Giving God Thanks

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Psalm 136:1-3

Three sons leave home, go out on their own and prosper. Getting back together, they discuss the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother. The first says: “I built a big house for our mother.” The second says: “I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.” The third says: “You remember how Mom enjoys reading the Bible? Now she can’t see very well. So I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church twelve years to teach him; he’s one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot recites it.” Soon thereafter, Mom sends out her letters of thanks. “Milton,” she says, “the house you built is so huge. I live only in one room, but I have to clean the whole house.” “Gerald,” she says, “I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home so I rarely use the Mercedes. And that driver is so rude! He’s a pain!” “My dearest Donald,” she says, “the chicken was delicious!”

There is a story of an older couple watching TV. The man stretches and says, “Honey, I think I’ll go to the kitchen and get some ice cream. Would you like some?” “Believe I would, thanks.” “Would you like some chocolate sauce on it?” “Yes, I would . . . but now be sure and write that down so you won’t forget.” Her husband glares, shakes his head, and marches off to the kitchen. Twenty minutes pass as the husband rustles about. Finally he reappears, carrying a plateful of scrambled eggs. “Why,” exclaims his wife, “I told you to write it down. Here you’ve come back and forgotten my bacon!”

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:12)

Albert Scheitzer suggested that the other nine were so overjoyed they ran to tell their families. They may have intended to come back later to thank the Lord. Schweitzer said, “Remember, a great deal of water is flowing underground which never comes up as a spring.”

The New Yorker, whose cartoons are not only witty but also barbed with philosophical insight, had a dandy one November. It pictured a table fairly groaning with well-prepared food and the father at the head of the table asking, “Shall we say grace?” A study was released by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that the production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land was the result of 5 per cent of the effort of the farmer.

Giving thanks is a duty of which gratitude is the grace. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. There is a need within all of us to give thanks. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

In India they are trying to get rid of the caste system that has been a part of that country for centuries. When you give money to a beggar in India, the beggar will put his palms together and raises his hand in a salute. Not in thanks, where one traditionally would receive one. Instead he salutes your wealth, his poverty, and the givens of the universe.

The great problem is that all of us have the need to say, “Thank you.” One of the signs of evil in our lives is the like of gratitude. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim 3:2)

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:17) Prayer without thanksgiving is like a bird without wings – such prayer cannot rise to heaven or be sweet to the Father’s ears. God loves to hear our prayers, but He also loves to hear our praise. We understand it in the good times: And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matthew 14:19) But we give thanks also in the difficult times: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.”

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:25)

What we do in honoring God, gives thanks to God. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Rom 14:6) Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

The High Cost of Doing Business

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Matthew 21:33-46

The pastor stood before his congregation and made the following announcement: “Folks, I have bad news and good news and bad news. The bad news: We need immediate repairs for our church building. The good news: We already have all the money we need to pay for the project. The bad news: The money we have is still in your pockets!”

The pastor stood reverently at the pulpit, bowed his head, and spoke to his congregation: “Before we take our offering, let’s all bow our heads and meditate on how much it costs to heat the church.” We are invited to great things when we receive small things greatly.

Ronald Warwick, captain of the luxury cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II, questioned a passenger who paid full fare for his dog to join them on an around-the-world cruise. (Accommodations range from $25,000 to $150,000.) “Wouldn’t it have cost less to leave him at home?” “Oh no,” the man said. “When we are away a long time, the dog’s psychiatrist fees are so high, it’s less expensive to bring him along.”–USA Today (10/25/95)

The dollar is a miraculous thing. It’s our personal energy reduced to portable form and endowed with power we do not ourselves possess. It can go where we cannot go; speak languages we cannot speak; lift burdens we cannot lift; save lives which we cannot deal with directly. Our dollar given to the church buys more to relieve human needs than any other place we might choose to invest it.

I have been pastoring churches for a long time and have pastored four congregations. My very first solo pastorate was Mount Zion Christian Church. The young people wanted to buy a pool table with money they had raised. It went to a congregational vote – over a pool table. The vote was on the pool table, but the issue was to allow teenagers in the church at times other than worship.

My second pastorate was Charlestown Christian Church. The Christian Women’s Fellowship got into a fight over what type of flooring to put in the dining room of the parsonage. At no time did they ever ask me or my wife what we wanted since we lived in the house. The issue was control, giving away control, to others and to God.

In Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a small congregation went into partnership with a private school to stop white flight from the city’s core. A small group of people saw a greater need, that property values were going down and it was hurting minority children more. So, to keep families in the community they offered an alternative school. It grew so large that they had to bring mobile buildings in to accommodate the growth.

Hillside Christian Church I commend you for your vision, leadership and willingness to sacrifice to start a new congregation. When no other churches were willing to step forward or enter into a partnership, you where.
The only negative I heard from this congregation was concern for the health of its ministers. One person even said, “How can we not do it, that what being a church is all about.”

A Church Budget is a theological statement about what we believe and what we hold important. I make no apologies for what it cost to operate a church.
We express concern that administrative costs for the local church are high – we should be giving more to ministry! In the local congregation, administrative cost will always be high, that is where most everyday ministry takes place. I knew a man many years ago who said, “I send my money to “The Hour Of Power,” because they are really doing the Lord’s work. However, I noticed Robert Schuller wasn’t the one who conducted his funeral service, nor was his service held in Garden Grove.

Jesus said, “for the worker deserves his wages.” (Luke 10:7) All of life has a cost, in whatever we do. I am concerned about what is going on with the United Way and especially Big Brothers and Sisters. Look at the unreal predicament that the Church is put the organization in. We would much rather say to these children that grow up and become a juvenile offender than to run the risk of growing up differently than us.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. The world was created by God and God owns it. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. God improved the world for us. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.
They didn’t want to pay for what they were using that didn’t belong to them.
They even killed the owners son!

Annually, Americans spend $26.6 billion on lottery tickets and give $19.6 billion to churches. The problem with our giving is that we too often give the widow’s mite, without the widow’s spirit.