Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

This Thanksgiving, your mission is to be grateful.

Grumbling comes easy. Nobody needs to be reminded to whine more. Nobody needs to be taught to complain.

Entitlement has become a poor habit for our culture, and unfortunately, we are good at it. The Bible's word for ingratitude is discontent. Moaning is the result of us missing God amid everyday life.

Have you heard of a person groaning about all that is going wrong and they wouldn’t recognize a blessing if it bit them in the leg? Did you know that you can be lured away from optimism quicker than almost anything else?

We live on an imperfect planet, with bodies that are falling apart, surrounded by people who are never happy, and facing disappointment like clockwork. God takes our attitudes quite seriously. It is our approach that determines our outcome.

Did you know that the average human being takes approximately 23,000 breaths every day? When was the last time you thanked God for one of them?

The process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is a complicated respiratory task that requires physiological precision. We tend to thank God for what takes our breath away, and that's fine. Maybe, we should thank him for every other breath, too.

God was wonderful to the Israelites. He gave them freedom, took  care of them, provided them the guidance they would need by personally dictating to Moses the 10 Commandments, led them through the wilderness, and knocked the walls down in Jericho, so that they would have no resistance in entering the Promised Land. Still, overall, there was more bellyaching than expressing to God love via a heart of worship.

Gratitude leads to a life of blessing, but until we receive the benefits that come from the hand of the Lord as gifts, we will be more grouchy than glorious.

Last week, I was grumpy. Do you ever wake up grumpy?

There are two kinds of people in the world, people who love to wake up in the morning, and people who hate people who love to wake up in the morning. I didn’t feel like preparing my message, and yet, I knew I had to. I started the week by not feeling thankful, but as I hung out with the God who made it all, my focus shifted, and so did the way I proceeded to behave the rest of that day.

When God presented His son, Jesus, that first Christmas, the angel said that we would call His name Emmanuel, which means God with us. A spirit of Thanksgiving will not come from more acquisitions, possessions and property. The more aware we become of God's abiding presence, wherever we may be, and God's never-ending supply of greatness, even surrounded by poor acts, the better our chances that we will celebrate the positives without having to escape the negatives.

In 1955, when Disneyland was opened in California, what would you have done if Walt called you with an invitation to spend a day at the park accompanied by him? How fascinating it would have been to go through that wonderland with the creator of the magic standing by your side.

Think of how many insights you would gain by the company you kept.

The God of the universe has given us the option of traveling through life with Him leading the way. The closer we stay to Him, the deeper our wisdom will become, and the purer our perspective will be. Why would we ever want to wander, trying to fend for ourselves, without the One who made it to show us what we are missing when we don’t have to?

Appreciation is a by product of what we see, and who we see it with. The Bible has a lot to say about this.

In the Psalms, it says, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things."

Every life is filled with benefits from God. His greatness and grace rains down upon believers and unbelievers alike.

Humans are blind to them most of the time. We come to know the wonder of it all when we receive what God has given us with open and surrendered hands.

Jesus is calling us to the Thanksgiving table of grace and mercy. Scripture tell us that God sings over us with love.

Many individuals will roll their eyes in indifference, as they are preoccupied with the music of society. A precious few will humbly raise their hearts in unceasing praise. What group will God find you in?

This is more than just speeding through grace before you eat. This is learning how to discover the timeless truth that God is the benefactor of limitless blessings, and for those who don't forget his benefits, they become the beneficiaries of faithfulness we couldn’t earn and we don’t deserve, but receive freely.

A. J. Jacobs is the acclaimed author known for immersing himself in his research. He read an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica for his book "The Know-It-All", and spent another year living like an Old Testament Hebrew. Among his unique quests, he once embraced the original version of Thanksgiving.

He came to realize it was quite a celebration with games, riddles, races, contests, and foods, like eel and lobster. Most profound to Jacobs was the realization that this time of gratitude, in 1621, followed a year in which 48 of the original 102 Pilgrims died. Scurvy and exposure claimed half of them, yet, they rejoiced with Thanksgiving.

His conclusion was, “If they could appreciate life amid such chaos, pain, and uncertainty, I could give thanks for all the good things in my relatively cushy life.”

This week, I challenge you to give up grumbling and be on the lookout to practice gratitude.

Linger longer at the table with one another. Don’t be in a hurry to get to what is passing away that you forfeit the treasure of investing in all that is endless.

Go out, and love people. Dance along to the tune that God croons  for the two of you.

Stop declaring, “I want,” and start deciding, “I worship You, Almighty God, for there is none like You.” Make a list of all the blessings you are surrounded by and practice humility, hospitality and honesty.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.