Tomorrow will be a very special Thanksgiving

I am so thankful for the labor of love from those who make up the church I have the privilege of pastoring. This article was carried in the local paper today.  A vivid reminder that we have a full days work ahead of us tomorrow.

Mantua church saves Thanksgiving

for hundreds recovering

from Hurricane Sandy in Brick Township

MANTUA TWP. — Approximately 600 victims of Hurricane Sandy will have food for Thanksgiving, thanks to a church in Sewell that mobilized to help a coastal town in Ocean County.

Volunteers and pastors from Fellowship Bible Church have been gathering 50 turkeys, 90 pounds of ham, and hundreds of pounds of vegetables and side dishes in anticipation of transporting the feast to Brick Township on Thursday morning, where it will be distributed at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall.

“After Sandy hit, we at Fellowship Bible Church split into six teams — for prayer, collection, distribution, cleanup, rebuilding and Thanksgiving and Christmas teams — and soon we were getting trucks and trailers in donations,” said Pastor Phil Moser.

“Upon our first trip out, we established a connection with a church in Brick, which was pretty severely damaged, with the water coming right over the islands there. We’re working with them to bring all the food up for Thanksgiving.”

In addition to storm victims, volunteers will be serving roughly 140 New Jersey National Guard troops spending the holiday away from their family while helping out in areas damaged by Sandy.

According to Moser, the 50 turkeys were cooked at the Sewell church Tuesday and will be carved today. Also set to make the trek to Brick will be 240 pounds of carrots, 120 cans of turkey broth, 12 five-pound bags of potatoes already boiled and mashed, 70 boxes of stuffing, 40 pounds of elbow macaroni, 67 10-oz. cans of cream of mushroom soup, 140 bags of green beans, 500 cans of turkey gravy, and 250 cans of cranberry sauce.

John Peterson, assistant pastor at New Beginnings Christian Church which has been working with Moser to bring aid to Brick, said the Sewell congregation’s effort reflects “the real meaning of Christianity.”

“Once Hurricane Sandy came, Fellowship Bible Church just began sending us truck-loads of stuff — from water to cleaning supplies,” said Peterson. “There’s a real special relationship that has been built here, and I think they understand part of the real meaning of Christianity — serving the community.

“They didn’t just say that they’d do it,” he emphasized. “They actually went out and did it.”

Jason Laday/South Jersey Times

Thanksgiving and Suffering

I grew up in a church in rural Indiana. As a child I remember the uniqueness of the Sunday night before Thanksgiving. I remember that it was one of the few services that the pastor didn’t preach. Instead I vaguely remember two microphones down front, and that people would just get up and share what they were thankful for. I confess that as 7 year old I didn’t remember the content, but I did remember the experience.

A few years ago, prior to Thanksgiving, we placed two microphones down front and invited people to share what they were thankful for. I confess I was unprepared for the one element that so many of the testimonies had in common . . . suffering. Amazing isn’t it, that the people who have suffered the most seem to be the ones who are most thankful. In a country that seems to have a mission of removing all pain and suffering I found it remarkable that the people who had treaded some really dark times were the ones who were thankful.

The Puritans understood this best 400 years ago. Many of their prayers were recorded in a book entitled: The Valley of Vision.  They understood what many have failed to realize. That although most people thought that it was the mountain-top experiences that made life rewarding, for them it was the valleys. It was in the valleys of their life that they gave thanks.

 My only explanation for that from the Scriptures is that God wired us for dependence on Him. On the moutain-tops we fail to remember that vital lesson, and often we act independently. But in the valleys we say with the Apostle Paul, “we were burdened excessively beyond strength . . .in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (II Cor. 1:8-9). Perhaps that’s why those believers who have known great suffering are also those who are most apt to thank the Lord. It is in their darkest hour that Jesus shines most brightly.

Thanksgiving that Isn’t Circumstantial

I recognize life has grown increasingly difficult for many of us. Perhaps you are among those who enter this season without a job. You may be wondering where your next meal is coming from. Maybe it’s your health that’s uncertain. While you feel OK the doctor is telling you that’s not what the tests say.

I’ve been thinking that this season I want my Thanksgiving to be more theological than circumstantial. I mean by that, I want the Lord to be the reason I’m thankful, not what’s going on around me. Few passages of Scripture communicate that as clearly as the 100th Psalm, and few lives exemplify this as well as those first pilgrims.

Psalm 100
1Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
2Serve the Lord with gladness;
    Come before His presence with singing.
3Know that the Lord, He is God;
     It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
     We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4     Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
     And into His courts with praise.
     Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5     For the Lord is good;
     His mercy is everlasting,
     And His truth endures to all generations.

The most well-known Thanksgiving is of the Mayflower’s Pilgrims who set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating and by fall they had lost 46 of the original 102. The harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one and the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast. After counting all their blessings and giving thanks to God, the Pilgrims, Chief Massasoit and 90 Indians joined in a three-day Thanksgiving feast…

This Thanksgiving before your bow heads to say thanks, consider letting those around your table fill in the blank: “My God is _________.” In this way your Thanksgiving time becomes less about your circumstances and more about God’s faithfulness.