Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

by Don Bingham

There are so many wonderful pastors and church staffs in the 501. All are such an encouragement to the various communities.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons create a heightened time of heartfelt sharing and encouraging one another to good deeds. The following pastors in the Conway area have shared with 501 LIFE a few thoughts from their perspective on giving thanks and our appreciation of all things.

A divine gift

Thanksgiving ought to be called “Thanks Living!” In fact, the authentic Christian life is one big thank-you. All that we are and all that we have is a divine gift. Our Father is the giver of all things good, so that we should live in an attitude of gratitude and bless Him as did the ancient Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

Because of our God’s grace, we have absolution, “who forgives all your iniquities” and we have restoration, “who heals all your diseases.” Because of His loving kindness, we have elevation, “who redeems your life from destruction” and we experience coronation, “who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies.” Because our Father only gives that which is good and right, we are filled with satisfaction, “who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103).

This year, strive to remember His goodness to us and not to take His blessings for granted, because what we take for granted we never take seriously.

Don R. Chandler
Senior Pastor
Central Baptist Church

Dear to our hearts

Each year, as the Thanksgiving season rolls around, it seems that my heart begins to grow a little sentimental. Call me a softie if you will, but there is something unique about Thanksgiving that drives to the very core of my being. It reminds me of all the things that we hold near and dear to our hearts.

First, it draws my heart toward family and friends. This alone is enough to give us much for which to be thankful as we reflect on all the special people whom God has brought into our lives. In a day when so many struggle connecting with others, if you have those around you whom you love and are loved in return, then you are truly blessed.

Next, it reminds us of the freedoms we enjoy in this wonderful nation. My heart overflows as I reflect on the early settlers who gave so much and gained so little that future generations like ours would have the privilege to experience and express freedoms unheard of in most parts of the world.

Finally, my heart is filled with thanksgiving for the One who gives us “every good and perfect gift.” We are so blessed to be able to worship Him and partake of His grace and mercy each day, and for that our hearts overflow with thanksgiving.

Mike Lefler
Associate Pastor Church Ministries
Central Baptist Church

A discipline of gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It means thankfulness, family gathering together and lots of pumpkin pie. Every year, I’m reminded that Thanksgiving isn’t the only season for thankfulness. My life should exhibit constant thankfulness. As a Christian and a pastor, I want to show my gratitude to God for all the blessings I have been given. Also, as a pastor, I understand that some have very little if anything to feel thankful about and have an extremely difficult time finding gratitude in their lives.

Being thankful isn’t simply a feeling, but a discipline. When we have all we need and most of what we want, we must forego arrogance and entitlement and practice gratitude. When we are in a season of struggle and trials, we must practice gratitude so we might find God.

Gratitude and thankfulness and the season of Thanksgiving are a time when the little or great light we find and share will drive out darkness.

When we dig deep within our heart, we realize that the blessings (spiritual, social, economic and physical) we have are not of our own doing but from God. A God-filled perspective can lead us into a discipline of gratitude that will bind us all together in a unified spirit.

I’m thankful to live and minister in Conway. I’m thankful for all the churches here. I’m thankful for the way we serve together. I’m thankful that the light of Christ is shown in this place. Of course, it goes without saying, I’m thankful for pumpkin pie.

Michael Mercer
Senior Pastor
University Church of Christ

The good news

The list of things that I am thankful for is too lengthy for this paragraph, or this page, or this entire magazine. However, if I had to boil Thanksgiving down to one answer, it would be:

Romans 8:37-39:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I know myself and all the reasons and things that are unlovely in me, and yet the God of all creation loves me to the extent that there is nothing I or anyone else could ever do to separate me from His love. Now that is good news. That is worth celebrating. That is something all of us can be extremely thankful for.

Jeff Williams
Senior Pastor
Second Baptist Church