Hello, Beloved —
This Sunday as a church family we will celebrate a Thanksgiving Communion Service followed by a Thanksgiving Love Feast, culminating in the observance of the Thanksgiving holiday a week from now. Obviously, this is the time of year we set aside to express our honest appreciation and humble gratitude to God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us for Christ’s sake.
Here are some of God’s gifts for which I’m most thankful:
(1) The assurance of my salvation. I remember what it was like to be lost, and uncertain of what would happened to me when I die. I remember the feeling of being afraid of going to hell deservedly for my many sins. I remember the conviction and guilt I felt for how I had wrongly and unlovingly treated God and others, and the shame associated with being such a vile wretched sinner. But, thank the Lord, I also remember the day He converted me with Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I remember what it was like to feel clean, free, and satisfied on the inside for the first time in my life, to have a clear conscience, and to be absolutely certain of eternal life, salvation, and forgiveness of sin from Him. This is something for which I will never get over, and will forever be grateful to God for giving me.
(2) The people in my family. I was given a caring mother and grandmother who prayed daily for me, taught me about Jesus being the Creator, and did their very best to sacrificially raise and point me in the right direction. Also, God has given me a very godly wife who is supportive, prayerful, loyal, honest, and easy to get along with. He has blessed me with two beautiful, healthy, intelligent, and very fun children that I get to be a daddy to. On top of all that, I have wonderful in-laws to share good times with. Together these individuals have been used by God to make my life full and enjoyable. Even when times are tough, there are no other people I’d rather spend my life with, and for that I’m thankful.
(3) The influence of my mentors. Though I never had the influence of a godly father or grandfather, God did provide for me, following my salvation, the influence of very godly men. Some of these men were direct influences on me through my personal relationship with them, while others were an indirect influence by virtue of their writings. For example, a Christian brother and friend named Steve Miles was a godly witness to me in high school just prior to my conversion. A man named Frank Pardue was used by God to teach me the importance of teaching the Bible with precision, and he gave me a very high view and love of Scripture. A pastor named Vic Almen taught me how to do God-centered pastoral ministry, weddings, funerals, baptisms, communions, and shepherding. Other men have majorly impacted my theology, spiritual growth, and preaching style and skills through their insightful books: men like John Calvin, Thomas Watson, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Arthur Pink, James Montgomery Boice, Warren Wiersbe, John MacArthur, and Steve Lawson. By God’s grace and for God’s glory, I am the product of the influence of all of these godly men upon my life in many ways, and for that I thank the Lord. God gave me the right men in my life at the right time for me to do whatever God wanted me to do for His Kingdom.
(4) The partner in my ministry. I believe without hesitation that God put Pastor Justin Nelson and me together many years ago for such a time as this, long before he and I even realized what God was doing. In church history God has often put someone gifted in praising the Lord together with someone gifted in proclaiming the Word. That is what God did with us. Pastor Justin is not replaceable in my life and ministry. So, for him I’m extremely grateful.
(5) The saints in my congregation. Yes, I’m extremely thankful for each of you. The Apostle Paul frequently told the recipients of his letters that he was thankful for them, and making mention of them in his prayers. I can say the same thing for each of you. I do pray for you regularly by name and thank God for your loving, caring, serving, praying, and giving actions and attitudes toward God and each other. Despite sin issues we have to address from time to time, your being a biblically sound congregation makes pastoring you a blessing for which I give God glory, praise, and thanksgiving. I trust you truly recognize, value, and appreciate the rarity of the congregation God has allowed you to be a part of as His child, and you are giving thanks to Him for it. Remember, all blessings come from God and are for His glory, so be sure to give Him conscious and intentional thanks this holiday season.
Humbly Grateful,
Pastor Jeff