Thanking Whom?

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Living Stones Series: First Published in All Around Old Bridge Publication – November 2018

By Pastor Lloyd Pulley

It was the best of months; it was the worst of months.

November carries with it the two extremes that make a season truly wonderful and profoundly troubling.

On the one hand, November is one of the most beautiful times of the year in New Jersey. The leaves are changing, the mornings grow crisp, and some of our most beloved fall activities come back into season. Families are seen everywhere making memories pumpkin picking, wandering through corn mazes, or just raking and playing in leaves on their front lawns.

The season comes to its ultimate crescendo in Thanksgiving. Beyond being the most anticipated meal of any holiday, Thanksgiving offers a time for many to sit back and reflect on the good of the last year with those they hold most dear. Strong traditions provide a warmth and security that many crave and look forward to celebrating.

On the other hand, November is an inherently political month. With the midterm elections coming in the middle of an extremely rancorous time, it’s not exactly a bold prediction to say things will get nasty.

It seems today’s politics are more competitive than ever. We are more divided by party lines than we are united in trying to do what is best for our country. The “loudest voice wins” mentality is turning what used to be civil conversation into vitriolic discourse.

The ironic thing is that those who follow politics most closely are the ones made most miserable by them. Despite our dreams of grandeur and utopia, we are stuck forever spinning our wheels. The more someone trusts in politics, the more they live or die on every outcome. That kind of hopelessness needs a remedy.

This is normally where people turn to thankfulness to pull them out of the darkness. But that merely begs the question: what exactly does it mean to be thankful?

In situations where we normally thank someone, we are responding to something they have done for us. Whether it’s passing the salt at a meal, helping us with a work task, or saying “God bless you” after a sneeze, saying thanks is acknowledging someone gave you something you needed. Giving thanks can only mean something if there is someone you are thanking.

This is why Thanksgiving, apart from its Christian roots, cannot hold any significant meaning. Without having someone above us we thank, our thankfulness is empty talk.

Many think of themselves as self-made people, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and making the life they enjoy today. That mentality has started many businesses and launched many projects, but kills one’s ability to express genuine gratitude.

The message of the Bible is to show we cannot earn God. Our sinful thoughts and actions separate us from God, but God, loving us and valuing His creation, bridged that gap in the death and resurrection of Jesus His Son. By dying to pay for the penalty of sin and rising to conquer death, Jesus offers new life in Him. This is what motivates us to true thankfulness.

Some might push back on this bigger narrative citing a chaotic world as proof that God could not possibly be active today. Such thinking does not account for all God reveals in His Word. The Bible predicts all kinds of evil and suffering but also makes it clear that none of those things undo His ultimate plan. Regardless of the troubles we see, God’s plan of establishing His perfect kingdom on earth will still come to pass.

God’s plan may seem slow in unfolding to you, with much wasted human potential. But He reminds us that His revealed purpose will take time to unfold. God allows let the wheat and weeds to grow together to the end when he will settle His business with this earth.

The Good News is He has the only answer to the human condition that can ensure that we share in His kingdom of peace! The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, pays the penalty for our sin and rebellion.

The response needed on our part is to change our mind about Him and believe His good news; in doing so, we are saved and have much to be thankful for. That’s why we’ll be having a night of worship and thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 21st at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge at 7:30pm. Our goal is to simply take a night and humble ourselves before God, admitting our failure and thanking Him for His strength.

If you’re looking to express real thankfulness, come and join us as we humble ourselves, remember our loving God, and thank Him for the wonderful things He has done.

Marj Lancaster