Overwhelming research shows thankfulness actually
changes the chemistry of our brains,
releasing happy hormones!
The last three days I’ve been with perhaps the happiest woman I know: Linda Strom of the prison ministry, Discipleship Unlimited.
All through the day she is thanking Him, for the privilege of serving him, for the lives He is transforming in prison, for being able at 77 to still walk, talk, see, eat…for the beauty of the skies (see last night’s sunset below) for the beauty of the earth as we walk through God’s gorgeous forests of autumn golds and crimsons, and for the joy of our friendship, a gift from Him.
The Lord commands us to thank Him, not because He needs our praise, but because He knows we need it.
We have been created to worship, so if we don’t worship God, we will worship an idol, turning one of His gifts into a god, and that false god will demand a propitiation that will cut us to pieces.
The unhappiest people I know are unthankful people, and the happiest people I know are thankful people!
So we are going to thank and worship our way right through Halloween (take that, Satan!) and up to the first Sunday of Advent, which this year, follows on the heels of Thanksgiving Day.
And we are going to use the great hymns of Thanksgiving along with the Scriptures that inspired them to help us.
I challenge you to memorize at least one hymn during these 35 days. Then you can be singing thanks all through the day.
In this week’s free Keller sermon, he emphasizes that two marks of the fullness of the Spirit is singing praises and giving thanks. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
This week and next we’ll look at: For The Beauty of the Earth.
I am sending out a letter inviting people to join us for a month of thanks. Please forward it, if you feel so led, to friends. And I want to express my personal thanks for Laura-Dancer, who came to our rescue in handling the tech last weekend for the Manhattan Bible Church. As lovely Jackie Randall described Laura — she is indefatigueable! The whole group was simply wonderful — with their diversity representing what heaven will be like of every tribe and nation! Here is a photo of some of us! Many in this group did a Daniel fast for the retreat — and we so sensed His anointing!
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Is there anything specific that has helped you develop an attitude of gratitude? If so, share! In so doing, you will be giving thanks on Day 1 of 35!
- Do you have any familiarity with For The Beauty of the Earth? Any associative memories?
Monday: History of the Hymn
Prepare your heart with this rendition, giving thanks as you watch, as your sacrifice of praise!(“sacrifice of praise” was part of Pierpoint’s original chorus. This is a more contemporary version musically.)
Folliot Sandford Pierpoint was an Anglican, a scholar, poet, and gentleman living in Bath, England in the 1800’s. Inspired by the beauty of Bath, when he was twenty-nine, he wrote: “For The Beauty of the Earth.” There were originally nine verses, but we will look at the first this week and four more next week. Though For the Beauty of the Earth has become a Thanksgiving hymn, Pierpoint originally wrote it for the celebration of the Eucharist, and was inspired by the beauty of Bath in the Spring. Here it is Pierpoint’s hometown in the fall and in the spring.
One interesting aspect of the hymn, that goes with the celebration of the Eucharist, is that the chorus was originally:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise
This goes with the Eucharist, for as we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us, we should offer Him what the Scriptures call “the sacrifice of praise.” (Hebrews 13:5)
But those words were changed to make it more suitable for Thanksgiving, to:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.
But I want us to meditate today on Pierpoint’s original words, and use them as a springboard for worship and contemplation. Try singing them first: Christ our God, to Thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise.
3. In the mystery of the Trinity, Christ is God. Meditate on Hebrews 1:1-3
A. What do you learn about how God spoke to His people in the past, but how, in these “last
days” He speaks to us? (vs. 1-2))
B. What do you learn about Christ in verse 3?
4. In good times, praise may naturally bubble up, but in hard times, it may involve sacrifice.
How did David do this in 2 Samuel 12:18-20? Are you able to do this — why or why not?
Why should we?
Tuesday: For The Beauty of the Earth, For the Glory of The Skies
I’m hoping to get some pictures from some of you of the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies in your area — for as Psalm 19 tells us, the earth and heavens declare his glory everywhere. But here is what I so often see on this thumb of Wisconsin – in fact, this is last night’s sunset that had my friend Linda and I singing “For The Beauty of the Earth” from our deck.
5. Read Psalm 19:1-4
A. What does the psalmist tell us about the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies?
B. How do you take time to breath in the beauty of creation? How does it speak to you?
C. Go outside, breathe in the beauty of the earth or skies, and come back and share what you
saw or felt.
A little known verse from this hymn is this:
For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise
6. Challenge Question: When we “link sense to sound and sight” we can see that creation
teaches us things about God. As Luci Shaw says, “God has given us two great books: creation
and the Bible — and they speak of one another.” The Psalms do this often, as we have just
seen. But use your mind to link what you see in nature to spiritual truths. Jesus did it all the
time with parables, and we should make those associations too. Think of one, share it, and
give praise for it. (Psalm 19 makes one comparison — but there are many!)
Wednesday: For The Love Which From Our Birth
This is the more traditional version of the hymn from my dear friend Amy Shreve. Amy is a harpist and the most feminine woman I know — also very godly and trusting of God as she battles cancer — so far, successfully with faith and an expensive diet. They sing often for Voice of the Martyrs and have allowed me to use their music for free in my videos that go into the prisons.
Watch and praise the Lord as you do.
This is a photo of my own father with my two older sisters. I was not yet born, yet my heavenly Father knew me from before the foundation of the World.
I think when Pierpoint wrote:
He is referring to both God’s love (over) and family love (around). And of course, as with the beauty of the earth, the love of family, both with children and in marriage is intended by God to reflect His love as Father and Bridegroom.
7. If you have experienced love from earthly parents, share a way they loved you well and
give thanks to God for this.
8. What do the following verses tell you of God’s love and care for you?
A. Deuteronomy 33:27
B. Psalm 71:5-6
C. How have you been aware of God’s love recently? Thank Him!
Thursday: All Saints Day and Halloween
Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated this time of year as a time to honor all saints, perhaps wanting to take the focus of the pagan holiday.
9, Give thanks for a “saint” (believer) who is with the Lord. Why are you thankful for this
Halloween is a dilemma for Christian parents who do not want to celebrate Satan but also don’t want to make their children feel that Christianity is associated with banning all fun.
My personal opinion on Halloween is that we should not ban it from our children but reform it. Many churches have harvest festivals. We had a gathering once to remember loved ones who had died — and people dressed up in costumes of biblical saints. We took our children to “trick or treat” at homes of in the neighborhood of people we knew. Yet, I was always glad when it was over.
I see this as a Romans 14 issue, neither black or white, but gray. In those issues we are exhorted to not judge our brother but be convinced in their own mind on what we should do, as each of us will stand individually before God. One thing we did with our children is asked them to come up with costumes that glorified God rather than Satan. I always remember Sally going into her bedroom to work on hers and came out as a burning bush! Here she is in 4th grade with her friends:
Sally has passed this on to her children. I visited her last week and Sadie showed me her costume. She is a beautiful flower and her guinea pig is a bumblebee.
10. How do you handle Halloween and why?
Friday: Free Keller Sermon — a Mark of the Fullness of the Spirit in your Life is Worship Music and Gratitude (Great Message)
11. Please listen to get the season off right and share your notes and comments.
12. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for this week and why?
13. What is your take-a-way from this week and why?