Heavenly Father we come to this evening on the verge of our holiday – called Thanksgiving – and we want to turn that over to You – we want You to be in charge of it tonight. And Lord – it’s just not going to happen unless Your Holy Spirit inhabits the words – and You have already inhabited our praise – and we want to get out of the way and let You do Your business tonight with us. We thank You for Jesus – and all God’s people said… Amen. Beverly Hillbillies… I’m going to kind of date myself here – the Beverly Hillbillies was a pretty popular show when I was growing up – and if you don’t know anything about it – it is this show about some hillbillies that lived on top of a humongous oil reserve. An Uncle Jed was out looking for some food and he shot a squirrel or something and oil came out – and he had tapped into this amazing reserve of oil. And I want to tell you tonight in all sincerity that I think you and I are sitting on the same kind of reserve in our relationship with God that we could tap into in a whole different way here for Thanksgiving. I want to share with you tonight something that was shared with me quite a while ago and it really has changed significantly my relationship with God – it is deepened it, it has broadened it, not that I have arrived by any means, but I want to give that to you tonight. And some of you are already practicing this – so tonight there are two things that I want to give you to tap into in your relationship with God to make Thanksgiving the best it is ever been.
When thanking God becomes just checking the box or – you know kind of something that we do around the table – sometimes we say – let’s thank God – and everybody comes up with something really fast. When we come at it that way we miss the opportunity to actually deepen our relationship with Him. It has to begin with authentic praise. An affirmation of who God is. And that will lead us all to a more sincere, genuine, and deep relation changing – authentic Thanksgiving. I want to invite you tonight to share with me in that process. Like the Beverly Hillbillies sitting on this vast reservoir of oil – if God really is eternal – if there is no limit to who He is and what He can do – then your thanks is going to tap into an oil well that is bottomless. It is full. It will never be ending.
Let me share with you how that goes. Early on… now I am going to date myself again, you know but… you are old, so what are you going to do?… Long, long time ago when the personal computer was coming into use at churches. I remember the church I was at, it was in Paschal Washington, and we bought a desktop computer – Desktop Publishing they called it – and the amazing thing about this computer was – you could create a table and put names, and then you put their address, and the city in the zip and all that kind of stuff – and you take that table and you could push a button and merge that table – and it would print out labels that you could send to any group in the church. It was just amazing. Because in the old days, I mean we had to address all those by hand. It took forever! Forever – just wore out – you know – and then it was just terrible. You had to go kill another squid to get some more ink – I mean it was terrible! I was like WOW! – That cuts my time in half. We’ll then what happened was Microsoft came out with Microsoft Publisher – and in Microsoft Publisher they had these templates – and these templates were like for posters and brochures and booklets – and they even had a template for Greeting Cards. I was like – man! This is amazing. So I found a greeting card – you could actually change the picture on it – and so you could make your own greeting cards and you could save time and money – and then what I figured out was – and then what you could do is you could actually you could actually write a thank you in it, You can write a thank you in it so if you had a big event like a vacation Bible school or some kind of big dinner or banquet – you could actually make up a card – put your own artwork on it and you could write that thank you and then print them all off – and then you would have like a “Dear” at the top and then you would write in their name and then at the bottom you would sign your name. And I just thought that was amazing. I mean like what used to take two days and hand cramps and all that stuff – I could get that done in like an hour and a half. The amazing advent of the computer to send thank you’s to all the good people that volunteered and helped.
Until I got one. I still remember, I opened it up. It said Dear in print than it was a handwritten – Bill – thank you for helping out with the thing that God did and it was great that you are here – and that was all printed out, and then it said sincerely and – I won’t put their name – you know – Johnny B Goode or whatever. I was like Wow – I don’t feel very thanked – that was kind of mailed in. Sometimes we mail it into God though don’t we? Our thanks can be, and especially now, that was actually probably one of the most non-relational things 52:14 that I ever received. You know thanks is supposed to be part of building relationship. And of course with Covid and all the stuff that has been going on – and it has been happening all over southern Idaho and northern Idaho and Ethiopia and everywhere. It seems like that we are forgetting how to even do relationship. And what seemed to be so efficient, was not relational at all. It got the job done, but it made people feel like they were just part of the job. We have people that don’t even know how to be in relationship anymore. Because they are mailing it in.
I want to share with you something that you can experience thankfulness and a whole new level. And here is how you do it, you tap into two rich resources for deepening your relationship with God. Just like the Clampett’s, just like Jed tapped in to that oil well and became a millionaire – billionaire. And the first resource is really simple, some of you have already done this, but the first resource if you take the time to go through this process, it will change things in your Thanksgiving. The first resource is to answer a simple question. Who is God? You see a lot of times when we are just praying extemporaneously or off-the-cuff, some of us shift into prayer language – I know you still go “Thou art…” You know and everybody’s like please – you know go away – they say the same thing – our gracious God our Father which is all true, but it is what you say all the time and it doesn’t sound very relational. But if you stop to build a mind set of admiration – by answering the question who is God? And one of the best ways to answer that question – we look at creation. You know they said knowledge apparently doubled every 100 years back in the 1900s. In 1945 it was doubling every 25 years. And now they say it is doubling every 13 months, soon to be every 12 to 13 days, weeks. And here is what they are finding out – let’s just look at the Universe for a second – we are answering the question who is God? There might be as many as three sextillion stars in the universe. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. That is more than all the grains of sand on the earth.
Professor Brian Cox of Cambridge University – said the current estimate of galaxies – just galaxies in the observable universe – is around 2 trillion. In our galaxy alone, the Milky Way, there are 200 billion stars. In our solar system – if it were condensed down to the size of the coffee cup – if you took the Milky Way and condensed into the size of a coffee cup you could set it in the middle of Nebraska and that would be to scale for the entire North American continent – would be our galaxy and this [Bill holds up a coffee cup] solar system. The Milky Way galaxy measures 600 trillion miles across. It takes light which travels at 186,000 mi./s 55:43 it takes light 100,000 years to get from one end of the galaxy to the other. Just the Milky Way. Our solar system rotates within the Milky Way at 9000 mi./m and what they found was the laws of gravity 56:01 would mean that as you are closer it would rotate at a different pace than it would if you were further out from the center of the galaxy – and as they looked, and took measurements, they found… but it doesn’t. That they are all going the same speed – they have discovered a new thing, it was new – wasn’t when I was in high school called dark matter. It is matter you can’t even see, but it has density that pulls gravity in to hold our galaxy together at that rate.
James Bullock of the University of California at Irvine not speaking at a Christian Institute, speaking at a symposium on science – said – everywhere we look in the universe we see structure. And the Bible says this. Colossians 1:15 – 17 He is the image of the invisible God – the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him, and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things – even dark matter – hold together. Would you let that sink in. Just let it sink in. So who is God? What word comes to mind? Let all that sink in – the solar system, the galaxy and a mug – what word comes to mind? Just say that word right now. Just say it about God just say it. [Congregation responds with “everything”] Yeah – somebody said everything – say it again – say your word again – yeah – awesome. Amazing – this mindset of admiration. Let’s go look at the human body. This is new to me – I found it… If you unravel all the DNA in your body, if you took all the DNA strands and you unravel them and put them in a line – it would span 34 billion miles – that is far enough to reach from Earth to Pluto and back again six times. That is in your body right now.
At birth there are 14 billion cells in the human brain. A single human brain generates more electrical impulses – the impulses that stop and go and stop – it generates more electrical impulses in a day than all of telephones in the world combined. Cell phones included. Nerve impulses in the human body move at a rate of 90 mi./s. Of course when my wife asks me to take out the trash it is a little slower. There are 100,000 chemical reactions occurring in the human brain every second – 100,000 chemical reactions! The human heart pumps 40 millions gallons of blood during the average lifetime – that is equal to the capacity of up to five large general-purpose oil tankers. Your heart the size of your fist. The total length of all the blood vessels in the human body is about 62,000 miles. And 50,000 cells in your body died, and were replaced by new ones while I read that sentence. Just let it sink in. Who is He? What word comes to mind? Say it right now what word comes to mind? Amazing – say it loud! – That’s who He is. You see our thanks has to begin with understanding who we are thanking and acknowledging the full scope, if we can even reach that full scope of who He can be and who He is. But then we come down – we have looked at the universe and we have looked at our human body and there is so much more in nature we could look at. But we look at Jesus. Jesus Christ you know I mean I could go on on this for an hour, and I know we’ve got turkey in the oven tomorrow, but Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God in three persons – you know that didn’t just start when the Bible started being written. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit Relationship has been around for eternity.
A lot of people think – oh God just came up with some labels so that we could understand Him. And that is totally backward. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit love relationship – the unity of the triune God those labels in that relationship is where our families actually get their definitions. And the Father loves the Son and the Spirit supports the work of the Father. And Jesus Christ, God in all this relationship, the love that was found within the Trinity poured out to the place where creation was necessary. It was a creation that gave an opportunity to follow Him and to love Him back. And then when we fail – when we rebelled – you did it, and I did it too – can’t blame it all on Adam – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit already had a plan in place where Jesus would come into our humanity and live a perfect life – and be betrayed by those who should have known better – He did nothing but good and they murdered Him. And He died willingly on the cross and raised from the dead. Who is He? Let it sink in.
What name comes to mind? Say it out loud… Jesus. Lamentations 3:20 out of the Old Testament, not the New Testament… My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases – His mercies never come to an end, and they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. When you wake up tomorrow morning, no matter how bad you messed up today – His mercies are brand-new for you. [Congregation applauds] Amen. And now we are almost in position to thank Him. We are almost in position, but if you want to have a Thanksgiving like none other, if you want to tap into Jed Clampett’s oil well of God’s greatness begin with praise – answering the question who He is. And the second resource that you want to tap into is praising Him on purpose. I am talking about intentionally. As opposed to mailing in a spontaneous moment.
You know my… I have a friend who is a small group leader and he says he doesn’t like prayer time because prayer time always turns into sick call. Because they say let’s have prayer time, and everybody talks… But you know what? I mean that is kind of harsh when you stop and think about it because those people are sick, and they have concerns, and they’ve got a voice – where are they going to do that? Right? And they have gotten into a habit to go straight to request, before they ever praise Him and before they ever get to thanks. But let’s try to praise Him on purpose. And here are three easy techniques for you tonight. Just three easy ones, and I would like you to try this, you’re going to get a chance to try them before the night is over. The first one is real simple – some of you have done this in your small group before, there are 26 letters in the alphabet. A through Z – and we have done this in small groups a lot of time – but you can do it yourself – you can do it by yourself if you want. You can do it with your family tomorrow. You go through every letter in the alphabet and you take that letter and give praise to God. You say something about who He is. Not what He has done, but who He is. It starts out pretty easy, A is for amazing, B is for boundless, there is no limit, C for me is compelling, you just can’t stay away from Him. The more you get encased and see that the Lord is good – now I have got to be honest with you, I know that Z is kind of tough, but zestful – that is actually pretty good – zealous, hey that is all right – and then if you get down to X and you are like what are we going to do? It is OK – I give you permission to cheat on X. Just put an e in front of it – He is extraordinary – He is exemplary – but do the ABCs of praise. Try that out this Thanksgiving. Here is another technique. Review prayers that begin with praise that are recorded in the Bible.
I have got a couple up here for you. In 1 Samuel 2:1 – 10 – Hannah prays because she was barren, she had no children, and God provided for her. And the beginning of that prayer is just amazing how she just prays just eloquent how she praises God amidst a very corrupt religious situation. In 2 Kings 19:15 Hezekiah’s prayer when he is up against it with the Assyrians he starts his prayer with praise that is just amazing. Now – are you ready for that third technique? This is one that has been the most life-changing for me. And you can do it, in fact you get a chance to do it tonight – is if you would write out your praise and your thanks to God in prayer. Actually write it out, there is something that happens from the head to the act of writing. And yes you can type it on your computer too, I started mine on my computer. But write that prayer out. And I would encourage you, don’t just write it one time – and then say that is good – I am saying write it out and wait until it is where you want it to be – and then read it out loud to Him. At least 3 drafts. Really, I am serious. It is amazing what God does through three drafts of writing out praise and thanks to Him. And so tonight… I don’t know if you’re ready for this…
I want to share my prayer. God, You are a genius. So many of the words that could be used to describe Your character have been worn thin by advertising an exaggeration. Awesome isn’t really awesome anymore… Wonderful has kind of lost its wonder… But I still praise You. And these words are the best that I have. You are the Creator, the Original, there is no one like You anywhere… There never has been, and there never will be a Creator who compares to You – Lord.
Verses to Consider: Exodus 34:6 & 7 Isaiah 6:1 – 5 Psalms 86:5 – 10 1 Samuel 2:1 – 10 (Hannah’s Prayer) 2 Kings 19:15 (King Hezekiah’s Prayer)
When Moses witness Your glory You revealed to him that Your compassion is filled with graciousness. On Mount Sinai he saw that You deeply care about our broken lives in our insincerity. And it takes a lot to make You angry because You love us so much. Look at the Scripture. Exodus 34:6 & 7 The Lord passed between Moses and the Exodus The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, ” The Lord, Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” When Isaiah was taken to heaven he witnessed Angels declaring – Holy, Holy, Holy around You – Your throne is high and lifted up because You are set apart and no one compares or competes with You – the truth is – that You are separate because there is no league or playing field that is worthy of Your absolute perfection. Let’s look at Scripture – Isaiah 6:1 – 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! David wrote that You. are kind – You are ready to forgive – You know God… only Your forgiveness really matters… As hard as I try, my forgiveness still feels conditional because of lingering hurt and distrust. But You – David said Your abundant and faithful love to all who call on You – it blows my mind – that You truly forgive that way – and the You are not petty and conditional in Your love for us. Look at the Scripture Psalms 86 :5 – 10 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Praise You God for all Your traits, for who You are – the Great and Courageous One – praise You that because of Jesus we are privileged to call you God – the Creator of the universe – You are our Father – I am thankful to You Jesus – and I am thankful for You. Thank You for giving us hope, our culture is divided and defeated. So many people have lost their way. But Your purpose is never thwarted – Lord Jesus You just cannot be stopped. You still love us. You are not stopped by death itself – You took your life back after being murdered – and You willingly give up your life so that we would not suffer eternal death. Even now at this very moment You reign as our King who is sovereign and not controlled by votes or special interests – Jesus You are coming back to earth and through Your Holy Spirit You are already here to comfort and guide us.
Thank You for being available to us every day when we reach out to You. And Thank You for my family. Thank You so much. I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat yesterday – I hope it’s a girl – Thank You for providing a way for all of us to be together this Thanksgiving. Thank You that my new name is “Gampa”. Thank You for my wife – and I am so blessed to be married to Your daughter – she is supportive of our call to serve – she is… ah… that is really none of your business…That is for a later audience – and Thank You for this church – Your plan to shine Your light in Kootenai County – Thank You all of our teachers who work so hard in public and also private schools. Give us the endurance to hold the fort until You return and set all things back to the original design. We cannot love each other well without Your help. Thank You for helping us. We have gathered this evening to kick off our Thanksgiving holidays and I am setting You as the centerpiece – we bow our heads – surrender our hearts – in Jesus name we thank You and all God’s people said – Amen.