Good morning everyone.  I pray that you have all had a blessed week.  Thank you for coming today.  I know that the Lord is blessed to see you in His house today.  I know it could be so easy to take this morning off just to sleep in because of what you know lies before you in the coming week of Thanksgiving.  However, I know that the Lord loves those who put Him before anything else, including Thanksgiving or our need for sleep.  That being said, I know that this week is special in its own way, and within the context of what we are about to entertain as families and children of God, it is always best to understand what is God’s perspective to thanksgiving.

So this week, I am sure that there will be many ladies and some men who will probably wake up a little early on Thursday to start the grand tradition of preparing the Thanksgiving feast.  You will probably wake up just a little tired, with perhaps a lack of excitement to begin the joy of cooking.  For some of you there may be some excitement as you begin the course of trying out a new recipe on your family, hoping that they will enjoy it, not giving the look of disappointment as they put that first spoonful into their mouth.  For others of you here, Thanksgiving may entail waking up a little late, because you don’t have to go to work only to smell the sweet aromas of the turkey and pumpkin pie wafting through your bedroom.  Yet others may begrudgingly be waking up early to put the kids into the car so that you can fight with the traffic to get to your family.

Finally, after all the preparations, the turkeys, the pumpkin pies, the driving through the mad highways, at the end of the day, having laughed with our families, having maybe fought with our families, maybe even cried with our families.  We may all sit down at the end of the day with our bellies full to watch a football game or a movie, all the whilst saying, “man that was a good thanksgiving”.  Some of you may even top off your Thanksgiving by going out shopping at the stroke of midnight just so that you can get an extra discount on an item that you would not normal get.  However, knowing all this and much else to how our thanksgiving will go, is this what our thanksgiving should be about.   Not even considering the scriptural implications, was this the foundation for which thanksgiving was founded upon.  As an individual from South Africa, I can tell you that we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa, so when my family and I came to America, this holiday quickly became one of my favorites next to the likings of Christmas and New Years.  So the question for all of us today is; how can I get more out of my thanksgiving?  What are the critical elements to living a life of thanksgiving?  Is it by eating more turkey or pie?  Probably not, because you will only regret it the next day.  Is it by sleeping in a little longer on Thursday?  Probably not, because then you will miss out on a day that was meant for giving thanks.  Is it by getting the extra 10% off on that the DVD you were hoping for Christmas?  Definitely not, although it’s great to get good deals, it is not there that our thanksgiving should be founded upon.   Today we are going to discuss where the substance of our thanksgiving should be found as children of the kingdom.  As we embrace this thanksgiving where should the foundation of thanksgiving be founded in all the aspects of what our thanksgiving will look like. So turn with me to the book of Psalms.

Scripture – Psalms 100 (NASB)

A Psalm for Thanksgiving.

1 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

3 Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

5 For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.

Engaging the Word

This Psalm is entitled in the Hebrew as mizmor lethodah, not “A Psalm of Praise,” as we have it, but “A Psalm for the confession, or for the confession-offering,”.  It would be better translated as “Praise for the sacrifice (or offering) of confession.” The Arabic attributes this Psalm to David. This Psalms has been aligned with Joshua, when he had ended the war with the Ammonites.  So, knowing this It is likely that it was composed after the captivity, as a form of thanksgiving to God for that great deliverance, as well as an invitation to the people to consecrate themselves to our Lord through thanksgiving in worship.  However, as it relates to us in today’s context, this passage of scripture speaks to the truth of the new covenant in our conversion and the thanksgiving we are called to embrace as believers.

Thanksgiving in the Love of God

In an effort to bring to light what our Lord has given us, I have decided to structure todays sermon by giving you the elements to which we are called to find out thanksgiving and then close off the foundation for which these elements are built upon as believers.  The first element that we are going to briefly discuss today is that of “love of God”.  This element or characteristic of our father is a critical element of who our Lord is but is not his only character.  Here in this passage we see in verse 5 that our Lord is good and that his lovingkindness and faithfulness is everlasting.  For many of us this truth has been fleeting during periods of our lives, where we have felt that we are never good enough for our Savior.  However, it is important for us as believers to come to this understanding because we will never be good enough for God on our own.  Only the lovingkindness of our Lord can reach down into our sinful ways and restore us to the holy state for which we are called as believers.  You see it is not a matter of believing that you good enough for God, it is a matter of believing that you are good enough for God through Jesus Christ.  Last week, I briefly spoke to you about the substance of our Lord sending his one and only son to die for a sinner like me.  We discussed how it is easy for us to perhaps grasp the gravity of Abraham sacrificing his son, but failing to grasp the significance of our Lord sacrificing his son.  Today, we need to understand that we have so much to be thankful for.  God’s grace upon Calvary was evidence of his very person.  God sent his one and only son, not because he had to but because it was an outpouring of who he is, through his lovingkindness and faithfulness to you and me.  As John put it in 1 John 4:8, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  We need to understand that as believers we are called to embrace the love of God, and we are called to be thankful for the love of our Lord.  That not only did our Lord send his one and only son to die once for all that we might be saved; but that he continues to save us as he intercedes for us in eternity.  As it says in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them”.  You see our Lord not only saved us from eternal damnation, but he continues to step in as our Savior as we continue to draw near to him.  The Love of our Lord didn’t just act once for us, but continues to act eternally because of who he is.  Today we have hope because of the love of God.  Tomorrow we have hope because of the love of God.  God’s love is who he is and if we are to truly embrace thanksgiving as a child of God, then we need to embrace the overwhelming magnitude of God’s love.

Thanksgiving in life

Next in this passage of scripture we see our Lord calls us to be thankful for the life that he has given us.  For many of you, you may be saying; well pastor I am thankful for the life I have been given.  In verse 3 it says that He has made us and not we ourselves.  Let’s be honest with ourselves here, just for a moment.  When we are having a bad day, are we still giving thanks then?  When we are going through a rough time in our lives, our family’s life or a rough time at work, do we still give thanks then?  In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Notice that in this scripture it doesn’t say to give thanks only when times are going well.  It doesn’t say give thanks when you have everything in life that you feel that you deserve.  It says the we are give thanks in everything.  You may be asking yourself, how is this even possible.  Pastor Mark, you don’t know how tough my life has been.  You don’t know what I have gone through.  Yet in this scripture, there are no disqualifiers, there is just instruction from our Lord.  You see, unfortunately sometimes the perceptions of the world continue to filter into our way of thinking as believers.  We think that this life was purposed for us.  We think that this life was meant to serve our needs.  Yet in verse 3 of the passage we are studying today you see that our Lord has made us and not we ourselves.  So why would we think that as a creation of the almighty God that it is his purpose to serve us?  Anyone here like to do puzzles?  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time now days but in days gone by I enjoyed the process of building a puzzle.  Looking for the frame of the puzzle, the matching colors and the unique pieces where just the beginning elements of building a great puzzle.  After spending hours and hours of building a puzzle there is nothing like standing back and looking at the finish product.  There is such a sense of accomplishment.  You see I bring this illustration to light because we are like God’s puzzle.  We come in may colors, many shapes and many opportunities for realizing his glory as his creation.  Imagine what it would look like if after you and I finished, if the puzzle got off the table before us and started to tell us what its life should look like.  That it deserved to be treated as a portrait on your wall, a magnet on your refrigerator or a Picasso in one of the many San Francisco galleries.  We would probably look at that puzzle like it is stark graving mad and then put it back in its place.  So, it is with you and me as believers.  Sometimes as God’s puzzle we think that we deserve a certain way of life.  That we deserve to have certain things in life.  Yet God has made us, and not we ourselves.  If we are to understand the will of God and embrace what it means to be thankful as a Christian we are called to let him be our creator and be thankful for the life that he has laid before us.  It is in that we become his beautiful creation, embracing the fullness of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Thanksgiving in Service

A third element that we are called to embrace in thanksgiving is service.  In verse 2 of this passage we see that we are called to “serve” the Lord with gladness.  Another scripture that brings this text to light is found in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  This time of the year is really busy and too often we get caught up with the stuff of this life.   Yet it all we are called to life of service as believers.  No I am not going to make this into a sermon plea for you to get involved in some aspect of the church.  Although it is wonderful when the people of God see the work of God as a critical element of their journey as believers.  Rather this morning, I am going to focus more on the reason or understanding for why we serve the Lord as his servants.  In our service, whether you are the pastor, greeter, worship leader, usher, or serve during the week in the many opportunities God gives us, the condition of our heart should be founded in the presence of our Savior.  In Matthew 23:11 our Lord tells us that “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  You see our Lord came to serve and not be served and for us as believers we are called to a life of service so that we experience his presence as our Lord and Savior.  It is in serving that we can experience the presence of God in ways that we could never otherwise will.  Elements of God’s presence can only be experienced through service and when we embrace a servant’s heart not one focused on self, it is then that the presence of God can become so real in our lives.  As I have already mentioned to you in the past, there have been times when I have broken down in tears by the incredible holy presence of my Lord whilst I am preparing for a serving.  I know that I could never have experienced those moments with my Lord if I had not been down on my knees serving Him as he has called to me to.  So it can be for you as his children.  No you might not be preparing a sermon, but you can be that seed in the life of someone who needs to know the love of God.  Each of us can go to God seeking his face so that we can be that truth, that refreshing hope, that love that our loved ones, our friends, those individuals who come through our church door during the week.  You can have as close a moment with our Lord in whatever service you may be in as I do as your pastor.  It is in this, that you and I can find the thanksgiving for the service our Lord has given us.  If you have found your service to become tiresome, troubled, unmarked by His presence, our Lord wants to reveal to you his glory and it is in experiencing true thanksgiving that we can experience his purpose for our service.

In the Person of God

Lastly, I am going to close with the foundation for all these elements to be founded upon, thanksgiving in the person of God.  In verse 3 of this passage it calls us to “know that the Lord Himself is God” and in verse 4 we called to do this by “entering His Gates”.  What does it mean to enter the gates of our Lord?  In all the elements that we have discussed this morning, each of these elements, whether it is the love of God, the life that he has given us or the service that we are called into, none of these elements can be fully experienced unless we enter in His gates on a regular basis.  In 2 Corinthians it puts it this way, “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:15-16) You see it is through entering the presence of our Lord by studying His Word, by spending time in prayer, by worshiping Him in spirit and in truth that we can watch that the outer selves decay and the inner self be renewed by the presence of its creator.  Thanksgiving is looked upon by society as an important element that we all try to embrace, but few fully understand the fullness of God that is realized in the thanksgiving our Lord calls each of us to.  Our Lord desires to give you and me, the completeness, a fullness that can only be realized if we enter His gates on a daily basis.  Yes, entering the gates of our Creator is not always easy, sometimes we are overwhelmed by his holiness, sometime we struggle to place the things of this world aside so that we realize his truth.  But as it says in verse 3, it is through knowing the Lord God, that we can experience what it truly means to be thankful.

This week as you prepare for thanksgiving, I would challenge you to not just look at the stuff that you have but look at the substance for which God has given you.  Consider the substance of thanksgiving and what God as called us to as believers.