of Gratitude
Colossians 3:15-17

Big Idea

Thanksgiving should be celebrated every day of the year, cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

Introduction

What is your favorite holiday?

Growing up as a kid Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It may still be my favorite holiday. My friend, Scott, describes Thanksgiving this way:

Thanksgiving is all about friends, family and friendship.
It's about putting aside our difference and reconciling our hearts to one another and God.
It's about remembering and praising God for the blessings in our lives.
It's about focusing on the most important things in life.
It's about turkey, cheesy potatoes, and apple pie.
It's about inviting and accepting people as they are. No obligations to buy gifts for people simply because it's required. Your presence is the present (See what I did there?)
It hasn't been hijacked by American consumerism.
And last, but not least...Football!
These and many other reasons are why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

My name is Kirk and today we’re going to talk about the heart behind this Thursday’s holiday…and why it should be celebrated every day.

Thanksgiving. A day to eat, watch football, be with “framily”…and give thanks. But thanksgiving is more than an annual event. It should be a daily practice. I love the words of our passage today.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

This is not a suggestion. It’s a command.

But let’s back up a moment. Twice Paul uses the word “peace” in the first sentence. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Our world struggles with peace. It has always struggled with peace. We have an enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy. Where’s the peace in that? It should come as no surprise the contrast between the world and Jesus. One of the most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus states

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (
Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus is the Prince of “shalom,” a word which means not only peace but also welfare and completeness. Honestly, the English word “peace” hardly does it justice. Jesus is the Prince of that which is whole, complete, and peaceful.

Jesus is what our world needs.
Jesus is what our nation needs.
Jesus is what Toledo needs.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Paul says we are called to peace. We are called to be ambassadors of shalom. And we are to be thankful.

I discovered the Greek word for thankful is “eucharistos.” It means grateful, pleasing, mindful of benefits, thankful. Perhaps you’ve heard the word “Eucharist.” We often call Eucharist “communion,” a time when Jesus gave thanks while breaking bread at Passover during the Last Supper.

You didn’t know you would get a Hebrew and Greek lesson today! Aren’t you thankful?!

The Scientific Benefits of Gratitude

I know, it’s almost cliché’ to say “be thankful” four days before Thanksgiving, but there’s a reason the Bible tells us to be thankful. In fact, science has confirmed the benefits.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics.

One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

(http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude)

The Bible was so far ahead of its time! I mean that sincerely. It seems like every week I read another report which supports the ancient wisdom of our faith and teachings.

Gratitude is an Attitude

You can’t always change your circumstances, but we all choose our attitudes. We’ve all heard about the glass behind half full or half empty. What do you see?

No matter who you are, you can choose to be thankful. Gratitude is an attitude.

Right now, think of three things for which you are grateful. Tell someone.

The author of Colossians, Paul, also wrote a letter to a church in the city of Philippi. In it, he said,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (
Philippians 4:8)

Focus on the positive. This doesn’t mean ignore reality. It doesn’t mean if you think happy thoughts, everything will be rainbows and lollipops. It does mean cultivating an attitude of gratitude will change you. It will change your perspective. It will enhance your prayer life. It will make you a more attractive person. It will improve your health.

This isn’t self-help psychotherapy. It’s biblical truth! Be thankful.

Paul continues in Colossians…

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)

There’s that word “gratitude.” We could do an entire sermon on this one verse! It says to sing to God with gratitude. We have done that today.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

By the way, that’s scripture! It’s an exact quote from 1 Chronicles 16:34…and Psalm 106:1…and Psalm 107:1…and Psalm 118:1 and 29…and Psalm 136:1!

The passage concludes…

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

We are to give thanks to God the Father…whatever we do!

This doesn’t mean we are necessarily thankful
for everything, but rather thankful in our circumstances. No matter where you are on your life journey,

God is in control.
God is faithful.
God is good.

I know, it doesn’t always feel like it, but I promise you it’s true.

We are blessed with freedom in this nation.
We are blessed with prosperity most of this world can only imagine.
We are blessed with health to be here this morning.
We are blessed with education to be able to read.

The greatest blessing of all is Jesus. He came. He lived. He died. He rose again. He’s coming back. Hallelujah!


Let’s review…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

Give thanks…every day. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. How? Here are some practical ideas:

    A Adoration
    C Confession
    T Thanksgiving
    S Supplication (requests)

    Let me challenge you to never ask God for something before you’ve given thanks for something. Many of you give thanks before you eat a meal—which is great—but any time you talk with God (and you can be as honest and real as you want, including doubts and anger and questions), begin with praise, confession, and thanks. Thank Him for listening, for the weather, for life, for clothes, for whatever you desire.

    Don’t you appreciate it when someone is thankful for a gift, a favor, a kind word, or just for being you? God does, too. He deserves our worship for who He is and our thanks for what He does.

    Finally,

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

    Did you catch that? Present your requests to God…with thanksgiving. If we could all apply this one verse daily in our lives, we would experience so much more peace and joy. I must admit though I love this verse, I struggle to avoid anxiety. I worry about money. I worry about the health of my family. And then I sometimes remember to tell God about my concerns!

    Conclusion

    Thanksgiving should be more than an annual holiday. It should be a way of life. No matter who you are or where you find yourself, you have much for which to be thankful.

    • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Traveler: Woman of Perseverance, 14 December 2014

    Big Idea: Mary persevered through not only a difficult journey to Bethlehem but a life of trials and suffering.

    Key Scripture: Luke 2:1-5

    Introduction

    Do you like to travel? What is the greatest place you’ve ever visited? Where would you most like to go?

    I love to travel. I’m fascinated with humans, especially those from other cultures. The sites, smells, tastes, and sounds of Israel are so different from South Korea, Toronto, and London (to say nothing of Columbus, Ohio!).

    I used to love flying. I still do, but since 9/11 TSA can be a hassle…and don’t get me started on fees for checking in bags, fees for carrying on bags, fees for reserving a seat, etc. Soon we’ll have to pay to use the toilet!

    The journey is important, but unless you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t travel for the journey as much as the destination. Business travel is much different than pleasure. Staying with family can be different than being in a hotel. A family adventure is different than a solo excursion. I once heard someone say a trip is with kids and a vacation is without kids!

    Are you traveling for the holidays? Where?

    Traveling can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays—or one of the most gratifying. Strange relatives, icy roads, and uncomfortable bedding can make things challenging while joyous reunions, great food, and special gifts can make the journey worthwhile.

    We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born. I estimate there is a 1 in 365 chance He was born on December 25! We do know His birth followed a trip—from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip that must’ve been difficult for Joseph…and even more for Mary.

    In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
    (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

    Was this trip business or pleasure? It was certainly not pleasure! Caesar issued a census. Every ten years the United States has a census that helps obtain information about who lives in our country. It’s a simple form typically sent via mail and returned the same way. In the future, I’m sure it will be done online.

    Mary and Joseph were not as fortunate. They had to travel to complete the census mandated by Caesar Augustus (which means “exalted”), possibly the greatest Roman emperor. He instituted a republic form of government, expanded the empire to include the entire Mediterranean world, and led during the golden age of architecture and literature.

    The census was used for taxation and military services, though Jews were exempt from Roman military service. So they traveled to pay a tax. What fun!

    It’s amazing how God could use a pagan leader to bring Jesus to Bethlehem in fulfillment of Micah 5:2…

    “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

    I love seeing Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament!

    So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

    You’ve no doubt heard of Nazareth and Bethlehem, but where are they? It was about 80 miles—at least a three-day trip from Nazareth to the birthplace of David…and Jesus! That’s about from Ann Arbor to Frankenmuth.

    There is much we don’t know about the journey to Bethlehem, but it certainly required perseverance. It would’ve been less of a pain if they simply had to load up the car, make the drive, register, and return home but, of course, they didn’t have a car. We don’t know if they walked or used an animal (a donkey is usually depicted in illustrated Bibles). Carpenters often had a donkey to carry pieces of wood and tools so perhaps Mary didn’t have to walk, but it was not as simple as running up to the drug store and back.

    Traveling such a distance without an SUV with GPS and a DVD player would be long, tiring, and potentially even dangerous. You think our roads are bad? Imagine a rocky, hilly path that would make our dirt roads feel like glass.

    Are we there yet?!

    It wasn’t just a stroll down the street. Keep in mind, too, several days of travel meant several nights of sleep—either camping or from hospitable Jews along the way.

    Women 12 years of age and older had to register for the poll tax so Mary had to travel (she was obviously at least 12 years of age). She was from the house of David. Even if Mary rode a donkey, eight-plus months pregnant—simply to register for the census—must’ve been grueling. Not that Mary had a choice! Nevertheless this is but one example of Mary’s perseverance.

    So What?

    We don’t know Mary’s attitude toward the journey, but it seems likely she accepted her fate and saw this as just one of the many hardships related to bringing the Messiah into the world. Her song, the Magnificat—which we looked at last week—praised God despite the countless trials she would experience as the mom of Jesus. She was a woman of great perseverance. Her pregnancy was a social catastrophe. She became a young mom. She later experienced disappointment and even witnessed the death of her son. Yet she persevered. She endured countless trials—as did her boy.

    There are two ways we can look at trials: we can
    groan or grow.

    We are a spoiled, pampered people in this nation. We complain at the slightest sign of adversity, expecting to be safe and comfortable 24/7. We are told it is our right to pursue happiness. Jesus had a different message:

    In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

    That’s a promise—we will have trouble! As I’ve often remarked, I’m among the wealthiest 1% on the planet (not the USA, but the world!). You may be, too. Regardless of who you are or where you were born, you will encounter troubles because this world is broken and filled with sin.

    We will have trouble, but don’t miss the second promise: Emmanuel—God with us. He is always with us…and He has overcome the world.

    I’m both challenged and encouraged by these words from the book of Romans:

    He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

    Therefore, since we have been justified
    through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

    Recently I heard the incredible testimony of former mobster Michael Franzese. He said he has experienced every conceivable emotion but one is far worse than the others—hopelessness.

    It seems odd that suffering would lead to hope, but that’s often the result.

    I’ve been amazed at one recent amputee and her attitude of gratitude for a surgery that took her leg (http://myelephantsintheroom.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/why-i-am-grateful-for-my-amputation/). If she can be grateful…

    During these final days of Christmas chaos I encourage you to count your blessings and seek God’s will and purposes in your sufferings and stress. Every day is filled with things that we can complain about and things we can celebrate. God is still sovereign and in control. He is still on the throne. Mary persevered through much because she continually trusted God rather than feeling sorry for herself. The journey to Bethlehem is but one small example of the things she endured for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to God.

    "Sometimes we think to ourselves, “I’m being obedient, so why aren’t things going better?” We face discomfort or inconvenience and immediately think either that we have misread God’s will or that God has made a mistake. But watch this quiet couple as they head toward Bethlehem. God did not soften Joseph’s bumpy road, but strengthened him. God did not provide a luxurious inn for Joseph and Mary, but brought his Son into the world in humble surroundings. When we do God’s will, we are not guaranteed comfort and convenience. But we are promised that everything, even discomfort and inconvenience, has meaning in God’s plan. He will guide you and provide all you need. Like Joseph, live each day by faith, trusting that God is in charge."

    - Life Application Study Bible, Luke 2:4-5

    May God be glorified in not only our praise and worship in the midst of blessings but also the way in which we suffer and persevere. This world is temporary and the best is yet to come.

    For Further Study

    The Real Mary by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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