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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Thanksgiving Day
November 26, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

A GIFT FOR THE ONE WHO HAS EVERYTHING
I Peter 4:7-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our message this morning comes from the First Epistle of Peter, chapter four, beginning with the seventh verse, as follows:

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Here ends our text.

In Jesus Christ, Whom we love because He first loved us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Have you noticed that it's getting harder to find gifts for people than it used to be? It seems that way to me. One reason for it is that our society is becoming more and more affluent, and the standard of living keeps rising, year by year. That makes it tougher to find birthday and anniversary and Christmas presents for people, I think. Because when you come up with an idea for something they really like or need, the chances are that they've already bought it for themselves! It stands to reason that a lot of money can be made if a company can come up with a new and different gift idea. Something that people aren't likely to have already. And it seems like every new product like that to hit the market is advertised as, "A Gift for the One who has Everything."

Strictly speaking, of course, that's never true. No one, regardless of his wealth, has everything. Well, no one but God. God does have everything. He owns and controls everything in the world. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," says the Psalmist. -- Now there's a challenge - what gift could we possibly give to God that He didn't have before? On this national day of Thanksgiving, it is especially appropriate to ask this question. As Christians, what can we bring to God to show our thanks toward Him for all the wonderful blessings He has bestowed upon us and our families? Our text for today has a suggestion for us. We can give glory to our God! That's why this year's Thanksgiving theme is:

"A GIFT FOR THE ONE WHO HAS EVERYTHING"

We'll see I. WHY we give glory to God, and also
II. HOW we give glory to God!

The idea of "giving glory to God" is a little difficult to understand. After all, how can a person add any glory to the eternal God? The Bible says that "the Lord Almighty - he is the King of glory!" Ps 24:10. Well it's true that we can't add any glory to God; to "glorify God" means to reflect His great glory. To show forth His glory, His grace, His lovingkindness with our lips and with our lives. It means to show others, and tell others, about God's glory. That's the gift we bring when we glorify God.

-- And it's always just the right gift for us to give, too! It's a gift that we can give to God again and again, not just in church on Thanksgiving, but wherever we are or whatever we're doing. It will never be out of place or inappropriate. In fact, God tells us that that's one of the reasons He put us on this earth in the first place - to give praise and glory to Him! Peter says to us Christians, "You are a chosen generation, a royal priest hood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." I Pet 2:9.

Why do we give this gift of glory to God? It shouldn't be our effort to earn points with God. It shouldn't be an attempt to look pious and upstanding in the eyes of our neighbors. What it should be is a fruit of faith. Really a kind of reflex action. Do you remember the last time the doctor tested your reflexes? He took that little rubber hammer and tapped your knee, didn't he? A nerve was struck, muscles contracted, and your leg moved. Reflex. A natural reaction. If your leg hadn't jerked, it would have meant something was wrong with you. Our giving glory to God is a reflex. It's a natural reaction to everything that He has given us. When you think about it, there'd be something wrong with us if we didn't offer praise to God! He's given us everything we have!

Samuel once told the people of Israel, Fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." That's good advice for us on this Thanksgiving Day. Look around you and consider what great things the Lord has done for you! Our God is not a stingy God, but an overwhelmingly bountiful God. It is certainly true, as Paul said, that He who gave His own Son for our Redemption also freely gives us all things. As you find reasons to give glory to God this morning, be careful to note all the blessings the Lord has showered upon your and your family in the year past.

Of course, if we had to list all of them out loud, we might be here till tomorrow morning. But surely we need to thank God today for the wonderfully rich country we live in. He's given us the highest standard of living in the history of the world. Isn't it strange - that even as we're recovering from the worst financial crisis to hit the U.S. since the Great Depression, we still have more wealth and luxury in our modern, convenient life than our grandparents every dreamed of fifty years ago. When have there been more luxury items that were taken for granted by so many - large-screen TVs, microwave ovens, cell phones, computers, hybrid vehicles? When has there ever been a greater variety of fresh foods on our tables from all over the world? God has given us all these things, and we're so used to them that we take them for granted. Let's thank Him today!

Also, in your inventory, remember to count the fact that the Lord has given us freedom to worship as we choose. That's something rather rare in the history of Christianity. Remember the precious gift of your fellowship with like-minded believers in this congregation. Remember, and give glory to God for, the families that He has given you. Your job, your health, your friends, and on down the line -- blessings that are literally too many to name! They all come from your Heavenly Father, as James says, "Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights." Jas 1:17.

And, of course, the big gift that dwarfs all the others - the gift of God's Son. For sinful mankind, who hated God and turned away from Him and disobeyed all His commandments, He gave His son. God sent Him down to earth to live a life of homelessness and poverty. Sent Him among wicked and treacherous men who schemed and plotted and persecuted Him. Finally, God sent His Son up that last lonely hill of Calvary, sent Him to the cross to die for people who wanted nothing to do with Him. That's how much God loved you and me! Surely, there would be something terribly wrong with our "reflexes" if we didn't react to that love by loving God in return. And we do! "We love Him because He first loved us." I John 4:9. That's why we give glory to God!

But how, exactly, does God want us to give Him glory? Well, one way is by doing what you're doing right now, coming here to God's house to offer him your thanks and your praise. But giving glory to God isn't just the hymns you sing in church, and the prayers you pray in church. It doesn't stop when you walk out those church doors when the service is over. Giving glory to God is the way you live your life! An old cowboy once explained his idea of Christian living this way: he said, "Now I'm working for Jim here. If I just spent one day a week sitting around, telling what a good fellow Jim is, and singing songs about him, I'd be doing just what a lot of Christians do; but it wouldn't suit Jim very good, and I'd get fired mighty quick. No, my work is to saddle my horse every day, and ride among the hills, making sure that Jim's herd is all right and not suffering from lack of water or feed or wandering off or getting stolen by cattle thieves. Then I'm showing my love for Jim and serving him the way he wants to be served."

Very often, what you do glorifies your God more than what you say. And our text tells us some things that we can do to give glory to God, and show our love for Him. And above all things, it says, have fervent love for one another. When you love God, it shows in the way you treat other people - especially your fellow Christians!

And of our love for each other, Peter says - it will cover a multitude of sins. That's a very strange idea, especially in the society in which we live today. Covering people's sins doesn't come naturally to us. Our system of gossip and the "grapevine" tends to publish people's sins. Even for us Christians, as soon as we find out some nasty piece of news about someone, our first impulse is to reach for the phone. Here's another way you can give glory to God - by resisting that impulse. A great way to give glory to God is by guarding your tongue and resisting the impulse to let others in on the secret. Instead, why not go a little bit out of your way and help that person privately with his problem? Why not encourage him with the comfort of God's Word and do what you can to lighten his load. Then you're not only giving help to your neighbor, you're giving glory to God. What more fitting way could there of showing your thanks to God, who's blessed you so richly?

Peter says, Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. That's harder to do than it sounds. Welcoming people to share your home and your bread, even when they arrive unexpectedly -- making our visitors here in church to feel at home and comfortable -- cheerfully sharing the gifts God has given us with our fellow-Christians here at home and around the world -- this is a service not only to them, but to Jesus, who said, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Matt 25:40.

Another way that we give glory to God? By using our talents to serve Him. Each of you sitting here today has a talent (perhaps many talents) that God has given you and that the rest of us need. Be a good steward of that talent! Use it to uplift your fellow Christians! Our text says, As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies. Perhaps your talent is teaching or working with children - each year we need volunteers to teach Sunday School. Perhaps your talent is working with your hands - there are always ongoing projects around our church property that need that special talent. Perhaps your gift is financial - maybe God has blessed you lately so that you have a little extra income - you can use it to support the work of the Gospel in our midst. Maybe you have the type of personality that can encourage those we haven't seen for a while to join us once again for worship. Maybe your only gift is the gift of a cheerful spirit - use it! -- to offer comfort and friendship and the hope of God's Word to those among us who are suffering or going through hard times. The point is that God's grace is manifold -- He gives us all different kinds of gifts, and we serve Him by using those gifts to help each other.

Each one of us has our separate talents, our separate gifts, our separate place in God's plan. But each of us has the same goal. Every act of service is aiming at the same target - that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. This is the way that we glorify God. This is our Thanksgiving gift -- our "gift for the One who has everything!"

Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? The man who rode down from Jerusalem to Jericho that day had nothing to do but follow the highway, and make sure his donkey didn't stumble or hurt itself. Another routine day; same old same old. But when he came to the place where that unknown pilgrim lay senseless and bleeding beside the road - in that moment his duty changed. In that moment he became a rescuer, a nurse, a helper of the wounded. Tomorrow is a new day for you, too. Will you be ready for unexpected calls and new responsibilities? Will you be ready to serve, to help, to use the talents God has given you? The real question is, will you be ready to give glory to God? May the Lord give to each of us the faith to answer that question with a resounding "YES!" In Jesus' name, AMEN.