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Sermon of the Week 
Wednesday, November 18 2015

Creating A Culture Of Thanksgiving

We are truly Grateful for all that we have been blessed with at this Thanksgiving Season, and I pray that we might be the kind of Pilgrims who will create a Thanksgiving Culture that will invade the entire year....

I want to begin today, with a quick history lesson, by looking at Thanksgiving Customs in Other Cultures as well as our own… We usually think of Thanksgiving Day as a uniquely American and Canadian holiday, but there's actually a long tradition of harvest-time celebrations which are expressions of gratitude by diverse cultures, for a good harvest season.

Every autumn, the ancient Greeks enjoyed a three-day festival to honor Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.                                                                                                     The Romans had a similar celebration in which they honored­ Ceres, the goddess of corn (the word "cereal" is derived from her name). The Roman celebration included music, parades, games, sports and a feast, much like our modern Thanksgiving Day.                                                                                      

In fact, one of the most prominent Thanksgiving symbols, the cornucopia, actually dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) which comes from the Latin cornu copiae, which describes a "horn of plenty." In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is a severed goat's horn, created by Zeus and enchanted to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires. Thank God, we look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!

The ancient Chinese held a harvest festival called Chung Ch'ui to celebrate the harvest moon and give thanks. Families would get together for a feast, which included round yellow cakes called "moon cakes."

In the Jewish culture, families also celebrate a harvest festival, called Sukkot. This festival has been celebrated for 3,000 years by building a hut of branches called a Sukkot. Jewish families then eat their meals beneath the Sukkot under the night sky for eight days.                                                    

The ancient Egyptians participated in a harvest festival in honor of Manetho, the god of vegetation and fertility, which we now call the Sphinx. Parades, music and sports were a part of these festivities as well.

In the British Isles, the major harvest festival was called Lammas Day. Lammas is the Old English word for "loaf of bread". On Lammas Day, everyone would come to church with a loaf of bread made from the first of the wheat harvest. The church would bless the bread, in gratitude for that year's harvest.

In 1609, a group of Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England moved to Holland. They ­lived in Holland for a number of years until a group of English investors -- the Merchant Adventurers -- financed a trip for more than 100 passengers to the New World.

On Sept. 6, 1620, they set sail on a ship called the Mayflower, leaving from England and arriving in the New World after 65 days of rough and stormy ocean waters. They settled in a town they called Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims' first winter was so harsh that fewer than 50 people out of the group of 100, survived the season.

On March 16, 1621, nearly a year after arriving, an Abnaki Indian named Samoset entered the Plymouth settlement. He welcomed the Pilgrims in English, which he had learned from their efforts to Christianize them, and the next day returned with another American Indian named Squanto, who spoke English well.

With Squanto's help, the Pilgrims were able to survive in the New World. The indians taught them how to get sap out of the maple trees, how to avoid plants that were poisonous and how to plant corn and other crops. The harvest was very successful, due in large part to help from the American Indians. The Pilgrims had enough food for the winter and had learned how to survive in the New World.

Plymouth Colony's Governor, William Bradford, decided to throw a feast of celebration and invited the colony's American Indian neighbors to take part. The American Indians brought food as well, and the celebration lasted for three days. Theirs was not just a day of Thanksgiving that was celebrated but indeed they had begun a culture of thanksgiving, since there were so many challenges that they had to face in carving out a place in the New World. Our Thanksgiving day is connected to the English Puritan's practice of setting apart days of giving thanks unto God. These highly religious occasions have followed times of great difficulty and hardships which have been encountered throughout America’s turbulent history .                                                                                                               

In 1789, President George Washington called for a day of thanksgiving in recognition of the U.S. Constitution's ratification….He wrote…."Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November, to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the benevolent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."                                                                                         

Then, In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be the last day in November, in order to boost the sagging morale of the Union army, and after the Civil War, Congress agreed to make Lincoln’s proclamation of Thanksgiving as a national holiday….President Lincoln wrote…”The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed, that we are prone to forget their source, so extraordinary in nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. No human counsel has devised nor any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in our sins, has nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole of the American people”.

Certainly we can see that what we know as Thanksgiving Day, has a rich history, which is rooted in gratitude to God for His protection, provision and Divine Providence. The only thing which can stop us from taking it to the next level and creating a culture of Thanksgiving in our homes, in our workplaces, or in the most fundamental places of our lives, is we, ourselves! We must set the pace and be the forerunners by what we do….

A young couple brought their new-born son to the pediatrician for his first checkup, the doctor said, "You have a really cute baby." Smiling, we said, "I'll bet you say that to all the new parents." "No," he replied, "just to those whose babies are really cute." "So what do you say to the others?" we asked. Oh, I just say "He looks just like you." ….

I ask you, today, “How would our nation’s spiritual heritage look if it looked just like us”…?

Creating a Thanksgiving culture means a transformation in the content of our own hearts, where our character is formed, a transformation of the words we chose, and a transformation in the attitudes we hold and our perceptions of the world and the people around us. I want to challenge all of us as we move from Thanksgiving Day, into Thanksgiving Year, to reevaluate what's really important, what really drives and motivates us, what we’re thankful for, and what our core values really are.

1Thesselonians 5:15  See that none of you conduct yourselves in a worthless or harmful manner, but always follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. v16 Rejoice in all things. v17 Pray without ceasing. v18 In everything give thanks: for this truly is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Let’s look at some ways that we can all begin to create a culture of Thanksgiving in our circle of influence…

1…By Creating A Culture of Honor….

There was a man who owned a turkey farm in Iowa...and the Iowa State Wage and Fairness Department claimed he was not paying the help proper wages and had sent an agent out to interview him. "I need a list of all your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent. "Well," replied the farmer, "there's my farm hand who's been with me for 3 years". "I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board". "The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $150 per week plus free room and board". "Then there's the idiot half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here".

"He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I let him go into town with my wife and celebrate, every Saturday night".

"Well now, That idiot half-wit is the guy I want to talk to --says the agent.

"Well sir, truth be known, that half- wit would be me," replied the farmer. (This is a man who doesn’t feel appreciated!)

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is when you actually do something about that impulse”…..Henry Van Dyke

In a Gallup poll survey, published in the book, ‘How Full Is Your Bucket?” …it says that 65 percent of the people polled, say they don’t feel appreciated. When those around us feel unappreciated, they start to care a little less. They don’t provide the level of involvement they would if they felt appreciated. And when the majority of  people feel this way, the overall environment is greatly impacted, in a very negative way. In fact, those who don’t place recognition and honoring others as a priority, especially in today’s high-stress environment, are only shooting themselves in the foot. (quote)                                                                                                              

You See, Creating a culture of Honoring others, starts with each one of us deliberately infusing our circles of influence, from top to bottom, with the proverbial “attitude of gratitude.”                                                                       

If you are familiar with the book of Esther you know that Mordecai only knew scorn because his entire race was being shown disrespect and hate by the Persian king’s right hand man, Haman …But what the enemy meant for evil…GOD meant for good! And because Haman refused to honor the man who saved the king’s life, Haman ended up proclaiming that everyone should bow and honor Mordecai, and then was hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai! Our God specializes in turning ashes into beauty!...

No matter where You’ve been… No matter what You’ve done, You can begin Again…God in Christ, has reshaped man’s idea of who deserves honor…Jesus said the last shall be first… Those who are humble will be exalted…Honor is not just for those who have accomplished much here on earth…Christ has honored us, by taking our place on the cross …                                                                                             

2. Create A Culture of Giving…..Science has shown that the act of giving to a cause you care about activates the "pleasure center" in the *….brain, known as the Hypothalamus. Numerous studies have proven a positive correlation between folks who volunteer to benevolent causes and it’s effects in lower levels of heart disease, depression, and other health risks. "Charitable work literally makes the heart grow stronger." Therefore, charitable, benevolent folks live longer!

When we exhibit stingy behavior -- although we may not even be aware of it -- we cause our levels of cortisol, the "stress" hormone to increase and increased cortisol can, over time, lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and depression.

If a family member is in need, you wouldn't hesitate to help them. If people in our circle of influence are hungry you respond to alleviate their hunger. When we are generous with our time, generous with our talent, generous with our treasure, we benefit, our families benefit and our community benefits. In these circles of generosity, we win new friends, form new alliances and our definition of "our neighbor," grows larger, in ever widening circles of compassion.

Do a favor for your next door neighbor, or make a donation to a local nonprofit that serves in your community. Whenever we can, when Winnie and I go shopping, we drop something off at the food bank on Big Pine, so that our shopping trip will benefit someone beyond our own table…give it a try…                                                                                                              

Every generous action and every gift, makes an impact on our own well-being as well as an impact on our world. What if we established “Days of Giving” each week in our family, as a place to start, when, our entire family agrees collectively, to practice generosity, creating a culture of giving rather than a culture of getting. We could extend Thanksgiving and Christmas through every week of the year!

An attractive young woman, walked up to a department store fabric counter, and says to the clerk, “I would like to buy this material for some new dresses. How much does it cost?” “Well, normally it would be $3.00 per yard, but I will give it to you for only one kiss per yard,” replied the male clerk with a hopeful grin. “Alright then, that’s will be fine,” said the girl. “I’ll take it all.” With excited expectation and anticipation written all over his face, the clerk quickly measured out the cloth, wrapped it up, and then teasingly held it out with a pucker. The girl snapped up the package, pointed to the toothless, tobacco *….stained mouth of the old man standing beside her, and said, smiling, “Grandpa is going to pay the bill.” (so much for generosity)

3. Create a culture of Thanksgiving by Getting on the “Thank You” Bandwagon…

~John Fitzgerald Kennedy…. As we express our gratitude at the Thanksgiving season, we must never forget that the highest form of appreciation is not to just speak the words, but to live by them.                   

When someone does something kind for you, whether it’s your boss, your co-worker, your neighbor, or a stranger, recognize it! Just A simple “thank you” will do fine. “You can’t expect people to appreciate you if you don’t receive their kindness and compliments and words of instruction with thankfulness.”                                                                                                                        If someone wants to really compliment me on a sermon, the best compliment I can receive is, “that really met my need today”….               

That brings me to “Our Individual Love Languages” … We all have a different “Love language” and we all respond at different levels….it’s important to try to discover what a person’s love language is in order to say “Thank You” effectively. Here they are…

1st..Words of Affirmation….for this person it is enough to express verbally, ways in which you appreciate them.. as I said before, for myself, it is.(that really met my need today) or (You’re really making a difference).

2nd ..Acts of Service…for this person, washing their car, mowing their lawn, or running an errand is how you say that you appreciate them.

3rd ..Receiving a Gift….for this person, a thoughtful gift, or even a card, is how they know that you genuinely appreciate them…

4th ..Quality Time….this person responds most when you give them your undivided attention to let them know you appreciate them.

5th ..Physical Touch…this is a “touchy feely” person and responds well to a hug, a pat on the back, or a stroke of the face. It’s like you hooked a jumper cable to their battery….

4.. To create a culture of Thanksgiving….Create a Culture of Celebration…If you think Independence Day is America's defining holiday, you need to think again. Thanksgiving Day should deserve that title, hands-down.

What we Celebrate, reveals what we treasure and what is esteemed by us as valuable…..

As we Celebrate who we are, what we value, our victories, salvations, our giving, and our ministry to others, we create an atmosphere of excitement for what God is doing corporately and individually…..                                                                                           As we celebrate, it can create a powerful culture of encouragement, acceptance, affirmation and motivation! We should be giving each other high fives and pats on the back during church service. Cause you’re saying “I honor you, I appreciate you, I celebrate you”!!!                                     

In Job 17:3, Job asks, “ who will give me a high five here in the ash heap”? Encouragement, acceptance, and affirmation can go a long way for someone who is down in the ash heap of life!

Matthew 6:21  tells us…For where your treasure (what you value) is, there will your heart be also….. In order to create a culture of Celebration, of Appreciation, of Generosity, and of Honor towards one another, we must rise above the prevailing culture of “dog eat dog”, “what I deserve”, and “I’ll get mine if no one else get’s anything”, mentality around us….                                                

Luke 6:31 Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you….                                 This “Golden Rule” would make us all, impartial, transparant, and equitable. It would destroy anamosity, envy, treachery, unkindness, slander, theft, adultery, and murder. It has been well said that this law is the gear that turns the machinery of Christianity. It would assure a moral and just society, and it’s truth is recognized as valid by all people, and all must acknowledge its force and value for good. I’m talking about behaving ourselves in a way that we would have others behave towards us.

Creating a culture of Celebration, of Appreciation, of Generosity, and of Honor is not about dragging into church, home, or the job, with a demeanor that says “get out of my way, I’ve had a bad week, and I don’t care”… or with the demeanor that says “I deserve to be miserable, grouchy, and insensitive, cause I’ve been wearing a happy mask all week and I’m tired, frustrated and over it”.

Get real, put the bear costume away and get out the “I care about you” attitude of gratitude. Each of us should ask, what kind of church would I want to attend,….then, be that kind of person so we can have that kind of church, that kind of family, or that kind  of workplace!.... Do I have an Amen?

To treat others as we would want to be treated…. To step out and be friendly and considerate, and on time, and be the person that makes someone’s day a little brighter, because we chose to be a generous, appreciative,  part of their day in a celebration to honor them as we honor God and His Children everywhere we go, in whatever we do!

As we would have others to do unto us, so let us do unto them!

Let’s start an epidemic of Thanksgiving! Let’s have a spirit of gratitude that is so contagious, that it will become viral in our homes, our community, our church and our circle of influence!                                                

Start right now by finding two people and say “Thank You” to them!

-Samuel F. Pugh…..wrote this little prayer that he prayed often….

“O God, when I have food, help me to remember those who are hungry.

 When I have work, help me to remember those who need a job. When I have a home, help me to remember those who have no home. When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer, and remembering, may I seek to destroy in me, all selfishness and complacency. Stir within me concern and compassion to help, to be generous, to be appreciative and to honor, by word and by deed, all those who cry out in need, for all that we take for granted”.

I close with Psalm 100…. Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, people of every land. Serve the LORD with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know that the LORD He is God.  It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves, we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise, be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good, His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations.

Prayer of Agreement…..

Father, I pray that I might be used more and more, to show forth Your Kingdom purposes in the earth. I pray for the transforming power of kingdom vision and perspective to be evident in my life. I now believe You for a sustained movement of concerned, compassionate prayer among us, that you might pour out Your Spirit upon us in greater and greater measures.        

Lord, I thank You in advance for transforming relationships by Your power, so that Your plan and purpose for our families and children may become a reality and a Godly force in our community. May Your people throughout this area, hear and answer the voice of God, so that with new boldness and courage, they might live out their faith before their fellow man with honor, gratitude and generosity.

Lord, bring healing to hearts and lives, for the fulfillment of Your promised blessing    among all people and that Your glory may be manifested in greater power and demonstration. Father, may Your name be glorified in and through us. May we be instruments in your hands to advance Your kingdom in our world. May we do your will     and prove through our daily lives, to be Your disciples.   In Jesus Name, Amen.

 “So Hug a little bit harder, Laugh a little bit louder, Smile a little bit bigger, Love a little   bit longer, and Care a little bit more!”….

Posted by: Charles C Elliott AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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