New Horizons

A Festival of Thanksgiving: Thank Offering 2014

Richard R. Gerber

The crowds are overwhelming. TV coverage shows stadiums around the world filled to overflowing. Public spaces in cities and small towns across the world are filled with people.

The mood is exuberant. Faces are lifted heavenward, and they beam with gladness. The air rings with loud, joyous cries. Songs erupt.

The multitudes have gathered in response to God’s call:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing! (Ps. 100:1–2)

The crowds are worshipping the Lord.

“The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (Ps. 98:2). The Lord poured out his Spirit on the earth in torrents. His messengers were received with eager ears. And his people were being pressed repeatedly with the question, “Why are you so full of hope and joy?”

The earth has come to know that the Lord is God. The people of the world have come to see that all their gods are worthless. They are the figment of the imagination, a desperate attempt to make sense of life.

The Lord is truly God. He is humanity’s Creator—the one who formed the first man and woman, and the one who still forms each person. Every individual can say, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). As humanity’s Creator, he has a right to call for the worship, service, and gratitude of everyone in every place in every age.

In rebellion, the multitudes spurned him. They boasted of how they crushed God’s covenant people. They proudly declared that they are the masters of their own destinies.

But now they are told:

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Ps. 100:3)

The people of the world heard that the Lord, Jehovah, “comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness” (Ps. 96:13). Terror overwhelmed them. Knowledge of the Most High left them seeking escape.

Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, grace relieved their fears:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16–18)

Through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, they became sheep of the Lord’s pasture. Through Jesus Christ, these enemies were made objects of his covenant love and faithfulness. Now they say with all the spiritual heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7).

The crowds, whose loud, joyous cries ring across the face of the earth, are those who have heard the call to “serve the Lord with gladness!” In Christ, they “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4). They are giving the Lord thanks and blessing his name.

Thankfulness is a response to the mercies of the Lord. Thankfulness is a response to the gift of his only begotten Son—to being saved from condemnation and eternal punishment, to being made one of his covenant people. Thankfulness is a response to the eternal life you have in Christ Jesus—to being united to Christ and receiving every heavenly blessing in him.

Blessing his name is a response to the glory of God in and of himself. Give him glory, for he is good. The good he does flows out of his very nature. There is nothing evil, nothing tainted, in him. Bless his name! He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping Lord. “His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 100:5). It never wavers; it never falters. His loving-kindness and faithfulness are always and forever. Bless his name!

The people of the earth have already begun to be gathered in a festival of joyful, thankful worship of Jehovah. Every Lord’s Day, the Lord’s people gather with gladness in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and New York. In Seoul, Jakarta, Beijing, and Hong Kong. In San Juan, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City. In Lagos, Cairo, and Casablanca. Among the gathered are some who are still strangers to his grace. But cities and towns without glad worship of the Lord are too numerous. Multitudes are still in rebellion, waiting for torrents of grace to fill their land.

The Thank Offering

We who know that “the Lord is good,” that “his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:5), live in obedience to the commission to proclaim repentance and remission of sin in Jesus’ name to all nations. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church seeks to do so in the power of his Spirit who was poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

Through your gifts to Worldwide Outreach during the year and the Thank Offering at the end of the year, the Committee on Foreign Missions has sent gospel heralds to five continents.

You have been praying for those sent—the Richlines, the Cummingses, the McCabes, the Hopps, the Westervelds, the Okkens, the Hacquebords, the Tricaricos, the Lauers, the Curtos, the Wrights, the Foltas, the Knoxes, the Yaegashis, the Tuiningas, the Farniks, the Wingards, and Miss Lee. And there have been handfuls of missionary associates serving short-term. They are laboring in major cities and little villages to establish the worship of God.

Through your gifts to Worldwide Outreach and the Thank Offering, the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension has assisted every presbytery in 2014 with the development of new churches.

Forty-three mission works from Ponce, Puerto Rico, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New York City, to Lander, Wyoming, to West Lebanon, New Hampshire, to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Seattle, Washington, to Hartwell, Georgia, to Anaheim Hills, California, to Houston, Texas, have received financial assistance to support the ministry of an organizing pastor and have been bathed in the prayers of the church. Eight presbyteries have received assistance to have the services of a regional home missionary.

Through your gifts to Worldwide Outreach and the Thank Offering, the Committee on Christian Education oversees the ministry of OPC.org. Over three million pages of information from the site were downloaded in 2013. Over one million of those went to nations other than the United States and Canada. Every month over five thousand unique visitors come to OPC.org.

The CCE also publishes and assists in publishing literature to aid local churches in their educational ministries. The training of pastors—present and future—has been a large part of the CCE’s ministry. It assisted eighteen churches to mentor yearlong pastoral interns in 2013–2014 and thirteen churches to have summer interns in 2014.

The Thank Offering of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a faith-based act looking for a greater festival of thanksgiving yet to come. Your Thank Offering to the Lord who redeemed you by grace through Jesus Christ enables the OPC to continue sending heralds of Jesus Christ near and far.

As you worship the Lord with gladness and singing over the next weeks, reflect on all the reasons you have for giving thanks to the Lord and consider what your Thank Offering will be. In response to his abounding, sacrificial love that you have received, make a thankful and generous gift to the Lord through the Thank Offering.

The goal this year is $950,000. Every dollar is needed to herald Christ and teach all that he commanded in anticipation of an even greater festival of thanksgiving.

The author is the associate general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. New Horizons, November 2014.

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