Summary: How do we go about coming into His presence with thanksgiving?

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

November 23, 2003

Thanksgiving Sermon

“Approaching God”

Psalm 95

Introduction: It is not always easy to approach God. Often our lifestyles have become so crowded with other priorities that we can’t seem to get around to thinking about God and how He wants to be involved in our life. Sometimes we are loaded down with the cares and busyness of our lives or with the guilt of our sins that we speed through the days without even getting to the really important things. We take for granted the many blessings that God gives us on a daily basis. It doesn’t occur to us to say, “Thank You.”

We are often so far away from Him in our thoughts that we don’t know how to approach Him. What do we say, what do we do? Today’s Psalm gives us some helpful insights into how to draw near to the Lord. It is a good Psalm especially for this Thanksgiving season.

1. Making the Effort: First of all the Psalm says COME let us sing for joy to the Lord. In approaching the Lord we have to make the move to COME to the Lord. To make an effort. Even though He breaks into our lives at many points along the way, we’ve got to take the initiative to take time out to stop what we are doing and focus our attention on what He is trying to say to us. There are many stop signs along the way that God uses to get our attention. Sometimes it is trouble or sickness or financial setbacks. We often ignore these stop signs and move right on our way.

ILLUSTRATION: In Mexico our wagonmaster told us, “People don’t stop for the stop signs here,” but they DO stop for the “TOPES.” A tope is a speed bump in the streets. We were warned to “watch out for the topes!”

The Psalmist says, “COME let us sing for joy to the Lord.” Stop at the STOP SIGNS, and at the TOPES and turn your thoughts toward God. That is the First Step in approaching Him. It doesn’t happen automatically. You have to make the effort to turn your thoughts toward God--to bring yourself to a place where you are ABLE to be THANKFUL and to the place where you can sing for joy.

Often we come to church out of habit. It is what we DO on Sunday mornings. We go through the routine without much joy or enthusiasm. Just “get it over with” for another week. In addition to taking the initiative to COME to church or to the Lord, we approach him more than merely showing up for an hour. We enter in with a particular kind of attitude--a joyful one--with singing, shouting aloud with thanksgiving and music and with some enthusiasm. With an expectation that God is going to do something in our lives.

ILLUSTRATION: We pulled into our campground at San Carlos on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico later than usual. It had been a long day’s ride from Los Mochis and our bus was to pick us up at 5:00 p.m. to go to a nice restaurant for our farewell dinner. Each RV was being parked but one had been overlooked. When we were walking up the street to get on the bus one woman in our group said, “I’m mad! I’m in a pout!. The whole evening is ruined and I didn’t have time to even change clothes. I’m in a pout!”

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to put us “in a pout: and it causes our entire morning worship service to be ruined. The hour slips by and we have failed to approach the Lord with Singing, Shouting, Joy and Thanksgiving.

How are you coming before the Lord today? Have the pressures of the week put you in a “pout?” Are you upset about things that have come across your pathway this week? Let go of the things that are hindering you from coming into His presence with singing, with joy and thanksgiving. It is up to each of us to clear our hearts and minds of things that would rob us of a thankful worship experience today.

2. Why Bother?: “Sounds like too much effort. Think I’ll just stay home today. It’s been a rough week.”

Why do we bother to make the effort to COME to church--to APPROACH the Lord on our one day off from work? Why do we sing--shout for joy---act enthusiastically--and give thanksgiving to the Lord?

Sometimes even during the Thanksgiving Season we are slow to express our thanks--we ask the Lord for all kinds of things but don’t often acknowledge the daily benefits that he loads us with.

`STORY: A little girl always talked to God following saying her nightly formal prayers. Usually she would ask for many things but one night after her list of requests she paused and added, “Thank you God. AND NOW GOD, WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?"

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