Dear members and friends of VP,
My thoughts are on expressions of gratitude for the month of November. This is related to November being the month when we celebrate Thanksgiving. Many people enjoy spending time with family and friends and eating too much food. But there are other things to celebrate.
I am thankful for the privilege of having served VP Church as Pastor for 25 years as of October 18th. I had no thoughts of being a pastor for the rest of my life when I arrived. I simply knew the church was desperate for pastoral leadership and that I could help for a while until they found someone who was better equipped. Now, I could not imagine doing anything other than shepherding the church. Ann and I want to thank those of you who helped celebrate 25 years of pastoral ministry and gifted us with funds to get away for a few days of rest. The many kind gestures of love and appreciation meant a lot to us. We feel very loved.
I am also thankful that a dear friend and servant of Valley Park is now in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Pat Cunningham went home to Jesus on Wednesday, October 17th at approximately 4:30 pm. Pat was like my mother at VP. She served as secretary of the elementary at VP Elementary School for years. She organized our ladies in hosting multiple dining settings every year for over 40 years. She managed the church office. She helped me in the office every Saturday night for 15 years. Pat was a devoted and reliable servant of God and a model of what it means to love the Body of Christ. After 95 years on Planet Earth, she is now in the presence of the Savior she faithfully served. I am thankful that I know where she is right now!
I am thankful for many people who participated in our Home Groups since the beginning of October. I have believed that
Gratitude is one of the most important responses to the grace of God. Jesus embraces the person who has a grateful heart. Jesus explained the value of expressed gratitude in Luke 7:41-47.
“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For thisLuke 7:41-47
reasonI say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus is relating the degree of a debt forgiven to expressions of love and gratitude. The more we realize how much Jesus has done for us the more we should come before God with expressions of gratitude. This means that Thanksgiving celebrations can be used as opportunities to humble ourselves before Jesus in expressions of gratitude.
My second observation is that Jesus cares deeply about expressed gratitude. He points out that there were no real expressions of gratitude from His disciples. Though they knew Him better than did the woman who was washing His feet with her tears, they neglected real displays of their love and appreciation and He says so. In reference to the woman who was humbling herself at His feet, He gives her assurance that her sins are forgiven simply because of her displayed love and gratitude. Jesus is moved by our willingness to express gratitude. It makes Him feel appreciated.
I think all of us are uplifted when we are appreciated. The church displayed appreciation for me in the middle of October. Both my wife and I were encouraged. I expressed appreciation for Pat Cunningham. I know she feels appreciated. I know we can encourage our Lord and Savior by expressing our love and gratitude toward Him. May we all learn to express gratitude for the many things we enjoy in life and as a result of the wonderful redemption we have received because of Him.