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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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"The Power Of Thankfulness"

"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?'" (Luke 17:15-17).

My mother quoted an etiquette poem to her children frequently, as we were growing up, hoping we would practice good manners not just as children but as we entered adulthood.  She later shared this poem with her grandchildren as well.

Perhaps some of you have heard it. "Hearts, like doors, swing wide with ease to very, very tiny keys, and don't forget, that two of these are "Thank you, sir" and "If you please." The poem was so embedded in her memory that she couldn't resist sharing it with young children who'd visit our home, even to the last year of her life at 84 years of age!

There's a lot of truth to Mom's lessons, but where did she get the original teaching that their children should learn to be thankful?  Its origin comes right from the Bible:  "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit Paul expresses the importance of having a spirit of thanksgiving not just once a year, celebrated with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, but every day and in everything.  It's not giving thanks if, but giving thanks in.  We're to be thankful even in the difficult circumstances of life and look for those things in which we can give thanks, since this is God's will for our lives.

Jesus Himself taught the importance of being a thankful people.  One day on his way to Jerusalem he entered a certain village where ten men with leprosy stood at a distance. Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease and at that time many thought that those who had it were under a curse. Lepers were covered with ulcers; their bodies often disfigured and many were blinded from the dreaded disease. They also emitted a foul smell due to their open sores and were considered unclean along with their clothing and house.

Generally relegated to the outskirts of town they became outcasts; out of other's view and touch.  But should a passerby be nearby the leper was required to speak up with this warning, "Unclean!  Unclean!"  Can you imagine how it would feel to verbally declare oneself to be "Unclean!" to strangers or friends in addition to the obvious discomfort, loss, and isolation associated with leprosy. When we get sick we desire others to pamper us with extra TLC, a sympathizing shoulder, and medical expertise. Instead the lepers' admission of "Unclean" drove people away.

On this particular day the ten lepers lifted their voices and rather than cry out, "Unclean" they called out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"  Interestingly, Jesus didn't respond to the lepers with a healing message such as "Be healed" or "Your faith has made you whole" as He did in many other miraculous healings.

Instead he told them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." Scripture does not indicate that there was a physical change in their appearance at that point, so it required faith for these men to head in the direction of the temple where they could show themselves to the priest to be declared "clean".  I can't help but wonder how far they walked before the healing took place, but then I realize that's not the point of this story.

The teaching point is that only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus to offer his heartfelt thanks after being declared "clean" by the priest.  Interestingly Jesus highlighted the fact that the one from whom His listeners might least expect humility and gratitude was the Samaritan who was despised by the Jews. Perhaps their mothers didn't adequately teach them how to show appreciation.  Or did they forget because they were so excited about their cleansing that they immediately returned to their families and communities, got involved in all they had missed out on, and simply forgot to return thanks to the very One who made it all possible.

There are many excuses we could come up with if we think on it for awhile.  But more importantly Jesus teaches us that He is pleased when we remember to express thankfulness and acknowledge where our blessings come from.  He showers them upon us hour by hour and He also uses other people to bring blessing to our lives.  It is important that we remember where our blessings come from and to express thanksgiving for them regularly. Let us be a thankful people!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, in thanksgiving we praise You for the first bright light of morning to the last warm glow of dusk.  Every breath that we take is sacred, for it is Your gift to us.  In the season of our plenty and in the season of our need we find Your grace sufficient, for we find Your love complete.  Safe within Your hand You guide us, hiding us in Your healing wings. Day by day Your love provides us every good and perfect thing.  We thank You for it all.  Amen.

(Prayer adapted from the Hymn, "In Thanksgiving, Let Us Praise Him")

Here is a suggested Bible Study we developed from today's message suitable either for small groups, family gatherings or individual study.

1.  Read Luke 17:11-19

2.  When the lepers spotted Jesus what did they do?  Do you think they were looking for Him?

3.  List five possible excuses that the nine lepers might have used when confronted with the question, "Why didn't you return to Jesus and thank Him for your healing?"

Note: Several years ago we shared a daily encouragement message using this text and listed nine possible excuses!

4.  In what ways do you identify with the nine lepers who forgot to give thanks?

5.  In what way do you identify with the Samaritan who returned to give thanks?

6. What was his attitude when he approached Jesus?

7. What was significant about his being a Samaritan?

8.  List other attitudes that lead to a thankful spirit:

9.  Share with the study group at least one thing for which you are thankful (in addition to the typical answer such as food, your house, your family, etc.).

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Highly Recommended! On searching for music related to today's message I found this very interesting video that really puts things in perspective. It's a little early for the Christmas song background but it also has a very powerful Thanksgiving message.

"Thanksgiving Medley"  Video

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video

"Let Your Heart Be Broken"  Video  

"Count Your Blessings"  Video

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
(We'll be posting these resources through Thanksgiving.)

"Thankful For The Thorns":
A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table (printable webpage) The Thanksgiving celebration includes family coming together along with the turkey and trimmings. Often there's a lot of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in the link below.  
A Thanksgiving family exercise - We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal. (pdf) Perhaps you could just use it as a discussion guide to provide stimulus for other's reflections.

A Thanksgiving prayer: (written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago.)  Webpage  For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony: This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)

Resources used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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