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Nov 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 17, 2019

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23

Intro: Growing up, in my hope, we gave thanks for every meal

My parents had us bow our heads and close our eyes
– if my brother tried to rat me out–“Chuck didn’t close his eyes!”
• Mom would ask him, “How do you know?”
– a prayer of thanks before eating is not a bad habit,
• so long as it is heartfelt

One year we were at my grandparents’ home for Thanksgiving. A football game played on their old black and white TV, but the volume was turned down when the time came for Dad’s prayer before dinner. Suddenly, in the middle of Dad’s prayer, Uncle Bill shouted, “Touchdown!” After the “Amen,” Grandpa told Bill, rather sternly, “Never interrupt a prayer!” Then he added, “Besides, there was a penalty on the play and the touchdown was called back.”

Last week I suggested November would be “Thanksgiving month”

Paul has a lot to say about giving thanks in his letters
– in fact, he sums up God’s will for us with these basic practices:
. . . always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:15-18)
• in our passage, Paul says something about not giving thanks
• he sees ingratitude as the beginning of a downward slide
◦ in fact, a sign of the last days is that people will be ungrateful (2 Tim. 3:2)
– the problem wasn’t that unbelievers did not know about God
• the universe reveals him–even his invisible attributes
◦ the problem was that knowing about God,
they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him
• for Paul, this is a serious spiritual malfunction
◦ one that sent society in the wrong direction
◦ he illustrates its downward spiral in a list of worldly vices that includes envy, murder, strife, deceit and maliciousness
◦ these are symptoms of the wrong turn taken by society

There may be a variety of reasons people are not thankful

Years ago, watching the Italian Westerns,
– it bothered me that Clint Eastwood never said ‘Thanks’
• not even when someone saved his life or shared food with him
– he was too cool, or tough, or independent for that
• he wasn’t a polite cowboy–he was a hired gun

Us ordinary people have different reasons for lacking gratitude
– there are some people who seem to feel entitled
• they deserve what is given them or done for them
• they don’t think to say “thank you” to people who get paid to wait on them or check their groceries
– then there are those who take credit for all they have
• why should they be grateful?
◦ didn’t they work hard for the comforts they enjoy?
• it doesn’t occur to them that no one who comes into this world
◦ is guaranteed health, strength, and energy
– other people don’t think they have any reason to be grateful
• they have experienced so much abuse,
◦ or so many losses, or so many illnesses, or failures,
◦ that being thankful doesn’t enter their minds
– I suppose there are people who have been left in the dark
• who never learned the social rhythm of “please” and “thank you”

Giving thanks is not just a courtesy–a proper and polite habit

Most of us learned to be polite when we were still small children
– but polite does not touch the heart of gratitude

It has been suggested, there are two movements to giving thanks
– in first movement we acknowledge God and what he’s done
• we thank him for ordinary blessings:
◦ food, shelter, good health, family
• and we thank him for extraordinary blessings:
◦ kindness and compassion, mercy, comfort in our sorrows
– the second movement is deeper and comes through reflection
• what kind of God is this,
◦ that shows me such kindness, compassion, and mercy?
• or, in the words of C. S. Lewis,
“One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

People who have spent much time thinking about gratitude tell us
– giving thanks wakes us up to our world and its many joys
(Ann Voskamp demonstrates this well in her book, One Thousand Gifts)
David Steindl-Rast who wrote, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
• in his introduction tells us this is a book about waking up
Rast, “We run the risk of sleeping through life, of never waking up at all. Or else we wakefully rise to the risk of life, facing the challenge of life, of love.”
C. S. Lewis, says that to praise and give thanks “is simply to be awake, to have entered the real world; not to appreciate [the Object admired] is to have lost the greatest experience, and in the end to have lost all.”
• when he first thought about praise as it appears in the Psalms,
he had thought “of it in terms of compliment, approval or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise . . . . I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.”
– what do we hear Paul saying about this?
• either you wake up and give thanks, and then wake up some more
• or you do not give thanks and you go blind
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (vv. 21-22)

I am going to run through this again
– the first movement of gratitude is noticing and saying thank you
• For instance, I’m walk the dog and hear a bird-song
◦ thoughts immediately come to mind:
◦ what kind of bird is that? where is it perched?
• there’s something more comes to me – not thought, but a feeling
◦ the pleasure of that song, or the sound of a wind chime or a wave breaking on the shore
◦ it is the pleasure I feel that prompts me to give thanks
– the second movement is turning my attention to the Source of that pleasure
• this is what the Psalms of nature are constantly doing
◦ looking from creation and creatures to their Creator
– I could miss all of this
• I have a busy day and I’m rushing to be on time
◦ I don’t notice beauty, so I don’t feel its joy, and I don’t give thanks
◦ I don’t wake up, because, “I’m too busy for that right now”
• if anything, I just put a label on every site and sound
◦ “Oh, a tree,” “a child,” “a sunset–that’s nice” — and I hurry on
◦ a heart not filled with thanks is frequently filled with anxiety

We can wake ourselves up by practice
– for instance, we can start giving thanks for little things
• even if the small grace is not a miracle or direct act of God
• merely a natural event – clear traffic on a busy morning
◦ Mom would give thanks for parking spaces near the entrance of a store

Conclusion: Jesus was once traveling between Samaria and Jerusalem

Entering one village, he heard voices shouting from a distance. Ten men, who because of their leprosy were not allowed to go near other people, where shouting to get his attention. When he looked in their direction, they begged him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” All Jesus did was speak a single sentence to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

According to the Law of Moses, if people with contagious skin conditions that had healed, they had to be examined by a priest to verify that they were “clean” and could re-enter society.

As the ten men hurried away, they sat that their skin had become clear. One of them came to a dead stop. He held out his arms and examined both of them. He looked back at Jesus, then looked at his arms again (okay, I’m embellishing this part of the story a little). He turned around and ran back to Jesus, “praising God” with that same loud voice he had used earlier to get Jesus’ attention. Falling on his face at Jesus’ feet, he began giving him thanks. (Lk. 17:11-19)
– Luke makes a point to tell us the one who gave thanks was a Samaritan
• Jesus remarked on this fact too
◦ and he wondered why he was the only one to give thanks
• then Jesus told the leper, your faith has made you well
– I believe the one who gave thanks received more from Jesus than the others
• all of them were cleansed and received their certificate or whatever
• but this one man was made well–translating the word that means saved
◦ it also means healthy, sound, or whole

Giving thanks takes us to a fuller spiritual experience of life,
of God’s love and grace
This does not mean we receive more love or grace,
but we perceive more
and perceiving more, we have a richer, fuller experience of it
Giving thanks is a pivot point in our daily relationship with God
In giving thanks,
we make a sharp turn in our day,
and find our way back to Jesus
We wake ourselves up to his presence
again and again

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