Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Currency of Gratitude

Pastor Brian Wiebe

 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.    1Thessalonians 5:18

downloadI can easily say I have lots to be thankful for. I’m happily married, raising great kids, we’re healthy, employed and snugly housed. Compared to so many we are exceedingly provided for.  At the moment, we aren’t digging out from a natural disaster or seeking refuge from a raging war. At home and abroad, we don’t need to look very far to see the terrible and terrifying circumstances many are in.

For most of us, thankfulness is learned. We teach children to say “thank you” early on, but we find ourselves as parents teaching it again and again. Even as an adult, I find I need to be reminded to express gratitude. I wonder why that is?

Do I forget to give thanks because of an attitude of entitlement, as though all that I have was somehow owed to me? In that case no thanks are needed. Or perhaps we misunderstand the purpose of giving thanks, in that sometimes we consider thankfulness our payment for what we have received.

But it’s not a payment owed, as though by expressing gratitude I can somehow repay a debt. We’ve heard it, and maybe said it, something like, “I did all this for you, the least you can do is say ‘thanks’”. I’m so glad my Heavenly Father doesn’t say that!

The beauty of thankfulness is that it is NOT owed, but it is freely given. That means my gratitude is not because I’m blessed, but because I’m grateful. I’m to thank God not because of WHAT he’s done, but because of WHO he is. That’s why Paul wanted his readers to give thanks IN the circumstances, not FOR the circumstances or because of them.

We have lots of reasons to be thankful this season, but most of all, because we have the security of a Heavenly Father who loves us and welcomes our gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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WHAT WE HAVE HEARD, SEEN, AND FELT

Part of our focus in choir this year has been on the theme “Emmanuel All Year Long.”  We usually hear about Emmanuel – God with us – at Christmas time.  The good news is that His presence is with us beyond the Advent and Christmas seasons.
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Thanks to witness of the apostle John, we have these words of witness:
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it
with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.  We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!  (1 John 1:1-4)
John was an eyewitness of everything Jesus did and said.  He was able to give us this account because he was with Jesus day in and day out.  It was God’s pleasure that John know Jesus in the flesh.  It was also God’s pleasure that John know Jesus along with the other apostles in community.
And this is also God’s good pleasure for us – that we have a real and vital relationship with Jesus Christ and that we have the joy of sharing in that relationship together as a church family and beyond.
Obviously , we do not get to have Jesus here with us in the flesh.  We do have the promise of Jesus that he is with us always and everywhere we go.  We can experience his presence in our everyday life.  I know He is near to me when I spend time in His word and when I worship wit my church family. However, Jesus and his presence is not reserved for those times.
Jesus is with us throughout the day. Sometimes it shapes our day as He makes His presence very real to us through His Spirit or the presence of a close friend.  Sometimes His presence shapes us as we as we encounter difficulties and temptations where we lean in close to Him for strength and courage.
Jesus is with us, not to point out our flaws and remind us of how short we fall. He is
present always to give us life and with that life a joy that cannot be found in the rest
of living apart from him.
So we can say with John that what WE have seen and heard and touched, WE as Christ’s followers can tell each other and the world about Jesus.  When we do this, our joy is multiplied over and over in our own lives and the lives of others.  Jesus is Emmanuel and we know his presence with us.

 Mike Spinelli- Choir Director

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Thankfulness in the midst of Disaster

I see Christmas decorations in the retail stores and people already
decorating their homes for Christmas. It almost seems we can hardly wait
to see what we might get for Christmas.

There is another day of the year that comes before Dec. 25th. It is called
Thanksgiving. How do we celebrate such a day when we see such turmoil
and chaos around us?

People have lost their lives in a terrible storm. Others are losing their health
insurance. Many are frightened of the future. download

I am so glad for those who have been involved in the lives of people around
the world through Mennonite Central Committee. They are already on the
ground in the Phillipines. Mennontie Disaster Service also has made a great impact on the lives of people who have lost everything.

I hope in this season of the year we can take stock of how we have been
blessed and encourage others with our love, caring, and giving.
Ed Willems, Minister of Care

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Bragging Rights…?

Do you have a “brag sticker” on your bumper? One of the My child is the greatest student ever at ABC Middle School? Maybe you’ve seen the Proud Parent of a Marine sticker. Or my favorite: My grand-kids are cuter than your grand-kids.

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It’s fun to celebrate the good things in our lives, the joy of loved ones and the     accomplishments of family members. There’s great value in that kind of encouragement  and building up of one another.

I also like to hear about people’s academic, athletic and workplace successes because it tells  me they’ve worked hard and the efforts have produced meaningful, measurable results.

Perhaps like me, you were raised in a home where we learned to be cautious about boasting.  We were taught not to be proud or somehow “blow our own horn” because pride is  dangerous and displeasing to the Lord. After all, “God shows favor to the humble”  (James  4:6).

So this can create some tension for us: what can we really brag about?

This morning in my devotions I read Jeremiah 9, which includes this:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

As a church, we’ve been blessed with a godly heritage, amazing people, and excellent facilities. Those are all things to be “proud” of, in the sense of being truly and openly thankful.

But when it comes to boasting we have only one option: to boast in the Lord, to openly admit that we know God and we recognize that he loves us, and loves each and every one of our friends and neighbors, and that God our Father actually DELIGHTS in demonstrating his love, justice and righteousness.

So as individuals and as a church we can boast about how we’ve seen God at work around us and how he demonstrates his love to us and through us! He does this in ways both big and small.

Let me share one recent example: My parents were just here from out of state for a 12-day visit, and we had two available days with my sons to take them up to the mountains and Giant Sequoias. We chose to go on the first available day, even though they were a bit tired from the preceding day of travel. It was a glorious day in the park – sunny and warm, clear skies, minimal traffic – simply an ideal day to go. But two days later, the day we had originally planned to go, brought low clouds and the first dump of snow on the hills. Brrr! Now, who do you suppose prompted us to take advantage of the day we did? The Lord! He loves us, and wants us to enjoy his good gifts.

I can’t boast that I am wise enough or powerful enough or rich enough to accomplish anything of lasting significance. But I can boast in this: that I know the Lord, and that he will demonstrate his love, justice and righteousness right in our midst. He delights to do so!

And that’s something worth bragging about.

Brian Wiebe- Senior Pastor

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