Time To Give Thanks
By Phil Winfield
Bible Text: Nehemiah 12:27-47
Preached on: November 18, 2007
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
I want a younger father, Kevin. Why don’t you come up here and help me pray. I want somebody that represents our ladies. I’m going to ask my wife this time. Bonnie, won’t you come? I had somebody else in the first service. Just come right on up on the platform. I need a deacon. Do I have a deacon who administers the giving of our church? I don’t know if you have any…I had several in the first service. Do I have a deacon? Warren? Why don’t you come on up? I need a young person. Let me see. They are all going to dive under the benches and I got to have one that would say, “Hey, I’ll come and pray.” I need a volunteer from among the young people. “ I will pray because God intends for my generation to be a part as well.” So let me have one of the young people. Somebody just…if you see one near you grab him by the nap of the neck and threw him out, will you? Just kidding. I do need one. I need one young person. I can’t see from here or I would call you by name. Anybody? One young person to pray. I am beginning to doubt my youth.
Ok, Kevin, pick one of your sons. They are coming up to pray. Come on up. I can’t see anybody so you will have to help me.
What I want to do is I want to pray that what we do here today would be significant. You know, the next generation is very, very important. Do you know what? What we are doing here is I am going to ask somebody who is…now, Phil, don’t get any ideas. I am not telling you you got one foot on a banana peel and the other foot slipping. I am not saying anything like that. I am just going to say to you, you know, you have run most of your race. I want you to pray for us as we make this kind of commitment, as we give this kind of offering for God to just look at our hearts and just to bless us and to help us keep being the church, the group of people that are going to lift up his name the way that we should, ok?
And, Kevin, you represent the younger father and I want you to pray for your generation that we would keep doing this. I just want you to pray for young people. You just pray that your generation would do it. And Bonnie is going to pray for the women and this is one of our administrators here of the giving of Grace Church so I want…I want him to pray and will pray as an elder at the end. So let me grab a microphone. Here we go.
Phil, as a father lead us in prayer.
Our gracious heavenly Father, we are extremely grateful to you for your love, goodness and mercy upon us. While we were yet sinners you died. Lord, when you were on the cross we were on your mind. And we are grateful. We cannot repay you, Lord, for what you have done for us. We just ask, dear God, that you will take our commitment to rear our children, to give of our substance that you have given to us, Lord, that your work might permeate the world and that others would come to know you as Lord and Savior.
Father, I agree with pastor Phil that we need to dedicate our lives and our hearts and our minds to you again. Lord, I am humbled by what I have experienced and I have seen today, the unity of this body bowing before you, the contriteness of heart that I have seen as people approach to sign a covenant reminding themselves that we need you, Lord. And I pray as a father. I need you every day to raise my sons, to love my wife. And I remember, Lord, you saved my marriage. I praise you for that and that is why giving is so easy for me. And I pray, Lord, that you remind us that it should be easy for all of us to give, not just the money, but just our lives because you have done so much for us. So I thank you for this point in time where you can remind us of our need of you. Lord, cement it in our hearts. May we never forget and may we love you, Lord, more and more each day. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name.
Dear heavenly Father, I come before you today and I pray that all these teenagers and young people in here, Lord, I ask that even though they wrote their name down on there, that piece of paper that you remind them every day going into the high schools and it’s just our generation is so wicked and it’s drawn from you. And, Lord, I ask that you would bring us close to you. Have us just a revival. We need a revival, Lord. And I ask that you would keep us to our word and remind us when we sin and we don’t hold us…or I ask that you would hold us accountable to our covenant we have made today, Lord. And just thank you for everything you have done, dying on the cross for us and…I don’t understand why you would lay…give your Son away just for us, but you did and I thank you.
Lord, we come to you today with humble hearts full of emotion because we love you. I pray for the women in this church, including myself that you will make us pure and holy before you, that we will love our husbands with all of our hearts, that we would put our families and our children first as you gave us that role and responsibility. Lord, may we look at our children as the future of tomorrow. Lord, I pray that you will forgive us for nagging, complaining, worry, fear. Help us to jump into your arms when problems come and know that you are going to help us. I love these women. Lord, help the women of Grace Church to reach out to others. Help us to have victory in our own lives so we can show the people in our neighborhood that you are real because you are. You are great and holy. Help us to love one another and to be kind in our homes. Thank you so much for these precious women. Amen.
Father, we come to you today. Lord, we are so thankful that we have a giving Father. Lord, we are thankful for this church. Lord, we are thankful for the spirit of giving. Lord I just pray that you will bless this offering. Lord, we are so thankful that we have an opportunity to tell others of the truth in the world around us, Lord, that is preaching lies and deception, Lord, that we have the truth. We have a Father that loved us, that sent his Son. Lord, I just pray for the leaders of this church, Lord, that we would be wise stewards of the money that comes in, Lord, that we can see the gospel, the light of the world.
Now, Lord, we just pray that you would be with us this day. Amen.
Father, the generations are represented. The genders are represented. The offices are represented. And we come before you this morning, Lord, to just humbly say that you are God and we are not. And we give because we recognize just who you are and where everything comes from. This covenant that we make today, Lord, is not just some cute idea that we wanted to do to have a nice service. Oh, but these are such strong statements, Lord, about our families and about your day and about your house and about the gospel and about not neglecting so great salvation that you have given to us.
Lord, as I hear young Corey pray and I hear him say that he needs to be accountable and the teenagers need to be accountable. Oh, it gives me hope. Lord, I pray for this next generation. I pray for our church to turn on the light of the gospel. Keep it on and never let it flicker. Help us to preach the Word, love the lost, build up the saved, send out the missionaries and build your kingdom. Not because we want recognition, but because we want your name to be made great. We make this covenant in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen. Amen.
Can we give the Lord a hand for letting us give like we just did?
Now, folks, I knew we were supposed to be done with my sermon in the next five minutes so I am going to have to just really give you a few thoughts this morning, but I don’t wan anybody going home nervous and just, you know, getting the hakes over their lunch because you didn’t get your blanks filled in. So just please take out that little sheet if you will and I want to just say some things to you.
In Luke chapter 17 and verse 11 there is a story told about how Jesus showed compassion on 10 lepers. And those 10 lepers were so joyous to receive the blessing from Jesus to heal them, but only one of the 10 came back to be thankful. Only one said “Thanks.” As we approach thanksgiving this week we need to make sure that we are not like those nine, but that we are very faithful to say, “Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you for dying for our sins. Thank you for giving us eternal life.”
Chapters nine through 12 of the book of Nehemiah all go together and they are all part of the final celebration and the final singing and we are not going to do it this morning, but they gut part of the group on top of the wall, part of the group on the ground, part of the group in the temple and they sang antiphonal praise back and forth to each other. And, oh, it was just wonderful as they sang and the celebrated and they worshipped together because building the wall wasn’t the final goal. And I have got news for you. I hope that your life is much better. I hope that you have made progress. I hope that you have made decisions. I pray that you are going forward. I pray that things are better in your home and in your life. But the ultimate goal of building your life, the ultimate goal of rebuilding your home is not so your home goes well. I think people think that. It is so that God’s name is glorified and magnified in your home.
It is so important for us to love of our wives and love our children and to just rear them for the Lord. It is important for us to have joy and singing and happiness. It is important for our lives to be in order so that his name can be made great. They built a temple, they built a wall, they reestablished the city, but it wasn’t so they could brag about it. It was so that the name of God could be made great and known again.
I have a great desire to see this church grow and to multiply and to start other churches and to send out more missionaries. But not for the sake of the name Grace Church or for any pastor or elder in it, but for the name of Jesus that the world would know that there is hope.
These chapters are linked together and they should be read as a unit in order to know just exactly what there is to sing about and what there is to shout about and what there is to be happy about and usually I am one of those preachers from week to week that I kind…I am kind of like that guy that picks at the boil and tries to get it to pop. You know, I am kind of that guy that tries to really admonish you an exhort you and preach to you, but I don’t want to be that guy this morning.
Do you know who I want to be this morning is, is that I want to be that person to encourage you and say that you have made some decisions. You have made some progress. You have started moving ahead. And I want to encourage you just to keep going.
So what is there to sing about and what is there to rejoice about and what progress have we really made? Well, first of all, we have confronted our situation. You can write that down. They talked about that in chapter nine, verse 36 and 37. They said, “We make a covenant. We write it. We seal it. Because of our sins we are…we are in bondage.” And sin always puts people in bondage.
And listen to me this morning. Many of you have done step on. You have faced your reality. You have faced your life. You have faced the situation. And if you don’t do anything else you have gotten a start. That is progress. You have begun to move forward.
We have confronted our situation. That was 9:36-37. Something else we have done is we have confessed our sin. That was chapter nine, verses one through three. And do you know what they did? For one fourth part of the day, rather three hours they stood there and they listened to the Word of God being read. And then after they listened to the law of God being read then they confessed their sins for three hours.
Somebody said, “Well, I’m not that bad of a person. It wouldn’t take me three hours to confess my sin.”
Well, if you need help with your list just ask your spouse. She can…you know, one of them…you can help each other. Make sure your list is long enough.
They confessed their sins. They were rejoicing. They confronted their situation. They confessed their sin. They did something else. They considered their God; chapter nine, verse four through 31. They thought about God. They thought about God in his goodness and his greatness. And, you know, they rehearsed all of the great things that he had done. And I had have to tell you, standing up here in front of you this morning I have to tell you that we do really serve a great and awesome God, creator of heaven and earth. And the one who keeps your heart beating and the one who gives you hope for tomorrow and the one who has sent his Son to die for your sins to give you eternal life, we have a great and awesome God who is worthy of all attention and all praise.
Can we give the Lord a hand? He is great. He is awesome. He has died for our sins. We serve a great God.
They considered. They confronted their situation. They confessed their sins. They considered their God and they committed to a covenant. The covenant that they committed to had to do and it applied to marital and family matters. They understood that their religion wasn’t something that just happened over at church. It wasn’t just limited to one day a week. It wasn’t put in a two hour time slot. Their relationship to God affected their marital and family matters. There were certain people that they were not supposed to marry. There were certain people they were not supposed to be involved with. And that is what part of this covenant that says, “I will guard my children from worldly influences.”
It applies to marital and family maters. Then, verse 31, it applies to social matters; the things that we do, the things we participate in, the entertainments that we allow ourselves. All of these things come under the purview of: Is it holy? Is it godly? Does God approve? We have committed to a covenant.
And then I applies to financial matters. And, oh, I just wish I had all day to talk to you about how important it is to be faithful in financial giving. Number one, it honors God. Number two, it will put your life in order. Number three, whenever we give, we give keep the light of the gospel on here and around the world. I am amazed. I shared with Paul this week when people hopscotch from church to church to church to church. They just jump. Whatever…whoever has got the new hottest thing going, whatever the new program is. They just run over there. Do you know why they do that? Do you know why they jump from place to place to place? Because they have never put down roots to bear fruit themselves. They have never got to a place where they understand that the ministry of this church and the missionaries around the world depend upon my faithfulness. They never understand that. Well, when we jump from place to place we put the gospel in danger of stopping.
There is another one. It applies to spiritual matters. It applies to my daily life; verses 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 39. It applies to spiritual matters. There is a lot of people that think, “Well, you know, my Christianity is something I do on Sunday. And being a Christian is something I do over at that location. And, you know, the Bible and God and reading and praying and singing, I mean, that is what we do over there. But, you know, hey. Monday is just all about business. Sunday can be about God, but Monday is about business.”
I have got news for you. Every day is a holy day for Christians. Every day is a day in which God is inspecting our life step by step, moment by moment. He is watching. And I want to say to you that we are supposed to realize that our covenant applies to every day matters of spirituality.
Somebody says to him, “Well, what you do over at church is church and what I do on Monday is business and business is business and church is church and never the twain shall meet.”
People say all the time, you know, whenever they are having layoffs and mergers and cuts and, “Well, you know, it is nothing personal. It is just business.”
Well, the problem is, is that you do business with people and people are personal.
How many of you have ever been into a bank or walked into a lending organization or walked into a place where you are trying to straighten out something and you felt like something that you felt like what was going on between you and them was personal even though they said it wasn’t? Would you raise your hand? It is that way, isn’t it? It is always personal.
And so it is spiritual matters. We are singing because we have confronted our situation. We have confessed our sins. We have considered our God and we have committed to a covenant. And they were celebrating for some reason. What is the reason that we are celebrating? We are celebrating progress. Verse number 27, we are celebrating progress.
You know, we are not very good at this part of it. We are…we are real good at, you know, pointing out what’s wrong and correcting and, you know, even our homes, you know, we have children come home from school. They bring a report card and there is an F or a D or a C maybe and we look at that and we say, “Well, man, you should do better.”
We get all up in arms and we give lectures and we, you know, we scold and we set up study schedules and we do all these things because we want them to do better, but they might bring home an A and we say, “Oh, that’s great, glad you did that.”
You know, yesterday, there were ball games going on all over the country and full grown men and full grown women went absolutely berserk when people kicked a big pigskin through a couple of uprights or went across the goal line. They just went out of their mind because somebody did something like that. They thought it was the creation of heaven and earth. But your child can do their best and bring home a good grade or they can do something right and you know what we do lots of times with it?
“Oh, that’s good.”
You know, we get all excited when it is negative, but we never say anything positive. I wish we had a bunch of people in this church that could get as excited about when their children do right as when they do wrong. Don’t you think we ought to be excited about the positive progress in the lives of our children? Can you say amen to that?
We ought to. We ought to let them know about it. We ought to let them know when they have done well. And I want to stand up here as your pastor and I am going to tell you I have never been…I have never had the privilege that I have of being the pastor of this church. You are called upon time and again to give and to do things like that and to help people when they are in trouble. But there have been two events over the last two weeks that have just been beyond anything I can even describe or imagine. What a privilege it is to work here and I commend you. I bless you. I tell you that the veterans…how many of you had something to do with the veteran’s day in some way singing or serving in some fashion? Just put your hands up. Just stick it right up there. All over the auditorium.
How many of you had something to do with share what you wear? Just raise your hand, something to do with it. You brought in stuff. Unbelievable.
I want you to know that when we do events like this up to 50 to 60% of our church gets involved with hose kinds of things. And I don’t know of churches that have those kind of things going on.
Somebody told me the other day. He said, “Pastor Phil, I am going to have to find myself another church because you all just don’t love people over there.”
And I go, “Huh?”
Do you know what? I am proud of you. I am so thankful for you because of the way that you work. And, you know, I am just a guy. I, you know, I am just a fellow. And if I see your labor of love and if I see your works of faith and your works of faith and your labor of love and your patience of hope like Paul talked about in Thessalonians. If I see that, then what does God se because God sees every single person, motive and heart. And I just want you to know I am just so proud of you. I am so thankful for you. And I want to tell you that if you have made any progress that is something to rejoice about.
In these 10 weeks we have talked about the 10 issues. We have looked at them and we have talked about them. We have talked about facing the reality of our life and prayer and position, making sure that we are praying knowing that God has us where we are. We have talked about faith. We have talked about investigating and communicating the changes. We talked about team work and tenacity. We have talked about integrity and focus and vigilance. We talked about all of those things. And I want to tell you. If you have made any progress at all, I salute you. I praise God for you. Listen. You need to celebrate any step forward.
You say, “Well, pastor, I look around and I see these people in the church and, man, they know so much about the Bible and they have been around for years and they are teaching and they are doing this and I am just showing up and I don’t know what is going on. and I just feel so inept.”
Do you know what? That is step one. You faced the reality of your situation and that is the first step of progress. Do you know what we need to do? We need to learn to celebrate and rejoice whenever we have made any progress at all.
I am looking at a bunch of people that are growing in Christ. I am looking at a bunch of people that have an intense and growing desire for the Word of God and to know his Word and to become more like Jesus. And I just want you to know I am thankful. I am thankful for you. I am thankful for your service. I am thankful for your giving. I am thankful for your prayer. I am thankful that you are looking at your life. I am thankful…and I hear and have got a computer full of emails and I have got a drawer full of letters of people saying, “Pastor, you know what? Thanks so much for that sermon because that is exactly what I needed. And tell you what. I am going to turn off that television and pay attention to my children.”
And I am just so thrilled for the positive steps that you are taking. And there is progress.
How many of you would say, “Pastor, I do have to admit. A few of these things have gotten my attention and I am trying”? Would you raise your hand up? Do you know what? It is progress. Praise God for you. Celebrate your progress. Just be happy. And just keep moving forward, keep going forward if you will. Oh, don’t lose focus. If you don’t mention…if you don’t remember anything else from this series that we have had here, don’t lost focus.
You say, “What is that all about?”
Well, you remember what it was. It was the thing where Nehemiah was up on the wall and he said, “I am doing a great work, I cannot come down.” Boy, that has become the watch…that has become the watch phrase for me.
Somebody said to me just this last week. He said, “Pastor Phil, you know, I am concerned because you don’t get involved in this group and that over there and you are not getting involved enough in x.”
And my pat answer is always: Do you know what? I feel like pastoring Grace Church and loving those people and teaching the Word of God and being available for them is a great work. I am doing a great work and I just cannot come down. I just can’t do it. And I believe that if you are a mother and if you love those children and you are trying to rear them for the Lord you are doing a great work. Don’t let anybody discourage you from it.
And if you are a father and you are doing the best you can to make ends meet and you are doing everything you know to honor God with your first fruits and to love your family and you are doing the best you can, I am here to tell you: You are doing a great work. Do not come down.
And if you are a businessman or your are a businesswoman and you started a business on godly foundations and principles and you said, “I am not going to cheat, I am not going to manipulate and I am not going to lie.” Others may outstrip you. They may get ahead of you. They may use all these things to out do you, but I want you to know that God is watching. You are doing a great work. Do not come down. Don’t come back. Don’t go back. Don’t give up on the decisions that you have made to do the right thing.
What I am saying to you is, keep moving forward. Rejoice in the progress that you have made. As you move forward in your Christian life you become a little bit more like Christ.
You say, “Well, you know how I just wish I could be consistent. You know, I read the Bible.” You know, you keep talking about reading the Bible a little bit and praying over what you read and trying to apply it. You say, “Pastor, I tell you what. I wanted to do it every morning, but to tell you what? I only read my Bible four times this week and three times I didn’t read it and I just feel like I am a failure.”
Well praise God for four times when you weren’t doing it all before.
“Well, pastor. I only read it twice this week. I didn’t ever used to read it before, but I only read it twice this week and I feel like a failure.”
It is progress. You are moving forward. I am just praying that God will give you a holy hunger and appetite for his Word and for his presence that nothing else will fill. And when you get to that place then you are never going to be able to fill up with anything else. You are going to want to be in God’s choice and just rejoice in him.
You are making progress. You are moving forward. You are going the right direction. And it is time that you were recognizing that God is making a difference in your life.
I didn’t tell you you are rich or healthy or wealthy. That is not what I am telling you. I am telling you if you are talking on more of the character of Christ, if you got your anger a little bit under control, if you are starting to stop and think what is the wise decision to make, if you are starting to stop and think about…now, before I react to what she said maybe I had better ask the question so that I understand what…let’s communicate. Let’s don’t argue. Let’s communicate. Let’s don’t debate. And, boy, you are starting to think like that.
D you know what you are doing? You are growing. You are moving forward. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back. Well, that is one forward. Praise God. Keep going.
You say, “What is your message today?”
Well, it’s just…just keep going. Just keep moving forward. Just keep your eyes on the goal. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Listen, I have to be just like the apostle Paul. I don’t count myself that I have apprehended. I have not become everything that God wants me to be. I am not what I should be. I am not all of what God has planned for me to be, but I am going in the right direction and what I can say is I am not what I used to be.
How many of you can raise a hand to that? I am not what I used to be. Praise the Lord. Rejoice. Celebrate.
I wish we could do this as a whole church, but we do have an institution in our country called Thanksgiving. Listen to this. Chapter eight, verse nine.
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
How many of you have understood the preaching, the lessons and the Word of God that we have been talking about the last…you have understood what is going on, you have understood? All right. Then rejoice. Then rejoice because the Holy Spirit of God is active in your life and he has helped you to understand and apply. It ought to be a written…do you know why they were happy? Because they had the Word of God. They understood the Word of God. They were able to apply the Word of God. And I am going to tell you it is more precious than rubies and gold and silver and anything else you can pile up because without the Word of God you don’t have any message from God to know what to do with your life, how to solve your problems, what your future will be. Rejoice.
You say, “What do you want us to do?”
I want you to go and just have a wonderful week. I want you to look forward to Thanksgiving and I want you to be truly thankful. I want you to…I want you to get the bird or get the ham or get the bird and the ham—like at our house—get the bird and the ham and a roast beef, too, probably, whatever. Just get the meat. Get it out there. Have people bring stuff. Have a feast. Set down at that table and before you say thank you for the big turkey say, “Thank you, God, for the progress. Thank you for what I am learning. Thank you that my children are here. Thank you that we are together. Thank you. Thank you for the freedom we have.”
Instead of decrying what might be ebbing away in our country, instead of decrying those things, why don’t you exercise those freedoms that we are decrying? Talk about Jesus. Thank God for what he has done for you. And you are making progress.
Here is how I want to finish this today. A couple more blanks. Sing out your thanksgiving to God, 28 to 31. Share God’s bounty. We have done that. Sign the covenant of the future faith. We have done that. But the best way that you could show gratitude to God if you are here this morning and I just want to zero in on you, if you are here and you are a believer in Jesus Christ the best way that you can say thank you to God is just daily thank him for your salvation.
Are you thankful that you are saved? Are you thankful that your sins are forgiven? Are you thankful that heaven is your home? Are you thankful that you can get up every day and not worry about your eternal destiny because you have given your heart to Jesus and he has forgiven you your sins and given you eternal life? Are you thankful for that? Oh, get in the habit of daily gratitude for God’s goodness to you.
The second thing, heads bowed and eyes closed, let me just ask you this question. I talk to….
Transcription by Audioposting: ( HYPERLINK “http://www.audioposting.com/transcription.php” www.audioposting.com/transcription.php)
Nehemiah 8:9-12 (All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated).
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