January 21, 2015

21 Jan 2015

Message: “What’s Your Attitude of Gratitude”

Preacher Larry

       From the beginning of the church service at First Assembly last Sunday morning, the Lord was stirring in my heart what I should be talking about tonight.  There were some things that had already happened that weekend, but there was more to come.  Freida and I had gone to the movie “American Sniper” on Saturday.  After 37 years in the military, movies that deal with the armed services always tend to interest me.  Especially, if it is based on true facts.  The movie was excellent. I could relate to what those soldiers went through.  I could imagine what emotions and thoughts they had to deal with.  But the part that probably affected me the most, was the belief that so many people take for granted the freedoms we have.  I believe that, because of what people do!!  When you ask anybody, they are going to state that they are thankful, grateful for all that soldiers do for them to enjoy their freedoms.  But on a daily basis, their actions don’t show it!!  So tonight’s message is called, “What’s Your Attitude of Gratitude?”

Here’s a story from “Christian Cowgirl Devotions” called, “Attitude of Gratitude.” It was about 13 degrees. I really didn’t want to leave my nice cozy house to venture out to the barn to feed the horses, but along with horse ownership comes responsibility. We feed and water our horses twice a day, every day, rain or shine, freezing or stiflingly hot. So I got myself in gear and made it over to the barn, the air seeming to freeze my lungs if I breathed too deeply.

I tossed each of the horses their hay first, then started checking all the water buckets, to make sure each horse had water, and that it wasn’t frozen solid. As I entered Satin’s stall to retrieve her bucket, she looked up from her hay, put her ears flat back, and snaked her head toward me, as if to threaten me with death, if I came any nearer to her pile of hay.

Now, wait a minute! First of all, hay has never made it on my top ten list of favorite foods, and secondly, have you already forgotten that I am the one who just gave you that hay? And come to think of it, I am also the one that pays for all of your hay!

While I contemplated Satin’s grumpy, selfish, ungrateful attitude, it made me wonder, if I don’t sometimes appear the same way to God. How much of what He provides for me, do I just totally take for granted and assume that I deserve it? And that it’s mine, and no one else can have any of it? Frequently I have to remind myself that everything I have, comes from God, and that I should continually have an attitude of gratitude, and be willing to share what I have with others.  In 1 Thess. 5:18 it says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Author Philip Yancey writes, “On my first visit to Yellowstone National Park, flocks of tourists surrounded the geyser, Old Faithful, cameras trained like weapons, while a big digital clock predicted the next eruption. We were in the dining room of the inn, over­looking the geyser, when the clock showed one minute to go. So along with every one else in the diner, we rushed to the window to see the big event.  We ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and clicked our cameras; some even applauded. But glancing back, I noticed that not one single waiter or busboy, even bothered to look up. Old Faithful had become so familiar, that it had lost its power to impress them.” So here’s the question: why do we lose our sense of gratitude and begin to overlook God’s goodness?  We do it for three reasons:

(1) Problems. If you close one eye and hold a penny close enough to your other eye, you can actually block out the light of the sun. You don’t want to see the problem!!

(2) Reason number 2 – Pressures. Some­times the perks we thought would bring us pleasure, end up wearing us down.  We’re tired, uninterested.

(3) The final reason – People. When people disappoint us, we turn sour and forget all that God has done for us. What’s the solution? “The [unfailing] love of the Lord never ends.. .Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lam 3:22-23 NLT).

You see God’s mercies begin each morning, and your gratitude should too. Indeed, your days should be saturated in it. Continual grati­tude comes from looking beyond your blessings to their unfailing source, the Lord. His love, His faithfulness and His mercy, are already at work when your eyes open each day.

There’s a story I want to share with you, that depicts some of the ways God works in us, to help us be better in our giving and helping others.  How we, changing our actions and thought process, can create a compassion for others in us, while giving us so much more to be Thankful for.  The story is about  Jeff Copenhaver, 1975 World Champion Calf Roper.

“I was going to Kansas City in November 1979 with my friend Nolan Lewallen. We were both brand new Christians and were excited about our walk with God. We mutually agreed to going on a three day fast, no food for three days.  After wondering if we were going to starve, we found out when you seek God in fasting and prayer, good things happen. At the end of the fast, the Lord spoke in my heart – “Christianity is givianity and giving is love in action.”

For the first time in my life, I really realized what life was all about. As I was riding my horse in their small exercise arena, before the Rodeo, a lady in the crowd next to the arena, grabbed her heart and collapsed on the concrete. Before I could give it a conscious thought, I jumped off my horse and over the fence to pray for this lady. Within a few minutes the lady was up and fine.  There’s no doubt in my mind, why I jumped that fence so suddenly – I realized why God created me; To love Him and show that love to others!

The Lord has called us all, to do the same. The Lord spoke to my wife, Sherry, in the same time period and gave her a similar message. He spoke in her heart “If you’ll reach out to meet the needs of others, I’ll see to it, that your needs are met!” This is confirmed totally in Jesus teachings in the sixth chapter of Matthew.

About that same time, the Lord gave me a vision or picture of what my life had been all about.  I was standing inside a circle of hundreds of business card-sized mirrors. Every little mirror was me, my horse, my truck, my dreams, my desires, it was all “me, me, me.” 

Now get this: When I would read the Word of God and do what it said to do – the Holy Spirit would take this tiny hammer and tap, tap, tap on one of these mirrors. The mirror would break and would then be replaced by a window. As I looked through the window, I could see others— their wants, their needs, their desires.

My whole approach to life changed. I realized that God put me on the earth to reach out, help and be a blessing to others. Kids that I used to ignore at rodeos, I would now sign autographs for.  I wanted to encourage them, and help them know and live for the Lord. 

In the eighties, a steer wrestler named Cliff Armstrong, would wear a superman shirt underneath his cowboy shirt. Now get this: When he would throw a super fast steer, Cliff would run toward the grandstand – rip open his cowboy shirt and there would be the super “S.”  The crowd would go absolutely crazy! Hebrews 12:1 (Living Bible) reads, “Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.”

There you go – a grandstand of faith, cheering us on. If you know Jesus, and are willing to let Him break the mirrors and reveal the windows, then you are wearing the super “S” shirt. Jesus has a super “life” for you. You have His ability and His power, living in you. It’s the higher life Jesus told us about in John 10:10, “…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

 Our problem is we keep trying to find happiness (life more abundantly) the wrong way. We attempt to find it by, “getting,” instead of “giving”. Love must give; it’s the nature of love to do so: “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2 NIV). Note the words “gave himself” and “sacrifice.” Love is all about giving of yourself, and sacrificing to meet the needs of others— practical needs as well as spiritual needs. Some of us are so religious, that we see no value in meeting people’s everyday needs. Love for God is the root; love for others is the fruit.  If we are on board with what the scriptures are saying, we express our Love through encourage­ment, patience, kindness, courtesy, humility, unselfishness, good temper, gentleness and sincerity (See Gal 5:22). We must actively seek ways to show love, especially in little things. Jesus said in Mt 5:13 AMP: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality)… It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out.” Salt is like love; it can heal, purify, preserve and enrich, but it’s useless if it’s kept in a shaker, and not sprinkled around. The truth is, all of life is tasteless, without love. Even acts of generosity, done out of a feeling of obligation, but devoid of love, leave us empty. Love is the energy of life; it should be the reason we get up every morning. Each day can be exciting and meaning­ful, if we see ourselves as God’s agents, waiting in the shadows to sprinkle some salt on all the tasteless lives we encounter. So, get your shaker ready!  If you practice, that   “CHRISTIANITY is GIVING,” you will truly have a Thankful Heart throughout the year!! 

Last Sun just before the announcements were given by Pastor Dianne, she told us that there were a group of people in “Niger’s” that were being killed by terrorists.  They live where they are constantly threatened by people who hate them, hate what they believe, or just don’t care and are on a mission to destroy or kill them.  And we live in a country where we are not persecuted for what we believe, what we say, what we practice.  Stop and think about it!!  Be grateful for what you have, what others have done for you.  And out of that, show an “Attitude of Gratitude”.  You see, “Love” is the fruit of that attitude.