November 19 - Message Update

Dear SanLo Community, an update for the week of November 19, 2017

Thank you Pastor George Toda for the message from Psalm 116:12-19, "When Words are Inadequate." Six years ago, I stood here to preach and I was able to share what God had done in the process of healing me from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, stage-4 cancer. Since then, I have been cured of cancer and have been restored to good health and strength. Many of you prayed and God heard and graciously answered and extended my stay here on earth. So I thank you and I thank God and praise Him for each new day. But how does one give thanks when words seem so inadequate? We can turn to the Psalmist to help us out here. Psalms 113 to 118 are called the "Hallel," which is short for Hallelujah, or praise the Lord. They were sung at the Jewish Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Jesus and the disciples must have sung Psalm 116 at the last Passover. It has a prophetic tone, so you can easily see how it refers to Christ in many aspects. Psalm 116 is a song of Triumph over death and thus, praise to God. The Lord delivered this Psalmist out of trouble, even death. So he asks the question in verse 12, "How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me." that is, "How can I ever thank Him for all He has done for me?"  And that's our question for this morning, too.

1)  "I will lift up the cup of salvation." (V.13a) Notice what looks like an apparent paradox. Question: What shall I give to God to express my gratitude? Answer: "I will take all that God gives me and more that He gives." The opposite of accepting or receiving is refusal which indicates indifference and that is very close to ingratitude. However, acceptance of more expresses gratitude. At Thanksgiving, many people acknowledge the temporal blessings of life that God freely gives them. Yet many continue to reject God's greatest gift, the gift of His Son to be our Savior. To lift the cup of Salvation is to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. There is no finer way of expressing our gratitude to God than by accepting the greatest gift ever given. If you have never opened up your heart to God's love and the gift of His Son to be your Savior, do so this morning. Then this Thanksgiving will have so much more meaning for you.

2) "I will call upon the name of the Lord." (Vs.13b & 17b) This suggests prayer to God. Prayer is the first and natural expression of thanksgiving, and thanksgiving ought to be the first and natural prayer of our hearts. The truly thankful heart does not limit thanks to once a year or special occasions, but has a continuing prayer life that is an expression of a meaningful relationship with God. Unfortunately, for some people, the only time they pray with real earnestness is when they have a critical need. A consistent, meaningful prayer life is a good expression of thanksgiving. You can use the acrostic, A-C-T-S, as a guide as you pray each day: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

3) "I will fulfill my vows to the Lord." (Vs.14 & 18) In times of crisis or desperate moments, it's easy to bargain with God and say if you get me out of this mess, I will go to church every Sunday, or I will read my Bible every day, and if you are really desperate, you might even promise to be a minister. But then the crisis passes and the promise is soon forgotten. Jacob made promises to God before he left home. Genesis 28:20-22, "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God, and this stone that I have set up as pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me, I will give you a tenth."' How's that for a vow? It took a long time, but he eventually did fulfill those promises. And keeping those promises was an expression of his thankfulness. This vow suggests faithful stewardship. Our faithfulness as stewards of God is another way of expressing thanks. Did any of us say to God, "When I get a full time job, then I will start tithing?" When we keep that promise, we are expressing our gratitude to God. And gratitude should always be the primary motivations of all our giving, not human obligation or duty. A practical way of expressing your gratitude to God would be to participate in the "Grow San Lo Campaign." 

4) "I am Thy servant. . . You have freed me from my chains" (Vs.16) Deuteronomy  15:16-17, tells what a slave may choose to do when he gains his freedom. "But if your servant says to you, 'I do not want to leave you,' because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe and push it into the door, and he will become your servant for life." The Psalmist says that he was once in bondage and slavery and since God has loosed his bonds and set him free, he desires to be a love slave, a personal choice to be the Lord's servant. You and I were in bondage to sin and death. God has set us free through the death of His Son, and now He is our new Master and Lord. Instead of being slaves to sin, we can choose to be a love slave, bond servants of the King for the rest of our lives. Has your ear been pierced by the Lord? Notice the paradox:  We are never more free than when we are love slaves to Christ. So the service that we now render to God is a powerful expression of thanksgiving.

5) "I will sacrifice a thank offering to You." (Vs.17) The sacrifice of thanksgiving was a peace offering. It spoke of the relationship between God and man after the atonement which provided forgiveness for all his sins. It was given in order to maintain a healthy and intimate relationship with God. I like this quote from the Pulpit Commentary: "Formal sacrifices are but representation of the spiritual sacrifices for which God calls, and their value depends on the spiritual sacrifice being offered through them." (Pulpit Commentary, Volume on Psalms 116, pg. 83) For example, the sacrifices that Cain and Abel gave indicate that they looked for Divine acceptance, not of the gift, but that which it represented, namely themselves. Thus God accepted Abel but rejected Cain, because Abel's heart and attitude were right, but not Cain's. The New Testament parallel to the sacrifice of thanksgiving can be found in Roman 12:1, "Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -this is your spiritual act of worship." There can be no greater expression of our gratitude and thanksgiving to God than the giving of ourselves to Him in renewed dedication and commitment.

So how can we give proper thanks to God?

1) "I will lift up the cup of salvation," that is, by acknowledging His great gift, Jesus Christ and putting our trust in Him and entering fully into the life He offers us.

2) "I will call upon the name of the Lord," by maintaining a vital relationship with God through a faithful prayer life.

3) "I will fulfill my vows to the Lord," that is, by keeping our promises and paying our vows to God and by being faithful as His stewards.

4) "I am Thy servant," by acknowledging God as the Lord and Master of our lives and by faithfully serving Him in love.

5) "I will sacrifice a thank offering to you," that is, by presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord, freely choosing to surrender our lives to God.

When we find that words alone are inadequate in thanking God, we can bolster our thanks by our response to God and by living out our love and loyalty to Him. In other words, it's not just Thanksgiving, it is THANKSLIVING!




Mission Moment:

Welcome to Roy and Nancy Toma, our supported missionaries since 2003 as they served with Cru in Okinawa and Sendai and more recently with JEMS in Iwakuni. They have returned to Southern CA where Roy will serve as the Director of Japan Missions for JEMS while Nancy will be the primary caregiver for Roy’s mother. Please pray for them during this transition.

Thank you to all who participated by bringing in very close to the goal of 1,500 pounds of food, which was donated to the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Also, thank you to all who brought gifts for Operation Christmas Child.


Have a wonderful week “Thanksliving” for the Lord,

Stan, for SLZJCC