Perhaps one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us are the people in our lives. Let us choose to bless and love with gratitude even when life is hard or people have broken trust and let us down, or when our heart is broken and we feel rejected.
All right, blessings to you. The goodness of God may be close to you. Hey, it’s so good to be able to share this time.
I’m looking forward to it. All of my friends and brothers and sisters, church community near and far wherever you are. We’re online together. Hey, and if you’re joining us for the first time, I’m so glad that you are with us.
I’m Pastor Terry here in San Francisco and I want everybody to just feel welcomed and loved. And even now, Lord, I just I welcome your presence among us. So I really do open up our hearts and remind us that you are near and not far even in these anxious and.
unsettled times, we cast our eyes upon you. Yeah. Be with us, we pray in Jesus name. You know, last week. As we started into our Thankful series, which I just think this is so right on point as we head into the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas and then turn the page into a new year, the idea of being
thankful filled with gratitude. I talked about last week being thankful for the gift of life and the promise of life that Jesus gave us, both for the present and the future. And this week I want to explore a different kind of gratitude.
I wanted to explore the value of expressing. Relational gratitude, yeah, relational gratitude and how God wants us to treasure as much as possible our most meaningful relationships and friendships because I think you know this, but it’s so easy to to take.
These gifts of special people in our lives for granted, which is human nature. And the Lord wants to remind us that instead of taking our most meaningful relationships and friendships for granted, rather we are to honor them. And I want to I want to encourage us all, including myself, to do that better for they those relationships they’re
more than we know. Fragile gifts, fragile treasures. In some ways more precious than gold. Yeah. And so, you know let’s keep that in mind as we open up and look at a piece of scripture here from the Book of Philippians, I’m going to start with the first chapter.
I’m going to set it up. I have some thoughts for us to consider and share, and I hope by the time we’re done, we’re going to be even more inspired to want to treasure the special people in our lives and to honor God by loving them better.
Yeah. So if Philippians one, this is what the Apostle writes Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus to all the Saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi. With the overseers and deacons, so the Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the church at Philippi, and he mentions Timothy, as you noted there, Timothy is a really unique
and remarkable figure, not just in Paul’s life, but in the New Testament. He emerges first as a young leader. He was he was the great apostle son in the faith, younger, much younger than Paul. In fact, if you look at the book of Timothy at the books of Timothy first and second Timothy and you look at them
, you realize that part of Timothy’s struggle actually was the fact that he was a younger leader trying to, you know, step into a role that meant that he was going to need to be courageous and confident and not timid about using the gifts that God had given him, even though he was younger than a lot of the
people that he was being asked to lead. And, you know, that’s something that that I no longer have to worry about. But I did many years ago when I was a younger leader. But you know, Timothy was well, he was of mixed ethnicity, his father was Greek and his mother was Jewish.
But she wasn’t just Jewish. She was also a devoted follower of Jesus, and she had a tremendous influence on her son and that faith as she was connected to Timothy’s grandmother as well. So Timothy is is of mixed ethnicity, half Jewish, half Greek, and he became a tremendous asset to the Apostle Paul’s ministry.
He really did. And over time, he, as I mentioned, becomes an important leader in the early church. He was with Paul actually about ten years earlier to the writing of the letter of Philippians when the church was founded.
So Timothy was there in its embryonic stages. The whole thing? And you guys can read about it in Acts. 16. The whole thing had been miraculous it the church at Philippi was a product of a series of things that God had his touch on.
It was a really a miraculous birthing of a church. And it all began with a dream. I mean, Paul literally had a vision in the night and in a vision. He sees this man from Macedonia who’s pleading with him, saying Come over to Macedonia and help us, right?
That’s where Philip II was. And Paul responded, that vision. And he turned towards Macedonia, and he ended up in the colony of Philippi, which was the region’s most. Well, it was the foremost city of the region. Yeah, and there he meets a businesswoman.
A wealthy woman, her name is Lydia, she’s described as a seller of purple, that is, she sold garments with a particular unique and rare color of dye unique to the region. Tyrenean purple dye was literally worth more than its weight in gold.
Fabric traders obtained the dye from a small mollusk that was found only in the Tyre region of the Mediterranean Sea, so it was a rare, a rare commodity and Lydia, this woman was a serious believer in the God of the scriptures.
And when she heard the message of Jesus and getting read about this in Acts 16, she is described as I love the phrase opening up her heart. Which is the invitation the Lord makes to all of us. And something not only we do once, but something we are invited to keep doing all through the journey of life with Christ
. Lord, keep our hearts open. Yeah, that’s what we want. And we’re told that she and her household were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. We also recognize that in addition to the remarkable vision that Paul saw and his engaging this very important woman business woman named Lydia, who had a tremendous amount of influence and used
it for good. That Paul was eventually jailed along with his many ministry partner Silas, which ultimately resulted in the salvation of the jailer and his entire family was really miraculous deliverance that God used to bring this man to a saving faith and he brought his entire family with him and his relationships that were connected to him.
I’m confident we’re influenced in any way. All of those were key people in the formation of the of the church at PhillippI. It’s part of the origin story of the church. Every church has a bit of a lore.
Has you know what some have called sacred bundles of things that remind them of how they began? And, you know, Paul never forgot how God miraculously allowed him to engage people who ended up forming the core of the church community at Phillippi.
And he had great affection for them. He had great affection for them. Deep appreciation. When you read the letter Philippians to the Philippians, you realize that he had deep appreciation for their love and their loyalty to his ministry.
Remember that he’s not all of us would be aware of this. He’s writing the letter. From a place of confinement, he’s actually under house arrest. It’s not quite prison, but he’s not free. He has a Roman guard next to him, quite possibly chained to him in some, you know, loose way, but.
Paul is is not necessarily just free to come and go as he wills. And he’s not actually sure if he’ll ever see his friends, this church that he has loved, the church that he founded, that God miraculously created in Philippi, he’s he’s not sure.
So when in. I mean, he thinks he knows he’ll see them someday, one way or another, he’s going to see them here in eternity. But it just makes the words that he writes even more beautiful when you think of it that way.
And his words to the church at Philippi are actually words that God used by the Holy Spirit to be a gift for all of us. Look what he goes on to say. Verse two, he says. Grace to you and peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s loving favor upon you. And peace, right? These are the things that are offered in Christ. There is nothing better. And he says, I thank, my God, in all my remembrance of you. So he’s he’s reminiscing. He’s. He’s thinking I see him writing it.
Pausing, perhaps. He’s reminiscing, reflecting. As maybe some of us are wont to do from time to time of the fondness of days gone by. He’s letting his mind. Wander a bit. I see him perhaps. Staring out. A small window which has been letting in the light of the day.
And then his pen to paper. He writes verse four, always in every prayer of mine, always and every prayer of mine for you, all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership. Look at this in the gospel from the first day.
Until now, you see they had always supported him from the beginning. In prayers and with their finances, I mean, this was a really outstanding church. And as a result, the aging apostle writes that all the good that has come from the Proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, whatever lives have been changed and altered and effected by God’s
message. He says, You my friends, my brothers and sisters, you share in it because you invested into it. He’s reminding them that they are a part of everything that he’s done for the Lord because the day they threw their heart behind him and they threw their resources behind them, he says.
You’ve been a deep source of joy to me. You’ve been, you know, again, he’s he’s experiencing some disappointment in being locked up a bit. He doesn’t know his future for sure, but he’s taking particular satisfaction. In the relationship that he has with this remarkable church and the people that make it up and he says God is has
granted me the gift of. Of your loyalty, you’ve been. And I wonder if Paul had a tear come through his eyes as you’ve been so, so faithful. Committed, yeah, you’ve been committed from the first day until now. And I just need to say something because I think it’s important in this life.
We get to decide loved ones. How we are going to invest our time, our love and our resources, we decide that God’s given us the freedom to do it. But I found myself sitting with how blessed. And how thankful the Apostle was for the unwavering support and partnership in the Philippians, he says, Every time I think of
you, I smile because they had chosen to invest their time and their resources and their love, in the things of God as a priority in their life. And I hope that I hope that we will do the same.
But I see Paul reminiscing and he’s thinking, and he’s thinking he’s letting his thoughts flow back towards them in love. And he says, you know, I think, my God, for every remembrance of you, every time I think of you.
And the kind of quality that characterizes you as a as a people and a community and church. I smile. You know, and this is a season for gratitude. It really is a time for us to remember our gifts, the best of which, or at least I think aside from the Lord, the best gifts are the special people
that God has allowed to be in our lives and given us to hold in our heart. And I’ve been around long enough to know how fragile even the best of relationships can be, so. Let’s work to hold onto them.
Let’s be thankful. I mean, really thankful for loyal and loving friends and brothers and sisters and both. Physically in a natural and spiritually right. Mothers and fathers. Grandparents, mothers and fathers in the faith that is people who’ve had tremendous influence over our lives and have been there for us and.
And allowed us to have. A unique access into their lives. These are special gifts. You know, some people. Are given to us as encouragers and their contribution into our lives is that they speak kind words and maybe even as I said that some people who just have this unique capacity to encourage us are coming to our
mind. And they they they just have a way of lifting our spirits, and we need to let them know that we appreciate them. Thanksgiving is a great season for doing that. Thank you for always being encouraging encouragement to me.
I just want to encourage you because you always encourage me. Send a note. Send a text. Send a little prayer. Send the blessing. Let them know. So some friends are and people are meant as encouragers in our lives and others support us.
Paul was talking about that, they support us, that is they give us strength. So I look at it a little bit. Encouragement is has this kind of softness attached to it because it’s often when we’re down a little bit that we get encouraged.
Even it shoots courage into us, but in a soft way. But sometimes someone is there to support us. And I see that as a little bit of a difference. I look at that as someone who’s helping us bear the weight of what we’re walking through.
And they they give us strength. Think of when you’re carrying something and it’s getting really heavy and hard to bear alone. But someone who loves us or who cares for us lends us some of their strength to help defer some of the weight that we are having to bear it.
Just it just as it makes a difference. We need to say thank you for that too. We need to be grateful for that. Other other friends, you know that they they just. They’re just a joy to us. They share the joy, the journey on the stretch of the road.
Like I said, some of them may help bear the load. Sometimes they just offer us a helping hand. But. We’re we’re making the journey together, and I like to think of it as a journey on the stretch of the road because I’ve lived long enough to know that, you know, some friendships and relationships are are meant for
a season in our life and and in the rare, there’s some rare rare gems. That go on for decades and sometimes even almost a lifetime. I mean, those are. Those are such rare gifts and not don’t take it for granted, but also at the same time, I’m OK with the fact that some of the deepest, most meaningful
relationships that I’ve had have are meant for a season and it’s OK, that’s OK, too. I still want to treasure that’s the season and be thankful for it. And then, of course, there are other friends or relationships that spur us on.
So I’m kind of making some distinctions here. Some people encourage some people help us bear weight. Some people share the joy, the journey, and some people come into our lives to spur us on, to exhort us. And that’s a little different than encouragement.
That’s like, Come on. They’re kind of getting into our face a little bit into our space a little bit, and they’re challenging us to be better. Reminding us not to quit, give up or let the fire die. I hope I can do that as well every now and then for for all of you, because we’re all going
to need need sometimes to be reminded not to feel sorry for ourselves. Not to lose hope. Not to take our eyes off of Jesus. Not to get overwhelmed in our own self-doubt. Self defeat that the evil one beat us down.
No we got to, we got to get up sometimes. That’s why Paul talked about fighting the good fight of faith. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, right with principalities, and he’s talking about being a little bit more intense and intentional.
And we need people also in our lives who are willing to say, Come on now, we’ve got to get up, we’ve got to get going. We can’t stay here. Let’s pray. Let’s get better. Let’s move on. Let’s get better.
Let’s not be bitter, right? Don’t want to do that. I was reminded of something, Albert Schweitzer wrote. He said this at times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Isn’t that the truth?
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Yes, we do. Every now and then it should be something we do. It might be helpful to pause. This is the season.
This is once again one of the reasons I love the idea of having a Thanksgiving season and this time of the year. I just love it because we should think about, with deep gratitude the role of people who keep the flame for life alive in us, who God is used to be a blessing.
And so, you know what? And we’re sometimes we’re going to be the one who does the blessing, and sometimes we’re the ones who receives the blessing. But in blessing, we are blessed and blessed people tend to bless. That’s how it works.
And then the more you bless the blessed you get, the more blessed we get. So this is we can go on. It’s the gift that keeps on giving right? And then consider doing what the great Apostle Paul, did you see it?
Do you see it? We read about it. What did he do? I mean, he wrote his words down and he shared them with the Philippians. There might be a time for us to do that as well, I alluded to that earlier.
Maybe this is is something we need to really write and send. I write and share, write and give. Paul, did it. I thank my God, and every remembrance of you. You bring joy to my heart, your love, your loyalty, your faithfulness, everything about you.
Makes me thankful. And he goes on to say this. It’s one of the great verses of the New Testament, and I am sure of this that he who began a good work in you. Paul writes will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
That’s another thing for us to be grateful for. Don’t miss it. What is this God’s faithfulness to the days of our lives in this life to the next. The Good Shepherd is with us. Yes, he is. And the master builder is at work, oh, Lord Jesus.
Patient master builder, he is at work in you and he’s at work in me. And even when we falter. And I have let him down. And things. Done and things undone. In blessings withheld. And in attitudes that were poor.
I know I have let the good shepherd down. And I am in the end, at my best, an unprofitable servant and yet. We are loved. And his grace is sufficient for in our weakness, his strength is made perfect and demonstrated to be all that we truly need.
He is the one that we look to, and he is the one who will finish the work that he has begun in you and me, oh son, oh daughter of faith be not consumed in despair nor discouraged by our own frailty, weakness or sin.
For one greater is among us. Talking about the Jesus, our great captain, the captain of our salvation. But Paul, going back to his loving words as he shifts back to expressing his love for them, he says it is right for me to feel this way about you because I hold you in my heart.
For you are all part takers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and the confirmation of the gospel. I hope we can appreciate this. Paul could have chose to become bitter himself. He was, after all, in confinement under guard house arrest.
He could have chosen to become a. A despondent. And beaten. But instead, he became the blesser. He could have lashed out at the Romans about the unfairness of life in question as we have been tempted to do from time to time question the goodness of God.
Why would God do this? Why would he allow me to do this? I mean, I’ve only given my life to him. I’ve only given everything I have for him. I’ve loved Jesus. I’ve allowed myself to to just give myself in complete obedience to the way of Christ.
And this is what I get? What have I done to deserve this? Why am I on the precipice of of being killed? And he ends up having an extension of days. But one thing is pretty clear, that’s just not the way he approached life, it’s not the way he thought, and it’s certainly not the way he thought
about his own relationship with the Lord. And he does not. He does not hesitate to pull the trigger. On expressing love, despite the limitations of his undesired captivity and circumstances, I think you heard what I just said and I can say it in a different way, but but he just wouldn’t hold back, even though things weren’t going
great from a natural circumstantial perspective, this is not what he wanted and he could have zeroed in on, you know, why are you letting this happen to me, God? But that’s not the position he took. Instead, he made a commitment to blessing because his heart was committed to the Lord.
Come what may? He says, I’ve learned in another part of scripture, he says. I’ve learned how to how to be abound and how to be a bass. I’ve learned I’ve learned how to be an adaptable man. I’m nimble.
My faith isn’t dependent on things going the way I want them to go. No, I’m committed to the Lord. Whatever he decides, I’m I’m a vet. I want the blessing, I want the joy. You know, I want the good things.
I what? I would love to be able to see you again, Paul saying, But I’m not. I’m I’m not. This is not about God coming through for me in the way that I require him to. In order to bless you, I’m blessing you because I’m a blessed man wherever I am.
And it includes even in this place of confinement because God can even bring good out of this. And he did because it was in this actual place of confinement under house arrest that the letters that we have that make up some of these Epistles in the New Testament came into being we literally were given words that God
has used. Holy Spirit. God breathed inspired words that we can treasure down the ages as a pattern for living the way of Christ. We’re a product of someone being constrained in a house, in a house arrest, not free.
And so but he was free in his spirit. And we’ve seen, as this has happened throughout history in other different places, I think of people like Nelson Mandela, for example, where so much good has come through the injustice they their hearts yielded to the Lord for a greater purpose.
It reminded me of something Henry Nouwen wrote, and I just I just want to share it with you. It’s actually little a little longer piece, but I think it’ll bless you. He said. This is great Christian writer. Who’s now gone to be with the Lord.
He says do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain the deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you or die. Your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply.
The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It’s like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence or death, you are faced with a choice.
You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the rich soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds. And I just I love the imagery of Nouwen’s words.
They are rich and deep and filled with metaphor. I can almost feel the soil in those words. Let us choose to bless and love with gratitude. Even when life is hard or people have broken trust and let us down, or
have died. Which is not their fault, of course, but the void is real. And when our heart is broken and we feel rejected, the choice is ours. To live in love and the power of Christ, even when the limits of life has placed upon us.
are hard. And and then as as I said, you know, let us not hold back a blessing when it’s in our heart to give it. Come on now we need to follow through with our good intentions. And what I mean by that is some of us along the way of this message have been stirred to be grateful
for certain people in our lives. And. I think it’s important for us to not just say thank you, Lord for them, but also to take some time to let them know if if God puts it in your heart, send a blessing.
You know, send it, say the word. You may know the word and not say it. G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton. An exquisite writer, just a clever writer, almost like a Christian, Mark Twain, he said when it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude when it comes to life.
The critical thing is whether you take things for granted or you take them with gratitude. That’s really great. We get to choose and we’re going to take this for granted or am I going to take it with gratitude?
I have another thing, another think to share a thought for you. On the other side of our special. And I want this just to settle in our hearts, this idea of gratitude and love and appreciation for the gifts of God and the special people in our lives, and I don’t want to be in a hurry about it
. But I do want to take a moment, you know, speaking of thankfulness and Thanksgiving, I want to talk about quickly giving. We are in a season of giving and I do want to remind all of you, maybe in a uniquely different way because we’re making our way towards the end of the year.
And I would love for you. In addition to giving your tithes and offerings, which many of our our committed church community. You do so well and you can send that in and you can give it directly on our website or even through our app.
But I would love for you to make Cornerstone a priority as we head towards the end of the year, if you can just keep that in the back of your mind. We really have a mission and a vision, and I’ll talk more about that maybe in the coming weeks, but I just really would want to plant that
good seed in your heart to make your church a really high priority as you prayerfully consider your year end giving. But with that in mind, let’s share the song. And even now Lord, I just ask that you keep our hearts open to you, to the words that we’re about to hear as they’re set beautifully into melody.
That’s my prayer. Yes. Grateful for all of you. In Jesus name. How good is he? Far beyond what eyes could ever see. Yet he stands in front of me. How good is he? Paints a canvas with millions to.
He is still he holds my. Salvation. I might be more behind. How good is he? I see. Because he’s got a second chance. I’ll. You going to see? Still. How good is he? Salvation. Oh, my. In his. Salvation.
Oh. The. Oh, might be falling behind. How good is he? How good is he? If he never did another thing for me. He is. How good is he? Oh, you know, I know the Lord wants us to have a big heart full of Thanksgiving, a big heart full of Thanksgiving.
And I think that happens when we choose to open up our heart to him. Then it’s easier. To open up our hearts to others, the more open our heart is to him. The more open our heart can be for others and to others, and I just I just want to remind everyone to.
Be thankful to the Lord for people who he’s given us as treasures and to the beauty of of things that that have to do with people more than things. Use things, love people right? Not not love things and use people.
God wants us to use things. We’re going to let them go anyway, but we’re not taking anything with us. But loving people, that’s second only to loving God, love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind is strength.
And secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. And where does my neighbors start? Well, I know one thing. It starts with those closest to us, Jesus modeled that he did, and he was on Earth. He had a special love for his mother.
And a special love for his closest disciples. And then he loved the world. And that’s a pattern for you and me to follow. So Lord Jesus, in this season of Thanksgiving, I ask that you would give us a grateful heart.
And we just want to zero in on your goodness because you’re so good and you’re so God and you want us to be a blesser as well. A distributor of that goodness. Settle our hearts. Heal our souls. Keep us in every way.
Spirit, soul and body. Yes. And in our minds. That’s my prayer in Jesus name. And don’t forget. You are greatly loved.