I want thank all the people in Lookout Valley who attended our annual community-wide Thanksgiving service held at Lookout Valley Baptist Church. At least seven (7) different congregations from 4-5 different denominations were represented. It was a great evening of fellowship and friendship.
Each year our community has a Thanksgiving service in which all the Christian churches are encouraged to attend and participate in some way. I guess, others in the community would be welcome, but the overall emphasis of an evening like this was to give thanks unto God, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, for all of His blessings. As believers in Christ, we have more reasons to be thankful than anyone else. Besides being blessed beyond measure by being allowed to live in a country such as ours, we have been forgiven of our sins, made heirs of the Kingdom, and have become part of a universal family of God. A Thanksgiving service like this is more like a family reunion around the dinner table of the Father.
This year’s speaker was Pastor Bill Akers, from Wauhatchie United Methodist Church. During his sermon he shared his testimony, gave thanks to God for sparing his life, and even gave out some peanut M&Ms. To be honest, I have never seen a Methodist preacher with so much energy. I don’t even move around as much as he does.
Last week I tried to encourage my congregation to attend the service last night. I wanted them to do the best that they could to show a spirit of familial love, which shouldn’t be too hard, considering we were all part of the same spiritual family. Jesus Christ Himself prayed that we would do no less when He prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.
John 17:20-23 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. – HCSB
In the seventeenth chapter of John, Jesus prays for several things, but one thing that He repeats is the desire that we all be unified in the Father and the Son. Through this unity, as Jesus prayed, the world may see the love of the Father towards Jesus, and believe on Him (vs. 21 & 23). Sadly, it would seem that so many believers in Jesus want to keep this prayer from being answered. How sad is this, and how ludicrous?
It is possible for a prayer of Jesus to be denied?
If Jesus prays, then you know His prayers get answered. As a matter of observation, the only one of the requests made in chapter 17 that has not been fulfilled is the request that we be made one. Does this mean that Jesus’ prayer will never be answered? I don’t think so, but we should really think about this seriously. What is it going to take for this prayer to be answered? Will it happen after we all reach heaven? Then what would be the point of doing it so the unbelieving world could see?
I think that it is a crying shame when certain groups cannot look past minor differences in secondary doctrines, even for just one night. There were at least two other congregations in our community that did not participate in our community service. Both were Baptist. Both were independent. Now I can understand the Church of Christ not coming. Many of them believe that the rest of us are going to hell, anyway, so why meet with us. The same thinking persists with the Adventists, also, because we’re anti-sabbatarians. But for the Baptists, you would think that just because your brother or sister in Christ uses a different Bible translation, or wears pants instead of a dress to church, one night wouldn’t be so hard; but not so. The doctrine of Separation is much, much more important than honoring the prayer of our Savior.
One day, I fear, there may come a day in this country to rival those in other countries around the world. Here, we are so spoiled and pampered that we can afford to be separate. We have the option to spend all of our money on different denominational specifics. We have all the space in the world to plant a new congregation every time we disagree with each other. We have all the freedom of speech and the freedom of time to harp more on our differences than work together to fulfill the Great Commission. If we ever wind up having to worship underground, we won’t have it so easy. Denominational monikers will become a thing of the past.
Are there differences between some of our denominations that are serious? Of course. I am not denying that we have doctrinal issues worth debating with passion. I am fully aware that there are some out there that call themselves believers in Christ, but are actually sheep in wolves’ clothing. However, aside from that, we are still a family that needs to stick together whenever we can. We have the same Father. We were washed in the same blood of the Lamb.
After all, we are going to be spending eternity together.
What is it going to take for us to make an effort to put some of our petty things aside so that a lost and dying world would see Jesus? I am just so glad that there are a few churches in Lookout Valley that love Jesus more than arguing 100% of the time over unknown tongues, eternal security, election, translations, or conventions. We can do that 90% of the time. The least we can do is give God His 10% in a tithe of brotherly love and unity.