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Today Im starting a two week sermon series called The First Response. The aim of this series is for each of us to be able to train ourselves so that our first response to situations is thanks. This week Im focusing on choosing thanks; next week Ill look at having an attitude of gratitude. The Bible could be described as a training manual on giving thanks. I want to ask you to get out this brochure that is in the bulletin. I especially want to encourage you to use the devotion this week. I chose a wide variety of passages in the Scriptures that express thanks. The Israelites gave thanks through an offering; the Psalmists encouraged people to give thanks in worship; Jesus gave thanks when he performed a miracle; Paul gave thanks for the people with whom he started church; in Revelation the angels and elders gave thanks to God. During this week of Thanksgiving I encourage you to use the devotion about thanks. If youre looking for a reading to share at your Thanksgiving table consider taking one of the Scripture readings in the devotion. On the back of the brochure is a place for prayer requests. You have a place to take notes. The idea of the First Response came from my experience of waking up at the start of the day. I usually set my alarm for 5:45. On most days I leave the house at 7:45. I want to get up early so I can pray. For a while I found myself experiencing anxiety when I woke up. I believe that each of us has a time of day where were more vulnerable to anxiety. Some people would even go to say that we are under attack at this time. My time is when I first wake up. For a while I was waking up well before 5:45. I was lying in bed feeling anxious. Fortunately after I got up and showered and prayed this anxiousness would leave me. When I reflected on what was happening I realized that I want my first response to each day to be thanks. I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a great family, I have a great job, I get to be

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your pastor, I live in a great neighborhood, I have good health. As I came to consciousness in the morning I wanted my first response to be gratefulness, gratitude, thanks. Think for yourselfwhat is your first response to your day when you come to consciousness? Is it anxiety? Is it happiness? Is it dread? Is it, oh my gosh Ive overslept I have to get going! The question that got this series going is what would it take for our first response to be thanks? This led me to ask the question what would happen if our first response to every situation during the day was thanks. Think for yourselfwhat would my life look like if we were consistently thankful. What Im talking about is even when we are crazy busy down deep in our spirits we are thankful. Even when life does not go the way that we want, we still can say to God and whoever is willing to hear usthank you. I dont assume that this is easy. The story that Angelica read reveals how hard it is to give thanks. Im guessing weve heard this story before. Jesus was near the end of his ministry. He was getting close to entering Jerusalem for the final week of his life. As he came to the entrance of a town he came across ten lepers. It wasnt an accident that they were at the edge of the village. Thats where the lepers lived. Because the lepers had such a contagious disease they couldnt live in the villagethey lived at its edge. Most people were afraid of lepers because they didnt want to contract leprosy. Lepers had to yell unclean, unclean when they approached others. When Jesus approached the lepers yelled out Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! When Jesus saw them he told them to go to the priest. Jesus was following the Old Testament law of

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purity. When a person became clean they received that designation from a priest. So as the lepers went to the priest they discovered that they were healed. One of the lepers came back to Jesus. He lay himself prostrate on the ground in front of Jesus and thanked him. This was even more unusual because the leper was a Samaritan. Not only had Jesus healed a leper, he had healed a Samaraitan, a group of people with whom the Jews had significant disagreements. Jesus saidwhere are the other nine. Why arent they giving thanks. Giving thanksit might be easy during the week of Thanksgiving. But its not easy to give thanks consistently. To have thanks be our first response. Only one in ten of the healed lepers came back to Jesus. This led me to thinkwhat are the obstacles to giving thanks? This week on my Facebook page I asked what is the greatest obstacle to giving thanks. A robust conversation took place. I encourage you to read it. One person said the obstacles she experienced to thanks were fear and doubt. Another person wrote that the obstacle to thanks is trust. Another person wrote that the obstacle to thanks is guilt. We have so much that we feel guilty so we dont give thanks. Another person wrote that the obstacle is believing we deserve good things. Another person wrote that the obstacle to thanks is fear Another person wrote that an obstacle to thanks is entitlement. These are all significant obstacles to giving thanks. I believe the most significant obstacle to thankfulness is self-centeredness. If each of us is the center of our own universe, if we view the world from this sense of self then it is going to be very difficult to always be

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thankful. If were always thinking about how events will affect us personally, then its going to be difficult to have an orientation of thanks. Jesus doesnt want us to look at the world from a sense of self. He didnt ask us to give up our sense of self. He taught his disciples and teaches us as his 21st century disciples to orient ourselves to the world to love. Jesus wants us to look at the events of our life through the lens of love. Remember the greatest commandment? Love God with our heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus wanted his followers to live and breathe this Great Commandment. To cultivate thanks we have to connect our self to God. This is why a community is so important. When a community is operating well we encourage each other, we lift each other up, we help each other, we pray for each other. Faith then is not about what happens to me, its about how a community can form us to be disciples people whose first response is thanks. People in the world are looking for communities who will get out of themselves. After worship today the leaders of Chain of Lakes are going to gather at Amy & my house. The Steering Committee has set a goal of having 35 people connect to Chain of Lakes in 2013. The task of the Retreat is to develop two or three strategies that we will agree upon so that we can achieve this goal. Im going to tell the group and Im going to tell you that the key to our growth is getting out of ourselves. When the wider community sees a church who is willing to sacrifice themselves for others they are going to pay attention. When the community sees us going out of our way to bless others, people are going to be interested. Our task is to blessI think bless

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could be the theme of the year for 2013. When we can get out of our selves, connect ourselves to Gods love, and bless people, something special will happen. People will come. The greatest obstacle to thankfulness is self-centeredness. Its important to realize that giving thanks is a choice; giving thanks is an orientation; giving thanks is not an emotion.. I encourage you to write this down because this is important too. Giving thanks is a choice; giving thanks is an orientation; giving thanks is not an emotion. Let me push into this. Emotions are our immediate response to situations. If something goes well we experience happiness; if something doesnt go well we experience sadness; if something happens that we strongly dislike we experience anger; if something startles us we might experience fear; if we dont know what is going to happen we might experience anxiety. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, anxiety are emotions. Emotions have to do with self. How are we feeling; how do we respond to a situation. For a while when I was waking up in the morning I felt anxiousthat was my emotional response. Giving thanks is not an emotion; its a choice. Our task is to train ourselves to take on orientation of thanks. I still might feel anxiousness when I wake up in the morning, but I can train myself to say a prayer of thanks and to ask God to fill me with thanks at that moment of the day. Even though my emotional response is not thanks, I can still be thankful. Were not thankful for everything that happens, but we can still train ourselves to find thanks in every situation. This is an important point. Were not thankful for everything that happens, but we can still train ourselves to find thanks in every situation. On my Facebook page this week someone pushed back at me when I wrote that thanks should be our first response to every situation. She shared if she was assaulted on the street her

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first response wouldnt be thanks. She wrote that some situations rightly require time before we realize anything positive or any reasons to be thankful can be developed. I couldnt agree more. Only a masochist would be thankful about being assaulted on the street. However over time a person with an orientation of thanks can find reasons to be thankful for even an assualt. A person could give thanks that his or her injuries werent worse. A

person could give thanks that the assault led to the perpetrator being caught. A person could give thanks that the assault caused him or her to choose a safer route. A person with an orientation of thanks could find reasons to give thanks. However a person who was self-centered might have difficulty emotionally recovering from the assault. That personlets say the person is a male might complain over and over about what happened; he might complain so much that his friends would get tired of hearing the story even though they felt sympathy for him; he might have this deep sense of self-pity; he might live with a sense of fearhe doesnt want to travel again because he is afraid of what will happen. Do you see the difference. Same eventtwo different responses. The question is who do we want to be? By choosing thanks we can let go. By looking at the event through the lens of self well carry the pain with us. Let me be clear about this. Just because we choose an orientation of thanks doesnt mean that such an event was right or should have happened or that the perpetrator shouldnt be punished. Choosing thanks doesnt make an event morally right. Sometimes its only through the grace of God that we can find reasons to be thankful.

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Lets not ever forget that God redeemed the worst event in the history of the world. What can be worse than the willful murder of Gods child, Jesus Christ. Millions of people will gather in worship this weekend to give thanks that the cross was redeemed through the resurrection. If God can redeem that event in such a way, then God can help choose thanks, to take on an orientation of thanks Ultimately having this orientation of thanks is a spiritual task. This is why our spiritual disciplines are so important. At my last church I served in Plainview I remember a conversation I observed among two people in the church. One womanlets say her name was Gracewas sharing with another personlets say her name was Bettywhy she worshipped every week. Betty was someone who hadnt cultivated the habit of weekly worship. She worshipped when she felt like it. Grace was differentno matter what she felt on a Sunday morning she came to worship. We were talking at this meeting how we could develop the habit in the congregation of weekly worship. Grace shared something that I havent forgotten. She said something always happens during the week for which she gives thanks. She knows she has a reason to worship. She comes to give thanks. Even when she doesnt feel like coming she comes to worship. She wants to say thank you. How different our world would look if we came to worship to say thank you. We want to share this with the world. We want to help people choose thanks. Two weeks from today we are having our New Beginnings worship service. This service is where we are celebrating our move to Da Vinci Academy. Were asking every one of you to bring one new person to worship on December 2. Just bring one. Later on today Val Owens is going to give us an exercise where we reflect on who we know who isnt connected to a

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congregation. When we have invitation events, sometimes the hardest part is just identifying someone to invite. Were going to give you a tool that will help you identify someone who isnt connected to a church. I already started this process for myself. I thought about the people who live in my own neighborhood. I can think of five households near us where folks arent connected to a faith community. Im going to ask all five to come to New Beginnings that day. Ive asked some of them before. Remember that inviting people is Gods work. Even if the person doesnt come, Ive planted a seed that might develop later. The seeds Ive planted in the past might develop on December 2. When we invite people to worship were inviting them to a place of thanks. Were sharing with them a perspective on life that can completely change their outlook on life. Instead of having a sense of self-centeredness a person can connect to Gods love and be thankful. Instead of having a sense of selfishness through Jesus Christ a person can having a deep sense of being blessed. Instead of traveling life as an individual a person can be connected to an authentic Christian community where people will love them with acceptance and always treat them with hospitality. What an opportunity we have to make an impact on someones life. All it takes is an invitation. Friends during this week of thanks, may we learn to train ourselves so that thanks is always our first response.