Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful Thursday

We here at Out of the Ordinary want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving today! No doubt most of you won't even be reading this post, but will be celebrating with your families. If you do have somewhere to eat, and people to share your meal, be thankful. Some people do not have that and won't spend their day surrounded by turkey and loved ones.

Is there any better time to be thankful than on a day when we gather with family and friends and share a good meal? If any of you are Pinterest users, you may have seen the recent influx of recipes geared toward holiday meals. From now until December 25th, we will be inundated with baking ideas and pictures of lavishly set tables featuring all kinds of meals, from the traditional golden turkey to something a little different. One of the boards I follow on Pinterest had all sorts of ideas for vegetarian options for the season.

We here in North America, for the most part are very fortunate when it comes to food. There have been some years, when I have looked on the holiday table where I am eating and been very aware that the leftovers scraped from the plates would actually feed a family in some developing country somewhere. I am very thankful for the food we eat. I am thankful for fresh vegetables and fruits in the off season, and for local butchers and dairy providers. I am thankful for local food banks, who work to provide for those who struggle financially. I'm thankful for my local church, who participates in food drives for the food bank during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am thankful that when my children were young, I did not have to wonder where their next meal was coming from. I am thankful for organizations such as Compassion, which provides ways to share with those in other countries.

I recently was given a perspective about food that was a good reminder. My husband and I are friends with a couple who are missionaries in Papua New Guinea. They have only been there since July, and it has been interesting to watch how they have adapted. The husband wrote an update recently where he reflected on what he called the "tropical diet," and how he had lost almost twenty pounds. One of the reasons, aside from the number of tropical viruses which can befall one, he mentioned the cost of food. He's simply not eating as he would at home in North America. What we take for granted as a meal is likely not the norm everywhere.

I am thankful for the fact that despite our occasional grumbling, food prices here in North America are cheaper compared to other places. I'm thankful that God gave us a world where we can produce good things to eat. Today, when you sit down to eat your meal, whatever it is, be thankful for God's provision of food.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for...lots of things

We’ve spent the month here talking about thanksgiving. I missed my turn a couple of weeks ago, and it’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve had a chance to read everyone else’s posts.

You see, a couple of weeks ago I was awakened by an early morning phone call. It was not good news, as early morning phone calls seldom are. There was a medical emergency in my extended family. My post might not be as polished as the others, but I have a long list of things to be thankful for.

I am thankful for modern medicine. What would have been a grave situation a few decades ago can now be fixed with surgery.

I am thankful for air travel, so that my sister who lives far away can decide at 9 o’clock in the morning that she wants to come, and then be there by suppertime.

I am thankful for the body of Christ. I have a lot of balls in the air right now—family, work, school, church, blog—and I walked away from all of them for a few days. My husband was out of town that week, so I needed more help than usual. Friends took care of my kids for me. People at church picked up my slack. Employers, instructors, and blog friends gave me grace.

Everything is good now. Life is back to normal. And I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thankful for Adoption

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God... 1 John 3:1a (KJV)


Rebecca posted last week on being thankful for salvation. This golden chain from election to the final resurrection is wonderful, but there is one link that is very dear to my heart. I am thankful for adoption.

God could have justified me without adopting me. It certainly would have been more than enough to be forgiven of my sins and given right standing before Him because of Christ's work. 1 He hasn't brought me to His orphanage or enrolled me in His foster care system either. I am not under probation, waiting and wondering if the final papers will be filed in the court of heaven. This outcast has been welcomed with arms of love and given a seat at the family table, 2 and His choice was made even before the foundation of the world. ( Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:4-5)

God is not like the god of the deists who is remote and detached. He is a loving Father who has compassion for His children. (Ps. 103:13) When I'm tempted to be anxious, I am reminded that He knows exactly what I need. (Matt. 6:30-32) In times of sorrow and rejection, God never forsakes His own. (Ps. 27:10) 

When I sin and wonder if I've forfeited His love and favor, I am reminded that there was nothing I could have done to deserve it in the first place. Yet God demonstrated His love to me, a sinner, and at the greatest possible cost, the death of Christ. (Rom. 5:6-10)

It's no wonder the Apostle John says, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us."!

'Behold what manner of love'! ... The freeness of this love that looked upon us in spite of our sin, in spite of our recalcitrance, in spite of our unworthiness, in spite of our foulness as the result of the Fall and our own actions. Oh, the love that has not merely forgiven us but has given itself to us, that entered into us and shared its own nature with us; stand in awe at the greatness of it all! Think of what it cost Him, our Lord Jesus Christ, to come into the world, to live in the world, suffering its treatment, staggering up Golgotha with that cross upon His shoulders, and being nailed to the tree. Think of Him dying, suffering the agony, and the shame of it all in order that you and I might become children of God.
'Behold, what manner of love' - you cannot understand it, you cannot explain it. The only thing we can say is that it is the eternal love, it is the love of God and is self-generated, produced by nothing but itself, so that in spite of us and all that is true of us He came and died and suffered so much. The Son of God became the Son of Man, that we, the sons of men, might become the children of God. It is true, we are that; we have been made that. Amazing, incredible, yet true!3

Now it's your turn. What are you thankful for today? Please share it in the comments so we can all be encouraged. There is nothing too small for which to praise the Lord.
                                                                                                                                                           
1. Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 739.
2. From Debtors to Heirs, sermon on Romans 8:12-17 by J. Ryan Davidson, Grace Baptist Chapel, April 28, 2013.
3. Children of God, Life in Christ Volume 3, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Crossway Books, 1993, pg. 19.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thankful for the Body

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ. (p. 29)
No church is perfect. Sometimes it is difficult to be thankful for a group of sinners and the inevitable conflicts, attitudes, tensions, and well, sins, that arise. And yet, the church is our community. It is perhaps the only place - other than our homes - where we truly belong, this side of heaven. Gratitude is one of the means for authentic community (Stephen J. Nichols, Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life: From the Cross, for the World (Theologians on the Christian Life), p. 69).

A couple of years ago Lisa wrote a post about loving her church. Her words were a balm to me while my husband and I were looking for a new church family. They remain with me to this day.

Today, I am thankful for my church family.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thankful for Salvation

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)
The Apostle Paul is known for his spontaneous expressions of praise in his writing and the verse quoted above is one of them. God gave up his Son to save us—a gift too wonderful to describe—and as Paul thinks about this as he writes, he interjects his thanksgiving into the text. Paul is thankful for Jesus, sent by God to save his people. Without the gift of the Son, we would all remain under God's condemnation, and none of us could be saved.

This past Wednesday, Kim urged us to follow Paul's example in thanking God for people, and today I'm hoping we can learn from him to be thankful for Jesus, his work, and all the saving benefits that we receive through him.

Here's a list of some of the aspects of our salvation to give thanks for:
  • election. I am saved only because God decided in eternity past to set his love on me. There was no foreseen good in me to call out his choice to save me. From the very beginning, my salvation was a gracious act of God—a gift! How can we not be thankful? (See 2 Thessalonians 2:13 for an example of Paul's thanksgiving for election.)
  • calling. In our experience of salvation, it's God's calling that starts it all. God graciously calls us "into the fellowship of his Son (1 Corinthians 1:9)" and we come. 
  • regeneration. The new birth is a gift from God, too (Ephesians 2:5-7). 
  • faith. In Kim's previous post on being thankful for people, did you notice how many times Paul thanked God for the faith within the hearts of other believers? That's because the faith through which we are saved is also God's gift.
  • justification. We are justified "are justified by [God's] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." God imputed our sins to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us out of pure grace.
  • redemption. I'd say Paul thanks God for redemption in Ephesians 1 when he says God's saving work, including "redemption through his blood" is "to the praise of his glorious grace."
  • adoption. In Ephesians 1, Paul also says that "adoption as sons" is "to the praise of his glorious grace." (And adoption as sons includes women, because in Christ, women—not just men—receive an inheritance.)
  • perseverance. It is "to the praise of [God's] glory that we were "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it . . . ." (Ephesians 1:13-14). Or, to explain it using Peter's words, we are kept "by God's power" for our final salvation (1 Peter 1:5). In other words, we persevere because God keeps us persevering.
  • deliverance from sin. This, too, is God's work: "Who." Paul asks, "will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).
  • victory over death. Those who are being saved will be raised to eternal life. This is the way God gives us victory over death. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
From start to finish, salvation is God's gift to us. Will you join me in thanking him for all the many benefits of salvation? Do you have something to add to the list?