Ah, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, for many, is the true beginning of the holiday season in America. These “many” have been fighting off the urge to play Christmas music or scolding everyone they know that Christmas music must never be played until the day after Thanksgiving. They do not like that every nation-wide store has been doing Christmas for a month now or more (Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart come to mind). In their minds, Christmas must wait its turn.
Now, I love Christmas. I start with one or two Christmas tunes in July-ish, then every month ramp it up until mid-November when I am full board Christmas (in fact, right now I am listening to “Christmas Time Again” by Steven Curtis Chapman). Yet, even though I do this, I think the people I spoke of above have a good point. It is a good thing to take some time and be thankful.
As Christians we are to be thankful about a number of things that God commands (see my last year’s post). So we should always have an attitude of thanksgiving. But stepping back and being über thankful with others, I think is a practice worthy giving our full attention to.
So I would like to take this blog post and share with you what I am thankful for. Imagine we are sitting at the Thanksgiving table, we’ve just enjoyed an incredible meal, and we are now going to share what we are thankful for. I’ll start. Annnnnnnd, as a special treat, I have ask my precious wife, Michelle, to also share with you what she is thankful for. I trust you will be uplifted and will be spurred on to find many good things to be thankful … including the coming of the Christmas season. 🙂
Superficially (but all good things come from the Lord, right? – Jas 1:17), I love the various traditions that surround Thanksgiving, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, a Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys game, a “Turkey Football” in the backyard, pictures of people dressed up as turkey’s in various marathons around the country, and videos on Facebook of people trying to drop a frozen turkey into a vat of frying oil. I love all this and am thankful for each.
Food! I am thankful for the food of Thanksgiving. There is nothing quite like all the fixin’s at Thanksgiving. Turkey (baked or fried, doesn’t matter to me), stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. God could have given us one taste-bud and left it at that, but no. God gave us 10,000 taste-buds! Why? For His glory, of course, in that tasting all the varieties of foods (especially at Thanksgiving), we would thank Him. I am thankful for my given taste-buds.
Of course, I am thankful for each one of my family members. I have parents who love the Lord Jesus Christ and love His church. I am grateful for their legacy of Christ-like love. I have 3 older siblings (two in full-time ministry and one who is a hard-worker and loves the church). I have four younger adopted sisters who I am thankful that God has placed in our family. They are, in their own ways, precious to the “original” Peterson family. What a joy to be a Peterson and for this, I am thankful!
I am super thankful for my church. At graduation from seminary last May, I wasn’t sure what kind of church Michelle and I would be in. Now, having been in NW Arkansas for 1.5 years, I can say, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I serve under elders who love God, love His Word, and love the people in the church. They are kind, compassionate, hospitable, and firmly grounded in God’s infallible Word. Furthermore, they are excellent teachers and leaders. I am so thankful for their friendship, their trust in me, and their strong commitment to our little fellowship of God’s saints.
I am overwhelmingly thankful for my wife. She is a delight to my heart, a woman who loves her Savior, and an excellent woman who cares for our home, the youth gals, the people of our church, and me. I knew I married a treasure, but I had no idea that the treasure God gave me would be refined as she has been. Sorry gentlemen, but I got the best one. I am so thankful for her.
Finally, I am thankful and humbled to know “the great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). For I was a slave to my sin, but God, by His mercy, set me free (Rom 6:17-18) and has qualified me, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to share “in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Col 1:12). I did nothing to earn or deserve His salvation. My eternal security is purely by God’s grace (Eph 2:8-9) and I trust that the good work He began in me, He will complete it (Phil 1:6). Furthermore, I am thankful that He has called me to the work of the ministry. Now according to Scripture, every true Christian is to be actively involved in their local church—that means more than just showing up on Sunday mornings and giving some money (Heb 10:24-25; 1 Cor 12:12-27), but many men, including me, have been called to make the church a full-time vocation. And I love it!!! What a joy to spend my days studying God’s Word in order to teach and shepherd God’s people. Many people told me over the years, “if you can do anything else besides ministry, then go do that, because ministry is very hard when done according to how God has laid it out in Scripture.” Well, I have thought many times over this and I cannot see any other path than full-time vocation ministry. Yes, it is hard; people break your heart and betray you. Yet, it is so much joy to learn to love, teach, and shepherd as my Lord Jesus did. So I am thankful that God has given me this HUGE responsibility, but not without His strength and peace.
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Looking back on this past year, I can think of many things, events, and people that I am thankful to God for, but a few of them stick out in my mind.
First, I am thankful for God directing our steps to this wonderful Bible teaching church in Springdale, AR where Greg gets to teach the youth and I get to serve along with him. We have the privilege of sitting under excellent exegetical Bible teaching every week and seeing the godly care of our elders shepherd this church. I’m so thankful that God has grown my love for His local church here.
Second, I am thankful for the various forms of fellowship and ministry I get to be involved in with our church. These include meeting with young ladies to do Bible studies & Christ-centered book studies, learning Scripture with a group of 20 older ladies on Thursday mornings led by a godly 91 year old lady, and I get to do music for Bible Clubs with ladies from our church in local public elementary schools.
Third, I am thankful for the various material gifts the Lord has given, such as being fully supported by our church so that I don’t have to work, being able to afford and move into our first home (and all the craziness that involved), and being free from any school debt. The last one there (being free from school debt) is HUGE, as many of you know. If it weren’t for many generous gifts through the years of schooling (two bachelor degrees and two masters degrees), we would not have the freedom we do have with our money to support our church nor like-minded missionary friends.
Fourth, I am thankful for good health. You must know that I am the spouse that ends up with the lumps and bruises …… literally. This past year, I discovered a large lump in my breast, but it came back negative. At summer camp this past year, I was playing a game with the youth when I came down on my ankle badly (it swelled up to the size of an orange). I was on the couch for 6-weeks because I couldn’t walk on it. Thankfully, my ankle has fully recovered and I am able to walk, hike, ride my bike, and go to the gym without much problem.
Fifth, I am thankful for God’s perfect plan. Even though we desire to have kids, God, in His kind sovereignty, has not granted that to us yet. We are thankful for the “extra time” to love on our church through serving, hosting meals, meeting one-on-one with students and parents, going to our youths’ sporting events, and serving in the nursery. We trust God’s “Plan A” for us in this area and know that His perfect, sovereign plan is best.
Finally, I am thankful for my family. For my loving parents who have generously provided some wonderfully practical additions to our home like a grill, new front door, and washer. For them, I am also thankful for their example to us of older godly folks living the “retirement age” going full steam ahead doing Kingdom work for the Lord (fyi, they are in their mid-70s). In addition to my parents, I am thankful for my best friend & husband, Greg, who challenges me spiritually to keep pursuing Christ more than anything. I’m thankful I get to sit under his godly teaching every Sun & Wed in the youth group. The longer we’re married, the more I realize what a gift he is to me.