Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gift
by Darrel R. Falk
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. It is a time to think about what has most positively shaped our lives and to express our gratitude. A short time ago, I got off a flight at Los Angeles International Airport and, as we all do, I turned on my cell phone to see if anything particularly important had happened while I was in transit. This time was different than most—my father, at age 96 and with a failing heart, had been admitted to the hospital. I soon got on another flight to join him in Vancouver. I’m never sure which of these trips will be my last opportunity to be with him. By the time I arrived, he was home from the hospital. The miracle of medicine had given me a little more time—yet again—to hear his chuckle, to sense his joy, and to listen to the wisdom of one who has long loved God with heart, soul, and mind. I am thankful for the ongoing reminder that there is nothing more beautiful than someone who lives his life fully dedicated to the God of biblical Christianity.
In this Thanksgiving season, I am especially grateful for biblically based churches that prepare the soil, cultivate the ground, and then provide lifelong nurture for individuals like my father and other family members. These churches are the saltshakers of the world; they are the lamps that serve as beacons on the hilltops. Often, the individuals in these churches see scientific reality much differently than I do, and sometimes their official church statements are even contrary to some of science’s foundational and well-tested precepts. Still, on those issues that matter most in life, these churches provide what I consider to be the world’s best leadership and guidance. Hence, I remain deeply grateful, fully supportive, and heavily involved. As important as it is to get the scientific issues correct, churches grounded in biblical authority remain a gift from God. And for that gift we can be truly grateful.
I am also grateful for the flexibility of the biblically based church. We don’t all have to think exactly the same way in order to be full-fledged members and even leaders. Peter’s approach was different from Paul’s, and sometimes they had frank discussions about those differences. I am thankful that we can sit down together and think about that which is essential in the kingdom of God—even as we dialogue about issues on which we differ. Paul’s letters to the church are full of advice on how to work through these matters. For example, his divinely inspired masterpiece, the book of Romans, lays out the essentials and then moves on to the matter of community—Romans chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16. There are essentials and there are nonessentials. The nonessentials must never get in the way of community. Because the Church can and usually does function this way, we can be truly grateful. Thanksgiving is a good season to celebrate all that the Church—the body of Christ—is, ministering to each other and to a world that is so in need of its message.
I especially encourage you to read our featured series this month, as it focuses on this very issue—a particular individual sorting through the scientific and theological issues, deciding what is essential and what is nonessential while staying firmly embedded in supportive conservative churches that focus on biblical authority.
Just prior to Thanksgiving, my two daughters, Cheryl and Shelley, will board a plane for Vancouver to see their grandfather one more time and to express their thanks. The Church which nurtured my father and his family is now, two generations later, nurturing my daughters and their families. The generations move on, and each generation works through a new set of nonessentials. But the Bible as God’s Word to us never gets old. The essentials carry on throughout the generations. And for this, I am truly grateful.