Worship – Thanking God for All His Blessings!

WORSHIP                 HONORING GOD BY SAYING THANKS!

Zeroing in on our Beliefs.  What do you believe?  Why do you believe it?  How do your beliefs – guide and empower your life?

This morning – as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Encourage you to ask – What do I Believe about Worship?  The word Worship comes from an old English term = Worth-Ship.  What Worth-Ship means is that God is Worth our Time and Attention.  God is Worth our Praise and Gratitude.

To help us consider if God is worthy of our praise and gratitude, and our time and attention – we’re going to turn to two people.  We’re going to turn to the Pilgrims about 400 years ago and to a member of our church today, who some of you have had the privilege of getting to know, Josh Minnick.

We’ll start with the Pilgrims – and then I’ll ask Josh a few questions about how God has helped to guide his life.

Pilgrims:  God is worthy of our praise.  God led us to the new world.  God provided for us.  Start with introduction.  How I met Josh in Jail ministry.  Turnaround in his life – decision to keep thanking God.

Would like to share a few thoughts about each of these scriptures – and then ask Josh to share his experience of these truths from the Bible.

  1. Showing Our Appreciation to God

The Bible teaches us that it is important to take time at least once a week to stop everything else we are doing and give our full attention to God.  Christians are encouraged to set aside everything else and go to church to show God that we appreciate all that God has done for us and to help each other to keep growing in the abundant and eternal life God has planned and prepared for us.

Unfortunately, for a lot of Christians around the world – it seems to be getting harder and harder to believe that it is worth the time and effort to take an hour a week to go to church and say thank you to God.  A 2005 study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion found that even though about 85% of the people in the USA say that they are Christians – only about 22% of Americans attend church services weekly.  This compares to other countries with a Christian heritage of 15% of French citizens, 10% of UK citizens,  8.8% of Australian citizens and 5.6% of Dutch citizens.[15]  The lowest church attendance in a country with a Christian heritage – is Russia where weekly church attendance is approximately 2%.

The Pilgrims had a very different view from a lot of people who claim to be Christians today.  The Pilgrims had no problem at all taking time to stop everything and show God that they definitely appreciated all of the blessings God had given them.   People in our society tend to take God for granted – I’ve got food in the refrigerator and money in the bank – so I’ll talk to God when I think I need Him, otherwise I’ll take care of myself.  The Pilgrims knew how much they needed God.

They came through an incredibly difficult passage on the Mayflower – where over half the passengers died.  They knew that they needed all of the help they could get to survive in a new land.  Even though their lives were a lot more difficult than our lives – they were much more appreciative than the average American – for everything God had done for them.

Difficulties they came out of.

Struggles they endured to make it to America.

Number who died.

Power of appreciating God leading them through trials and tribulations.

September 1620.  102 passengers started, 40 Separatists or Saints.  Mayflower and Speedwell.  Speedwell leaked – had to shove everyone on to the Mayflower.  Late start.  Two months at sea – during the storm season.  So rough – most of the passengers sick the whole time.  One passenger was swept overboard and lost at sea.  Out of those 102 passengers only 53 passengers and half the crew survived, living onboard the Mayflower. (The Mayflower sailed back to England in April 1621.)

Psalm 95:1-7 (NLT)    Come, let us sing to the LORD!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come to God with thanksgiving!  Let us sing psalms of praise to Him.  …Come, let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for He is our God.  We are the people He watches over, the flock under His care.  

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT)    In spite of all of our problems, overwhelming victory is ours through Jesus Christ, Who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To help us grow in our appreciation of God – and realizing that it is indeed worth the time and effort to stop and say Thank You to God – I asked Josh if he would share some of the journey that God has led him on.  I’ll give a brief background and invite Josh to share his testimony.  Tom Johnston and I first met Josh just over a year ago at the class we teach at the Ontario County Jail.  Josh was always at our classes every week – and he was always very excited to have an opportunity to grow in his faith.

So I wanted to ask Josh this morning – why is it worth the time and effort it takes you to stop and say Thank You to God?

  • What helps you to stop and say THANK YOU to God?
  1. Working Together to Build the Community of Faith and Love that God wants for Us.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to remind ourselves of why it is important to stop and say Thank You to God.  It is also a great opportunity to stop and appreciate how God brings people into our lives to help us – and why Jesus prays that we would keep working together to build the community of faith and love that God wants for us.

Recently, we have had some political leaders declaring that the best way to live is to focus on self-interest.  I look after my interests and you look after your interests.  It’s supposedly no longer important to care about the needs and interests of others.

The Pilgrims definitely appreciated the importance of God having a different plan than self-interest.  Instead of focusing on self-interest – God’s plan is to work together to build a positive community.  The Pilgrims knew that if Samoset and the Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe had only cared about their own self-interests and told the Pilgrims to just go and take care of themselves – all of the Pilgrims would have died.

 

Instead, the Wampanoags taught the Pilgrims how to hunt, how to gather shellfish, grow corn, beans, and squash.  At the end of the next summer when they had their first harvest – the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoags to join them for a three day festival of giving thanks.  300 years later – we still celebrate that festival of giving thanks.

Once they moved ashore, the colonists faced even more challenges. During their first winter in America, more than half of the Plymouth colonists died from malnutrition, disease and exposure to the harsh New England weather. In fact, without the help of the area’s native people, it is likely that none of the colonists would have survived.

An English-speaking Pawtuxet named Samoset helped the colonists form an alliance with the local Wampanoags, who taught them how to hunt local animals, gather shellfish and grow corn, beans and squash. At the end of the next summer, the Plymouth colonists celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day festival of thanksgiving. We still commemorate this feast today.

John 17:20-23 (NLT)    Jesus said, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are One. May they be united in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me.  …May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.

Josh – I know that you have seen the difference between people fighting against each other – and people working together to help each other.

 

Question for Josh:

  • What helps Christians work with others to build the Unity God wants for all people?

 

  • How have you experienced the difference – between people fighting against each other – compared to people helping each other – working together?
  • What do you believe helps our church and other Christians to work together to build the unity Jesus wants for us?
  1. Wake Up Every Morning – Seeking to Give God Our Best!

The Pilgrims on the Mayflower were convinced that they and their descendants had been specially chosen by God to act as a beacon for Christians around the world.  William Bradford, the first Governor of the Plymouth Colony wrote, “As one small candle may light a thousand, so we pray that the light here kindled for Christ will shine to many, yea in some sort to our whole nation and our whole world.”

The Bible reminds us that the vision God gave the Pilgrims to be a light to the world – is the same vision that God wants to help grow in each of our lives.

Read with me:    Romans 12:1 (NLT/MSG)   Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your best to God everyday as your offering.  Giving thanks to God by living a holy life is the best way to worship Him.  

Question For Josh:

  • What gives you the strength – to wake up in the morning – and say to yourself, I’m going to give God my very best today!?

As you prepare to celebrate your own Thanksgiving feast this week – I want to encourage you to take some time to think carefully about your beliefs of worship.  Why is it worth your time and effort to Show Your Appreciation to God?  Work on building the Community of Love God wants for us?  Wake up every morning – determined to give God your very best?

Read with me:    Colossians 3:15-17 (NLT)    Always be thankful!  Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.  Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom Jesus gives. Worship with psalms and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Jesus to God the Father.

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