1: All In with Gratitude and Generosity
In the famous little book, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens speaks to an inner conflict that all of us know, the conflict
between miser and giver.
One part of us, like the selfish Scrooge, wants to live with fists closed, accumulating possessions even if it hurts others, focusing on “me,” protecting ourselves by shutting out relational risk and the pain of the world. But another part, a better part, sees others, recognizes blessings, holds palms up to heaven, and gives time, empathy, and money to others as a reflection of gratitude for all the gifts life offers, including the gift of life itself.
Social scientists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, authors of The Paradox of Generosity, write, “By giving ourselves away, we ourselves move toward flourishing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact.”
Those who give 10 percent or more of their income and those who volunteer their time are more likely than others to report being very happy. Similarly, those who are generous in their relationships tend to be happier than those who are less generous relationally.
Gratitude is the only proper response to the grace of God and the gift of abundant life that is ours in Jesus. And with gratitude comes generosity. This seems like a paradox, because gratitude is about receiving and generosity is about giving. But gratitude and generosity are deeply connected and intertwined.
God’s grace leads to gratitude for the gifts of each day and then comes full circle when we give generously to one another. As we live with open hands, gratefully remembering God’s sustaining and gracious presence in every moment, our relationships thrive and the miser in us recedes. A generous soul emerges from the grateful part of us, mindful of the gifts of every day, immersed in the grace of Jesus.
How has grace been shown to you? How have you been gifted with blessings? Gratitude and generosity flow from
2: G.K. Chesterton on Gratitude
From time to time around Living Word, you may hear a quote from G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936). Chesterton was an English writer, poet, and lay theologian. He is often referred to as the prince of paradox.
Not only is he one of our favorite writers and thinkers, he’s one of the favorite writers of most of our favorite writers. Here are a few of his wonderful quotes on gratitude. Each one is a gem.
As you read and ponder these quotes, consider what you are grateful for in this present season of life. Enjoy.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.”
“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”
3: A Grateful Pastor
Back in 2011, I experienced something of a personal revival, or what I call a personal reformation. I came to Christ 29 years ago, but just 7 short years ago I experienced some exponential spiritual growth. I think my heart and mind finally caught up with what God had done/was doing in my soul and spirit. And as a result, I became overwhelmed with immense gratitude.
For about a year, I wept easily and felt gratitude for every person I talked to, listened to, and prayed for. That year, I started to see life through new eyes.
I read every Psalm of Thanksgiving in the Bible, I started praying a prayer of grateful examen at the end of each day, and I listened to songs that deepened my gratitude even more. I must’ve played the Hillsong song “Thank You” (from the album A Beautiful Exchange) a thousand times.
I felt my life being reshaped by gratitude. It affected my prayers. It changed my conversations. It eased my stress. The poems I wrote in that season were all songs of praise. My marriage was impacted as I had a brand-new sense of loving appreciation for my wife. Our time together became richer and sweeter as a result.
Our family started a new practice of sharing what we are thankful for around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. And that one simple act changed the way we interacted with each other forever. What we found is that when you share your gratitude with each other, your relationships soften, deepen, and grow. Our family developed new empathy muscles and a miles-deeper capacity for giving each other grace. And that year of grateful living was like a watershed moment for me. Every year since, I have experienced my vocation as a grateful follower of Jesus. I am a grateful pastor. I am grateful that Pastor Steve and Pastor Brian called me up 11 years ago to invite me to join them on staff.
I’m grateful to our brilliant and committed staff for all that they do each week. I’m grateful for the beautiful team of ministry partners who serve like they do year in and year out. And I’m grateful for the best congregation in the world.
We are just a bunch of ordinary people, but we are a grateful bunch, and God is doing glorious things in and through our lives. I am ALL IN as one of your pastors. Thank you for being such an awesome church!
4: Every Good Endeavor
We express gratitude to God through everything we do. In Tim Keller’s book on work, Every Good Endeavor, he writes about the jazz legend John Coltrane, who is the inspiration for Keller’s title. Keller quotes the original liner notes to Coltrane’s most famous album, A Love Supreme, which use the words “every good endeavor.”
I bought A Love Supreme on vinyl at a record shop in Red Lion several years ago. This record (which was a song of praise and thanksgiving for the love of Christ) came with liner notes that expressed gratitude, but Coltrane really expressed his grateful heart through his music. Here are a few lines from those original liner notes (I’ve edited it down quite a bit):
Dear listener: All praise be to god to whom all praise is due. In gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. All praise to God. …it is truly - a love supreme.
This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say ‘Thank you God’ through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor. May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain – it is all with God – in all ways and forever. All praise to God. – With love to all, I thank you, John Coltrane.
Coltrane’s deep expression of gratitude reminds me of Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15-17: “And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.”
Stewardship, Generosity, and Financial Support
A couple of weeks ago, when we started the ALL IN message series, our lead pastor, Brian (Rice), used an analogy of planting shade trees for future generations to enjoy. We’ve been so incredibly blessed by the people of Living Word who have been so generous over our 40-year history. In 2018, we are enjoying the shade of a forest that started being planted in 1978. And today, we have an awesome opportunity to jump in and generously give—joyfully and sacrificially—toward the flourishing of the next generation. And we authentically believe the best is yet to come.
The end of this November marks our second-year anniversary since we made pledge commitments for The Best is Yet to Come capital campaign for the expansion and renovation of our facility. We are really happy with the way everything came together, and we are totally committed to wisely leveraging this building for God’s kingdom purposes.
And we desire for the whole congregation to be ALL IN, committed to the purposes of God here at Living Word, locally, regionally, and globally.
And so, we want to invite you to be a part. Please join with us and pray about what role you could serve. The sooner we pay off our loan, the sooner we can invest even more finances to do the ministry God has set before us.
A quick history from Living Word’s business manager: Back in November 2016, 773 families made pledge commitments to give $4,908,717 over the course of three years. Through October 31 of this year, 70% of those commitments have been received [$3,373,877]. Yay God! Of the 773 families who made commitments, 53 families have given a total of $166,179 above and beyond their commitments. Overflowing with generosity!
In addition, 156 families have stepped out in faith and given a total of $243,329 toward the campaign. We are so thankful for their participation!
You are invited to join us in participating in the capital campaign, which is already in progress. To find out more about The Best is Yet to Come building campaign, our goals, and how to begin giving, go to: LWCCyork.com/BYTC.
- Songs We Sing
Other Messages in Series