Day 1- Thanksgiving: What’s the difference

I’m writing this to you, to help you maximize your Thanksgiving holiday as a family. You could choose to do this from Wednesday-Thursday, Thursday-Friday, in one sitting, or not at all. Whatever you choose, please meet with God over this Thanksgiving and I would recommend doing this with me.
 
 
 
Scripture Reading:
Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
 

Psalm 100:4-5 ESV

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. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations.
 
This holiday season you will see many requests and online appeals to “be thankful”, hoping to dial down the noise of busy lives and vitriolic discourse that has been plaguing our society. That is good, we could definitely use that. However, while we will hear some uplifting messages, have a more peaceful sounding season overall, and all behave suitably Christmassy (and less Grinchy), it all grossly falls short of what a grateful believer in Jesus can really step into concerning their life with God. God is calling us to an awareness of His work in our lives. Mere platitudes and generic good thoughts don’t cut it. Even attending church services and christian deeds won’t accomplish it. He is calling believers in Jesus to a live a life with the constant awareness of Him; knowing Him and of His salvation, not just our awareness that we have “much to be thankful for” in some generic sense.
 
Before we go any further, I need to draw a clearer distinction between what is generally understood as “thanksgiving” and what the Bible calls “thanksgiving”. Hopefully, you will see what I mean in a second. When we ask people around the table “What are you thankful for?”, we get responses like “’I’m thankful for family” or “I’m thankful for good health”. Most, if not all of us, smile and move on to the next person. What we heard was really good! The person just expressed that they are aware of something they have. However,  if you pay close attention, we are in a culture that promotes an awareness of what we have without an acknowledgement of a source. So, is a person wrong when they say things like that? Absolutely not! Awareness of what we have is a great place to start. We have just not been trained to be intentional or directional with our thanks in light of this awareness. When I jokingly summarize this state, I often reference the fact that if you ask some kids in cities where cheese comes from, they will say “Walmart” without skipping a beat. This kind of thinking is indicative of a condition that is bigger than we imagine and we are all affected by it. In daily life, there is almost no necessity to attribute a clear source to what we have, we just assume that we have it when we want it.. For some this is an intentional exclusion, because attributing credit elsewhere means they are less of a “self-made man/woman” in their own eyes. Now, most of us don’t see life like that, and we truly are thankful for those around us who make us better, and we’re thankful for the things we enjoy through other people’s work. But still, we find ourselves throwing out the “walmart” answer when it comes to seeing and acknowledging the true source of the little and big things we have. To help myself and my family grow in this area, I use a simple fill-in-the-blank statement, that helps us with intention and direction. This practice might help you as well
 
I AM THANKFUL TO________ FOR _________.
“I am thankful for family”
now becomes
“I’m thankful to God for His faithfulness to our family”
That directs our thanks to God and acknowledges His faithfulness. When I think through that, I’m reminded of all the things He brought me through. Man!<mind blown> Am I thankful for my family story in God or what?!
(OR)
“I am thankful to you (Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa), for raising us a family”.
Giving honor where it is due on earth as well is a principle that helps us build strong relationships on trust. We grow the people around us into confident givers of the little or much that they have from God.
 
Both intention and direction matter. A well directed statement, made just for the sake of saying it, is useless. I’m just parroting something people expect. In the same way, a well intention-ed statement with no direction (where most of us are) keeps us thinking good thoughts, but honor and thanks is never given where it is due.  But, when direction and intention are married, we begin to mean what we say, because we’re actually chewing on what we’re saying before we say it. We become less callous and self centered and more thoughtful and openly others-centered.
 
Can you practice this with me today? If you are with family, without going into as much detail, you can help them be intentional and directed in their thanksgiving by giving each one this simple fill-in-the-blank statement cue.
I AM THANKFUL TO________ FOR _________.
 
Let’s be thankful people! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Day 2 – Thanksgiving: Pathways in Worship

In the previous segment we looked at the distinction between generic thanksgiving and deliberate thanksgiving. Hopefully, we’ve found it helpful to be more deliberate about the things we say. Today, let’s look at why thanksgiving to God is so important in the life of every believer. We will unpack why thanksgiving is the foundation of christian worship.
 
 
 
 
 
Scripture Reading
Psalm 100:3-4 (ESV)

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.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Psalm 50: 23 (ESV)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Psalm 50:23 Paraphrased (TPT)
The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of my grace, always choosing to walk with me in what is right. This is the sacrifice I desire from you. If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.”
 
Thanksgiving is important because its the foundation of what we call ‘worship’. It can seem synonymous, but there is a depth that might be useful to unpack a little right here. In the Bible, God talks about ‘thanks’ as the doorway into His presence. Without getting too involved it is worth mentioning that when Israel built the tabernacle in the wilderness during their exodus, God was very specific about the approach and pathway to meeting with Him. While we are not under the obligations and practices of the law handed to them, we must see that the new covenant God made in Jesus, through His work on the cross, fulfilled the total requirements of the law and ushered in the complete reality of God’s manifest presence which the Old Testament pointed toward. Many people get caught up trying to copy what the Old Testament practices were, forgetting that these things pale in comparison to the reality that is found in Jesus. It was pointing to the reality of a guaranteed meeting with God face-to-face; the promise for everyone who comes through Jesus. So, with that context, here’s the bullet-point version of what God taught Israel about worship.
 

Scripture tells us quite plainly on more than one occasion to ‘enter His gates with thanksgiving’. In simple terms… If you are planning to meet God at his home… ‘thanks’ is the front door! The way into God’s presence is thanksgiving. It sets the context for an encounter with God. Anything done well involves preparation and life teaches us that there is no substitute for good preparation. Thanksgiving gets you into a place of God consciousness.  This is ‘good preparation’ for face to face encounters with the One who made everything and rules over everything.
 
As we ‘count His blessings’ or ‘call to mind’ or ‘forget none of His benefits’, starting with the work of The Cross, we are rehearsing what our God has done. As we do this, we are quickly filled with how amazing our God really is and praise becomes a real thing and  is no longer a dry-mouth-with-fake-words activity. “God is almighty” is not just hearsay, we have actually seen Him do mighty things for us and now we’re better placed to see how He could be mightier than just our experience. Scripture now informs my praise. Soon, a song or tune becomes irrelevant and we discover that praise and worship had little to do with music and everything to do with being wrapped up with God while responding with our whole being; using words, shouts, tears, dance…and maybe even song. I find myself meeting God in worship where it is no longer about me, but Him alone. He gets to show me who He really is. I respond to what He reveals and I am overwhelmed. This, my friends, is how worship works. Do you see how each of the three stages fold into each other? A progression of seeing God in light of where we’re at to seeing Him for who He is alone. I hope you don’t take this and turn it into a formula, but see that God is after something much bigger and grander than we imagined for our encounters with Him.
 
Never ever ever let a song or a thanksgiving table “moment” get in the way of lavish thanks and praise (don’t be intimidated by musical worship or more tuneful/eloquent people near you). Notice, I emphasized the need for us to use our voice. The book of James talks extensively about the power of the tongue. Oh! that we would be people whose mouths are continually filled with thanks and praise (Psalm 34). I hope that we as worshipers are looking at ‘Thanksgiving’ as something more than just a family meal that ends with <burp>! I long for us in the church to move past the trappings of music and songs and come into the place where all we do is return to God and just say “Thank You”; completely unreserved and unashamed. May we be so wrapped up in God and His goodness that looking like a crazy dancing King David (I will be more undignified than this) would be something we want to emulate.
 
When God has our attention in the midst of a life situation, we magnify Him more than we do the situations we are in. Now the truth about what I am facing is dealt with in the context of seeing God. My responses to the great successes or great trials of life are handled much differently than they would be without God being “The Way, The Truth, and Life” for me.
My greatest influencer must always be “God with me”. Just hearing that phrase is no good to me. It does not change who He is, but I have no context for relating to Him in the context of what I am facing. However, when I go right up to Him and say, “Lord, in this circumstance, reveal yourself to me”, He responds with His presence and I find myself  magnifying Him with truth, not just Christianese. This sort of worship is not fake or contrived; it is completely truthful and responds with spiritual realities winning the day.
 
 
Ephesians 1:17-19
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
 
Psalm 27:8
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.
 
Action Point:
So, let us ask God to awaken us to what He has done. May we move past the Christianese responses to life and begin seeing how awesome our God really is, so we can respond with worship that pleases Him. Can we practice setting aside a little time today to enter God’s presence with thanks, continue to praise Him with a psalm  (there are 150 in the Bible) or a attribute of God seen in the Bible, and finally come to a place where God can speak to our heart with something new about Himself that we’ve never seen before. Take a journey in worship today!
 
 

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Our Story

A QUICK HISTORY

Word of Grace Fellowship began as most churches in the New Testament did…in someone’s home. This was the early 70’s when a bunch of young couples and students heard the call of God to meet. Those days were wonderful times of worship and getting into God’s word together. As the Bible study grew, and after seeking the Lord together, a church was formed. In miraculous ways God helped the church find a place to meet regularly and then afford to buy their own place ( currently at the corner of 5th and Grant streets in Indiana, PA ).
 
Through the years, many things have changed. We’ve seen mountain tops, we’ve seen deep valleys, and through it all God has been faithful to lead and correct us on the way. He used several ministers to help this church grow to where it is today. The church was formerly called “The Way” and then “House of Yahweh” between 1976 and 2009. The church was relaunched as Word of Grace Fellowship in 2009 with a new eldership team which subsequently brought on a full-time pastor, Judah Thomas, in 2013.
 

WHAT WE CALL “CHURCH”

We think church is more than a building or the thing we do on Sunday. We’re a gathering of people who are committed to following and worshiping Jesus while helping each other grow deeper in our devotion to Jesus Christ every day. Jesus and His fame is at the center of what we do here at Word of Grace, so we meet regularly to be taught from the Bible, worship with songs, and pray together with the sole aim of celebrating Jesus and seeing Him glorified . Under that sole aim, we seek to see each person- young or old, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, extroverts or introverts- ALL being a part of what God is doing in our church family. We heed the call from scripture to ensure that church gatherings are not times to receive from just one or two people’s ministries. Church gatherings are times to see the family of God built up in love as each person supplies out of what God has uniquely placed in them. While there are typical elements like preaching or worship, we make room for God’s Spirit to use every person in our times of fellowship through encouragement, testimony, prayer, song, etc.. Our meetings are open to the whole family. We have a baby play area and nursery available for those who need it, and age appropriate activities for kids as well. In doing all these things, we seek to serve Indiana’s community as part of the wider church as the Bible portrays it; which meets across this county and the world.

OUR PASTORS

Our church is blessed to have a team of pastoral elders lead us. The whole team prior to 2013 served in a non-vocational capacity, until God brought us a vocational lead pastor in 2013.
  • Our Current Pastoral Elder Team:
    • Judah Thomas – Lead Elder/Pastor
    • Allen Affolter – Teaching Elder/Pastor
    • Dr. Robert Mencer – Teaching Elder/ Pastor
    • Harry Carnahan – Founding Elder/ Pastor
    • Frank Petrillo – Elder/ Pastor
    • Nevin Saylor – Elder/Pastor

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