Thanksgiving

1 Chronicles 29:14 : But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 : So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Thankfulness

Synod Armadale 1956 decided to advise the churches to arrange an annual service for prayer and thanksgiving for harvest and labour on the third Sunday of the month of February. That is 16 February for this year.

Thanksgiving, that is something that comes from the heart. We cannot be thankful on command: we are thankful because we know that we have something to be thankful for. Because we have received blessings. Then we see our blessings and rejoice.

Out of thankfulness we then offer to the LORD our sacrifices of thankfulness.

In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul beseeches us to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. Our entire life is a life in thankfulness, because we know that we are saved by Jesus Christ and now want to live for Him.

There are moments that we show our thankfulness in a specific way, for instance by giving our financial donations. Many of us do so especially on the Thanksgiving Sunday. The Bible teaches and encourages us to do so.

I quoted two texts at the beginning of this meditation, in which the Bible emphasizes that those sacrifices of thankfulness must come from a willing heart and should not be imposed on the congregation.

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As grain once scattered on the hillsides

Many of the churches within our federation have celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the past couple of weeks. This celebration is a command of our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us through His apostle Paul: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

We know that when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we have communion with Christ and communion with each other. Paul speaks about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11, of which we are all part. That is so beautifully symbolised in the Lord’s Supper.

Hymn 61

We have a beautiful hymn in our Book of Praise, Hymn 61, where we sing:

                As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,

                was in the broken bread made one,

                so from all lands your church be gathered

                into your kingdom by your Son.

This hymn was probably sung in several congregations on the Lord’s Supper Sunday. The element of being one with the church of all times and places receives even more emphasis when we realise that the words of this hymn were taken from an old liturgy, which probably originates from the first century: the first generation after the apostles. We can find it in the Didache, or The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. Most scholars date this document to the first century.

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A letter from John Calvin to the brothers in France

Part of the Reformation monument in Geneva: four Reformers

There was much persecution during the time of the great Reformation. It greatly affected John Calvin; it caused him to study the Bible on this matter and write many letters to comfort fellow sufferers. This letter is an example.

Geneva, June 1559

Dearly beloved and honored brothers,

You are all suffering persecution; like a storm it is suddenly blowing with such power that its effects are felt everywhere.  We do not know about your personal situations, so we thought it best to write a general letter to encourage you in the name of God. Although Satan causes great trouble, not to give up brothers; do not withdraw from the battle. Withdrawing will rob you of the fruit of the victory which has been promised and confirmed to you. It is most certain that if God did not give freedom to Satan and his agents, they could not attack you.

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De Bres, the Belgic Confession & Persecution

Did you know the Belgic Confession is the only officially adopted Reformed confession written by a martyr?  True, other confessions were written by martyrs.  The most notable is the Guanabara Confession.  It was written in 1557 by three Huguenot martyrs in Brazil – it bears the distinction of being the first Reformed confession written in the Americas.  Yet, unlike our Belgic, the Guanabara Confession was never adopted by any church.  The Belgic Confession stands alone.

If we closely survey the Belgic Confession, we’ll find the themes of martyrdom and persecution pervading it.  It’s common knowledge that Guido de Brès borrowed heavily from the French Confession of 1559.  However, one of the significant differences between the French Confession and the Belgic is the emphasis in the Belgic on persecution and martyrdom.  In fact, there is no European Reformation confession as oriented to this subject as the Belgic.

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Greeting the Newcomer

It is Sunday morning, and you are tired. You are walking out of church and you see some people you do not recognize. It would be easy to slip by and head for home and coffee. But then you remember: God has so graciously redeemed me and made me His own. He has pursued me and now through Jesus Christ I am a sinner saved! So instead of walking by, you gather your courage and you head towards that visitor….

But how do we greet this visitor well?

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No One Said ‘Hello’

“No one said ‘Hello’ to me at church today.” This can be a common refrain from visitors to a church, but also from members within a congregation. Research has shown that how visitors are welcomed when they enter a church for the first (or second or third) time can make a huge impact on whether or not they return to that church.

It is true that being a friendly and welcoming church cannot turn people into believers. The gospel message must be proclaimed, heard, and by the life-giving work of the Spirit, believed. It is the message of salvation that makes believers, not a friendly greeting. But it is also true that the message must first be heard.[i]  And how can it be heard if people are not in a church where the Truth is proclaimed? A warm welcome and a kind greeting can make the difference between someone returning to hear that Truth proclaimed and someone who says they will never go back to ‘that church’ again.

So, the question is, how well are we doing with our greetings?

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