This morning I’d like to teach you our sermon text—or more specifically teach you to sing it. Listen—and then join in.
Lamentations 3:22-23: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness [Oh God]—Great is Your faithfulness.
Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington is best known for his roles in Glory, The Preacher’s Wife, Remember the Titans, and Training Day. But this Hollywood A-lister has sounded more like a pastor when has spoken at recent events. Like me Denzel is a PK. His father was a Pentecostal preacher from Mount Vernon, New York. But more important than that is the fact that Denzel Washington is a growing Christian. He has been an active member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ for nearly 30 years.
Denzel says he reads his Bible every morning—and that he strives to consistently “get up and speak of what God has done for him.” At a November 2015 church banquet he did exactly that. But then he urged his listeners to live in a constant attitude of gratitude for God’s goodness. Here’s what he said, “Give thanks for blessings every day. Every day. Embrace gratitude. Encourage others. It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time. I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, say ‘thank you.’ A bad attitude is like a flat tire. Until you change it, you’re not going anywhere.”
I don’t know about you—but I feel like giving Mr. Washington an “AMEN!” If you feel the same way do so! I especially like his last sentence, “A bad attitude—an UNTHANKFUL attitude—is like a flat tire. Until you change it you’re not going anywhere.” We have found this to be true at Redland—which is why every fall as we come to the end of one year’s vision—before we begin the next—we set aside this time to THANK GOD for His blessings in the past year. We know that THANKFULNESS is an essential first step if we want to SOAR—progress onward toward Christlikeness.
And that attitude is not hard—for we have so much to be thankful for this year. Here’s just a few things I thought of as I got on my knees this past week.
We have 91 people—so far—committed to next year’s vision of SOARING—91 individuals who have publicly said, “I want to grow to be more like Jesus next year. I want our church to grow.” If you’d like to make that commitment, there are cards on the back table—fill one out and bring it to me.
This year 23 people have joined our church—9 of those have at the same time made their profession of faith and asked to be baptized. Four of those were former Redlanders returning to our area because of a job transfer. One of those told me she chose to come back here so she could return to Redland.
I’m thankful for a RECORD UPWARD enrollment—the largest ever. I just got my roster—our team is the PANTHERS and I hardly wait to meet them in a couple weeks. I’m thankful for a great RBC CAMP this summer—with several children making professions of faith. At least one of those children was baptized here at Redland.
I’m also thankful for the rest of our summer camps—Sports Camp, Bell Camp, AAKP Camp—all of which had record attendance. I’m so grateful for the way God blessed our 50th anniversary celebration—because not only did it allow us precious fellowship with former Redlanders—it also gave us an opportunity to look at the ROOTS that have helped Redland to grow. As you know, every week in worship we’ve celebrated another one of God’s “root blessings.” I’m thankful that our ESL class enrollment is up again this year—and for the fact that we are seeing more of our students take an interest in our church—by attending here.
I’m thankful for the generous way you have given to our deacon benevolence—because that has enabled us to help people in tangible ways—like a young couple who couldn’t pay their rent—or a single mom who needed help with an expensive car repair—or helping others with medical costs—tangible ways to “be Jesus’ to people.
I’m praising God for the success of the Story Time restart—for all the unchurched families something as simple as that has brought to our campus. Speaking of giving, I’m thankful for your giving to missions through which we have helped the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to share Jesus on the UMD campus—and helped Mark and Belinda Rich prepare to help translate the Bible as Wycliffe missionaries—and helped Kairos teams to take the message of Jesus’ love into prisons. I’m thankful for the way our Brooke Grove ministry has taken root—for Larry and Laura Staley’s faithful leadership in making it possible for the residents to worship once a month.
And as I look back over the past TWO years—and all the funerals we’ve done—the services in which we said good-bye to people like Buddy Young and Dixie Koch and too many others—well that makes me praise God for the fact that Jesus rose on the third day and conquered death for us. This means our “good-byes” are temporary. A day will dawn when we will all be together again.
Well, I could go on and on—but suffice it to say that GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME—and, as He has been in the past, in 2016 He has once again been VERY good to this church! Our loving Heavenly Father continues to shower His blessings on us.
Hebrews 12:28 encourages us to: “be thankful and so WORSHIP God acceptably with reverence and awe…” hence the need for a service like this. So, today instead of a sermon—which is really a time for us to hear what God has to say to us—as in decades past, I want us to turn the tables and make this a time for God to hear what we have to say to Him. We are taking this portion of our service today and making it into a concert of PRAYER in which we say, “Thank You, God for all Your blessings to us and this local body of believers.” At my request SIX individuals or couples have prepared prayers for this purpose. So, let us now enter a time of conversational prayer—a time of communicating together with God—eyes and ears open—as we hear these prayers of thanks and offer our own. They will come to you in the order that they are printed in the bulletin. Between each prayer we will sing our text again and then after these prayers we will pause to give us all a chance to offer our own thanks to God for His great faithfulness. So, now, let us pray, “Heavenly Father, Hear now these, the prayers of Your people:”
My name is Jaden. I know that you know my name. You have been so good to me and my family. I thank you so much! Here are some special blessings that I am thankful for.
I thank you for my life.
I thank you for my parents.
I thank you for my siblings: Samuel and Rebecca.
I thank you for my friends.
I thank you for basketball.
I thank you for my teachers and Sunday school teachers.
I thank you for Jesus and the church.
I give you thanks in the name of Jesus-Christ my Lord and Savior.
I thank Dear Lord I thank you for being able to gather here today and worship you I thank you for my wonderful family who takes care of me every day I thank you for my dad who is always there to make everyone laugh and help me with my school work and answer every question I have. I thank you for my older sister who is there to listen to me and all of my problems and the assistance she gives. I thank you for my little sister who brings enjoyment in everyone’s life Myself included and for her being a blessing on others with her gifts of kindness. I thank you for my mom who comforts me and wakes up before the sun to make me breakfast because she loves me so much. Lord thank you for house and the roof that keeps me dry. I thank you for my own room and a bed to sleep on and a blanket to keep me warm. Lord I thank you for my ability to walk and run so I can play the wonderful sport of soccer. Lord I thank you for my wonderful school that I can go to and all my wonderful teachers. Lord we all thank you for living in America and the great freedoms we enjoy the freedom of speech and the ability to vote, our democracy—and we thank you the most for the ability to gather here today. Lord we know you have made it to where we live in a country with freedom of religion and we thank you for that. We thank you that we can live without fear of coming here to worship you and thank you for all you have done. Lord I thank you the most for you and your ability to control any situation and provide us with comfort and for your son and his ultimate sacrifice for us and our sins. Let us all go in thankfulness fully realizing how much you have done for us. In Jesus Christ name I pray Amen
Daniel and Amber Hawkins
Dear Lord, We come to You today to give thanks for the many blessings You’ve given us this year. First, thank You for our family – for giving us two amazing kids who have brightened our days and opened our eyes to new experiences—who’ve brought us closer to you and to our church family. They have taught us so much about love and joy, and also about patience and mercy. Thank You for our church family who have showered us with blessings—for being welcoming and loving from the moment they first met us. Members of our church family were there to watch Drake when Tierney was born, to come and visit with us in the hospital after she was born— (I think I saw more Redlanders while I was there than I did nurses), and to bring us food after all of our family went home and Daniel broke his rib. Thank You for providing church members who hold us accountable to You by pointing towards areas of need that allow us to use our spiritual gifts for your glory. Thank You for helping guide us on our path of spiritual growth.
Thank You for allowing us to teach these young kids in Sunday School – for giving us an opportunity to use our gifts to present Your message in a fun way. From skits about the Amazing Race to doing science experiments, being a pajama pant wearing news reporter, or building giant pool noodle dinosaurs—You’ve given us the inspiration and guidance to teach kids about your Word in ways that the kids understand and relate to, and find joy in. We’ve made it through a third of the Bible this year in Sunday School, and we’re thankful for every Sunday that we have the opportunity to share Your Word. Thank You for helping us find a church where there are activities for our own kids like rumpus and story time. Rumpus gives Drake a time to play and run around with other children but gives me a time to visit with other adults—several of whom helped and encouraged us to get involved in church ministries. Thank You for providing people to staff a nursery so we can get our chance to hear God’s Word without interruption. Thank You for my job, doing something I enjoy that allows me to help others by providing important services to nonprofits who help serve our communities. Thank You for allowing Daniel’s woodworking business to take off in a way that he can stay home and provide for our children during the day. Lastly, thank You for Your love and joy, and Your patience and mercy towards us, that You loved us enough to send Your Son to die for our sins—that You provided us with a saving grace despite our repeated failures to follow Your Word.
Louis and Lili Carbonell
Father, Thank You for this opportunity to quiet our hearts and share with our church family some of what we are thankful for over this last year. This past year has been another year filled with your faithfulness in our lives. I am thankful that you brought Lili and me together in marriage in the spring. We could not have asked for a more beautiful wedding. And although we did not have space for every one of our friends and family that we wanted to share that moment with, we are grateful for the memories shared on that special day. Bringing Lili to my life has been one of the greatest kindnesses you have ever shown me. Our hearts are also filled with thanksgiving when we think about our baby girl that is on the way. Although we were planning on growing our family, we were not expecting a honeymoon baby. However, your timing is always perfect and we welcome baby Isabella with grateful hearts. Help us to be Godly and faithful parents to her. Thank you for Jonathan, Anna, and Lucy and for all the special love you’ve poured out on them. Give us wisdom to shepherd their little hearts. We are thankful for the grace You’ve shown us in navigating through the challenges of having a blended family.
Thank You for being the glue that holds us all together. We are thankful for continuing to provide us gainful employment at our jobs with the Federal and County governments. Thank You for how You have prospered us in our vocations and I pray that You will continue to show us favor in that area. Help us to be a light in our workplaces. Thank You also for our home that You’ve provided for us. Help us to be good stewards of our house and may it be obvious to our neighbors that You are the God of our household.
Lili: Thank You, Father, for calling my parents to lead a church plant in the Wheaton area. Thank You for how they’ve labored to reach the Spanish speaking community in Montgomery County and I pray that You will grow and prosper that ministry. Thank You that they are in good health and that they have a heart to serve you. Thank You that my sister in Colombia and brother in China and their families are all doing well and that they have a heart to serve you. I am not able to see them as much as I would like, but thank You that we can keep in contact and I pray that I will be able to see them in the near future. Thank You for healing my brother’s wife from a serious illness. Please help her to continue to make a full recovery. Thank You that this past year I was able to finish my Master’s degree. It was a very long journey, but by your grace I was able to graduate this year. Thank You that Luis only has one more year left to finish his Masters. Please help him to continue the hard work to get to the finish line.
Luis: Thank you for answering countless prayers for the Carbonell family. For guiding my father through the challenging process of retirement. For giving my mom the grace to have him home full time. For providing new homes for my parents and my two older brothers and their families. For all of the professional and academic accomplishments that they’ve all attained. For the birth of Camden and for all of the lives of our nieces and nephews on both sides of the family. Most importantly, thank You for how they all serve You and aim to spread Your love and grace to others. Thank You for our brothers and sisters in Christ that have encouraged us over this past year. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Stuart and Elizabeth Carroll
Dear Lord Thank you so much for loving us first. Thank you for knowing what we need before we even know we know ourselves. I am so thankful for my husband who puts up with me; my craft interests (and all the paraphernalia that goes along with those interests), and my horizontal surface disease. I am thankful for our children, Anne, Stuart and our new daughter by marriage, April. I am thankful for each stage of life they are navigating — even though I am not ready for it. I thank you Lord that you are there to get me through and have given me a husband who loves me and shows me that love each day. Lord, I thank you for my job, I thank you for giving me two jobs when I needed it – to keep me busy so I wouldn’t dwell on depressing thoughts—or have the energy to do things “my way” and totally mess things up, but to be busy, pray and be able to accept things appropriately.
Lord, you watch over us so faithfully, you protect us, and love us so much. Thank you so much. I am thankful for the lord’s protection and provision in our lives. I am thankful that Elisabeth continues to stick with me through thick and thin. We celebrated 30 years of marriage this past summer. We think our kids, Stuart Jr. and Anne, are turning out pretty good (not that we are biased to anything). I am thankful that our son found a Follower of Jesus to be his wife as he starts out on year one of marriage. I am thankful that our daughter continues to do well in college and balances schoolwork with a part-time job and involvement it campus ministries. I had planned on retiring from IBM in about 10 years, but IBM had other ideas, and retired me two years ago. I went from thinking I needed more income to having a pension about 1/3 the amount I was earning, and no health insurance after a year. I heard it said that when surveyed, people stated that the amount of money they would need to be “comfortable” was 20% more, now I was looking at 65% less. I am thankful that I was fully eligible for retirement (not 6 months short or such) and that I was old enough to tap into retirement savings without penalty—and I that I actually received a separation package. God was faithful and provided Elisabeth with a job with MCPS several months later with Full (and very good) health benefits. I decided for the time being to get my bus and chauffer’s licenses as I had driven buses while in college. I did and started driving buses and limos. In the meantime, Elisabeth and I tried to live on as little money as possible and not dip into retirement savings—all the while maintaining our tithing. God is faithful, we were able to survive on considerably less income. And as a reward, we found that less income equals more financial aide for Anne’s final year in College. Through good times and bad, God has been faithful, providing what we need and giving me a peace that He is in control. I am not entirely sure what he has in store for us in the future, I just know I can count on Him providing for our needs.
Billy and Donna Tidwell
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever…. To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth forever.” Ps 136:1, 4 Father, we love You and we thank You for Your blessings in our lives. For drawing us to You by Your mercy and showering us with grace. Thank You for loving us and desiring to be in relationship with us. For blessing us with healthy bodies that allow us to worship You. We are thankful for Your constant and consistent provision of our needs. Thank You for the desire You put in our hearts to spend daily time reading Your word, praying, and fellowshipping with You. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit that guides and helps us, giving us the words to pray even when we don’t know what to say. Thank You for blessing the health of our families and the extra special blessing of living near some of them. Thank You for providing our home, for safety and security while we’re there and allowing us to plant roots in this area. Thank You for the stability of Billy’s pension and the steady work You have provided for Donna. Thank You for bringing us together and blessing our relationship as we strive to grow closer to You and each other. As we are reminded in Psalm 126:3, The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Thank You for drawing us here to Redland Baptist Church and providing a place we can plug in and serve. Thank You for guiding me to the Ladies Tuesday evening Bible Study, for the kinship of Spirit and the bonds of love every week in that room of ladies. Thank You for the community of believers here at Redland who have welcomed us from day 1! Thank You for the Wednesday night dinners and sweet fellowship around the tables. Thank You for Pastor Mark, for his commitment to preaching from Your word and discipling the members here. Thank You for the blessing of living in America, where we can read Your Word, worship in community, and serve You without fear of persecution. Thank You for the opportunity to share these things with our church family. For these and countless more blessings upon blessings, we give You praise and glory forever. In Your precious name, Amen.
My name is Gabriela Figueroa. I am a junior at Magruder High School and I have been coming to Redland Baptist for roughly 5 years. I would like to share how thankful I am for my family: my mother, who drives me to all my events and loves me unconditionally; my dad, who pushes me to get good grades and work hard; and my brother, who I can’t imagine my life without no matter how annoying.
I would also like to say how blessed I am to be part of this community and finding this church. Being part of this church has helped me grow spiritually and learn more about Jesus. I am thankful for the church leadership who are here faithfully and give their time in serving us and the Lord, we wouldn’t be the church that we are today without you.
Im very grateful for the youth group, where I have the opportunity to meet other people my age in a comfortable, safe environment and share our experiences and grow.
I’m also fortunate to participate in events that Redland has to offer. Like VBS. A wonderful experience where we give back to the little ones. A fun event which I enjoy and get to learn from.
Another event is the summer pool parties that we get to have thanks to the families who open their homes to the youth and let us have a wonderful time swimming and splashing on a hot day. We wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity without you.
Fuel is another event that Redland has where we have fun, good food, worship and learn and talk about the bible in small groups. I love going and it strengthens realtionships.
These are some of the reasons why I’m thankful that I get to be part of this church.
I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to serve in this wonderful community.
The Velasquez family
Linda: Dear Lord, Thank you for the blessings you have given us throughout this year. I am so thankful for my family and support system here at Redland. Lord I have learned this year, that your timing is impeccable. I am thankful for the lessons I have learned in this time of transition.
New relationships, new career opportunities, and the final semester of school. You are wonderful, and I am so grateful to have You by my side and in my heart. Thank You for showing me that things happen on Your timeline…not mine. Lord I know I can lean on You when things get tough and rejoice in You when prayers are answered. I pray all this in your name, amen.
Antonio: Dear God, I thank you for the youth leaders here at Redland. They are such a great influence in my life and I am blessed to have such role models. From Sunday School to music groups and mission trips, I always enjoy it and grow as a Christian and always learn new things.
Thank you for putting them in my life so I always know that I have them to lean on when I need them most.
Sheryl: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to take this time to thank you for your Healing Grace. As our family has been coping with the loss of two close family members it has been your grace that has helped us in understanding you have a plan in our lives. We are so thankful that you have placed people in our lives to help us through it all and come closer to you as a result. Thank you for always being there when we are weak and broken, reminding us that we can go on and be happy and excited to see our loved ones again—because of your Grace in sending your Son so that would be possible. Thank you for this Grace driven church family. We are so blessed to be a part of such an amazing group of Christians to socialize, lean on and grow with.
Walter: Lord there are so many things that I am thankful for this year. Even in times of grief and when things didn’t seem to go our way I know that you were guiding and leading us. Thank you for opening my dad’s heart to prayer after my mom passed away. Thank you for the time you have given me to share and grow closer to Linda and Antonio, when it’s usually the opposite that happens at their age. Thank you for the gift you have given me in my wife who has been my rock to lean on in sad times, my cheerleader in the exciting times and my supporter in the challenging times. In your name we pray… Amen
Fritz and Caryl Lau Alubens
Our Lord and Heavenly Father, We’re here today, to gather, reflect and appreciate all the grace and blessings that you have showered upon us. There is no amount of words of thanks that would describe and express how deeply grateful we are. Thank you dear Lord for our family … Thank you for giving me a beautiful, kind, understanding, loving and Godly wife. We thank you for blessing our lives with the most adorable and beautiful children who always gives us joy, excitement, love and understanding that always fills our family. They are the ones who brightens our days and keep us warm at night. Through them You’ve always displayed Your wondrous love and grace upon us. We couldn’t ask for anyone else but for these 3 lovely children of ours. They are perfect in every way! We thank You oh Lord, for always supplying all our needs. Having to bring one income in the family is really a difficult feat—but, You’ve always sustained and assured us that Your grace is sufficient and Your love endures. Thank You, dear God that despite of not having so much wealth and material things in life—You’ve filled our hearts with love and compassion, which enabled us to help our families—friends and others who are in need. We would also like thank You dear Father for giving us good health in spite of my family having to frequent the ER for some non-life threatening health issues. We thank you for the gift of family and friendship. They are the ones who gives us encouragement and always extends a helping hand when needed the most. We would also like to give You thanks for answering our previous and current prayers. I always prayed before that you will enlighten and show the way of salvation to my family, friends and loved-ones. I prayed to You before that You will touch and change their lives so that they would know and accept You as their Lord and personal Savior. Then one by one, You’ve unfolded the wonder of Your name and power of prayer. dear God.
My friends and family became so actively involved in church, accepted You as their Lord and Savior, followed and dedicated their lives to You. Oh how could I thank You enough dear God that even some of my friends became pastors, deacons and active members in their own churches. And what really elated and inspired me the most was when my family and my wife’s family are beginning to know and follow you and your true teachings. Oh how joyous it would be that one day my family and friends will all be celebrating “Thanksgiving” in your kingdom, Lord God. Dear Lord, I continue to pray for those who haven’t been touched by Your Holy Spirit or heard the good news about your salvation—I pray that one day, they would soon be able to discover and enjoy the promise of eternal life. This we pray and give thanks In the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
Kenn and Judi Owen
Oh Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever. I praise God for all his goodness towards me throughout this year. I thank Him for covering me and protecting me in all situations and encounters that I have experienced. I am thankful for the many ways God’s infinite love has manifested in my life: I am thankful for my family; they each have allowed me to experience God in different ways. My husband and his health challenges caused me to experience God the healer and restorer of life. This year I learned that love has a price that only having a close relationship with the Father can you go through valleys and come out praising him. I am thankful for those valleys for they teach me that the Lord is good and His love endures forever. I praise God for our children who in their unique ways have been a blessing to us. There were times this year when we shared in their high and low points in their lives but we were able to lean on Christ the “Solid Rock.” I am thankful for those experiences because we were able to reflect and be thankful for the foundation that is built on that “Solid Rock”. I am thankful for our grandchildren and all the joy that they have brought into our lives. This year our oldest granddaughter has openly expressed her profession of faith and will be baptized at the church that she attends. Our youngest grandchild enjoys coming to church with grandma and he loves AWANA, “IGUANA” as he calls it. For these I am thankful. I thank God for my church family and all their love. It is a blessing to be a part of a family that teaches you and allows you to experience God in so many different ways. I get to serve indifferent areas and I am served by a great team of pastors and teachers. How humbling and honorable. To God be all glory and praise. I am thankful for my Sunday school class that shared in my prayer requests and rejoiced in my praises and answered prayers. I am thankful for all the people and all the things that I encountered that made my life more meaningful. For these reasons I will bless the Lord at all times and His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Amen.
Now it is your chance to join in this time of thanks-praying. As the instrumentalists continue to play, let us all bow our heads and all thank God—praying together at the same time. Pray out loud if you want—in your seat—or on your knees—but pray and thank God for all of His blessings.
THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father God, We are Your people—the sheep of Your pasture and we have come this morning to worship You with glad and joyful songs—inspired by Who You are and for What You have done. For, You are good and Your love endures forever; Your faithfulness continues through all generations And all God’s people said….A-MEN
Perhaps as we have acknowledged all that God has done for us, you have remembered the many ways He has blessed your life. And as you did, you felt the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit to give back to God in some way. You may feel led to come forward and publicly show your thanks to God….by recommitting your life to Him or by joining this church as we use all that God provides us with to minister to this community. You may want to acknowledge for the first time that God gave His Son to die for you…and today publicly give Him your life as you accept Him as Savior and Lord. But however God leads won’t you come and share your decision with us?