“Make America Grateful Again” – Pastor Raphael

 Thanksgiving is a great holiday for people of faith, because scripture speaks so much about being grateful forall that God has done for us. It is mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament and over 70 times in the New Testament.

With all this emphasis on “Thanks,” we should be the most thankful people in the world.

From 1st Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Even beyond Thanksgiving, our celebration of gratitude should last all year long. When we consider God’s love for us, His protection and provision in the big and small things in life, our best response is to say “Thanks.”

As we give thanks, we are expressing a heart of gratitude to God and to those to whom we are grateful. Gratitude is contagious. It’s hard not to be grateful when youare around someone who always is.

The word gratitude has its origin in the words “gratus” and “grace.” This is why “thank you” in other languages sounds so similar: Latin: “gratias,” Italian: “grazie,” Spanish: “gracias.”

“Thanks” and “grace” go hand-in-hand. This is why we often refer to the “giving of thanks” before a meal as “saying grace.” Many families give thanks, or say “grace,” before every meal, some only on holidays like Thanksgiving. Others don’t say it at all.

I grew up in a Catholic family that said grace before dinner every evening. We were a large family of six sons and six daughters. My mother would sit on one end of the long table, my father on the other. We were lined up on benches according to age — boys on one side, girls on the other, oldest to youngest. No one could touch the food or eat a morsel until my father said “grace,” which was always the same:

“Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

After the “amen,” it was a free-for-all of food, plates, silverware and serving-dishes being passed around in a wonderful frenzy that lasted until the final portion was eaten and every casserole dish was empty. It was crazy and chaotic, but we were all grateful.

Today, I carry on this tradition with my small family, but we offer a more casual, less-scripted thanks, and there is not nearly as much food consumed.

I have found that it’s not the “saying of grace” that’s important, but having thankful hearts. Having “thankful hearts” means that we remain in a posture of receiving and recognizing God’s grace. When we recognize the nature of grace, it’s very easy to be grateful.

Jesus gave thanks

Jesus was always giving thanks. Both times that he fed the multitudes with fish and bread, he began by “giving thanks.” On the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, he initially fooled the apostles he was walking with into thinking he was someone else, but he was recognized by them by the way he “gave thanks.” During the Last Supper, which was essentially a Passover Seder meal, He broke bread and served wine. Before breaking the bread, and passing the cup however, He gave thanks. (Baruch a Ta Adonai … .)

Jesus also appreciates being thanked. There is a story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 17, where Jesus healed 10 lepers. Of all those who were healed, only one returned to say thanks. In Luke 17:17 “Jesus asked, “Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine?” He was told that only one of those who were healed returned to him to give thanks. This is the one whom He blessed.

Sometime it’s difficult to be grateful when circumstances are hard and things did not go our way. There are times when we face tragedies and grief and it seems impossible to utter anything that even remotely sounds grateful.

These are the times when we need to receive “grace.” Grace is God’s free gift to us of His love, compassion, mercy and understanding. When we understand the depth of His grace toward us, in spite of circumstances, it’s easy to be grateful.

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Advice from the Bible: “Have Fun!” – Pastor Raphael

   
 “I recommend having fun!” That doesn’t sound like a typical Bible verse does it? We all know summer slips by way too fast, whether you are a kid enjoying the long-awaited summer break from school, or an adult who has been waiting all year for those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”

If you like summer the way I do, you want to bottle it up and save it for a time when you either have some days off to enjoy it, or better yet, save it to pour out on one of those bitter cold, dark, miserable days of winter. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a bottle of summer to dispense at any time you wished?

Unfortunately you can’t. You must enjoy it while you can and make the most of each sun-filled day while they’re here.

Life is like that, too, isn’t it? Some moments are so precious and enjoyable, that we wish we could capture them and revisit them any time we want. We scroll through old photographs and videos of happy days and meaningful moments and wish we could transport back to them somehow. But real-life isn’t still-life. Much like summer, it passes quickly and we have no choice but to enjoy the moments, in the moments.

So what does the Bible say about this? The Bible seems to have all the answers we need about so many other subjects and issues we face.

Solomon, the wisest king of all, wrote a peculiar and unusual book called Ecclesiastes that in many ways seems more straightforward in its approach to common human emotion than any other book of the Bible. In it, he spends time analyzing common daily life and offering practical wisdom on a variety of subjects including; life, death, youth, work, eating, drinking and even the passing of time. His observations of life always revealed a deep understanding of God that has inspired readers with their own relationships with God for 3000 years.

So what would Solomon say to people like us, who want to find a way to get the most out of each waning day of summer and for that matter, each rapidly-passing year of life?

In Ecclesiastes 8:15 he says: “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” (Ecc. 8:15 NLT)

God is concerned with everything that concerns us. He is with us in our troubles and our triumphs and even though He is eternal, He understands mortality. That’s why He offers the reward of eternal life for those who believe, but He still wants us to enjoy each day of the lives He gave us. They won’t always be happy days, they may not always be good days. But His love for us never ceases, and His mercy is endless. Psalms tells us; “He shows us the path for our lives and in His presence is fullness of joy” (Ps. 16:11).

So it’s a very simple plan: Find His path for your life, spend time in His presence, and you’ll experience His joy. It’s the best way I know to have a great summer — and for that matter, a great life. So, how should we spend our summer? “I recommend having fun!”


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