A Little Spot of Heaven

A Little Spot of Heaven

Thanksgiving Day in America is not a religious holiday. It is a national holiday. The tradition dates back to the early settlers in the Plymouth colony when in 1623 they gave thanks to God for their survival in the wilderness of the new world.

Our first president, George Washington in 1789 and President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, proclaimed national days of thanksgiving for God’s blessings on our nation. The U.S. Congress ratified a national day of thanksgiving in 1941.

The scriptures tell us that God has built thanksgiving into the structure of his world. From the beginning of Israel’s national life, thanksgiving was to be part of the essential nature of things. The third book of the Bible, Leviticus, prescribes the sacrifices and offerings that were essential to maintaining fellowship with God. These sacrifices provided covering for sin, making it possible for the people to draw near to God in worship and prayer.

Israel’s Thanksgiving Celebration

One of those offerings was the  “thanksgiving” offering, otherwise called the “fellowship” or “peace” offering. It was a voluntary expression of thanks to God for specific blessings, such as forgiveness, answers to prayer, deliverance from danger, or provision of daily needs. It was called the “peace offering” because it celebrated the believer’s peace with God.

In Leviticus 7:11-15 we learn that this was a festive offering that was shared with the priest who administered the sacrifice on behalf of the worshiping family. It involved a sacrificial lamb, and the preparation and consumption of bread made with and without yeast.

Imagine the Hebrew father gathering his family around him and asking them, “What has the Lord done for us?” We may imagine the children responding with memories of God’s faithful provision.

“God sent rain and sunshine and rebuked the locust so our crops would grow.”

“He healed Grandpa when he was sick.”

“He gave our soldiers victory over God’s enemies.”

“Our neighbors came and helped pull the ox out of the ditch.”

“Mama’s baby was born healthy.”

Then father might say, “We must thank God for these blessings. Thaddeus, go pick out the best lamb in the flock for the sacrifice and I will inspect it to make sure it has no blemishes. Tabitha, you help Mama prepare the bread for the feast and for the offering to the priest. Obadiah, run off to Grandpa’s house and invite him to join us for the thanksgiving offering and feast.”

The celebration began with the sacrifice of the lamb. The father would lead his little procession to the door of the tabernacle, lay his hands on the head of the animal and confess their sins. The animal would be killed and its blood spattered on the altar. Its internal organs were burned on the altar.  Their sins now covered, the family could joyfully celebrate their fellowship with the Lord.

The meat of the animal was divided and part of it was given to the officiating priest, along with the bread. This Hebrew Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by the family in fellowship with the priestly community, symbolizing their fellowship with God.

Examples from history

Israel’s national leaders set an example by observing the feast of thanksgiving. Moses “sent young Israelite men and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord (Exodus 24:5).

When he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, “David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:17).

When King Solomon dedicated the magnificent temple he built for the Lord in Jerusalem, the observance consisted of thousands of fellowship offerings (1 Kings 8:63).

During the great revival of Israel’s religion, King Hezekiah called on the entire nation to rededicate themselves to the Lord. “Come and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the Temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:31).

When the people rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah led them in a celebration of thanksgiving to God. “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43).

This serves as an example for us now. Christ the Lamb of God is our sacrifice through whom we have peace with God. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). Because of this, we are able to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for (us) in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The vocabulary of heaven

I read about an American ambassador who was giving a lecture on the work of the foreign service. He said an American embassy is a little spot of America set down in an alien land.

Our embassies have pictures of our national heroes and American flags throughout. Inside, American laws and customs are in force. The holidays and celebrations of our country are observed, including Thanksgiving Day.

On the streets outside there may be different laws and customs, but the embassy compound is a little spot of America set down in an alien land.

Thanksgiving is the vocabulary of the kingdom of God. In the kingdom age, there will be “the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever'” (Jeremiah 33:11). 

This coming week, thanksgiving to God can be a little spot of heaven set down right here in our homes, churches and throughout our nation.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner


Gregory Preached the Gospel

Gregory Preached the Gospel

The gospel was alive and well in fourth-century Cappadocia. It was located in what is today east-central Turkey. One of its most famous early theologians was Gregory of Nazianzus (330-390). He was renowned for his preaching and his defense of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Gregory was for a time the bishop of Constantinople. His preaching resulted in a revival of faith among the people. They respected his call to reverence, simplicity, and modesty in an age when many clerics were obsessed with power, wealth and ostentation.

Gregory’s writings were infused with biblical knowledge with which he sought to instruct the young. He also wrote with intellectual and philosophical rigor to defend the Christian faith against the arguments of pagan thinkers. He was one of the bishops who presided at the second great ecumenical council  (Constantinople) which clarified the church’s teaching on the Holy Spirit.

Gregory boldly proclaimed the gospel. He believed Christ’s death was an expiatory sacrifice to satisfy God’s righteous law. In one of his orations, he said of Jesus, “For my sake, he was made a curse, who destroyed my curse, and sin… .”

I pass along to you today what Gregory wrote and preached in 381. Gregory’s preaching of the gospel is as relevant today as it was in the fourth century.

He began his ministry by being hungry, yet he is the Bread of Life.

Jesus ended his earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet he is the Living Water.

Jesus was weary, yet he is our rest.

Jesus paid tribute, yet he is the King.

Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet he cast out demons.

Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears.

Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet he redeemed the world.

Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet he is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus died, yet by his death, he destroyed the power of death.


    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Saints by Calling

Saints by Calling

How could the Corinthians have been called “saints?” They were contentious, tolerant of flagrant immorality,  confused about theology, disorganized in worship, litigious, divided and rebellious against the one who had brought them the Christian message. Yet in 1 Corinthians 1:2, they are introduced as “saints.” This must mean that to be a saint means something different than to be memorialized in statues and stained glass!

Imperfect saints

When he wrote to the Corinthians, Paul said that they were “the church of God in Corinth… sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the Lord Jesus Christ — their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2 NIV). These people, he said, were “saints by calling” (NASB), “called to be saints” (ESV), “set apart for a God-filled life” (The Message). Yet they were very imperfect people.

in last week’s entry I wrote about “All Saints Day,” an opportunity to pause and remember those who have stood for Christ in the past. I did not mean to imply that our faithful Christian predecessors were somehow spared from the temptations and failures common to all humanity. They, too, were sinners who needed God’s grace and forgiveness.

Set apart

To be a “saint,” in biblical teaching, is simply to be set apart for God. In the city of Corinth, it meant to bow in worship only to the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. The Corinthian Christians “called on” him in prayer( 1 Corinthians 1:2) and they sang to him in praise (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26). They worshiped Jesus among neighbors who knew only the worship of Zeus and Aphrodite, who were locked in pagan superstition. The believers were “set apart” from all that. The words Paul used were “sanctified” and “saint.”

Paul used these terms of all Christians, not just of martyrs or exceptional leaders. He says that what was true of them was true of all who call on the Lord Jesus, wherever they are. The term “saint” applies to all who acknowledge the ruling authority of Jesus who is “our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). This comprehensive term means that Jesus is the divine-human son of God and supreme Lord and Messiah, God’s anointed king. His saints regard him this way.

Be who you are.

Are you a saint? If you trust Jesus as savior you are a saint. The well-known preacher Harry Ironside famously introduced himself to some Catholic nuns on a train with “Would you like to meet a saint?” When they answered yes he said, “Hello. I am Saint Harry!” If you are a believer, then think of yourself as in Christ, set apart for God, a saint for sure.

This means that saints are not stained-glass heroes. If the Corinthians were saints then saints are far from perfect people. The rest of the first letter to the Corinthians was written to correct errors in theology, abuses in relationships,  and problems in public worship. There were many ways in which they were in great need of spiritual guidance, sort of like the church today.

Saints call on Jesus in prayer. Saints worship Jesus. How is it with you? These saints in Corinth were organized into an assembly of believers called a “church.” To boycott the church is to contradict your sainthood. To ignore the Lord’s call to worship is to break fellowship with “all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2).

Paul wrote to these saints to teach them to start behaving like the people they were, God’s distinctive people standing for Jesus amid the idolatry of paganism. We are called to the same things.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



We Are Surrounded

I do not pray to the saints. This is because  I find no teaching in holy scripture that tells me to do it. I do find texts such as Hebrews 12:1-2, reminding me that “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.” 

I take this to mean that they continue in a blessed existence in the presence of the Eternal God. He is not the God of the dead but of the living. I am to learn from their noble example to “run with perseverance” the race marked out for me through this life and on into the next, as they did.

Throughout the world, many Christians observe this day, November 1, as “All Saints Day.” It commemorates heroes of the church, known and unknown. This observance dates back to the seventh century and is marked by the remembrance of their lives and honor to their example.

I have known quite a few saints in my time. Some of them are still living on earth. (I am married to one of them.) Others are now in eternity, with the Lord whom they loved. I could write all day (I won’t!) with gratitude for what they have meant to me and for what I have learned from their faithfulness, their endurance, their unselfish love.

So there is value in remembrance. If All Saints Day is a day of remembrance for you, then give thanks today for those saints above and saints below who have reminded you to keep “fixing (y)our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

In 1864 William W. How wrote a hymn for this day. Read it slowly.

For all the saints who from their labors rest,/ who Thee by faith before the world confessed,/ Thy name O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia!

Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;/ Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;/ Thou in the darkness drear, their one true light. Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!/ We feebly struggle; they in glory shine./ Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine. Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,/ steals on the ear the distant triumph song,/ and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia!

But then there breaks a yet more glorious day:/ the saints’ triumphant rise in bright array;/ the King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds and ocean’s farthest coast,/ through gates of pearl stream in the countless host,/ singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia!

Alleluia, indeed!

Pastor Randy Faulkner