The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

In This Issue

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Featured Resource: A Thanksgiving Talk/Sermon You Can Use-Focus on Our God Instead of Our Stuff

by Jonathan and Tom McKee

If you're like me you've heard a million Thanksgiving sermons. And if you're like me... you're looking for yet another one to use this year.

You're in luck!

My dad and I sat down last week, put our minds together and wrote a sermon for Thanksgiving this year. We use a great passage out of II Chronicles and talk about switching the focus from OUR STUFF to the GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF.

Below you'll see an outline of the sermon including the BIG IDEA and the SOUND BYTE.
(CLICK HERE for my article about using these tools to effectively communicate to kids today.) Then we provide the complete manuscript of the sermon.

Feel free to use all or part of the sermon. We're just happy to provide you with a resource pointing to God this Thanksgiving season.

Title: The Celebration of American STUFF

Text: II Chronicles 31

Big Idea: Thanksgiving is an American tradition that is especially meaningful for the Christian because it gives us an opportunity to change our focus from our prosperity to God.

Sound Byte: Thanksgiving is a time to switch the focus from OUR STUFF to THE GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF


Introduction: How do we handle our American success & prosperity?
    I. Thanksgiving is the opportunity to turn our focus upward - to the source of our prosperity- LOOK UP

    II. Thanksgiving is the opportunity to turn our focus back - to give back from our prosperity- GIVE BACK

    III. Thanksgiving is the opportunity to turn our focus forward - to reap the benefits of our prosperity- LOOK FORWARD

I love the story of the farmer who worked hard and had a beautiful farm. A friend said to him, "Wow, God has really blessed you." The farmer responded, "You should have seen this field when God was doing it by himself-it was a mess."

What was this farmer saying? I draw several conclusions from this story. Before I share them, consider-what do you think the farmer was saying? (Feel free to turn this intro into a small or large group discussion)

He might be saying:
  • God needs me, for without me this land would be weeds and rocks
  • God and I are a team-we work together and He does His part (the rain and great soil) and I do my part (work the land)
  • Between me and God, I am the hardest worker-I sweat
  • Cursed be Adam who, because of his sin, I have to work so hard
  • I am thankful to God for the opportunity to do my creative part in this section of land that God has seen fit to give to me
Perhaps at times this farmer felt all of the above. We don't know for sure. The real question is how do we feel about what we've achieved? How do we feel about the blessings of our hard work, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving season.

As I was thinking about the farmer, I thought about the first American Thanksgiving and how the people had this big pot-luck thanksgiving meal and praised God for a great year. They praised God for a new land, they praised God for new neighbors, and they praised God that He had blessed the crops of their field. Bottom line-they were thanking God for all their STUFF! They were thanking God for their prosperity. They felt rich and blessed. That is the beginning of what we Americans now call Thanksgiving.

A little girl was praying the other night and she said, "God, thank you for my family, thank you for my house, thank you for my dog, my room, my toys and my new jacket. Amen."

That about covers it, right? Thanks for all my STUFF!

A high school kid just got a new IPOD for his birthday. That night he said a quick bed time prayer. "God, thanks for the IPOD. Wow. You really came through. Amen."

Is that what prayer is all about?

Is that what Thanksgiving is all about?

After all... it's not bad to stop and thank God... is it?

If you think about these kids and if you think about the first American Thanksgiving... you notice the same thing. As I thought about this, I was reminded of this type of celebration in the Scriptures going all the way back to II Chronicles 31. Ezra is writing this account for a very specific reason. People in Ezra's time were struggling, like many of us, with their prosperity and blessings; they were so blessed by God they did not know how to thank God for such blessings. They realized that they sounded like that little girl and that high school kid praying, "Thanks for all my STUFF!"

They didn't know how to thank God for their prosperity without focusing on the prosperity and not on God. Too often we focus on the blessing and forget the actual source of our prosperity.

Ever feel that way? Ever feel that you don't know how to really thank God?

Well, in this passage, EZRA writes a success story. And the success story he writes is in the book of II Chronicles, chapter 31. He tells them, "Hey, we had a king by the name of Hezekiah who was concerned about the lack of meaningful worship and the lack of knowing how to thank God for the many blessings they were all experiencing. So this King Hezekiah sets out a way to thank God and outlines a profile of what that worship should focus on."

Hezekiah helped them (SOUND BYTE) switch the focus from OUR STUFF to THE GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF.

Thanksgiving is a time to switch the focus from OUR STUFF to THE GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF.

Hezekiah has a little thanksgiving service. And the profile of Hezekiah's thanksgiving service is ...
  1. First, look upward to thank God as the provider of your prosperity.
  2. Second, look back at the blessing you've received and give back to God out of your prosperity.
  3. Third, look forward to a greater prosperity.
I like to think of it as the three directions of thanksgiving-upward, back and forward.

I. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to turn our hearts upward to the source of our prosperity (v. 1, 2) LOOK UP
       Now when the festival ended, the Israelites who attended went to all the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and they smashed the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and removed the pagan shrines and altars. After this, the Israelites returned to their own towns and homes.

       [2] Hezekiah then organized the priests and Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to worship and give thanks and praise to the Lord at the gates of the Temple. (2 Chron. 31:1-2, NLT)
The first step of thanksgiving is to turn our hearts from worshiping STUFF-things that bring us temporary happiness-to God.

Thanksgiving is a time to turn our hearts upward and switch the focus from OUR STUFF to THE GOD WHO GAVE US THAT STUFF.

In the first Thanksgiving celebration in American history, we see a guy who helped the first American settlers turn their hearts upward. William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth colony in 1623 sent out his famous declaration in which he said, and I am going to paraphrase Bradford, "Since God has really outdone Himself with us this year and we have tons of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, game, fish and clams, and has given us a year of peace..." (and he goes on and on and on and on about the blessings of God during the past year) "that we the Pilgrims should gather between the hours of 9-12 on the first Thanksgiving and listen to our pastor and then give thanks to Almighty God for all His Blessings."

Notice that Bradford asked that they listen to the teaching of the Bible (the pastor) and then they give thanks to Almighty God.

How do we usually thank God in America? Often we go around the Thanksgiving table and share our thanks. It might sound like this ...
  • I thank God for my family
  • I thank God for my friends
  • I thank God for my health
  • I thank God for my stuff
All of these things are important and significant, but the focus is on family and stuff-not God. We get caught up talking about how prosperous we are.

I believe that Hezekiah wanted people, before they got to the stuff they were thankful for, to focus on God.

To make sure that the people focus on God, he has them do two things: 1. Get rid of STUFF 2. Worship and take an offering.

In the time of Hezekiah, there was some bad stuff that they needed to get rid of. There was not only idols, but some sexually explicit stuff like those Asherah poles that distracted the people. Luckily, we don't have any sexually explicit stuff around us today that distracts us (sarcasm implied). They burned down all idols and turned to worshipping God-God alone.

As you can see, this is a two step process. 1. They removed things in their lives that take away the focus on God alone. They removed the stuff that did NOT belong in their life. Do you have anything that doesn't belong in your life? Do you have idols that distract you from Godly things? Maybe we have some sexual temptations that are conveniently beamed into our house through cable or the internet that we need to remove. Notice that Hezekiah had them totally destroy this stuff. If Hezekiah was a teenager, he probably would have cancelled his cable service if that's where the distractions came from, or ripped the high speed internet cord from the wall.

But then... 2. They turned their attention to God, taking an offering, and worshipping Him alone.

Some of us might need to get rid of something before we can really switch our focus to God alone. Some of us might be like the one armed lawyer.

A lawyer opened the door of his BMW, when suddenly a car came along and hit the door, ripping it off completely. When the police arrived at the scene, the lawyer was complaining bitterly about the damage to his precious BMW. "Officer, look what they've done to my Beeeeemer!" he whined. "You lawyers are so materialistic, you make me sick!" retorted the officer. "You're so worried about your stupid BMW, that you didn't even notice that your left arm was ripped off!"

"Oh no!," replied the lawyer, finally noticing the bloody left shoulder where his arm once was. "Where's my Rolex?!?"

King Hezekiah had them strip themselves of all distractions so that they could turn their hearts upward and truly focus on God.

When we have totally stopped to strip ourselves of all but God, then it is time to move to the second direction of our Thanksgiving-looking back at what God has given us.


Jonathan McKee is president of The Source for Youth Ministry and author of the book "Do They Run When They See You Coming? Reaching Out to Unchurched Teenagers." This book helps us better understand youth culture today, and equips us to actually reach out to these kids. Jonathan studies youth culture and trends, speaking and training across the country and providing free online resources, training, & ideas for youth workers at

More Thanksgiving Ideas: Looking for more games, discussions, or event ideas for this time of year? Our web site has a bunch-check em' out!

Looking for some more Thanksgiving ideas? You've come to the right place!

Our web site has a ton of great ideas, you've just got to know where to look. Allow us to give you a guided tour.

Jump on our web site and click on the left hand side bar where it says HOLIDAY IDEAS. That page lists a bunch of the free resources and ideas we provide by topic. Then scroll down to "Thanksgiving" and check out some of the ideas linked on our page. You'll see anything from a "Regressive Dinner" and "Bobbing for Caramel Apples" to the following idea...

Food Pantry Scavenger Hunt:
Break your group into several teams. Depending on your neighborhood, teams can walk or be driven. Give them a list of non-perishable food items to find with point values assigned to each item (see below). Students collect items off the list. Obviously the team that has the most points wins. However, it is also a service event. All food collected is then donated to your local food pantry.




Movie Reviews: Jonathan's 2 Cents on What's Hot and What's Not on DVD! Check out reviews for Cars, Thou Shalt Laugh, Nacho Libre, MI3, The Break Up...

Some new films are releasing this week. Take a look at Jonathan's 2 cents on these movies as well as a few other recent releases... some that you'll want to see... and a couple that you'll probably skip.

ON DVD TODAY- 11/7/2006

Rated G

Directed by John Lasseter (the Toy Story films, A Bug's Life...)

Starring Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy...


A fun family film... but not exactly fast paced.

Don't get me wrong-I liked Cars. But its pacing was just a little too slow. Don't even come in with any expectations of cartoon greats like The Incredibles or Toy Story II.


Though Shalt Laugh
ON DVD TODAY - 11/7/2006

Rated PG

Starring Patricia Heaton and the comedy of Thor Ramsey, Michael Jr., Jeff Allen, Teresa Roberts \ Logan, Joby Saad, Gilbert Esquivel and Taylor Mason


This is a night of clean, stand up comedy.

I've seen a couple of these guys in person... and they definitely are funny. Filmed in Hollywood and hosted by Emmy(R) Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), it's a night of stand-up comedy from seven of the country's funniest Christian comedians - including Michael Jr., Thor Ramsey, Taylor Mason, and many more!

I enjoyed the comedy more than I enjoyed Heaton's hosting. Nothing against Heaton... I just was a little relieved that I wasn't sitting with any of my unchurched friends watching this. I felt like I was watching a "Christians only" viewing when she announced that all these comedians were "Christians," like it was part of the application process.


Mission: Impossible III
ON DVD - 10/29/2006

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality.

Directed by J.J. Abrams (TV's Lost, and Alias)

Starring Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne...

JONATHAN'S SCORE: Theatre Worthy

How often does the third film in the series trump its predecessors? In my book, MI3 does just that.

I love a movie that puts you on the edge of your seat immediately. Let me expand on that: I hate movies that don't grab me right away. I don't want to boost your expectations too high, but strictly referring to the first 5 minutes of the film, MI3 delivered one of the best film intro's I've seen in the last decade. The writing was phenomenal. And the film maintained my interest from start to finish.


Nacho Libre
ON DVD - 10/24/2006

Rated PG for some rough action, and crude humor including dialogue.

Directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite)

Starring Jack Black and a bunch of other people you've never seen


Nacho Libre was bizarrely funny... but it's no Napoleon Dynamite.

The film is written and directed by Napoleon Dynamite's Jared Hess. If you didn't like Napoleon Dynamite, you definitely won't like this. Because where Napoleon Dynamite was weird, Nacho Libre only gets weirder.

You make the call-here's the film's synopsis: Berated all his life by those around him, a Friar (Black) follows his dream and dons a mask to moonlight as a wrestler.


The Break Up
ON DVD - 10/17/2006

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some nudity and language.

Directed by Peyton Reed (Down With Love, Bring it On)

Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Favreau


A creative yet annoying date flick with a few good laughs.

If you're looking for a fun romantic film, this isn't the one you're looking for. The Break Up is more in the lines of a "frustrating" comedy. Ask yourself: do you like watching other couples fight? Because that's the gist of the movie.




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