Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful for Small, Ordinary Gifts

Grace by Eric Enstrom
We should, of course, thank God for the great things he does, like healing someone with serious health problems, or blessing us with spiritual blessings, like adoptionsalvation, and the fellowship of other believers. These are all extraordinary gifts from our healing and saving God.

But this short quote from John Calvin is a reminder to thank God for common, everyday things, too:
There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
God's purpose in the ordinary gifts is our joy: joy in the gifts, but even more, joy in the One who gives them. One hair on a head, one wildflower in a field, one bird in the air—or a bowl of oatmeal and a loaf of bread—assure us that God is constantly caring for us and working for our good.

Why not give thanks for your ordinary gifts today? Rejoice over a piece of leftover turkey, maybe, and help it fulfill its God-given purpose.

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?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Here we are again at Thursday. Many are looking forward to the weekend and are probably very thankful for that! Again, I am very thankful for the ladies who shared in the comments.

Persis was thankful for the women of her small group:
I'm in a small group of middle-aged women from my church. It's been good to get to know them outside of Sunday morning. I thank God for them, their wisdom, their prayers, and how they have encouraged me even just last night.
Jessica was thankful for "Hot coffee and happy boys on a cold morning."

Diane was thankful for her church family:
I'm also thankful for the people in my church family and for our pastor and Sunday School teacher . My church has been around for about 40 years and even though it’s small we have families spanning 4 generations. I’m thankful for a humble pastor who has stuck with the flock for more than 35 years. Our Sunday School teacher has been leading us through John Owen’s Mortification of Sin for about 8 months and the class discussions have been wonderful. I’m so thankful for the theological depth and the genuine love and humility of the people there.

I don't have a Thankful Thursday post up at my blog today, so I will be thankful here. I am thankful today for the opportunity I had on Tuesday to teach a group of homeschooled children about Remembrance Day. It was an opportunity to instil in them gratitude for the men and women who fought to preserve our freedom. Plus, it was a lot of fun to play "Octopus" in the gym, too.

It's not too late! If you want to join in the thanksgiving, please leave a comment, and we'll include it in today's post.

Updates:

Becky is thankful for central heating. And considering where she lives, I can understand!
I'm thankful for my furnace and central heating. I know this is something almost everyone has, but a couple of generations ago this wasn't so, and winters must have been a lot more difficult than they are for me, living now. I’m thankful that I don't have to light a fire in the morning and keep putting wood or coal (or whatever) on it. And I'm thankful that every room in the house is warm, not just the area around a heater.
Joyful is learning give thanks in all things:
I am learning to give thanks in all things. I read 1000 Gifts recently and it has changed the way I look at most things. Thankful for THIS place today! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thankful for people

Have you ever noticed how frequently Paul opens his letters with a word of thanksgiving? We can learn a lot about thanksgiving from the way Paul opens many of his epistles.

  • Romans 1:8: Paul thanks God through Jesus for the Romans because of their faith.
  • I Corinthians 1:4: Paul thanks God "always" for the Corinthians because of the grace of God that was given to them.
  • Ephesians 1:16: Paul does not cease to give thanks for them because he has heard of their faith.
  • Philippians 1:3: Paul is thankful for them for their "partnership" in the gospel.
  • Colossians 1:3: Paul uses "we," and he is thankful for hearing about their faith and love for the saints.
  • II Timothy 1:3: Paul is thankful as he is reminded of their sincere faith.
  • I Thessalonians 1:2: Paul remembers their work of faith and labour of love in Christ.
  • II Thessalonians 1:3: Paul says he "ought" to give thanks because of the growing faith of the church at Thessalonica.
  • Philemon 1:4: He is thankful for hearing about the love and faith Philemon had toward Christ.

Paul was thankful for people. And specifically, people who were coming to faith, growing in their faith, and proclaiming their faith.

Are you thankful for people? Are you thankful for the growth of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you thankful when you see others loving and serving Christ, building up the body? Do you notice whether or not someone is growing in the things of God?

To be able to tell if others are growing means getting to know them. In our individualistic world, it's often not easy or natural to get to know someone that well; we often like our distance. But the Body of Christ is not like a social club or a service club. We are one in the body. We have unity. We ought to rejoice when we see someone growing in his faith. When the body grows, we benefit, too. And everyone can get to know at least one person well enough to discern when he or she is growing in the things of God.

Flowing from gratitude is prayer. Every one of those verse references, with the exception of Romans 1:8 and 1 Corinthians. 1:4 mentions thanksgiving in connection with prayer. Paul was led to pray for them as he was thankful. That is one of the benefits of fostering gratitude: it enriches our prayer life. Have you ever sat down to pray and done nothing but say prayers of thanksgiving? I have done that. Maybe it feels like list-making, but consciously having to look at my life to ascertain what I'm grateful for is a good exercise. It goes a long way to helping during those days when we are prone to complain or feel self-pity.

Are you thankful for the gospel today? Are you thankful for seeing growth in people? Are you thankful for the Body of Christ? Are you so thankful that it causes you to pray words of thanksgiving?

What are you thankful for today? Share in the comments; we'd love to be thankful right along with you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The grace of thanksgiving

My friend's father died suddenly last week. We stood in line for two hours Monday night in order to pay our respects to the family, to hug our friend, to tell her how much we love her and her family, to grieve with those we love who grieve.

Death and loss and grief, these sober us, give us pause, make us think. I've been strangely--or not so strangely--nostalgic all week as I not only contemplate mortality but also as I contemplate life and grace and providence. As I ponder, I am thankful and this gratitude serves to teach me important, difficult truths about the grace of thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving helps me remember that God is faithful. How I am prone to doubt! Thanksgiving reminds me that God was faithful and good yesterday and He will indeed be faithful and good to me today. I can trust Him.

Thanksgiving expresses submission to the sovereignty of God. When I thank the Lord, I say that what He has given me is right and good and acceptable and perfect. Acknowledging the gift in humble, thankful gratitude places me in trust and submission before the Giver.

Thanksgiving teaches me humility. God is faithful. God is sovereign. I cannot be proud before these twin truths. Recounting His faithfulness to me in submission to His sovereignty displays true humility before Him.

I saw Monday night the evidence of a life well lived, a life that served others, a life full of friendship and family and faith. I saw a widow and a daughter both give thanks through their tears for the joy of having known and having loved. In their heartbreak, they yet trust the faithfulness of their sovereign God.

May the Lord teach us to be a thankful people, not just in November but throughout our lives, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Eph. 5:20)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful this morning for those who participated this week in sharing their thankful thoughts!

Diane was thankful for her children:
I am so very thankful for my children and their spouses who are walking in Truth and raising our grandkids in the fear and admonition of the Lord. When I consider that's what I prayed so hard for since before they were even born - it's a huge cause for thanksgiving - And especially considering how many mistakes I made!!!
Debi was thankful for her husband:
I'm incredibly thankful for a husband who loves God and is faithfully following Him. With so many marriages struggling and women who are married to unsaved men or men who aren't strong believers, I'm very thankful for the blessing of a godly husband. I don't want to take him for granted.
Our own Rebecca was thankful that her recent gum surgery was successful and didn't come with too much discomfort.

Persis's thanksgiving had an appliance theme: for friends who let her use theirs when hers isn't working, and for the appliance repairman who fixed hers. 

Update: Lou Ann is thankful for
my small group, for the young children at the table with a healthy appetite, for the freedom to get in the car and drive without fear. I am thankful for Paul's love for the Philippians and how we too can share that deep affection because of the gospel.
What about you? For what are you thankful? Share in the comments.

Next Thursday, we'll post again. We hope you will join in and share with use your thankful thoughts. Sometimes, hearing how others are thankful is motivation for us to realize how much we can be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gospel Reminders

Our theme this month is thanksgiving. Like Melissa, I had debated about making a list of thankful items, which would have been easy to knock out, but I also have a confession to make.

I don't always have an attitude of gratitude. 

In fact, I am downright ungrateful at times towards a kind and loving God. I can quickly forget His goodness and complain like the Israelites in the wilderness. (Ex. 14: 11) I've wondered whether He has forgotten to be gracious. (Psalm 77:9) I've doubted His timing. (John 11: 21) I could use trials as an excuse, but James doesn't let me off the hook either. (James 1:2) In so many ways, I fall short of giving thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:18) 

There's no doubt that I have not done as I ought, but where I have failed…

God does not deal with me according to my sins. He does not repay me according to my iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)
God is faithful and just to forgive my sins. (1 John 1:9)
God receives me because of Christ, not because I'm thankful. (Heb. 10:19-23)

So even though I am deficient yet Christ is all sufficient. I am still a work in progress, but God is faithful to complete what He has started. And for these gospel reminders,  I am very thankful.


It's your turn now. What are you thankful for today? How does the gospel inform your thankfulness?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Join in the gratitude!

Just a reminder to our readers that the month of November will focus on thanksgiving. We would like very much for you to join with us as we give thanks this month.

Each Thursday, we will post your thankful thoughts. At any time, on any day, if you would like to share with us what you are thankful for, we would love it! Simply leave a comment to share, and on Thursday, we will post your thankful thoughts in a separate post.

Being thankful is so important. It's a way to allow Christ to shine through us.  For what are you thankful?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Giving Thanks When You're Hurting

We're setting aside the month of November to discuss thankful attitudes. I've always felt like I could write thanksgiving posts with one hand tied behind my back. It's not that difficult to come up with some cheesy, schmaltzy post about all the blessings in our lives when we're trying to impress others. We don our Suzy Christian masks and pull out all the right words. After all, Jesus died for our sins and that's plenty to be thankful for!

I'm not trying to trivialize the typical Thanksgiving post. We all mean well, and we know we should be thankful. Indeed, we have much to be thankful for. But the difference between knowing that and living it...well, sometimes that's a chasm too wide to cross.

Such is how I was feeling last week. I was disappointed and discouraged. I was deeply hurt, and I didn't feel like putting on a fake smile and sloughing it off. I needed to mourn a bit. Providentially, my Bible reading the next morning answered some of the questions I was struggling with. I began to see how to handle the situation,  but I didn't understand why it was happening. I wanted comfort.

As I was getting ready for work, I was listening to Pandora's Sovereign Grace station. One of the songs brought tears to my eyes.

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified
~Mark Altrogge


I realized then that too often my thanksgiving is conditional. I am quick to praise God in the good times; it's not so easy when I'm hurting. Yet a life that glorifies God requires me to give thanks equally, in all circumstances. Not that I should put on a fake smile and thank God for the thorn - Paul asked God three times to remove his (2 Cor.12:8) - but that I should thank Him that He is sovereign over the thorn and every detail of my life. Even when I'm hurting.

______________________

Come Weary Saints by Sovereign Grace Music is a beautiful and encouraging compilation of songs for times of pain and suffering