The Attitude of Gratitude

“When Jesus saw [the ten who had leprosy], He said, ‘Go show yourself to the priest.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them when he saw that he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to give praise to God except this foreigner?’” Luke 17:14-18

Andrew & Patrique Smellie welcome Carlos & Lucy Mejia to Washington DC!
Andrew & Patrique Smellie welcome Carlos & Lucy Mejia to Washington DC!

God expects the attitude of gratitude. When the ten lepers called out to Jesus for help and mercy, Jesus commanded them, “Go show yourself to the priest.” The Spirit records that “as they went” all ten “were cleansed!” Interestingly, only the Samaritan came back to Jesus to thank Him. All ten of the lepers had the faith to obey Jesus – and thus were “cleansed” – but only one had gratitude. Most would say that to be “cleansed” is to be saved. Therefore, if we apply this to our day, many saved disciples – perhaps nine out of ten – may not be grateful for the radical changes that God has brought about in our lives, not to mention our very salvation!

As I reflected on this past Thanksgiving weekend, my heart was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. From Wednesday evening to Saturday morning, Elena and I celebrated Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday of the year – with our dear daughter and son-in-law in Texas. Our two awesome sons also flew in the same day. Never will I forget all the little touches of love that Olivia put into her first hosting of Thanksgiving – chips and guacamole, mashed sweet potatoes, her special “shrimp grits,” and of course turkey and ham, but also for her Finnish husband Santtu, she made “Finnish meatballs.” For me, she cooked her delicious pecan pie! Sean, Eric, Santtu and I also were able to squeeze-in a very competitive game of two-on-two football. Let’s just say that at 55, being on the field and “throwing the rock” was a moral victory! Elena and I returned home to LA on Saturday in order to attend Nick Bordieri’s 50th Birthday Party. It was tremendous time, especially when we all gathered in the living-room and many of us shared in tears Nick’s profound impact on our lives!

Sunday afternoon was our 2009 Financial Presentation Worship Service. The service was divided into three sessions. In the first session, Nick Bordieri and Tony Untalan – our Shepherds for the congregation – welcomed everyone back from the Thanksgiving holidays and commended the church for surpassing our goal of a 4X Thanksgiving Missions Contribution. Then sadly, we had to bring two brothers before the church for immorality as we applied “step three” of Matthew 18. During the ensuing fellowship break, one of our visitors shared with me his appreciation of this tough love that came from our “zeal for God’s honor.”

Several disciples in the South Region rejoice over<br /> Danielle’s baptism!
Several disciples in the South Region rejoice over Danielle’s baptism!

After the break, I gave a short sermonette on “Increase Our Faith” from Luke 17 to prepare us for the communion, and later for the leadership’s appeal to increase our weekly pledges. In this passage, in answer to the apostles request, “Increase our faith,” Jesus responds that to have the faith to do the seemingly impossible – “to plant a mulberry tree in the sea” – we should obey God’s Word as “unworthy servants, [who] have only done our duty.” Following this answer, then Luke records the account of the healing of the ten lepers, where only one of which returned to thank Jesus. Here we learn that faith, which is obedience to God’s Word, needs to be coupled with gratefulness. Otherwise, our Christianity will be reduced to a list of do’s and don’ts – a very dry, staid relationship with God.

After communion, Jack McGee – who was celebrating his 62nd birthday – gave a moving contribution talk. He shared that even at 62, with his wonderful wife Jeanne alongside, he felt compelled by the Spirit to go to Washington DC to help the Mejias lead the church as a shepherding couple. His enthusiasm for his salvation and his willingness “to do anything, to go anywhere, and to give-up everything” moved all of our hearts, as we saw faith expressing itself in gratitude.

In the third session, Michael Kirchner – the Administrator for the City of Angels Church and the entire SoldOut Movement – gave an invigorating overview of the 2009 Financials as he detailed all that the Lord had done through us this past year. Then he shared about the dreams and the financial challenges for 2010 – highlighting the sending-out of the San Diego and London Mission Teams, as well as next year’s World Missions Jubilee. Throughout Michael’s presentation, as with the healed Samaritan leper, many “praised God in a loud voice” with several “amens,” as well as with applause!

After this powerful presentation came the appeal to increase our pledges. I shared Jesus’ words in Luke 10:23“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” I first addressed those from our former fellowship, who in the past witnessed incredible miracles of God, which in many respects far exceed the present day miracles. For example, in one month, the old LA Church baptized 465 into Christ! However, our former fellowship has disintegrated into autonomous churches of varying persuasions, and therefore is no longer a movement. I reminded our long-suffering brothers and sisters that according to Jesus, we are “blessed” to participate in God’s new movement! For now we understand more than ever not only the greatness of God and the fragileness of unity in His Kingdom, but also the preciousness of God’s movement and each disciple in His family. I added that if we remain faithful, someday we will see greater miracles than ever before!

Nick celebrates h<a class=is 50th birthday!" width="300" align="right" border="0" hspace="10" vspace="5" />
Nick celebrates his 50th birthday!

I also appealed to the newly baptized disciples to appreciate all the efforts that have brought them salvation. In particular, I shared that the 42 sold-out disciples that came down from Portland to plant the City of Angels Church have sacrificed not only in their weekly giving, but in several missions contributions. To come we gave a 15X Missions Contribution in March 2007. Then to become self-supporting, we gave a 10X Contribution in November 2007. In 2008, we gave another 15X Contribution in April to send out the Honolulu and New York Mission Teams. Then, this year, we gave our 2009 15X Contribution in April, and recently to help support a hurting remnant couple – Sasha & Louisa Kostenko of Moscow – we needed a 4X Thanksgiving Missions Contribution. In total, those of us on the LA Mission Team from Portland have given over 59X beyond our weekly contribution!

To close, I shared the words from Kelly Clarkson’s song that she sang after winning the first American Idol:

For a moment like this,
Some people wait a lifetime.
For a moment like this,
Some people search forever
For that one special kiss.
Oh, I can’t believe it’s happening to me!
Some people wait a lifetime
For a moment like this!
Truly, Some people wait a lifetime for a [movement] like this! After the pledges were counted, the 240 disciples of the City of Angels Church, in the midst of a horrific recession yet moved by their gratefulness to God, saw our pledges raise from $10,312 to $11,684 – an increase of $1,372 (13.3%)!

When I returned home late Sunday night, I was further encouraged by the good news reports I received from some of our sister churches. DJ Comisford shared, “We had an incredible Thanksgiving week in New York City! On Wednesday in Central Park, a young woman from City College, Samantha, was baptized. (Also on Wednesday, Jared McGee and Rachel Bond started dating!) On Thanksgiving morning, we met early and made approximately 150 lunches and passed them out to the homeless throughout Manhattan. Then after lunch, we had our second annual North vs. South Turkey Bowl. I prophesied that the South would win again this year and my prophecy came true thanks to the guidance of the South’s quarterback… In humility, I won’t mention who played quarterback. Then on Black Friday, we held a 24 hour congregational fast for the poor and needy in our communities. In the evening, we baptized a young man named David and then about 40 of us went to IHOP to break our fast after the baptism. It was the most amazing Thanksgiving weekend of my life. I am so thankful for the Kingdom!” Chris Broom in Chicago reported, “What a great day. The financial presentation went great and God added four to our number: two place memberships and two baptisms – that’s four young men baptized in the last 10 days!” Chris Chloupek wrote from Phoenix, “We restored a sister today into campus ministry. My sister Kitt came to church and wants to study the Bible. We had 141 in attendance and our pledges went up $500 per week! God is awesome!” From Ron Harding in Portland, “After an inspiring financial presentation from Russ Preston, we were able to see a family united in Christ. The wife of our PSU football player – Shayla – was baptized into Christ!”

Trista from London and the Tiptons from Atlanta<br /> place membership!
Trista from London and the Tiptons from Atlanta place membership!

From Santiago, Chile, Matt Sullivan boasted in the Lord, “We have had a great month, and I am super excited about what has been happening! We have had five baptisms in the last five weeks and one move-in! Sunday, we witnessed three very cool miracles – Francisco Vargas (baptized in the hospital on his deathbed early in November) was healthy enough to attend his first service! He was so fired-up to get to meet all his brothers and sisters. Prayerfully, he will be able to see many more services. Secondly, a couple – German and Angelica – shared for our welcome on Sunday. They spoke of their deep desire for years and years to have children. They were told it is medically impossible to have children, and yet earlier this year, our God answered the entire congregation’s prayers, as Angelica got pregnant! She will be giving birth in just 2-3 weeks! The doctors are confused and call it a miracle! Thirdly, we saw the baptism of Rolando Vasquez! Finally, we imitated the LA’s Financial Presentation and it went awesome! The church is super fired-up to be part of the movement, and preaching this profound truth has instilled Jesus’ dream to save the world into all our hearts! Thanks to all in LA for your continued financial support, your encouraging phone calls, and your example of tremendous sacrifice to propel the evangelization of the world. Keep us in your prayers and we can’t wait to see you at the Winter Workshop in January!”

Let us all strive to possess the attitude of gratitude. For me, never will I forget – even in Heaven – the marvelous Thanksgiving of 2009! And to God be all the glory!