I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
By Walter Rauschenbusch, 19th-20th century theologian
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our new series walking through the New Testament book of Ephesians, entitled “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity.” This weekend, I continued with the second half of chapter 1, which offers us a “Crash Course in Knowing Christ.” This is really a prayer of Paul that unfolds for us how prayer in gratitude, intercession, and worship helps us know Christ more fully in our lives.
You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.
Many of us make resolutions for growth and change in the New Year. Unfortunately, statistics show that most of these resolutions do not hold for long or really make much long-term change. I believe this is in large part because we do not include the Living God in this process of resolution, and also because we do not let our resolutions penetrate deep enough into our vision for the year and the transformation of our will. The following series of questions are intended as a tool for reflection upon the previous year and resolution into the coming year.
What am I most thankful for from the past year (5-10 items)?
How have I most seen God at work in me or around me this past year (3-7 items)?
Who am I closest to in my life and how has that proved true this past year (2-3 items)?
In what ways am I experiencing a lack of resolution from this past year in my personal life, my relationships, my endeavors, or my life with God (2-3 items)?
What must I confess to God or repent over from this past year (2-3 items)?
Gather all these responses up in prayer before God, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.
What am I most looking forward to in this coming year (5-10 items)?
What do I sense are my greatest desires or needs for growth with God this year (2-3 items)? What are the practical means by which I will pursue that growth daily, weekly, or monthly?
Who do I want to become this new year?
What must I let go of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?
What must I grab ahold of in order to grow in this way (2-3 items)?
How are my relationships helping or hindering my growth with God or my development as a person (2-3 items)?
What relationships must I prioritize and how will I practically do this daily, weekly, and monthly in this coming year?
In what ways do I sense God is inviting me to serve Him by serving others this year (3-7 items)
How will I do that practically on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
Gather these responses up in prayer before God, trusting His providence for your life, relinquishing control of your life, and yielding your will actively to the Holy Spirit for strengthening. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.
Every year in the US, we mark out a day to reflect gratitude for life and what we have. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the few culturally meaningful moments that still exist in our country. In this time, as a nation we actually take time out from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy the goodness of life. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving Day can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a powerful moment in our country’s experience.
As Christians, Thanksgiving Day takes on even greater significance because of our relationship with the Living God through Christ Jesus. The wonder of the life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Today, we want to come alive with thankfulness.
Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:
I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
For all the animals of the forest are Mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:8-10, NLT)
God is familiar with all the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the Israelites, but He is looking for something else. And here is what it is:
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. (50:14, NLT)
Thankfulness brings life to us. When we make our lives an altar where gratitude rises up to God like a sacrifice, He is pleased. At the same time, offering thanks back to God for who He is and all He has done brings life to us. Thanksgiving brings life to our souls because when we voice our thanks we are forced to reflect on all His goodness toward us. Thankfulness draw us closer to God.
At that same time, we may soon realize in life that thankfulness is not – or at least should not be – limited by our circumstances. Circumstances change with seasons and times of our lives, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. Yet God, in all His unchanging faithfulness, never alters in His work in us and goodness toward us. So as Paul urged one early group of believers that they – and we – can learn the way to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Today, why not come to life with God by offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving? You might even want to stop for ten or fifteen minutes right now to thank God for all He has done, for all He has given, and for all the things You may not even know that He is doing right now in Your life.
Each year at Eastbrook Church, we designate the offering for our Thanksgiving Day service to help international partners who are in the midst of challenges or have a pressing need. This year’s offering focuses on two wonderful ministries in Africa. If you haven’t had the chance to contribute to this year’s Thanksgiving offering, you can do so during worship services or online by designating your gift to the “Thanksgiving Fund”.
Rev. Francis Omondi has been a long-time friend of Eastbrook, and we are partners with his mission organization reaching out with the Gospel along the Kenyan border with Somalia. A few weeks ago, we were asked to join him in prayer for his field workers in Kiunga. They had received regular threats on their lives from Al-Shabab. Each night, stones were thrown at their homes from sunset and continuing into the night. Al-Shabab then destroyed the area’s cell towers and placed mines on the only roads to the area. They were preparing for a final attack.
As a result, Sheepfold, with the help of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, evacuated their workers on November 1st. Part of this year’s Thanksgiving offering will be used to support these workers and their families during this difficult time of being displaced from their homes.
Our friends at the Congo Initiative provide education for the future leaders of the church as well as for the development and public sectors in Congo. Their main location is located in Beni, which is also ground zero for the current Ebola outbreak. In this instability, local militias have moved in and made the main campus unsafe for classes. As a result, part of this year’s Thanksgiving offering will pay for the rent needed to move the college to a safer temporary location in Beni to continue this year’s classes.