When we lived in Asia, one of the surprises was that when we gave someone a gift, that person might or might not say the words, "Thank you."  Since saying…
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34   “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus,” wrote a man who had known more than his fair share of difficulties.  His name? We know him as Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. In one sentence Paul gives us the key to unlocking the door to a relationship of blessedness and gratitude. He is saying in simple terms that thanksgiving is not a holiday to be celebrated but an attitude of your heart to be daily observed because no matter how difficult the circumstances of your life—whether you be in a hospital bed or enjoying health, wealth, and happiness—God is in control. Thanksgiving didn’t begin with the pilgrims in 1621 when Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and feasting, remembering that God had turned drought to rain that brought a simple harvest. Some 1400 years before, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to be thankful.  Jews were instructed to celebrate deliverance from Egypt—a custom still observed in the Feast of the Tabernacle or Sukkot. When the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, Nehemiah instructed the people to stop working and celebrate a season of thanksgiving. Consistently down through history where there has been celebration and commemoration for a victory or event, there has been feasting and special foods. Yes, the pilgrims had reason to be thankful. The terrible New England winters took the lives of more than half those who made the long journey across a cold, stormy ocean. No wonder they celebrated when they had promise of making it through another winter. In 1680 the Massachusetts Bay Colony recognized a Day of Thanksgiving, making it official. By 1858, 25 states and two U.S. territories officially recognized a day of thanksgiving, and, since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be Thanksgiving Day, subsequent American Presidents have followed the same pattern. No matter where you live on planet Earth, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. For what should you be thankful? Don’t limit your gratitude to my list, but may I mention some of the things for which I give thanks. First, I give thanks for the assurance that I am God’s child, that He has forgiven me and brought me into the Kingdom of His dear Son—not because I deserved it but because of the Father’s great love for me. Then I am thankful for my family and friends. I must tell you that God has so graciously touched my life with His favor. Yes, I’m thankful not only for His grace that meets me at the point of my weakness, but, honestly, I’m thankful as well for what hasn’t happened. I also thank God for the bumps in the road, challenges that bring me face to face with my weakness and cause me to cry out for God’s help and provision that comes in such a way, I know He has provided—as opposed to something just happening. I’m convinced that what He has withheld, I haven’t needed, and what He has given me is a stewardship to be used wisely for His work. I’m thankful that in a world of turmoil, our great God will allow nothing to happen that escapes His attention or ability to prevent. That’s why Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV). And what of the future? It will arrive just one day at a time, and when tomorrow comes, God’s Son will be there to take my hand and walk through the valley one step at a time. Yes, be thankful, friend.  May the sin of ingratitude never be on the “unforgiven” list.  Never. Resource reading: Psalm 107:1-43
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living Who can forget the wonders he performs? How gracious and merciful is our Lord! Psalm 111:4   Somerset Maugham liked Maxim’s restaurant in Paris so well that he used that restaurant to stage one of the 20thcentury’s most popular novels The Razor’s Edge; but it was not Maugham that first put Maxim’s on the map. It was an aspiring Hungarian musician who was very much down on his luck when he and his bride ate at a then obscure restaurant in Paris known as—yes, Café Maxim. When it was time for Franz Lehar to pay the bill for the meal, he reached for his money in his wallet and felt nothing. Frantically he searched his pockets again. He thought, “It had to be there!” But, no, it was missing. He had been the victim of a pickpocket and not only was his money missing, but his return train tickets back home to Vienna. Franz tried to explain what had happened, making promises of payment at a later time, but the skeptical waiter thought, “Sure, I’ve heard that line a thousand times,” and he called the manager. But the manager saw something in the face and eyes of the man who stood before him that told him he was telling the truth. The young man assured him, “Sir, you will never regret this generosity of yours. I promise to make you and your restaurant famous. My ambition is to write an opera, and I shall put your restaurant in it.” The manager, whose name is unknown, surely thought, “I’ll just be happy to get a remittance from him, paying for the meal.” But to his great surprise some five years later, “The Merry Widow” premiered at the Theater an der Wein in Vienna, and Café Maxim was front and center as eligible bachelors courted the rich merry widow. For a century now, people, having heard about Café Maxim, have sought out the restaurant, bringing well more than a thousand-fold return from the promise made by a distraught crime-victim long ago. Was Lehar grateful for the confidence and trust placed in him? Obviously! Gratitude is an interesting expression of thanks, something only humans understand. Only those created in the image of God understand the implications of being thankful for something and to someone. Obviously the Pilgrims that came to the Cape Cod in the 17thcentury were grateful to an Abnaki Indian whose name was Samoset. He and a friend named Squanto—both of whom spoke English—taught the settlers to grow corn, tap maple trees and farm the sea. At the end of that first harvest, November 29 was proclaimed a day of thanksgiving. Of course, the Indians were honored guests, but the pilgrims recognized God as the ultimate source of blessing, One who had used two unknown Indians to sustain them. Gratitude, also known as thanksgiving, is not simply an American invention celebrated in a holiday better known for turkey and cranberry sauce than for giving thanks for God’s gracious blessing. Many nations observe an official day of thanksgiving of one kind or another, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, and Switzerland. A closing thought, something to carry with you throughout the day and week. It is impossible to be genuinely grateful without two things: identifying what you are thankful for, and to whom you are thankful. Franz Lehar was grateful that he was allowed him to leave the restaurant without payment instead of going to a Paris jail for the night, and he knew to whom he was indebted—not the disbelieving waiter but the manager who trusted him. Remember, gratitude involves specifics and individuals. It’s not a “have a nice one” sort of nebulous thing.  In a secular culture that often hesitates to mention “Thanksgiving to Almighty God for all his blessings”—the term Governor Bradford used in 1621--never forget what gratitude is all about. Resource reading: Isaiah 12: 4-6
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:15   There is a difference between expressing thanks for something and being genuinely grateful for it.  For example let’s suppose you are a craftsman and you contract to do a certain amount of work for so much money, and you fulfill your obligation. The work is done within the prescribed period of time and you do it well.  When you fulfill your contract you are paid.  Common courtesy demands that you respond, saying, “Thank you!” as you pick up the check in the brown manila envelope and take your tools home. Suppose, however, when you open the envelope to your great surprise you discover that more than twice what you expected is in the envelope.  Being an honest person you go back and say, “I think a mistake was made.  There is twice the amount that you owe me in the envelope,” and you are told, “Yes, I know that, but I appreciate what you have done and I wanted you to have a bonus.” Now the emotion that you feel is gratitude, one that goes far beyond a social, perfunctory thank you. In many countries of the world when you do something for someone or give them something, don’t expect “thanks,” because that’s not part of the culture.  Why? Because they are ungrateful for what you do? No, because they feel that saying, “Thank you! is too easy, merely words.  Gratitude, they believe, has to be expressed in more tangible ways—doing something in return. But what if someone did something for you so great that you could never repay the individual?  How would you respond?  Obviously for the rest of your life, you would be indebted to that person, right? Sincere, genuine gratitude isn’t merely a matter of empty words but of heart-felt expression of appreciation.  Gratitude is never an undefined “good feeling” about something or someone.  It reflects a specific deed or action of another, and a person to whom you owe something, whether or not you can ever repay that gift. In a very real sense that is what God’s grace is about.  Grace—God’s great favor and kindness—is what brought God’s Son to Earth, providing for our salvation.  Grace and God’s faithfulness in extending His mercy to us is what sustains us and what keeps us. May I challenge you to take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On one side write, “What I have that I am thankful for,” and on the other side write, “What I do not have that I am equally thankful for.”  On the one side you may write things such as family—a wife and children, your home, spiritual blessings, and, perhaps, material possessions.  Would you also write down some of the difficulties and challenges of life, reflecting on what God has also taught you through them? But then what about the other side?  What do you write there?  Would you put riches and fame, understanding that in the simplicity of your life there is peace?  Would you also acknowledge that it is in what you lack that you have discovered the sufficiency of God, who has brought friends and experiences into your life that you would never have known had you not faced difficulties and trouble? Had God’s children not been hungry in the wilderness, they would never have known manna.  Had Daniel not been in the lion’s den, he would never have known God’s sustaining power. Had Peter never been in prison, he would never have known deliverance by an angel. Gratitude—going beyond simply saying, “Thanks!”—is a habit that is often developed through hardship, even suffering and difficulty.  Sincere thanksgiving embraces whatyou are thankful for and to whomyou are grateful.  Indeed. Resource reading:  Psalm 103:1-22
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:8 (KJV).   Frank Mihalic tells of a man with a deeply infected tropical ulcer who, hobbling on crutches, came to the local clinic asking for help. A nursing sister looked at the open wound, infected and enlarged with redness that reflected poison that could take his leg, or possibly his life. What should she do? Medicines were sparse but she also knew that his condition was serious. She began by diligently cleaning his open wound. Then she administered penicillin when her supply was rapidly dwindling without hope of refurbishing it in the near future. Looking into the eyes of the impoverished man, she saw someone worthy of redemption and help. Morning by morning the man returned, and the sister gently peeled away the infected area, applied antibiotic and smiled as she watched the work of healing gradually take place. For a month the man came, finally abandoning his crutches walking with a slight limp but nevertheless walking on his own. Finally the morning came, and with gladness of heart she said, “Okay, now you won’t have to come back anymore. Your sore is healed!” Expecting the man to warmly thank her for her ministrations of love, she was taken aback by his words, “What are you going to give me now for having come back every morning so faithfully?” That’s gratitude for you!  Or is it a reflection of a sense of entitlement that no matter what we receive from the hand of one who graciously bestows blessing upon us day after day we expect more. Question: Is it possible that the ingratitude of the man is but a reflection of our expectations with God?  More than 200 times the Bible speaks of what God does for His own, much as a loving sister did for the ulcerated foot of the man who came hobbling on his crutches to the small medical station. For a moment think of the inequities between the ungrateful man with an infection that could have taken his life, and the caregiver. He came with nothing to compensate her for either her medicine or her time, and she expected nothing.  She was there because someone cared about the impoverished, the neglected, the suffering.  He deserved nothing, but she gave generously and without receiving any recompense whatsoever. What that woman did was a picture of what the Bible calls grace, and it is a concept that can only be understood in a spiritual framework. In an attempt to make the word gracemore readily understood, modern translators sometimes use the term “favor” to describe what Christians in the English-speaking world have known as grace for centuries. The first use of that word in the Bible was Moses description of a man whose name was Noah. When evil had become widespread and so perverse that God could no longer countenance what was taking place, He determined to destroy what He had created and start all over again.  “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” said Moses. Everything that God has done for you is not because you deserve it, not because He owes you anything, but simply because He has chosen to touch your life with His hand of mercy and compassion, bringing healing to the putrid wound of sin that ultimately will take your life. And what reward do you expect for being so faithful to keep on asking for more without learning to say, “Thank you for what you have already done!” Before you condemn the man who hobbled to the clinic morning after morning, expecting more for faithfully begging for help, take stock of your life, your relationships, and your faith! Who knows? You may be the same beggar. Resource reading: Psalm 100:1-5