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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amish cart (Photo by Debra Zimmerman)
Lancaster County Amish farmwork taken from a hot air balloon.
Photo by Debra Zimmerman 
(Used by permission)
See this photo for zoom-out context.

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"What's Your Excuse?"

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  (Luke 17:15-17).

Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left one million dollars to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million. How's that for a grateful heart? (Now a million dollars is still a lot today but can you imagine how much more it would have been worth when Andrew Carnegie died in 1919!) Carnegie's ungrateful relative reflects the attitude of far too many, not only in our day but throughout the centuries.  Let's review a story that Jesus told regarding ten lepers.

One returned to give thanksJesus often asked questions to get His audience to probe their own minds before he would launch into an important teaching. Settings where teachers set up their lesson by first asking thought provoking questions always stimulates my own thinking and it helps me to assess the crowd that has gathered. In Jesus' teaching from Luke 17:11-19 He had healed ten lepers but only one, a Samaritan, returned to give Him thanks.  This brief Scripture passage certainly drives home a hard hitting message, but it also stirs one's imagination for all that was not said.

I've wondered what excuses the other nine might have had in failing to return to give Jesus thanks. Of course the text does not tell us and we can't be absolutely certain, but let us consider nine possible excuses they might have used. Notice they are all pertinent to our day as well!

1)  One was too busy. Surely their disability had resulted in a lot of work that needed done. (Self-importance)
2)  One forgot. (Ingratitude)
3)  One was planning to do it later. He reasoned that he would eventually get back to thank Jesus... sometime. (Procrastination)
4)  One thought somebody else would do it. Perhaps he saw the one returning and thought "he will speak for all of us". God does not accept vicarious praise. "Let everything that hath breath…"  (Lazy)
5)  One wanted to see if the healing would last. He looked and thought this is wonderful but let's see if it comes back before I do any thanking. (Skeptical)
6)  One had a religious prejudice. Perhaps he didn't want to even be associated with the Samaritan (Superiority)
7)  One thought it really didn't matter. (Thoughtless)
8) One thought "I still have a lot of other problems." Like many he saw the glass half empty. Indeed on this side whatever God may do for us we very likely have or will have other problems. (Negative)
9)  One thought "I don't want to bother Him." Scripture is abundant in calls to thank, praise and glorify God. We never bother Him in calls to be obedient! (Inferiority) 

What's your excuse for not returning thanks to God?

Four great truths could be derived from this message:
1) Thankfulness is an act of the will. This man made the decision to return and offer thanks. "Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back." We need to make a decision that we will be thankful and act upon it.

2) Thankfulness matters to God. It brings glory to God. The man "returned to give glory to God."  The Westminster Catechism states, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." We can be assured Scripturally that as we thank God we also glorify Him. "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me" (Psalm 50:23).

3) Thankfulness is an excellent expression of faith. "And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'"  This part of the text somewhat puzzles me. Apparently the Lord had seen faith in the demonstration of desperation in the ten lepers when they had cried out in a loud voice: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Now Jesus is commending that faith.  Chuck Swindoll notes, "Faith believes in advance what will only make sense in reverse."

4) Thankfulness is an excellent testimony. Consider that this story made it into the record of Holy Scripture because this man was thankful!  As we live a life of thankfulness we also present a good testimony.

Today let's not make excuses in being unthankful to God or others. Will we be like the one who returned to give thanks or like the other nine?

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we want to bless You at all times allowing praises to spring from our hearts and express themselves in our words and actions.  We magnify Your name and exalt You, Almighty God, for You are our great Deliverer.  As we celebrate our thanks to You we tell of Your mighty power and miracles in our lives. We teach these to our children so the next generation might know them, even the children not yet born, that they in turn might teach their children. We want each generation to set their hopes anew on God, remembering His glorious and miraculous provisions, as they turn their hearts toward You. Thank You, Father, for everything!  For apart from You we have nothing!  Amen.
(Prayer inspired by Psalm 78:5-8)

"Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?"
What we may infer from this is that the others who failed to return to offer thanks must all have been locals (Jews)!

Additional thought from Bible commentator Brian Bell's study notes on this passage:
  • How grateful the men should have been for the providence of God that brought Jesus into their area.
  • How grateful the men should have been for the love that caused Him to pay attention to them and their need.
  • How grateful the men should have been for the grace and power of God that brought about their healing.

Brent with JK installing ductwork 11/22/11"Brent The Tool Man"

We are having some extensive work done on our home's HVAC with a new heat pump. Ductwork needs to be routed throughout our home
since our home has not had ducts. It's quite a job for the crew working on it since they have to get into our attic and snake ductwork throughout the house, including through closets to get to lower levels. But they are doing so with diligence and a good attitude. Brent is showing off his skills in handling power tools!

We have been using a coal stove for primary heat (which we will continue to use as a supplement and for the ambiance in our family room) and several window A/C's for cooling (which we will no longer need) so we are looking forward to this improvement!

Today's Suggested M
usic and Supplemental Resources

Today we want to share music with a theme of Thankfulness which we will add to this collection through the week and leave up through Thursday.

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Acapella

"Thank You Lord"
 Video  Don Moen  

"I Thank God"
 Video  Rhema Marvanne  An eight year old girl who has a very nice, mature voice.  Her family are people of faith, and sadly, her mother passed away two years ago.

"In Everything Give Thanks"
 Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter

 Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

"I Want To Thank You"
 Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

"Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me"  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

"Thanksgiving Medley"  Video  Nice selection of grand old thanksgiving hymns.

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video  Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"Come We Thankful People Come"  Video  
Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"I'm Forever Grateful"  Video  Willow Creek

"Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart"  Video  Don Moen

"When I Thank Him For What He Has Done"  Video  The Cathedrals

Today's photo was take by Debra Zimmerman, daughter of our friends Cerwin and Doris High. More photos from this balloon collection are on Doris High's photoblog site.

A highly recommended read:

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don't like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life's transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well.

Special Thanksgiving Resources

We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through this Thanksgiving Day here in the US (Thursday, November 24).

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented 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"
(printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

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. (printable 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.)

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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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