Nov 6 2022 - Developing a Grateful Heart

Advent begins in 3 weeks! And Christmas is on a Sunday this year, so we will probably have a Christmas Eve service but not meet on Christmas morning.

There are several Christmas ‘figures’ – that we will be looking at during the Advent Season. I will be sending out an email –

Week 1: Joseph –

Week 2: Mary – Luke 1

3: Out of chronology – but the Magi

4: Shepherds – Luke 1:1-20

If you would like to participate – and share a personal reflection – that would be appreciated.

Robin Horstman’s brother passed away Friday – he had had a number of issues, but had been working and did not show up to work.

Tony is in rehab and would like to get out!

Judy has some health issues.

And there is an election on Tuesday – and I would like to pray for peace.

As Jeff mentioned – we will be having communion…

Luke 22: 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves;

Given thanks – is a compound word where we get our word Eucharist – and that is why some churches call having communion “Eucharist” – meaning “well-grace” – or “very grateful”

We had our monthly Cuyahoga Falls pastors’ gathering – and a pastor from Ukraine shared about what is going on. There were a couple things that really struck me – the war in Ukraine has been going on for 8 years – we don’t think that way – but it’s just that Russia’s tactics have changed over the past 9 months.

His church is in the far west, so they have not been as affected as other places – but in 2014 – after Russia invaded Crimea – they began preparing their church for Refugees. When this started, they converted their church to a refugee center. So that is what they have been doing.

What hit me most was how grateful he was. He was just a man of gratitude! To the US, to Europe, and all the countries who are accepting refugees – 6-8 Million refugees.

When refugees first started coming – they were able to handle it – and then funding started flooding in. Here is a grateful heart that was unbelievable. It all fits together.

The important role that a grateful heart plays in our spiritual growth and transformation.

We will look at a couple passages in Luke and some in Paul’s letters.

This is not a parable – this is a story that happened:

Luke 17: 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." 14 When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.

Very familiar story – first – this prayer that they are praying – Jesus, master, have mercy on us – is the most prayed prayer in the gospels. Have mercy on me!

I remember many years ago, back in the 70s – hearing someone go through a psalm – 51 – I think – create in me a clean heart, joy of my salvation, do not take your spirit from me – and this person said – we don’t need to pray this prayer, because it has already been accomplished in Jesus. I get what he was saying – yes, all of this has been accomplished in Jesus – but I believe God wants us to ask Him to be who He is – and to act in our lives according to His character!

We think -that is how He is going to act?

Abraham said – should not the God of justice judge justly? And God was pleased.

Two reasons this is important – it distinguishes for us – a lament (which we are supposed to do! – if you read through the psalms of lament – God – hear my prayer – aren’t you just? Aren’t you loving?) – a lament vs. GRUMBLING! In a lament – yes, they are grumbling and complaining – but asking God to act in accordance with His character.

Second – it is a way to practice Phil 4:8 – When you say, God, be merciful to me – you are claiming Phil. 4:8 –

The story continues:

15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Giving Him thanks – Eucharist.

The Samaritan – the only Samaritan of the 10 – as he is healed – he realizes – Uh oh, Jesus did this -and that is significant for a Samaritan to realize.

17 Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."

The Samaritan returns to express his gratitude to Jesus – he returns to God. For a Samaritan, salvation did not come out of Israel – but he knew exactly Who Jesus was.

We need to return to God in gratitude – even for small stuff – because it will change hearts.

When God does something merciful – and you turn to God – and give thanks – you eucharist Him – it builds trust and His mercy.

When He does something generous – it builds in your heart a trust in His generosity.

Gratitude also helps us to move forward – Go your way! Being ungrateful causes us to be stuck!

Finally – it is healing to the soul.

For me – I would say this – it is not so much that I am ungrateful – it is more that I neglect to be grateful – and that is not good!

To show my gratitude – I neglect to show my gratitude to God.

And now a word from our sponsor – Paul:

Colossians 1:3 We give thanks (eucharist) to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

Paul OFTEN says this! There might only be one or two where he doesn’t!

His gratitude fills his letters and it is always connected to his prayer!

We will focus our gratitude for God – but Paul expresses his gratitude for others. For Paul, he had a prayerful life – praying always for you – he keeps praying and that produces a grateful heart!

One thing to be careful of – not letting our prayers be about fixing or solving problems. It is okay to pray a little bit for that – but we need to soak our prayers for others with gratitude – especially specific things about others we are grateful for.

For Paul – he is grateful (eucharist) for their faith and love –

Here is an example:

Ephesians 1: 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks (eucharist) for you when I remember you in my prayers.

For the Jewish people – every day they would recite the Shamah – for the Lord is one – you shall love him…

And Jesus comes around and slightly adds to the Shamah – You shall love the Lord your God… AND you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Scot McKnight calls it the Jesus Creed.

And that is what we should do.

That is what Paul wanted out of the church – that they would love God and others.

I have talked about loving neighbor and enemies.

At the end of our pastor’s meeting – we were talking about what we do – loving our enemy.

Sometimes your neighbor is your enemy – and you get to do two commands with one blow!

Last Sunday – as I was coming up Northampton Road – there was a cloud of smoke filling the neighborhood – it was our backdoor neighbor burning leaves – and they were talking about where the property line was…

And I said – you know – you probably shouldn’t be doing this – everyone is getting smoke in their house…

He let it go out and that was that – until Thursday… - here we go, smoke everywhere – and this time, Cindy went over to talk to him – and our other neighbor went over to talk to him… so he let it die out.

Then the next day – he had taken all of his leaves and dumped them on our side of the property line.

And I thought – love my neighbor – love my enemy.

Friday night we had a great time here – and Saturday morning I woke up to a massive pile of leaves on the property line… Here we go again.

The hilarious thing – He had raked them from his front yard all the way back to the back.

Anyway – love your neighbor – love your enemy.

He thanked God for their faith. This word is not as robust – like believing – we believe in Jesus – we are not Muslim or Hindu – for them it was so significant – not only to believe but to TRUST. Trust is a bigger word – much more of a significant step to trust someone than to believe some thing.

Faithfulness is even bigger. Faith can be translated faithfulness. We are to have faith, trust, and faithfulness in Jesus.

The Christians in Ephesus believed in Jesus and what He did on the cross – and the trusted in Him – turning away from everything they knew and to a whole new worldview.

When he talks about faithfulness – it is not about having a quiet time or memorizing verses – but practicing fidelity – Jesus is the only one and there absolutely is no other. This is really saving faith.

If you are a faithful Buckeyes fan – it doesn’t mean you ALWAYS wear their stuff – well – it can – but it means they are your team and you root for no other!

Luke 18:10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'

The Pharisee is an example of an ungrateful person. Posture plays a big role. He is standing by himself – so he comes to God with a posture and attitude of superiority and self-righteousness.

He does say – I thank you (eucharist) -but he is not as grateful to God as he is for himself! He is grateful for who he has become!

Our tendency might be to say – Thank you that I am not a Pharisee.

Their prayer, scholars say – would have been out loud.

13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away (Jesus is making this separation between the two – polar opposites of one another!), was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

The posture of the tax collector is humility and repentance. He heard the Pharisees prayer – and he agrees with it.

“The” sinner. I’m that one! He doesn’t deny it nor does he despise the Pharisee or defend himself or disagree – We cannot be grateful until we realize we can’t earn God’s blessing and grace. If we think we can, we will never have a grateful heart.

14 "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

His life was changed. He was transformed – and his gratitude had become evident.

Jesus said he who is forgiven much loves much – and the level we believe we are forgiven – we will love.

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