The psalmist writes, “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercies endure forever.” We find those words in Psalm 136, 107, 118 to name a few. It is a reminder that all we have is of God. And mercy is defined as compassion, or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. We have mercy from the Lord even though we deserve punishment. We have forgiveness from the Lord even though we deserve His wrath. His mercy endures forever.
We have much to be thankful for, in spite of the year we have had. Please allow me to share with you. As a church family we packed 400 OCC boxes. Not bad for a pandemic year when many churches chose not to participate at all this year. Because of this family of faith, 400 kids somewhere in the world will not only receive a shoebox full of gifts but they will receive the chance to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It will change their lives, perhaps their families lives and maybe even the lives of those in their town or village. But it isn’t just us. Here are some numbers from OCC. We have had 17 volunteers helping with the national collection this week. They join with some 70,000 other volunteers at drop off sites across the country. Once the boxes are collected, they go to the processing center where another 80,000 volunteers sort and inspect the boxes and ready them for shipping all over the world. There are another 210,000 volunteers all over the world who are prepared to teach The Greatest Journey Bible class where the kids have the chance to meet Jesus. Over the years God has used this class to bring more than 11 million children to faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, you read that right…11 million kids have come to know Jesus because of red and green shoeboxes. We have had a hand in that! Thank you.
I give thanks for all the amazing volunteers and for the people who pack shoe boxes. There have been some amazing stories this year as people have dropped off their boxes, including a family of four plus the dog who arrived here. When Sharon asked if they would like to pray over the boxes…something they ask of everyone who brings boxes…the four-year-old little girl started the prayer by asking that God get her boxes to a boy or girl who are far away. I am thankful for families who are teaching their kids what it means to serve others.
I give thanks for cans of vegetables and fruit, boxes of stuffing and mashed potatoes, canned yams and cake mixes and frosting…and everyone who shopped or gave money for turkeys. As a result, 27 families will have Thanksgiving dinner. I give thanks for all of you who have made a difference, and for those of you who packed and distributed boxes.
The thing about making a difference is this. Sometimes we think that to make a difference we have to do some big, grandiose thing. But making a difference is often lots of small things that add up. We are not called to make a difference alone. We are called to make a difference together. Everybody contributes something and together we have done much. And it isn’t so much about any one of us getting credit. It is all about God working in and through us to do extraordinary things in His name. And it is always about God getting the glory. We are merely the instruments He uses.
Jesus has called us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Matthew 5:13-16. We stay salty by staying connected to the Lord. And we let our light shine for all to see. We are not called to hide the light of Christ within us under something. We are called to be the light in the darkness. Catherine of Sienna once said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” We are not called to be like other Christians. We are called to be like Christ. We are called to do His will, and to trust what He has called us to do. And do not let others discourage you from what God has called you to do. If you are about doing His business, then no one can stop you. This is not about us. It is always, always, about God. I am thankful God has chosen us to be His hands and feet. In fact, He has no other to be His hands and feet but us. There is no back up plan with God. We are it!
If we let Him, God will make a powerful difference in our lives that will lead us to help others meet Him. God makes a difference in our lives by changing our hearts. And as He changes our hearts, He begins to work powerfully in our lives. Notice in both steps here, it is God who works powerfully. God does the hard work, the heavy lifting. We work by being the vessel He uses. We work by staying connected to Him through the Scriptures, through prayer and through worship. But we must always remember, the power to make a difference does not come from us, it comes from the Lord. I give thanks that God has chosen us.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W