“O Give Thanks to the Lord!” -- Psalms 8:1-9:1-2. Preached at ECLG and Be The Message 11.23.14
Intro: For what are you grateful? For what should you give thanks to the Lord this Thanksgiving season? List in your order of service later today. For now, I want to give you seven things for which every Christian can be overwhelmingly grateful! I am grateful for . . .
1. Life (v. 2a): To be born is a tremendous blessing! In the LBHA area of 31 southern Los Angeles County cities, of approximately 3 million people, 39 people die every day on average. Why is it that we take life for granted? The window-cleaners on the new World Trade Tower bldg in New York (69 stories up, their platform broke and they dangled by one end for over two hours), and the window-cleaner in San Francisco (screaming as he fell 11 stories, and hit a moving car, but survived so far, he is in critical condition in a hospital). Those mornings when they got up, they had no idea that their lives would be hanging by a thread! If I had been one of the first two, I would have been puking my brains out for two hours, waiting to be rescued! Your life is a very precious commodity!
2. Along with life, is a modicum of health: Dr. Cox and I have a good friend, a fellow pastor, Rev. Walter Carter, who has an interesting word he uses in his prayers: He says, “Lord, we thank You for the modicum of health that You have given us today.” What is a modicum? It means, ‘a certain portion.’ No one has perfect health; our bodies are waging a constant war against illness and injury. Every bit of health that you have is a gift from God. Don’t take it for granted! Use your health to live your life to the fullest! But don’t live for thrills! E.g., thrill-seekers who rish their lives to jump off buildings, bridges, and other high places. This is called BASE jumping. Why do they do it? For the thrill of falling. It is an adrenaline rush. E.g., several years ago, and against the law, five people planned to BASE-jump, and parachute off El Capita, the half-dome in Yosemite National Park. The first two jumpers made it; their parachutes opened. The third, a young woman in her mid-20s, did not. Her fiance, who was going to jump after her, watched as her parachute and her back-up parachute did not open. He watched her die when she hit the trees below. Have you ever seen what a paper shedder does to paper? Her body was literally shredded by the tree limbs. Do not risk your life, or your health, for thrills! That includes alcohol, drugs, drag-racing, skate-boarding in the streets, and many other things! Don’t do it!
3. People who love me: Do you doubt that people love you? I remember when I was a kid, I was scared that my parents did not love me, because of the ways they disciplined me. Now I know they did love me, because they cared about how I behaved! If you don’t love someone, you don’t care what they do or how they act! Kids, the people who tell you how to behave care about you! The same is true of God, who also tells us how to act! He loves us! It is not that He doesn’t want us to have fun or happiness. In fact, He does. That is why He tells us how to behave! Have you heard about the cat who accidently sat on a hot stove? He will never sit on another one! But neither will he sit on anything that looks like a stove, too. People who love us discipline us because they care about us! They want us to not do what will hurt us!
4. Salvation & forgiveness of sin (v. 2b): Our enemy is the devil. He hates God, but he cannot touch Him. So instead he hates us, who are created in the image of God, and does everything he is allowed to do to destroy us! Jesus said that the enemy comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy! That is him and us! Remember I said that in our LBHA area 39 people die every day? Of the 39, 37 are not saved. They die without Christ. E.g., the Muslim mosque and the Vietnamese Buddhist temple I toured two weeks ago. She said that Mommandom said that he needed forgivenss, too. The endless chanting, bell-ringin, and incense-burning, all to get forgiveness, but they never have any assurance of forgiveness, of whether they have done enough to become a Buddha themselves. You and I have full forgiveness, full salvation--not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus has done! He paid it all, all to Him I owe!
5. Authority (vv. 3-5): The word for God/angels in v. 5 is the same word used for God in other Bible passages--Elohim. We were not created lower than the angels, because then we would be lower than the devil, who is a fallen angel. We were not created to be lower than him, but higher! That is one reason he hates us! The apostle Paul says in the Bible that we will someday judge the angels! When Jesus sent out the 70, He gave them authority. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, He also gave us the authority to fulfill them both. We have all kinds of authority against the enemy, but most Christians have never realized it! Let me make a very bold statement: The Christian who is working to do the will of Jesus in his/her life will never die, until that work is done! E.g., Moses lived to be 120 years old, because he was doing the work that God planned for him to do. But if you refuse to do the will of Jesus, why should He keep you around? I have a strange prayer that I pray: Lord, give me the years that other people are wasting! Give me the years they are wasting, so I can have extra years to do the work that needs to be done to bring lost people to know you as their personal Lord and Savior! You see, my job is to make sure people go to heaven, and not to hell. Guess what? That is your job, too, IF you are a Christian! And you and I have the authority to do whatever it takes to share Jesus with lost people around us, not hatefully, but lovingly!
6. Work to do for Him (v. 6-8): God has work for every person to do here on earth. And He will have work for us to do in the world to come! Some people think that we will sit around on clouds and spent eternity playing harps! In a pig’s eye! We will have work, important work, to do there! There is an entire universe out there to cultivate, to work, to develop, to bring to completion! I have two things I have asked God to allow me to do in the world to come: First, be a galactic architect: to design galaxies and worlds that will be beautiful, useful, and give honor to Jesus Christ my Savior. And second, to be used by Him to heal the hurts of all the little ones, all the children, who were abused in this world. Some may say that that kind of healing will take place automatically and instantly. Maybe so, but maybe not. Sometimes the healing God wants to do takes time. If the healing takes time in the world to come, I want to be a person there who will hold and hug and heal every little girl, every little boy, who was hurt during the centuries of this world. And if God grants me that, my two requests may be combined. Do you see something wrong with the world in which we now live? Could it be that the reason that God has allowed you to see that wrong is that He wants YOU to do something about it?!! I heard someone complain about something one time, something serious. They said, “I don’t understand why God doesn’t do something about that!” Their friend was standing by him and heard what he said. He said, “God did. He showed me and you the problem, and He wants us to find the solution!” You and I have important work to do, here and now! DO IT!
7. Joy and laughter (v. 9:1-2): Can you hear the joy in those verses? Happiness is over-rated. There are more important things than happiness. Happiness is dependent upon our circumstances. When our circum-stances are good, we are happy. When our circumstances are had, we are unhappy. But joy is not dependent upon circumstances. Joy is dependent on the presence and the promises of God. E.g., Joni Eareckson Tata is joyful, even though she is a quadriplegic, who has not walked since a swimming accident in her late teens. She wrote to the girl in Washington state who committed suicide, telling her she was missing out on what God had for her. Remember I said that God has work for each of us to do? When we do the work that God has planned for us to do, it is FUN! It is JOYFUL! When we do the work of God, we feel the joy of the Lord! Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!” Wow! #1, it is fully possible to delight ourselves in the Lord, and #2, when we do, He will fulfill the desires of our hearts! Wow! What a promise from God! Hot-diggity dog! I tell you truly, I am having a ball doing the work that God has given me to do! I love it! You can, too.
Conclusion: You and I have every right to be thankful, to be grateful to God! We have every right to rejoice and be glad before the Lord! O, give thanks to the Lord, for HE IS GOOD!