Last night we celebrated Thanksgiving with our church, together with the Chinese church who also worship in our building. The evening began with a service in the sanctuary with praise songs, hymns, Scripture readings, and reflections on thankfulness from our Pastor. The floor was then opened to anyone who wanted to share.
And here is where I always encounter a struggle.
See, so often I find myself feeling as if I have monopolized the talking in Sunday School class, Bible study, or small group. (Even when I'm not teaching, as I am now.) Surely others have something to say. There are always, within any given group, certain people who can be counted upon to stand up and share. Perhaps if I'd sit quietly this time, others would also have an opportunity to do so. Everyone knows what I'd say anyway, right? After all, I've said it in Bible study, small group, and Sunday school class on many occasions.
And yet I found myself pulling the pew Bible from the rack to begin with a verse.
The pages were pristine. I had forgotten my own Bible at home in the rush to get out the door with the food I'd prepared for the meal after the service. My Bible has become a comfort to me in so many ways, partly because I've learned where to find certain verses simply according to which side of the page they're on, and how they are underlined. I'm not very good with remembering the "addresses", so to speak, so I rely on visual clues, of which the pew Bible was bereft.
This actually added to what I was going to say so I began with my gratitude to the Lord for my Bible. The pages of my Bible are not only familiar for the underlinings, but also for the various sermon notes which I've jotted down over the years. From authors, to theologians, to the pastors of churches to which we've belonged, I have written various comments which have impressed upon me the meaning of the texts being expounded. Some of them are attributed with the name of who said it, even a date here and there; others are anonymous. Most come from hearing a sermon live, some on cd, and even some from books I've read. I often refer to it as the "Barbaranne Kelly Study Bible", since I have collected so many notes over the years. R.C. Sproul is in there, as are Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur, Steve Larson, and Robert Godfrey. Our former pastor Rick Phillips graces much of the books of Zechariah and John and the letters to the Ephesians and the Hebrews. My beloved study leader and mentor in faith, Toni Barnhill is quoted on many a page. More recently my Pastor Wendell and our new assistant pastor Ross have found their way onto the pages as well.
As I reflected on this, I realized how rich and full is the teaching that I have been blessed to receive over the years. An understanding of doctrine and theology did not bring about my salvation. And yet what I have learned over the years has taught me so very much about our Saviour- the tip of the iceberg really- such a breadth and depth of mercy, love, wisdom and grace, the knowing of which serves to increase my love for and my wonder at such a God.
I am, therefore, so very thankful for the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word under which I have been privileged to sit and learn. From those whom I've heard while at conferences packed with thousands of believers, to the Pastors who have not only preached to us from the pulpit, but have also prayed with us and walked alongside us through the various trials to which we have been called, God has graciously put us in the way of the truth, and we are so very, very blessed.
As I shared last night, I was not able to say quite as much as this which I've written. The inevitable happened- I began to blubber a bit. This would be another reason why I hesitate to stand up and share in gatherings such as that.
I wasn't yet finished; I still had a verse to share-
Oh, taste and see that the Lordis good!Blessed is the man who takesrefuge in Him!Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints.for those who fear Him have no lack!The young lions suffer wantand hunger;but those who seek the Lordlack no good thing.-Psalm 34: 8-10
(The note next to this in my Bible says, "Look back and see the goodness of the Lord through hard times. Toni B. 2-20-02")
My point in coming to this particular verse was to share how thankful I am that, though we are going through a trial which is weekly becoming more and more severe, our church has stood by us and supported us in prayer, as well as financially, through it all. Though we are suffering, we are experiencing no lack of what we actually need, and we are comforted by the love and the fellowship with which the Lord has surrounded us. Our church has become family to us in this trial, and we are so very, very grateful.
I did manage to choke out most of this before I sat down, and was unable to sing most of the next hymn. Gradually composing myself, I listened with a grateful heart to the rest of those who shared and then prayed. As with every Thanksgiving service, there would be a basket in the back for offerings for the Deacon's Fund, with which others in need would be helped- and which has helped us.
As we were preparing to leave for the meal Wendell made one final announcement. There was to be an addition to the collection of offerings. A second basket would be placed next to the first, for offerings for Jim and Barbaranne. Oh, the flood of emotion! There was no stopping the tears now. Gratitude, relief, overwhelming love for these dear people and our Lord! Jim grasped my trembling hand in his as we joined in the closing prayer.
And still, my gratitude for the funds which will help to meet our needs being as genuine as can be, I recognize that money comes to an end. According to our worldly needs, they are being met, piece by piece, step by step, moment, by moment. The bills are being paid, only just; the wolf, as Dave Ramsey says, is being kept from the door, only just.
More deeply realized is my gratitude for our most desperate need, met and accomplished once and for all on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. This need could only be fulfilled by Jesus, who took my place before the bar of God's justice and paid- in full- for my every heinous sin, that I might stand with Him in Glory when my life is over and my joy in eternity begins. Paid in full.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ my dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ( personal cross-reference, John 17:17)Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.-Ephesians 3:14-21And yes, it's underlined.