Thanksgiving 2008

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Comes now another Thanksgiving, and I have to say that I can’t get enough of them. This is a glorious harvest home music festival, one that strikes all the right notes.

One of the things I have noticed over the years is that the so-called sons of Issachar (1 Chron. 12:32) tend to be on the gloomy side. And, across the way from them, those with an upbeat super attitude appear not to have a clue about what is going on. If your team is down by some forty points in the fourth quarter, and the cheerleaders are just bouncing around, cute as ever, at some point you begin to suspect that they didn’t really come there to watch the game.

But clear-headed insight into the prevailing idolatries of our day and profound thanksgiving to God for all His kindnesses to us are not inconsistent. In fact it is inconsistent to separate them. Simple pessimism is as carnal as simple optimism. What we need is cogent criticism showing just how bad things are, coupled with deep and overflowing gratitude. Those two things together require the grace of God, and are clear evidence of the presence of that grace.

It doesn’t just happen — those who would be wise in this have to work through it, as the Spirit and Word direct them. Habakkuk had to work through it, but he came at the end to this conclusion. Despite the Babylonians, despite the apostasies and failings of God’s people, despite it all . . .

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17-18).

Christ has come; the devil has been thrown down. The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. All the nations of men have been purchased with the blood of the Son of God, and we have the privilege of bringing this good news to them. They don’t understand it to be good news yet, but the power of the gospel is inexorable, and the earth will one day be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and will be as joyful as the oceans are wet. The entire world will one day overflow with thanksgiving and praise, and we have the privilege here and now of establishing pockets of this coming thanksgiving and praise. This afternoon, as you and your family sit down around a table straining under the goodness of God, you are establishing beachheads of thanksgiving. Have a second helping of mashed potatoes, don’t stint on the gravy, and do it in the presence of the God who rejoices over you with singing. Go, fight, win.

But thanksgiving unexpressed or thanksgiving generalized is not really thanksgiving at all. What I have said above applies to the entire lot of us. What comes below is what gratitude impells me to express. And though it is my duty to say these things, it is the kind of duty that would, if neglected, cause me to pop. It is my duty to breathe too, and I am of course very obedient.

I am thankful for the gospel, and for godly parents who brought me up in an environment saturated with that gospel. All thanksgiving and praise to God the Father who determined what would be, to Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, who died for me, and to the Holy Spirit, who gathers it all together.

As I write, Nancy is already busy with the Thanksgiving meal. She is a fantastic cook, and everything she serves up is a striking but inadequate metaphor for her. When I look at the table after she is done with her labors, I see her wisdom in the arrangements, her sense of beauty in how the table is decorated, her kindness in the places set for the little ones, her covenant commitments in the size of the table, her work ethic in how much she has accomplished, her intelligence in the logistics involved, and her sweetness in the pies. And of course the food is also hot.

I am extremely thankful for all my kids and kids-in-law. They are an extremely fruitful and hard-working bunch, and very happy in all of it. The thirteen grandkids are thriving in homes that are diametrically opposed to the reigning foolishness outside in the world, and yet these homes are not cranky places filled with nay-saying. All of them love the Lord, all are faithful Christians, and all of them are full of beans and bright ideas. I have some trouble keeping track of how many opportunities they all are creating.

I am extremely grateful for the institutions I am associated with, and with all the faithful people who labor in them. Heading the list of course is the session and congregation of Christ Church. I also mean Logos School, New St. Andrews College, Canon Press, Credenda, Anselm House, Greyfriars Hall, Collegiate Reformed Fellowship, Community Christian Ministries, Leaptide Literary Group, Gorilla Poet Productions, along with all the rest of them coming down the pike.

I am grateful for my nation and my people. I am privileged to be alive in this time of crisis and opportunity, and to have the loyalties and obligations that I have. This is as good a time as any to note that thanksgiving is not the same thing as carnal pride at all. And neither does thanksgiving exclude faithful rebuke. In order to deliver the faithful wounds that a friend and faithful son must sometimes deliver, one must be a friend and faithful son. Cynics certainly have the motivation to criticize . . . but no real right to do so. God never asks us to sacrifice the fifth commandment on the altar of the first commandment. The law of God is all of a piece, as James teaches us. And how can you love the God whom you have not seen when you don’t love your people, whom you have seen?

At the same time, because idolatries are very common in this area, I need to emphasize that I am grateful to the triune God for giving me the gift of being American, and not grateful to America for giving me God. Idaho is a great place to live, but when it comes to theological acuity, it has to be said that America is kind of a buffoon. Let’s be God’s people, give thanks in the right way as diligent Christians, and do something about that, shall we?

And last — not the last of my gratitude, but the last for this post — I am grateful to God for the tools He has given me. I am regularly astonished at what my computers can do, at the search capabilities of my Logos software, the possibilities for ministry created by the electronics revolution, the doors opened by the Internet, how many books I am privileged to own and read, and so forth. When I consider my own limited abilities, and what technology does with them, I feel like a guy who worked with a shovel for decades, but then was suddenly given a shiny, new backhoe, and is now moving dirt like a madman — expanded ministry through hydraulics. That’s me up in the cab pulling on levers, saying, “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!”

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