Sunday, November 22, 2020

Utilizing Your Blessings

 This Series = (1) Give Thanks  
                      (2)  Always!!  
                      (3)  Blessings - What We're Thankful For!
Today:  Utilizing Your Blessings - making use of your blessings, putting them to work.

We know ... we are abundantly blessed!!!
Question:  What are we to do with those blessings??

Answer:  (1)  Enjoy them - 1 Tim. 6:17 - "....richly ..... enjoyment!"
              (2)  Care for our family - 1 Tim. 5:8 - immediate and extended family
              (3)  Do good for others - Acts 10:38, Heb. 13:16
              (4)  Build the Kingdom - here and now as well as future

This is not multiple choice!!!  Are to do ALL of these things!

POINT:  We are to utilize (make use of) blessings ..... for good!!!  (not must consume for 'self!)

This falls under Biblical concept of Stewardship!
ie:  #1)  All your stuff belongs to God - 1 Chron. 29:13-14, 16
(what is truly yours = what you take with you when you go!)

#2.  As a believer, follower, servant ... You are to Manage His stuff  ie:  the stuff He's entrusted to your care.
example:  Parable of the Talents - Matt. 25:14-30 - talking about Kingdom of God.
Someday there will be a settling of accounts.  2 of the 3 expanded his holdings.
#3.  Stewardship goes beyond physical, material stuff
1 Pet. 4:10-11
1 Tim. 6:20 a - entrust = use it well
Can be talents, abilities, opportunities, influences, people, relationships, knowledge, training, education, experience(s), insights
Anything of value, and asset that you've been Blessed with!!  

I)  Stewardship Principles are found throughout Scripture, but Specifics are worked out between you and your Master!  

Ask yourself - "what has He given me?" 
Ask Him - "What would you have me do with it?"

Therefore = an issue of personal Lordship, a matter of personal Inquiry - can be scary!!  Example:  the rich young ruler.

II)  Stewardship does not exclude personal use of blessings (the steward lives off the estate)
But stewardship avoids 2 extremes:
On one hand, excessive focus on 'self (indulgence) - Phil. 3:19
On the other hand, hoarding (excessive saving!)  Luke 12:13-21

III)  Stewardship CAN lead to great wealth!!!  Examples:  the Patriarchs
However, there is no promise of material wealth - examples:  Jesus, the Apostles
THE POINT = wealth/possessions MANAGED for the Lord!!!  Example:  Mother Teresa

IV)  Stewardship designed to Enhance life, NOT Restrict it! 
Commands to give, share usually (almost always) include promise of blessing!!
Deut. 14:28-29, Prov. 11:25, 22:9, 28:27, Luke 6:38, Matt. 25:34-40
and Matt. 25:21 - the faithful servants reward!!!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Blessings - What we're Thankful For

Series = I)  Give Thanks

            II)  Thanks Always - 1 Thess. 5:18

Today = III)  Blessings; What we're Thankful FOR  - Biblical View!!
Definition of "Blessing" - an act of God's favor, a gift bestowed By God On you  (ie:  a good gift, beneficial, results in well-being)

Note:  Categories (types) of Blessings:
1.  material blessings
2.  financial blessings
3.  creation blessings
4.  health blessings
5. relational blessings
6.  community blessings
7.  national blessings
8.  opportunity blessings
9.  ability blessings Deut. 8:17-18
10.  spiritual blessings
(above blessings = current)  so additional:
11.  former blessings
12.  future blessings

Believers say "I'm blessed by God in all these categories .... and more!"

Non-believers?  Some online dictionaries chart recent usage of words.  Example = "blessing"  (in English)
Found great decline in the use of the word from 1800 to present.  Lowest was 1990, slight rise up to 2019.

Perhaps due to the growth of the sense of entitlement that is present.  (God owes me, that's His job, He's supposed to give me what I want and provide me with health, wealth, good stuff.  So why should I thank Him for blessings He's supposed to give me anyway)

Today - we'll divide "blessings" into 3 different categories:

#1.  Blessings of grace - (unearned, undeserved)

#2.  Blessings of Consequence = result of good works, proper lifestyle, obedience to God's will  (generally in this life)

#3.  Rewards - which generally refer to earned blessings "that come in the next life.

These three tend to overlap, therefore, is not always a clear line of distinction.

I.  Blessings of Grace = unearned, undeserved
Blessings bestowed regardless of belief/behavior - bestowed on everybody
Examples:  Life!!  birth place (year!)  Parents, extended family natural abilities (business) mental abilities (IQ), good looks, good health....
Blessings of Grace can be divided into 2 categories:
          A)  Absolute Grace  (those listed above ) nothing required of you. 
and    B) Available grace - on one hand = a free gift, however, requires some action, response from you. 
Example:  Salvation (forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption, eternal life)

II.  Blessings of Consequence - "earned" may be a bit strong, nevertheless these = partly the result of obedience, right choice, lifestyle - (obeying God and His will 4 you)
Example: Gal. 6:7-9
Point = IF follow God's will, ways then (as a consequence) blessings more often will follow.  (this doesn't mean that IF you follow God will never have problems!!  Are in a fallen world!)

Additional category?  - Blended Blessings?!  ie:  God gives, bestows, but we have to Activate it!!
Example:  John 14:27  "peace" with Phil. 4:6-7

Point - is Peace freely given?  or the consequence of ....?  Answer (I think) = sometimes given by absolute grace, sometimes consequence as a result of seeking His will, His grace, etc.
Compare:  Joy - strength - comfort - direction ... 

Question:  IF these blessings = my due and my doing - THEN why should I give thanks?? 
Answer:  Deut. 8:10, 17
(So... "I'm a self-made man... by the grace of God!")  Nobody dies it without God's grace.

III.  Rewards = consequential blessings in the Next life!
                        Matt. 5:11-12
                        Matt. 16:27
                        Matt. 19:29
                        2 Cor. 5:10
                       Rev. 22:12

Note:  these are "earned blessings' that God is NOT obligated to give ... but does so because ... He is Good!!  (gracious)
Believers recognize this ... Hence - Rev. 4:9-11

Question:  IF earthly blessings = temporal and rewards = eternal.. THEN why do we strive for the former?  and often neglect the latter?

good thin you experience and enjoy is because  (1)  God is Good  and (2)  God is Gracious  (3) TO YOU!!!
Therefore, Thanksgiving is in order! 
But more than that ...   Your Repsonse???   Luke 17:14-16  (ten lepers - all healed and grateful.  only one came back to give thanks)

 Closing Scripture:  John 1:16

Monday, November 9, 2020

Giving Thanks ALWAYS

 Last week = "giving thanks"

Tis week - "Giving Thanks Always" - 1 Thess. 5:18

NOTE:  this is not FOR all things, but = IN all things - is a world of difference. 
Examples:  Adam and Eve - "thanks for the fall?",  You - "thanks for my sins?", Daniel - Dan. 6:10 - he wasn't thanking God for the situation, but in the midst of the situation.

Question:  Why give thanks always?
Some Answers: 

I)  There's always something to be thankful for - examples:  1 Chron. 16:8 - past deeds, blessings ie:  what God has done
Psm. 107:8 - unfailing love
Lam. 3:19-23 - current mercies, His faithfulness, etc.
God doesn't change, therefore if He was good yesterday, then He is good today!
                                              if He was worthy yesterday, then He's worthy today!!
Situations change, we change, life changes, He doesn't!!

II)  Giving Thanks if God's will for you - 1 Thess. 5:18   And... IF it's His will for you, then = good for you!  Beneficial!  Right!  It's not for Him.
ie:  A)  Good for you (as an individual) - example:  Phil. 4:6-7 - peace that transcends understanding
B)  Good fo rthose around you - example:  Gen. 21:6 - when you give thanks in dire circumstances, it affects others around you.
Question:  Why are the martyrs so inspiring?  Because the died???  OR because they died WELL?!  - "Fox's Book of Martyrs" -
Heb. 13:15 - "sacrifice of Praise" - praise and thanksgiving is truly sacrificial in hard times!!!

III)  We know that in all thing God works - Rom. 8:28
This doesn't mean you'll see the good!  Example:  cross for 1st 3 days??
Example:  Jacob (who'd been a con man his whole life) - Gen. 32:22-31 - does Jacob LOOK blessed?  clearly not!!!  

2 Observations (from Ron Dunn)
(1)  Sometimes blessings come wrapped in the rags of a curse!  example:  Jacob's appearance!!   On the other hand, what appears to be a great blessing can lead to a curse!  example:  Solomon's wealth - 1 Kings. 11:1

(2)  Blessings and curses often travel on parallel tracks.. and often arrive at the same time!!  Sometimes in the curse, the blessing comes.
Example:  = the Cross = blessing?  or curse?  Answer = a curse God used to create great blessings!! - "in all things .... God works!"

hence ... Matt. 5:3-4, 56, 10 

OBSERVATIONS:  We often forget to "give thanks" - because are so focused on blessings!!!  (absorbed in, enjoying, etc.)
We struggle to "give thanks" amidst hardships... because we are so focused on the situation, difficulty!!

But clearly God's will = (1) give thanks
                                    (20  give thanks always!
This requires acknowledging His LORDSHIP!    His goodness,, faithfulness, sovereignty ... and His Providence.

To this we are called - not for the circumstances, but in the midst of them!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Giving Thanks

 Usually a "give thanks" sermon is Sunday before Thanksgiving.

This year a short series on Thanksgiving and blessings.

We start with the BASIC - ie:  GIVE THANKS!!!

Thanksgiving is the most celebrated (observed) holiday in the USA    According to a Thanksgiving poll that appeared in the Sunday Oklahoman,
92% of people questioned said "Yes" to the question:  "Do you and your family usually have a special gathering for a meal at Thanksgiving?"  
83% answered "Yes" to the question, "do you normally say a special grace of thanksgiving at this meal?"

So Why??  ie:  why is Thanksgiving so celebrated?  (the vast majority of people recognize that they are blessed!)

#1.  Thanksgiving is written into our DNA - it come natural!.  Example:  Atheist's comment after being told how gifted he was in his particular field was "I'm eternally grateful".  (grateful to whom?  for how long?)

#2.  Thanksgiving is a major part of our Judeo-Christian heritage.   We in the US grew up in this culture.

Old Testament - Thank-Offering;  1 of 5 designated offerings, yet .. voluntary  - this offering never mandated, only that it was to be done in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

New Testament - Offering of thanksgiving - Heb. 13:15 - (sacrifice of praise rightly includes thanksgiving)

#3.  Because we in America are SO BLESSED!!! 
Blessings:  Reviewed nearly every year. However, it merits review!!!

1)  material - stuff and things?  house size?  storage space?

2)  financial - if annual income = $25,000 - are in top 10% of world's population.
                    if annual income = $47,500 - are in top 1% of world's population   (maybe 50 K in 2020)

3)  Natural resources  (natural beauty)
     creation - fall leaves, mountain views, autumn air, etc.  Question:  Why is Cabin Rental Industry exploding here?  

4)  health - availability of health, medical assistance?  Examples:  life expectancy in Mozambique = 39, Somalia - 48, Djbouti - 55, US - 78 1/2 

5)  relational (people) - spouse, kids, family, friends.....

6) community - example:  our community fund-raising events!  Question to ppl in this community:  IF suddenly very wealthy... would you move away?  or stay here?  

7)  national - prosperity, resources, freedoms, stability, security  (this = part of BIRTH blessings!!!  

8)  Opportunity - for career, education, $$, business, family, location

9)  ability - Deut. 8:17-18 - "....wealth."  Ability comes from God

10)  spiritual - Salvation?  beyond salvation?  Encouragement?  comfort?  guidance?  direction?  strength?  Hope??  Eph. 1:3

The above = present and former.  What about the future?

So...... how are you doing?  Better than you deserve?  John 1:16


#1.  We should give thanks - which is more than be grateful - Luke 17:11-19 - all were grateful!  Only one gives thanks!  ("be grateful/thankful" vs "give thanks" - 50:1  Attitude vs action

#2.  We should give thanks to Him.  on one hand, saying to another "the Lord has truly blessed me!" is fine to do.  However, saying TO HIM - "Lord, you've blessed me!  Thank you!"
Following the example of the Thank Offering, this should be done (a) privately - just you and Him, but also (b) publicly - before others!!
ie:  personal thanks publicly offered (as grace in a restaurant)

#3.  We give thanks by giving back - God doesn't need our money, however, supporting His work = promoting Him - 1 Chron. 29:13-14

#4.  We give thanks by helping others - Prov. 19:17  Matt. 25:40

#5.  We give thanks by giving SELF!   - Psm. 51:16-17

#6.  We give thanks by giving self repeatedly!!! - Lordship issue!

Concerning the Thank Offering - Note:  Deut. 16:10, 16-17 - (the more blessed .. the more thanks should be offered!!)  This is not only about money, but in proportion to what He's done for us!