Philippians 4:4-8 NIV84 - Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, 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.
My prayer is that in the midst of all of your holiday feasting, you had the opportunity this week to offer genuine thanks for all that the Lord has done in your life.
“THANKSGIVING – The act of giving thanks; a prayer expressing gratitude; a public acknowledgement or celebration of divine goodness.” --Merriam-Webster Dictionary
REAL THANKSGIVING is not simply a day on the calendar, but it is one of the essential keys to a fulfilled and healthy life, and a distinctive mark of the Christian Faith. This is particularly important now; for in our society, UNGRATEFULNESS has become the great sin of our time…leaving a cynical, calloused, and indifferent culture that cannot recognize the GRACIOUSNESS of GRACE.
In fact, almost everything that God wants to do in our lives BEGINS with cultivating a Heart of Thanksgiving, of Gratitude. Happiness is certainly a wonderful emotion, but Joy is a glorious decision! The Apostle Paul commands the Philippian Believers to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Therefore, rejoicing is something that can be governed by the Will.
Consequently, ours is to be a life filled with joy, NOT because of the absence of difficulty or even sorrow, but because we have a God who is with us in the midst of the difficulties and trials of this journey. Our Joy Flows OUT of our Thanksgiving.
This weekend, I am preaching at a service honoring one of our alumni who is now the Senior Pastor of a church in San Jose. I apologize that I will not be with you, but I am very grateful for the prayerful support of the Cathedral Congregation in all of our ministry endeavors. Dr. Gary Moncher will be bringing a powerful message from the Word of God this morning.
This week our nation will pause to celebrate the Holiday of Thanksgiving. Like many traditions we tend to forget the reason we have this holiday. Beginning with the Pilgrims, who in 1621 set apart a day for thanksgiving at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest; and continuing through George Washington and other U.S. presidents, a day for giving thanks was observed throughout the colonies and the young nation. It was not until 1863, however, that at the height of the Civil War, a national holiday of Thanksgiving was finally formalized by President Abraham Lincoln. In the midst of the most grim and bloodiest war in American history, Lincoln said:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of… the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
--Abraham Lincoln, 1863
In many ways, gratefulness is a barometer of one’s soul. The more prideful we are over our good fortune or bitter over our misfortune, the less we will be able to express thanksgiving with any measure of authenticity. Lincoln offered this declaration during times of great personal and national loss; recognizing that God was not to be blamed for calamity, but that it was His Mercy that brought bounty.
How is your soul today? This has been a very difficult year for many, and yet we are called to be filled with Gratitude. As we begin this Holiday Week, please consider the words of Lincoln and celebrate the transcendent worth of THANKSGIVING!
Luke 5:18-19 NIV84 - Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
I consider this passage in the Gospel of Luke to be one of my favorites because it serves as such a wonderful example of our role in the ministry. The world is full of hurting people. The size and scale of their brokenness is often overwhelming, so much so that many of us stop even trying to reach out.
This passage reminds us that the healing and the miracle come only from Jesus. So the supernatural activity is not our responsibility, it is His. Likewise, these men did not bring EVERYONE to the Lord, but they did bring SOMEONE. This is such a beautiful truth. The Lord knows that we are limited in both our ability and our spheres of influence. He never asks us to do what we can’t, He’ll do that; instead He asks us to do what we CAN, and he’ll do the rest. All of us can bring a friend to Jesus.
This brings us to the last part of ministry that I want you to consider today. The friends of the paralytic had to tear a hole in the roof to bring their friend to Jesus. Their effort is both commendable and rewarded: their friend is healed. But, someone has to pay for the roof! The Owner of the House who is hosting the “ministry event,” bears the cost of the ministry so that others can receive from the Lord.
This is part of what we do, even today. As we will have a luncheon this afternoon to celebrate the Holidays, but also it is designed to raise money to help others receive from Jesus during this Season. Sometimes we bring a friend to Jesus, and other times we have to pay for the roof. Please join us in some “roof repair work” at the Campus Community Center after service. :-)
The times in which we are living are difficult. We do live in a fallen world, and we do have an Adversary. But, we are not without remedy. We are not without hope. We are not without a solution. We are not without Good News: Beloved, we have JESUS!
Hebrews 13:8 NIV - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
“Jesus Christ is the SAME”: Full of Love and Compassion, bearing our sins on the Cross. Jesus Christ who comforts the Broken and gives grace to the Outcast. The SAME JESUS who broke the Powers of Darkness. The SAME Jesus who suffered and Died that we would Live and Overcome! The SAME JESUS: who is here and active today because He is The RISEN Jesus!
The same Jesus who is the Death-Conquering, Grave-Emptying, Slave-Freeing, Righteous-Bringing, Sick-Healing, Devil-Destroying, Comfort-Bringing, Love-Bearing, Miracle-Working…KING OF ALL KINGS, GOD OF ALL GODS, LORD OF ALL LORDS! The same Jesus who opens prison doors; builds His Church and plunders the very Gates of Hell; He Extends His Kingdom; and He is the Soon-Coming King who WILL be glorified in the Earth!
The SAME Jesus who holds Eternity in His Hand and will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER relax His hold upon you or forsake you or leave you.
When we consider THIS SAME JESUS: His magnificent Work of Salvation and the grand expression of His Mercy…then and only THEN, can we begin to understand the great GIFT, NECESSITY, and REQUIREMENT OF WORSHIP! No wonder, the Apostle Paul would tell the Church at Rome:
Romans 12:1 VOICE - Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 NIV - In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The Passover meal featured several cups, each with a different title. The cup Jesus referred to was known as the Cup of Redemption. Now it is HIS Cup with redemption being written in His Blood. Every time we come to the Lord's Table, we "proclaim" the impact of the Lord's death which is our salvation and redemption, and that cost Him something. By taking the bread and the cup, we proclaim that Jesus purchased life for us, by pouring His out.
Hebrews 9:12 NKJV - Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
“The new covenant in my blood.” Every aspect of Salvation: Forgiveness, Eternal Life, Healing, Wholeness, Peace, Provision…EVERYTHING comes from His Hand. Like Prisoners, released by a Benefactor, we are utterly dependent upon Him. We have no breath, unless He gives us breath. We have no Hope, unless He gives us Hope. We have no Life, unless He gives us Life. But not only has He given us these things, He has done so lavishly!
Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV - In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us…
We are REDEEMED! We are Free! We have received abundantly more that we shall ever need of His Grace…lavishly so! He is a magnificent God and a wonderful Savior!
Dr. Tobey Montgomery