GRATITUDE

(Use this for your thanksgiving family. Ask people to finish the sentence of each major phrase below before reading what is written. Then read lessons and discuss. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

                        PEOPLE WHO ARE UNGRATEFUL…

Make excuses for why they aren’t in a better place and blame others.

Have unfinished business, which seals their hearts from gratitude.

Stopped being grateful when they chose to hold onto a wound.

Feel entitled and expect the world to wait upon them.

Have a distorted picture of God, like the angry elder brother.

PEOPLE WHO ARE GRATEFUL…

  • Have chosen be thankful, regardless, rather than living circumstantially.
  • Have their eyes open to the kindness of God, even with struggles.
  • Know, like the prodigal, that they don’t deserve what God is giving them.
  • Are saying that God is good.

WHEN YOU SAY “THANK YOU”…

You recognize that God is in charge.

It is so easy to complain about the weather, the coach, the teacher, the spouse, the parent, even God, but you choose not to.

WHEN YOU DON’T SAY “THANK YOU”…

You are more open to sexual temptation. Those who have fallen morally could have kept themselves pure with gratitude. (Eph.5:3-5).

You are missing a chance to see God working. Gratitude invites His activity.

YOU CAN DEVELOP THANKFULNESS BY…

Choosing to serve rather than to be served.  The higher up you see yourself, the less thankful you will be.

LESSONS ON THANKSGIVING

  1. Ingratitude is a serious offense, and it makes us irrational. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
  2. Thankful people are poor in spirit, aware of how desperately they need God. Giving thanks is like humbling ourselves; it always works. It will help us get out of trouble and keep a divine mindset. If people want to know God’s will, here it is: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:18).
  3. Paul uses words like “continually” and “always” when talking about thanksgiving. He was full of thanksgiving. He rates thanksgiving high for the character of a leader.  He speaks often about the need for gratitude.  He writes, “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).  Then two verses later he says, “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” (v.17).
  4. Thanksgiving, singing, and joy are cousins. They are often found together:  “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (Isaiah 51:3, Jer. 30:19).  Thanksgiving is found in times of healing and restoration (Jer. 30:19). Thanksgiving and generosity belong together:  “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:11).
  5. Thankfulness is sowing seeds for a rich harvest. What you give comes back. Sowing complaints reaps a bitter harvest. Grateful people overcome. They are not victims, they are victors.

GRATITUDE INVENTORY

(Suggestion: print and use for your Thanksgiving time together. Happy Thanksgiving!)

  1. Have I expressed thanks to my mother and father?
  2. Have I thanked any teachers who made a positive contribution to my life?
  3. Have I thanked coaches, pastors, siblings, people who serve me, like mail carriers?
  4. Do I give thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances?
  5. Do I resist the temptation to complain because my situation is not better?
  6. Have I chosen to give thanks rather than hold onto a wound?
  7. Do I give thanks instead of expect others to wait on me?
  8. Am I content with what I have or do I deserve more?
  9. Do I have a distorted picture of God that keeps me from thanking Him? (The elder brother was angry and could not receive from his father).
  1. Have I chosen as an act of the will to be thankful rather than waiting for proof?
  2. Do I need to receive more before I will have a heart of gratitude?
  3. Would people close to me say that I have an attitude of gratitude?
  4. Has gratitude turned to skepticism because things turned out differently than expected?
  5. Am I generous with my money? Generous people are thankful (2 Cor.9:10); ungrateful people are stingy.
  6. Am I a happy? Grateful people are (Ps. 92:5).
  7. Do I live in the peace of God? Gratitude keeps me there (Phil. 4:6,7).
  8. Do I recognize that God is in charge? If so, I will be thankful (Ps. 97:1).
  9. Is life for me a matter of giving? “Thanks—giving” means both thanks and giving.
  10. Will I fit well with the atmosphere of heaven? It is full of thank-you’s (Rev. 7:12).
  11. Do I struggle with lust? Thanksgiving is a guard against sin that takes from others.
  12. Do I live close to Jesus who has a thankful heart? (Matt. 15:26, Jn 11:41,Lk 10:21f).
  13. Do I express gratitude every day? (David appointed the Levites to give thanks twice daily: I Chr. 16:4, I Chr. 23:30).
  14. Do I thank God in hard times, knowing that He will bring good out of bad?
  15. Am I able to thank God even when my personal security is threatened? (Dan. 6:10).
  16. Am I thankful for people God has connected me to? Paul gave thanks for people he wrote to.
  17. Have I thanked God for healing and health? (“Where are the nine?” Luke 17:17).
  18. Have I grown self-indulgent? (They are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money.. ungrateful, unholy…” 2 Tim. 3:2).
  19. Am I thankful for God’s truth? (“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” Ps. 119:62).
  20. Am I thankful for food ? (Acts 27:35; Ro. 14:6; I Tim. 4:3).
  21. Am I thankful that God is gracious? (I Cor. 1:4).
  22. Am I thankful for deliverance from death, even though I wasn’t aware that it was happening? (Angels attend to us and keep us from harm).
  23. Am I thankful for government leaders? (I Tim. 2:1,2).
  24. Am I aware that ingratitude can harden my heart? (Rom. 1:21).
  25. Am I humble? Thankful people are humble people.
  26. Am I modeling a thankful heart for my children and for others that I serve? (Col.3:15,17).
  27. Do my prayers often include thanksgiving? (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; I Tim. 2:1).
  28. Do I enjoy singing? (Is. 51:3; Jer. 30:19).
  29. Is my thanksgiving contagious? (Paul’s gratitude caused “thanksgiving to overflow” 2 Co.4:15).

THE EBOLA THREAT

I have a joke about Ebola. You probably won’t get it.

In truth, Ebola is no laughing matter. People that get it often die. About 50% of the 8000 recent cases, mainly in West Africa, have been fatal. Dr. Martin Sallia died Monday morning after returning to the States where his family resides for treatment. He was serving Ebola victims in Sierra Leone in response to God’s call.

Should we be alarmed? Should we shut the back door to infected Americans who want in?

My response:

Jesus put a face on God, and it was a face of compassion. He said, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). That mercy was to be extended even to enemies.  Mercy has several opportunities now:

  1. Scripture encourages giving to the poor and needy. One reason for the spread of Ebola in Africa is the poor conditions. Dr. Arthur Caplan at the New York University Medical Center and founding head of Bioethics wrote,
    “The harsh ethical truth is the Ebola epidemic happened because few people in the wealthy nations of the world cared enough to do anything about it.”

Thank God for ministries like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse that respond immediately to horrific problems around the world. Our prayers and gifts keep such ministries working. They are the hands and feet of a compassionate God.

  1. Bring Americans home. They risked their lives for the dying. Do we let them die in less than optimum conditions? It is not the same risk as in Africa. We have highly sanitary conditions, and it is unlikely that Ebola will get out of control in the States. A friend in the medical field is a point person for Ebola in the Twin Cities. She said that the Department of Health calls travelers from West Africa twice daily for twenty-one days. Point: It is being taken seriously in the States!

I respect conservative commentator Ben Carson, who spoke strongly (as did Donald Trump) about providing care for Americans, but not on American soil. Such action would be unthinkable in the military. We never leave the wounded behind. These are kingdom soldiers. And it has proved not the threat many feared.

  1. Don’t call it God’s judgment. Even if it were, a hands-off policy would not reflect mercy. Jesus reached out to lepers caught in a society that did not know much about either its cause or its cure. We must not be quick to label catastrophes as the judgment of God, even though God judges in history and in its climax. The world desperately needs to know more about God’s love than His judgment. It is His goodness that leads men to repentance, not His wrath. When His wrath is poured out at the end of time, people will not repent. They will call for the rocks to crush then rather than an all-powerful God. For now, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
  1. The cause behind this epidemic is cause and effect—poverty, poor health conditions, strange funeral practices, and ignorance. Add to that corrupt government that cares more for its own wealth than its world—and you have Ebola.
  1. Jesus said, “Go!” We continue to reach out to the nations. We cry out for mothers who throw babies into the river to appease an angry God. It is the missionaries who are largely responsible for raising the level of life in developing countries. They gave themselves to build schools, churches, hospitals, wells, and to teach healthcare and sanitation. God has a bias for the broken. We preach about a God who not only saves from sin but teaches us how to treasure life and live wisely. Thank God for Christians who care for the poor.

US AND THEM – PSALM 67

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Psalm 67:1,2).

Two things are happening to us:

  1. We are experiencing God’s empowering grace and blessing at the front end. Grace is a gift, not a paycheck.
  2. His face is shining upon us, saying that He is favoring us, not turning away in shame.

The goal for these blessing on us? —that the nations experience the same.

“May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God, may all the peoples praise you” (v. 3-5).

Remarkable. An ultra-nationalist knowing God had called out his people gives attention to other peoples. He warred against them. Now he sees God’s higher purpose for Israel. He uses the word “peoples” five times in three verses. Them is on his mind, not just us. How interracial can you get?!

 

Blessings often get stuck at the altar rather than going out to the streets or across the continent. They are not meant to be scarfed down like a burrito but passed along to folks with different customs.

The author understands that we are favored so they can be. David highlights three glorious changes:

  1. They praise God. They are no longer speaking lies about lesser deities they have carved out of wood or invented out of fear. It happens to us, then to them. How tragic if they stay with dumb idols and terrorizing gods.
  1. They become glad and sing for joy. They were not glad when they were killing babies to appease a mad monarch. But now God is shining on them and brings joy.
  1. They experience the rule of God. Being ruled by Satan is not close to pretty. When we share about a God who shines on them, they experience a kind King.

Us and us gets ugly. We die like the Dead Sea is dying. Us and them is satisfying and productive. We can only keep what we give away. “Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him” (v. 6, 7).

Israel sang this song, tied to the Aaronic benediction, as they brought in the fall crops. Check out the harvest of righteousness. The farthest nations join in the song of praise in their own language and colorful clothes. God loves the song!

HOW TO RECEIVE THE GIFT OF TONGUES

God doesn’t give us a manual on the gifts of the Spirit. He gives us history—the experiences of people, and theology—the explanation of those experiences. So we look both at peoples’ experiences and the Bible’s explanations.

We demystify the gifts to make them more accessible. We teach on prophecy, so people don’t say, “I could never do that.” The gifts are for the elect, not the elite!

Jesus is the divine-human Savior. He isn’t half of one and half of the other. In like manner, the Bible is a divine book, the message of God to humanity. But it is also  human, revealing the personalities of its authors.

In the same way, the gifts of the Spirit are divine. Paul says that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…” (I Corinthians 12:6). But the Holy Spirit does not speak in tongues—people do: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). Paul tells us that “if a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” (Romans 12:6), suggesting that the gift matures as faith grows. We have a part to play.

And this affects not only how we exercise the gifts but also how we receive them. Our very desire has something to do with what we receive; otherwise Paul would not tell us twice to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 12:31; 14:1). A beautiful dance takes place between heaven and earth, and our desires are not incompatible with divine will.

The Spirit gives the gifts as He determines (I Corinthians 12:11), but our pursuit is factored into the divine plan. So rather than saying, “I’m open,” a more appropriate response would be, “I am eager.”

So I encourage people to take steps of faith in receiving the gift of tongues, not to sit passively. My experience is that when people open their mouths and begin to speak words while at the same time shutting down their native language, God takes those sounds and turns them into a language.  It is not uncommon for God to ask us to make the first move. He told the priests to step into the water when they were carrying the ark, and when they did, the waters would part (Joshua 3).

We are not blaspheming the Spirit by trying. When a child attempts to walk and fails, the family standing by cheers on the struggling infant.

“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), and dead faith is no faith. Our part in receiving tongues is to begin speaking unintelligible words, trusting the Gift-giver to turn it into a language of praise. And millions of people could testify that He does just that! And every time you use it, you are being built up! Radical!

THE RIGHT TO DIE – REFLECTIONS ON ASSISTED SUICIDE

We haven’t heard from Jack lately. That’s because he died. The media called him Dr. Death. Some considered Dr. Kevorkian a hero for paving the way for some states, including Oregon, to pass laws for physician-assisted suicide.

Brittany Maynard, all over the news, moved there to live—and to die. Brain cancer was slowing taking her life, and she preferred taking her own. She followed through with her plans on Saturday, October 31st.

A doctor in France was acquitted in court after secretly giving seven comatose patients a lethal injection that ended their life. Belgium may be the first country to lift the age limit on who has the right to die, which will include ill minors.

Dr. Jack claimed to have helped over 130 to die. He died in 2011 after serving eight years in prison from 1999 to 2007 for second-degree murder in an assisted suicide in which he administered a lethal injection. The issue “died out” for a time and has returned full-blown with Brittany.

Four principles help Christians make ethical decisions regarding euthanasia, killing with kindness.

  1. God owns our life. The midwife of the human race gave it to us. He determines our entrance and exit, unless foolish choices prescribe an early departure. Those not viewing their lives under the scrutiny of a living, loving God, understandably see the issues differently.

 

  1. God owns our body. Pro-abortion people say, “Her body—her decision.” If our bodies were paid for by the death of Jesus, He alone can rightfully determine their use and destiny. We are not free to end life—in or out of the womb.

 

  1. God values human life. Humanity bears the stamp of its Creator. We care for animals but do not regard them with the same value. Spending big bucks to release a whale looks kind-hearted, but it demonstrates skewed values. Human sacredness

does not depend on usefulness, mobility, or IQ. If humanity sets a price-tag related to utility, it can choose to end life when usefulness expires. Dangerous!

 

  1. God gives value to suffering. Paul, who suffered more than most, considered it “light and momentary” when compared to eternity. When God keeps a person alive who would be relieved by death, we best not tamper. I pray for my immobile and twisted up sister to go, but I shudder to think of making a decision that belongs to God alone.

I get it when people wonder why a person has to stick around who cannot talk, move, relate, or speak, and whose life has lost any semblance of apparent meaning. I have the right to live. I do not believe that I have the right to die. “Thou shalt not kill” includes me.

We dare to proclaim the goodness of God in the midst of mystery. Death with dignity is trumped by suffering with dignity. Lord, have mercy!

CHARACTER AND CHARISMA – FLYING WITH BOTH WINGS

I made the long trip over the big pond. It’s too obvious to say, but it would not have happened with only one wing. The same applies to our life in the Spirit, the fruit, the supernatural character of Jesus, and the gifts, the supernatural ministry of Jesus.

The Corinthians flew with one wing and kept crashing. Paul wrote, “You do not lack any spiritual gift…”(I Cor. 1:7). This gave them great potential. But the the fruit didn’t balance the gifts. They were divided into quarreling factions.

I once invited a young man to teach at our church. He did a good job, but a discerning elder said, “He’s going to mess up if he doesn’t learn about submission.” Mark divorced his wife and left town, creating a trail of problems in the wake. His character hadn’t caught up with charisma.

Paul made clear in the love chapter to those same Corinthians that tongues without love only produced noise, that prophecy unlocking mysteries or faith moving mountains amounted to zip without compassion, that sacrifice to the point of martyrdom proved fruitless without love. Powerful functions disconnected from healthy relationships discredit the action.

Then should we say, “What we really want is fruit?” Great, but the plane will still not take off. Love alone does not offload demonic oppression, skin cancer, or gnawing depression. We don’t want to simply create noise. But neither should we settle for the right motivation without manifestation. So Paul wrote, again to Corinth, “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7).  The Spirit is made evident when the fruit is developed; otherwise it would not be called the fruit of the Spirit. But the power of the Spirit is likewise made visible when a prophetic word is shared with pin-point accuracy or a knotty problem resolved with divine wisdom.

Christ-honoring, Bible-believing Christians who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit but tolerate at best or ignore the gifts may think that they are better off than carnal charismatics who can’t get along. But Paul makes sufficiently clear that an airlift requires two wings. He even put them together in one verse: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (14:1).

He is not choosing the fruit over the gifts. In fact, he takes three full chapters to deal with the question of gifts that they had addressed to him in a letter. Paul answered abuse not with disuse but with proper use. And that meant exercising the gifts out of a humble heart, one that cared for others and that overlooked offenses. Want to upgrade your gifts? Upgrade your love. Get both wings functioning. Works every time!