Happy Thanksgiving! Today is all about thanksgiving. And if you are wondering about the table here, we will be partaking in the Lord’s Supper later in the service because as Christians, what are we most thankful for? It’s God sending His Son to reconcile sinners to Himself through the cross of Christ. The gospel.
Thank you, Brother Jae, for the video. God has been really good to us this year. Not many of you were there, but we started off this year with a New Year’s Eve sharing in Irvine. I didn’t know what to expect going into that evening, and I surely didn’t know what to expect for this year. But I left that evening very hopeful that God was going to do something special this year. And He has. He has done more than I could have asked for or imagined.
Some big events this year and a few firsts. We had our first PhD awarded to one of our members. Daniel completed his PhD in Philosophy at Cambridge University.
We had our first out-of-state conference as few of the elders went to a Desiring God conference in late January in sub-freezing Minnesota. The topic was prayer and I will never forget some of the prayers that P. John, Brother Daniel, Brother Matthew and I shared during those few days. It was the work of God.
We had our first ordination in the history of our church. I can’t believe that was February. It feels like 10 years ago. That was our first ordination, but I know that’s not going to be the last. Right? Amen? Any future church planters out there?
We had our first hiking trip and we discovered who the real men and the real women were in our congregation. The men were clearly separated from the boys, although from what I hear, some may be in denial of their boyhood status. And I think we learned that at our church, the sisters are tougher than the brothers on the whole.
We had our first Oxy bible study starting this Fall as an official student group. And it’s wonderful to see some of those students joining our worship service.
We attended our first Prayer Life seminar not too long ago and it was neat to see how God clearly led us to attend that seminar and he made it so easy for us to attend because it was in our own backyard. First in Irvine, and then a few months later in Pasadena.
And last month, we had our first retreat as a church where we didn’t join LBC in West LA. And many of us were challenged and renewed in our hunger to study the Word of God.
When I look back on this year, there were countless big and small answers to prayers, but when I take a step back, I see 4 prominent themes that got played out this year. The Word of God, the local church, discipleship and prayer.
First, the Word of God. P. John, Brother Daniel and I began expositional preaching at the tail end of last year and it has continued throughout this year. Romans, 1 Samuel, Psalms, 1 Corinthians. I am growing in confidence that God is pleased when we submit to His Word and preach book by book and chapter by chapter instead of jumping around and doing topical studies.
Second, the local church. Starting with Romans, we had a chance to talk quite a bit about the local church. Developing and teaching a curriculum about the importance of local church was a big emphasis this year. As a result, we had 3 rounds of Course 101, our Christian Foundations class, as well as 3 rounds of membership class this year. The first membership class was in April 2011 and that led to our first baptism on Easter 2011 where Isaac, Ploy, Sam, Kyungha got dunked. That was very memorable for me. We had a second membership class in June 2011 and that led to another baptism service on August 2011 for Aeryn, Andre, Dongyoon. And most recently, we had a third membership class that began in Oct 2011 and God willing, we may be able to squeeze in a baptism before the end of the year.
Third, discipleship. Despite being short on manpower, we had more discipleship meetings–small groups and 1-on-1s–this year than we had in previous years. Personally, I am getting sick of the sandwiches at Broad Cafe on the Caltech campus. But I think I speak for all of us who have been involved in Caltech ministry this past year, we might get tired of sandwiches, but we never get tired of seeing God’s grace and activity in your lives. These discipleship meetings allowed us to transition to more student ownership and leadership at Caltech this year than ever before. And that had a direct effect — it allowed some of the older college staff to divert some of our energy and invest our time at Oxy. And we can’t forget Brother Daniel; he is still a one man mission team at East LA College.
Fourth and most importantly, prayer. We have had 2 weekly prayer meetings all year, one in Irvine and one at my house. And the one at my house started with only oldies and no students, occasionally Peter was there, but it was a small handful of us. Now, by God’s grace, we have to consider changing the location because we are about to outgrow my living room. Praise God!
On that note, I want to talk about thanksgiving today. Please open your Bibles to 1 Cor 1:4-9. Read text.
As a church, we had a year where we have plenty of reasons to give thanks to God. But I want to ask a question this morning. Is thanksgiving dependent on our circumstances? If thanksgiving is dependent on our circumstances, then if we have a year like this past year, I guess we’re going to be thankful. But if next year, nobody is saved and people leave church, or someone loses a job or gets sick, then does that mean we are to stop giving thanks? Is thanksgiving tied to our circumstances?
Is thanksgiving a matter of psyching ourselves up? The Thanksgiving holiday is coming up and as a Christian, I SHOULD be thankful. I OUGHT to be thankful. It’s my obligation as a Christian. I don’t feel thankful, but I need to brainwash myself, be thankful, be thankful, I gotta be thankful. And if I say it enough times, maybe I’ll actually end up believing it. Is that what is going on here in the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians?
I think Paul gives us a great model of one who is thankful in spite of his circumstances and it would do us well to learn from his example.
Paul began most of his letters to the churches with thanksgiving.
Listen to how he begins the letter to the church at Philippi.
Phil 1:3-6 – 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Or to the church at Thessalonica.
1 Thess 1:2-3 – 2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Or the church at Colosse.
Col 1:3-4 – 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…
We see the same thing in the letter written to the church at Corinth.
We covered these verses a few months ago when we first began our study of 1 Corinthians. Upon first glance, you might think, there Paul goes again. It almost feels like one of those automated emails that you get from Amazon after you make a purchase. “Thank you for your purchase.” It almost feels like a rubber stamp, the same old introduction that Paul uses at the beginning of all of his letters to the churches.
That’s why when we first read this passage a few months ago, I bet you skimmed over these verses. I bet these verses didn’t grab you. Paul is thankful. No big deal. He is a church planter. Why wouldn’t he give thanks to God for the churches that he founded? We think giving thanks is part of Paul’s job description.
How do you read these verses now, in light of what Paul writes about this church at Corinth starting from v10? Does this section hit you a bit differently now that you know the context?