November 21, 2018

A Message Based on God's Word

Thanksgiving Eve

First Lesson:  Psalm 145:1-10

Second Lesson:  Psalm 105:1-7

Third Lesson:  Psalm 95:1-7

Fourth Lesson:  Psalm 136:1-9

Fifth Lesson:  Psalm 107:1-9

Sermon Text:  Psalm 116:1-19

First off, thanks to all of you who filled out the Thanksgiving slips last Wednesday/Sunday. Surely you figured out why I asked you to do that. Yes, we’re to be thankful, and have every reason to be, thankful all year round.  But Thanksgiving gives us a chance to put a fine point on it.  And it gives us a chance to step back and view all of our blessings as a whole.

And we’ve been blessed, haven’t we? Instead of 15 pieces of paper, the box was overflowing – easily 100 of them. I didn’t see anyone standing at the table, scratching their head, trying to think of something for which they are thankful.  If there was hesitation in writing something down, it was because the person was trying to decide which of their many blessings to put down.  Blessed upon blessed, physically, emotionally, and best of all spiritually – that is each of us in this room.

Tonight we focus on Psalm 116.  On Sunday I went through the slips and categorized them.  And every slip, in one way or another, relates to something the Psalmist mentions in 116.  Let’s pick it apart. 

Vs. 1: “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.”  The author is thankful because he had an issue – maybe his conscience was bothering him, or maybe he had some relationship problem – but God had mercy and saw him through it.  Did any of you write anything on a slip that fits into that category, God being merciful and seeing that person or a loved one through a disaster, God either removing an issue from you and giving you something you didn’t deserve?  Let’s see…“My daughter being well and healthy after a car accident in Ripon”; “Thankful that the mid-term elections are over”; “My experience (not sure what) bringing me closer to the Lord”; “Knowing I am going to heaven”; “A new lease on life – heart transplant”; “That God is helping my husband recover from a stroke”; “God always answering my specific needs in hit time and not mine – his timing is always perfect”; “I was afraid due to domestic abuse from a previous husband.  My husband now is understanding and loves and respects me – something I never thought I would have.”

Vs. 3 & 4: “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘LORD, save me!’” Here our author is a little more specific.  It sounds like he truly was in dire physical straits.  It was so bad he felt two steps away from death.  What did the Lord do?  He saved him.  Think anyone mentioned that?  Think anyone expressed thanks for a recovery from some physical issue or problem?  Let’s see… …  “Answering prayer – specifically asked for healing and support after my husband broke his leg”; “Larry survived the hunting accident” (Larry, we had about 8 of those); “Thankful for 8 years of recovery from a tornado injury – I see your mercies every day and I know you are riding on my shoulder every step of the way”; “For the cancer free years of my life”; “The Lord being with me during my husband’s heart transplant and my breast cancer – What a comfort to have him through these difficult times.  Praise God!”

Vs. 6: “The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.”  The psalmist was down, likely due to difficult circumstances.  But the Lord picked him up and revived his soul, filling it with peace.  Think anyone was thankful for that, for God seeing them through a tough time, through a dark valley?  Think anyone mentioned their appreciation for the help God gave them through their or loved one’s trials?  Let’s see… “I am thankful for the health of my nephew born 6 weeks early”; I was adopted as a baby.  When I turned 50, I found out my biological family were not Christians.  I was even more thankful for my adopted mom for my Christian upbringing”; “That you [Lord] were with me during my MRI on Friday.  It was dark and lonely in that tube!”; “Giving me strength and peace as I go through a difficult separation”; “Thank you for a  wonderful woman that I call my wife”; “The time members have taken to show they care about how I am doing”; "For the bright spots in my dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Vs. 8: “For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” We already mentioned the life and death issues.  But added here is the thought that God kept the author on the right path.  Think anyone was thankful for that, for the faith God planted in them, and for the different people he uses to keep them on the straight and narrow and to nurture their faith?  Let’s see… “My wife who has supported me through all of my sicknesses and the trying times our family has faced”; “supportive coworkers”; "My church family – I was helped when in a time span of 6 months I lost my job, had a cancer operation, and my daughter died.  My church friends helped me through this and helped me remember that God has a plan”; “I am thankful for my husband who quietly and calmly leads our family and loves me unconditionally”; "My granddaughter is engaged to a Christian man!”; “My growth group”; “Being able to watch my kids flourish at KML”; “My mom, who set a beautiful example of a Christian wife while living through the “worse” and “sickness” part of her vows”; “The people who did/are serving our country”; ‘My parents – thank you Jesus!”; “Thankful that I was born into a Christian family”; “A loving Christian spouse and children who love Christ as their Savior!”

One more – vs. 12: “What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?”  If any thanksgiving slips didn’t fit under the previous 4, they certainly fit here.  Why?  Because everything we have for which we are thankful is from God, and it is evidence of his goodness.  No matter what the issue or item is, God blessed us with it because he loves us, because he is so good.  What things?  What issues?  Let’s see… this is a big list.  “This new (to us) church family – so welcoming and kind!” (I thank the Lord there were 10 slips like that); ”Daise, Daise!” (A dog, complete with picture); “The new truck we were able to get”; “New sermon understanding sheets and Youtube sermons”; “For college scholarships”; “The love both my parents give to me and my siblings”; “Being alive”; “Jesus, Sarah, Daddy, Jenson”; “Sunday school”; “Our adoption which occurs November 20th – Xavier and Aiden”; “The many friends we have made at church along with our wonderful pastor” (I got a lot of those – think you are buttering me up to not take the Missouri call); “Thankful for all the beautifully written and convincing Bible passages revealed to us, esp. Ephesians 1:7-8”; “Thankful to live in a country where we are free.”

And a sub group of that one deserved its own section. Here are blessings God’s little people put down… “Julie, Jonathan, Paisley, Tristin, Evelynn, Levi”; “Hunting because I get to hang out with my family”; “food”; “Giannis Antetekoumpo”; “My parents, friends, food, water, church, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, teacher, pastor”; “A house, food, car, and a heater”; “My family, friends, candy, chocolate,God, Jesus, Holy Spirit”; “Food, home, friends, family, mom, dad, land, bed, nose, eyes, talent”; “Fortnite.”

I think you are getting the point.  In every one of the specific areas we mentioned, and in the last general category, we see that we have every reason to be filled to our ears thankful every day of our lives.  First and foremost, we have a Savior.  We have a place in God’s family, having been welcomed into it in baptism. We have complete and total forgiveness.  And we have the certainty that a home in heaven awaits us because of Jesus’ work.

And all those truths make us even more thankful as we face hardships.  We lose a loved one, but we know our Savior welcomed them home.  We have some issue or problem, but the Lord who showed his mercy at the cross showed it again and saw us through.  We were low, down, blue if not depressed, but the Lord picked us up with a reminder of who we are in Christ and by blessing us with faithful Christian family and friends.  And the Lord who put us on the path to life will keep us on that path until we reach its end.  

Be it big stuff, little stuff, or anything in between, it is a gift from God.  It is a blessing from him that we don’t deserve.  And it is something for which, we pray, thanks will flow from our mouths, our hearts, and our souls.  And when we close our prayers of thanks, remember and rejoice over one more verse from our psalmist.  “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”  Indeed he has. Indeed he is. Indeed he will.  May that truth guide us tomorrow and our whole lives through.  Amen.