This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – A Year Of Gratitude


A Year Of Gratitude

By Eric Elder

The Ranch


We’ll be returning next week to our study of the book of Romans and the “Lessons in Renewing Your Mind.”  But while the New Year‘s still fresh, I wanted to give you a prescription for how to have the best, brightest, and most fulfilling New Year you’ve ever had.

It’s simpler than you might think, and the price is within reach.  The prescription is this:  give thanks in all circumstances.

The idea was sparked anew within me over the holidays after reading a great book called 365 Thank Yous.  The book was written by John Kralik, who was a lawyer in L.A. when he wrote it.

At 53 years old, he thought he was at the end of his rope.  He had been through two failed marriages, his most recent girlfriend had just left him, and his business was on the brink of financial ruin.

So he took a walk into the mountains on New Year’s Day.  As he walked a voice seemed to speak to him saying that he shouldn’t focus on what he wanted or had lost, but should be grateful for what he had.  Looking  at his life, though, he couldn’t think of even one thing for which he could give thanks.

Then he remembered his grandfather, who at John’s age had already retired and was spending his days golfing and watching the stock market.  John remembered a lesson that his grandfather tried to teach him when John was young.  His grandfather had given him a silver dollar and told him that if he were to write a thank you letter for the silver dollar his grandfather would send him another silver dollar.  That was the way thank you letters worked, his grandfather told him.

True to his word, his grandfather sent John a second silver dollar upon receiving the first thank you note.  But John says he failed to learn the lesson.  Having received the second silver dollar, John never sent a second thank you letter, and thus never received a third silver dollar.

Reflecting on this lesson on his mountain-top walk, John came up with an idea.  He had a stack of stationery in his office with a return address that might soon become obsolete.  He decided he would try to find one person to thank each day.  At the end of the year, he would have written 365 thank yous, he would have used up his stationery, and if his grandfather was right, he would have a lot more to be thankful for at the end of the year.

The only problem was, he couldn’t think of even one thing in his life for which he could be grateful.

The rest of the book describes what happened as John set out to find something to be thankful for each day, whether it was a tie that someone had given him for Christmas, or a kind word spoken by someone who regularly served him coffee at Starbucks, or the fact that one of his clients had actually paid their bills on time.

The response he got from people varied from shock and delight to overwhelming emotion, as so few people had ever received a hand-written thank you note from anyone, let alone from John.  But this simple act of finding something to be thankful for every day began to release a wave of return in John’s life that he could have hardly imagined that day on the mountain.  His relationship with his estranged son was restored.  Some of his paying clients began to refer other paying clients to him.   He began to take notice of those around him, from co-workers in his office to the maintenance man at his apartment.

His heart began to soften to the plights of those around him, and his attitude about his own frustrations began to diminish, too.  By the end of the year, and by the end of the book, John was in a new place on many levels:  personally, professionally, spiritually and emotionally.  What he learned from his grandfather had turned out to be true.  Blessings abound for those who give thanks.

And isn’t this just what the Bible says?  Even though John Kralik’s book is not particularly spiritual, per se, what he says underscores the wisdom of the Bible in many ways.  There’s a blessing of peace and joy that comes to those who have a grateful heart.  The book of Philippians says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

God wants us to present our requests to Him.  But He wants us to present them to Him with thanksgiving.  When we do, the peace of God follows.

The book of Colossians says:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:15-17).

Three times in these three short verses thankfulness is mentioned.  The same God who called us to peace has also called us to be thankful.  Peace and thankfulness go hand in hand.  The God who wants us to teach and admonish one another and to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs also wants us to do these things with with gratitude in our hearts to Him.  And in whatever we do, whether in word or deed, God wants us to do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

The book of First Thessalonians tells us when we should give thanks:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If you’d like to know God’s will for you this coming year, here is is, at least in part:  be joyful always; pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.

This doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to give thanks in all circumstances, but it does mean that the peace and joy that might be eluding you now could be easier to recover than you might think.  God’s peace doesn’t come from getting everything you want, but by being thankful for what you’ve been given.  Being thankful changes your heart, your mind, and your attitude in a way that can bear a fruitful return in your life.

I wish I could read you all the stories in John Kralik’s book.  While it doesn’t have a fairy-tale ending, it does show that the powerful impact that gratefulness have have.  And what did it cost him?  Just a little time to reflect each day on those things for which he could be truly thankful, and the cost of a stack of notecards and stamps so that he could express his gratitude to others.

In the short time since reading the book, I’ve already had several occasions to express my thanks to those around me.  On a visit to a dermatologist with my daughter this week, I was able to tell him thanks for a treatment he had done on my foot several years ago.  It was a painful treatment, but now it’s healed and I’m pain-free.  But I never had a reason to go back to his office after that treatment, so I never told him thanks.  I was able to write some thank you notes for some Christmas gifts, not out of obligation, but with a renewed sense of thankfulness in my heart towards those who took the time to give them to me.  I’ve been able to thank my wife and my kids for things that I might otherwise have overlooked.  I can tell in my own life that the gratitude that is welling up in my heart is already bringing about a new level of joy and peace.

It’s amazing what a little simple act of gratitude can do–both for you, and for those around you.

As we head into 2012, I’d like to encourage you to make this, “A Year of Gratitude.”  A year where you put the Bible to the test and see what happens when you “give thanks in all circumstances.”  If you do, I believe you’ll find that the Bible will prove true for you on this point just as it has proven true on so many other points that people have put it to the test and found to be true.  And if you follow this prescription, I’m confident that you’ll have a better, brighter, and more fulfilling New Year than you’ve ever had before.

And if you’ve got some thank you notes handy, why not take one out from time to time to express your gratitude to those around you?  John Kralik suggests that the notes don’t have to be long, just three or four lines at most. Start with “Dear So-and-So,” he says, then identify the gift specifically (“the red and white tie”), and say one sincere thing about why you like it (“It’s a perfect match for my blue suit.”)  Remember that thank you notes don’t have to be just for those who give you gifts, but for anyone who has been a blessing in your life, whether it’s helping you through a crisis, or serving you with a smile.

With all the other New Year’s resolutions that you could start this year, one of the simplest, yet most beneficial is to be thankful for at least for one thing each day.  Or for best results, as the Bible says, “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for giving us another year of life.  Help us to live each day with gratitude in our hearts toward You and toward those around us.  Help us to express that gratitude in ways that others can benefit from it as well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  I’d like to say a sincere “thank you” to all of you who have taken time to read these messages this past year, sharing them with your friends, praying for our ministry, helping us financially, and writing me your own notes of gratitude.  While I try to respond personally to as many notes as I can, I’m sorry I’m not able to respond in that way to every note that comes in.  But I do read every note, and want to let you know that I very much appreciate hearing from you.  It bolsters my faith, gives me encouragement, and is exciting to see how God uses His Word to touch people’s lives.  Thank you!

365 Thank YousWhile I don’t have copies of John Kralik’s book to send to you (I got mine from the library), I’ve included a link below to the book on Amazon if you’d like to get a copy for yourself.  Thanks to Greg Potzer for recommending the book to me!  Now I’m glad to recommend it to you!
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Today’s Sermon From Kevin Litchfield

This Day's Thought

A New Year

by Kevin Litchfield

John 15:5-15:5

Can you believe it? Having just celebrated Christmas Day, we look to the end of our past year and the beginning of a new year. This morning , as we reflect upon this new year, I would to share with you once again a message entitled A New Year. It is my hope that this year’s resolutions will remember Christ and our personal relationship and worship with Him. As the year draws to a close, what kind of year has it been for you? Has it been a year to cherish or a year to quickly forget? Whatever the year’s tone for us, this week fills us with hope. A hope that a new year will bring a change for us. A chance for a fresh new start- a new beginning. And with that many of us make new year resolutions- pledges or promises to yourself or to God that you will personally be different this year. This morning I want to focus upon some new year’s resolutions that each of should consider for ourselves, but before we delve into our topic, I thought you might enjoy a few stories of failed resolutions: A story is told that At the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. “Why weren’t my resolutions posted?” She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. Or how bout this one…A son called his parents to wish them a happy new year and when his Dad answered the phone, He asked his dad,” well Dad, what’s your new year’s resolution? His dad replied, To make “To make your mother as happy as I can all year,” When his mom got on the phone he asked. her the same question. His mom replied my resolution is “To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution.”

Or some of you may have given up on resolutions taking the same attitude as the characters in the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes: The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die.”

Regardless of past successes or failures… I want you to give a new year resolution one more try but this time realize that keeping this promise is a team effort. Invite the Holy Spirit to join you this year…

The disciples were faced with a new day. Their master Jesus had died. Their hopes were crushed. Their dreams shattered. As per Jesus instructions, they assembled in an upper room knowing what needed to be done but lacking both the power and the desire to carry it out. It was here in their doubt that the Holy Spirit entered the picture. Turn with to Acts chapter 2 beginning in verse 1. The Holy Spirit powerfully entered their lives and they became bold preachers of the Gospel. Jesus spoke of this same Holy Spirit in John chapter 14 verse 26 when he said: But when the father sends the Counselor as my representative- and by the counselor I mean the Holy Spirit- He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you. As we contemplate a new year’s resolution, we must do so realizing that we can not be successful in keeping it apart from God. John 15:5 b says… Apart from me you can do nothing. And the me is clearly God. So you are not alone. With these thought in mind, I would like to offer to you some good resolutions for you to consider.

First, Find time for God- Build that Personal relationship with Christ

In the course of each day make time to creatively spend with God. You know I have a saying that if you want something to happen write it down, put into an active calendar, and guess what the odds of it happening just increased. Look at your day… where in that day can you make an appointment to spend with Jesus. Then write under that time slot in your calendar Jesus. Invite Jesus to meet you. In this time you can read your bible, read a inspirational magazine or book, pray, sing, walk, journal, etc. How boring are our friendships where we say and do the same things every time we are together. Also start with short amounts of time… Us the exercise principles, If you spend a hour exercising in the beginning, you will be too sore to exercise at all the next day. I remember in College I found this place called a weight room come to think of it was probably a result of a new year’s resolution to be a muscle man. I go into the gym and I see a tiny girl pumping the iron machines… I infer if she can do it so can I… I did realize that she had been working out like this for years… I was so sore the next day that I did go back there for a year… Pace yourself. Jesus would rather meet with you for one minute a day that 20 minutes one day a year. As you build that relationship, you will learn to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit, and The Holy Spirit will then personally convict ,guide, rebuke, teach, counsel, comfort, you name each of us. And when that happens our relationship will deepen and we will grow.

Second, Stay or become active in a local church’s worship and Bible Studies

If not this one, find one that you can become involved in. But if it is this one, don’t just come on Sunday morning or once a month or year and expect to personally grow. I strongly believe that in order to become all that we can be we need each other and even more than the fellowship we need to be with each other in a small group bible study that can be Sunday school or a weekday Bible study. But choose to study God’s word within a group. Listen to a letter a pastor got from a church member:

Dear Pastor:

You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.

Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Years (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
July 4th (national holidays) 1
Labor Day (need to get away) 2
Memorial Day (visit hometown folk) 1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Family reunions (mine & wife’s) 3
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Vacation (three to four weeks) 6
Bad weather (ice, snow, rain, clouds) 2
Ball games 2
Races 2
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & fall) 2
Special on TV (superbowl, etc) 3

Pastor, that leaves two Sundays per year. So, you can count on us to be in church on the 4th Sunday in February and the 3rd Sunday in August unless we are providentially hindered. Sincerely, A Faithful Member Guys, it is you that miss out by not risking getting involved.

Third, Choose to become a regular tither this year

There are very few times in the Bible will God dares you to test Him, but This is one of them. Listen to MalachI 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be enough food in my temple, If you do, says the Lord Almighty, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great that you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you. Beginning in the new year at the first paycheck give God the first fruits of that check. Before a single bill is paid give God his 10 percent. Trusting that God will provide if we obey his word. I truly believe that we miss a blessing because we don’t trust God with our money. It ‘s all God’s anyway. God could demand 100 percent but he only asks for ten percent. By not obeying and tithing we are disobeying God and we are sinning against the very God that we say we love. This year try it test God and obey Him by tithing you personal money. What would happen if everyone that attend this church obeyed and tithed what more could happen for God’s kingdom here and abroad. You can’t expect to receive to have a close relationship with god and experience His abundant blessing if you keep sin in your heart and life. Today say in this year I or my family will be a tither. I will test God. I will try it.

A fourth resolution is simply to put any undesirable habit, addiction, sin, you name it into the hands of God.

Too many of us start here with our resolutions, we try to treat a symptom without addressing the root cause. Unless you abide with Christ and choose to invite the Holy Spirit into your life and into your problem there is no hope. You will always try to quit and you will most always fail.

I have got to know most of you enough to know where you are hurting and where your difficulties are. Where hidden pains or sins are. It is time to break the cycle. You can’t change by yourself. You need the powerful presence of God. If you want to change start by building that personal relationship with Christ and let God begin to cause you to hunger for change to thirst for righteousness.

This new year that quickly comes. Make it a year where you place it all into the ever capable hands of our God.

As we close listen to this poem entitled The New Year

I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months. All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination. All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires. All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have — these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose. I am your opportunity to renew you allegiance to Him who said, “Behold, I make all things new.”



For Your New Year

image source: my.opera.com

This is my prayer
for your new year

May all of you
live with no fear

When the angels are
ever to you near

As a child of God
to them so dear

May the Good Lord
make your path clear

That you will know
He’s with you here

For to Him are
you more than mere

And he does see
each and every tear

Know when you pray
that He does hear

Go live your life
as one without fear!

Teresa Marie  12/31/11 ©

Have a happy, blessed and safe New Year everybody,
with love, Terri 

 

 

Be Safe – Via My Eldest Daughter

image source: google.com/images

I would like to share an experience with you all about drinking and driving.

As you well know, some of us have been known to have had brushes with the authorities on our way home from the odd social session over the years.

A couple of nights ago, I was out for a few drinks with some friends and had a few too many beers.

Knowing full well I may have been slightly over the limit, I did something I’ve never done before – I took a bus home.

I arrived home safely and without incident, which was a real surprise, as I have never driven a bus before and am not sure where I got this one. 

Have a Happy & Healthy New Year!!


In The New Year

image source: google.com/images

With the coming of
a whole new year

Allow me to make
myself perfectly clear

May you have then
all of your wishes

May life give you
much laugher and kisses

May in this world
so full of demand

All of God’s blessings
be at your command

May God and His angels
be close at hand

Everywhere that you go
upon sea and land

May your friends and family
with their love to impart

Always remember that home
is where it does start

May these Irish blessings
from you never depart

And be held there
deeply within your heart!

Have a Happy New Year Everyone!!

Teresa Marie  12/27/11 ©

In Case I Fail To Visit You Somehow

After I did some posts earlier today, I pulled up my list of followers and have spent the last 2 hours trying to visit each one of you personally.  I have been wanting to get the time to do this for a while now but, given the season, I feel the need to hurry up and do it.

Therefore, I will be continuing this throughout the next couple of days in hopes to reach all of you before Christmas Day.  But, I am not going to fool myself into thinking that I will not lose track of what I’m doing 🙂  With my short-term memory problems, I feel safe to say that I may visit some of you more than once and you will have received multiple greetings and wishes from me and others I may accidentally skip over because I lost track of where I left off 😦

Although I have learned to live with my limitations, it doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of them nor that I don’t wish that they didn’t exist.  I used to be highly organized, supremely focused, always giving attention to details, etc. and it drives me nut that my mind will no longer function in this manner!

With all of that having been said, I decided to inform you all of my plans and make a pre-emptive apology to anyone I may neglect in my “progression” through the list.

So here is my blanket Holiday Greetings to you all with my love!!!!:

 

May your Christmas hold more joy
than any year gone before

May you gather in love
with the Savior to adore

May His unending, splendid grace
keep you safe and warm

May the coming New Year
bring to you no harm 

May you be so blessed
that you just have to tell

The whole world far and wide 
how God treated you so well

And may you receive 
throughout this Christmas Season

All that you deserve
from this holiday’s Reason!!

Teresa Marie   12/22/11 ©

 

My List – Free Write Fridays

(image source: google.com/images)

We were given the task of making our resolution lists for next year, but mine is more like a wish list ’cause I don’t ever do the resolution thing.  It has always been to me like setting myself up for letting myself down.  Though now my husband is making all kinds of “helpful” suggestions on what I could put on my list, I am ignoring him, lol!  So here is my wish list:

The kiss, of bliss

A life, without strife

The hope, to cope

New year, no fear

To restart, my heart

We begin, to win

His grace, to retrace

New song, sing strong

Feel free, to be

A year, no tear

But love, full of

And there find, a peaceful mind!

Teresa Marie  12/16/11 ©

 

Free Write Friday;

by Kellie Elmore