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By David Mathis — 1 year ago
I thank God for Thanksgiving. Particularly this year, as a father of four, ages 11 to 4, I feel a fresh sense of awe, and gratitude, that my generally unbelieving nation pauses for a weekday each November formally dedicated to giving thanks.
It may seem like a trifle to most people. But for those with eyes to see, this is a dazzling ray of God’s common kindness in our day, however much we grieve the public commendations of sin and unbelief that surround us in other ways. Our heavenly Father “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). To his common kindnesses of beautiful days, human minds and bodies and words, friends and family, food and shelter — the everyday divine kindnesses we take for granted until they’re threatened or gone — add this annual mercy: Thanksgiving Day.
Whatever conversations it might prompt with neighbors and coworkers, the Thanksgiving holiday is also an especially rich opportunity for moms and dads. To be sure, if practicing thanksgiving happens only once a year in our homes, then our children will not be much better for it. But if this one day is a marker, a springboard, an annual emphasis and re-kindler that feeds a regular theme and habit in our families, then we have an occasion, in this one day, to highlight one of the most important realities God calls us to teach our sons and daughters.
Thanksgiving Honors God
When we ourselves give thanks to God, out loud for our children to hear, we model for them something very basic and profound about being human: we are created by God, for God.
God made us in his image (Genesis 1:27), and what do images do? They image. They reflect, display, make visible. They ensure the one being imaged is remembered and honored. God made us to reflect him and display him in the world around us. We image him through our visible actions and our audible (or written) words that give meaning to our actions. This fundamental purpose and calling makes thanksgiving essential to life.
Sin, however, mars our imaging. In Romans 1:21, the apostle Paul gives us a revealing glimpse into what has gone wrong in the human race: “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”
We Did Not Give Thanks
At one level, our plight in this world is remarkably simple: God made us, and surrounded us with a world teeming with good, and we failed to thank him as we ought.
God showered us with warm sunny days, beautiful blue skies and green grass, stunning cloud formations to dazzle the eye and provide shade, trees bearing mouthwatering fruit, and the greatest wonder of all in the created world: each other and the marvels that are human bodies and brains. Our world, even now under the sway of sin, still abounds with God’s goodness and kindness. And we ourselves have been given life and countless blessings, even in our most trying of times and disabilities.
Our first response to God’s lavish provision, very simply, should have been to give him thanks. To do so honors the one who made us and provides for us. But we did not give thanks — whether from indifference or contempt — and so we dishonored him. We rebelled against one of the most basic purposes for our existence. To give God thanks honors him, and to honor him — our very design and calling as humans — includes giving him thanks.
Ingratitude, then, is no minor vice. And thanksgiving is no insignificant act for a creature designed to image God.
Feel God’s Pleasure
We were made to give God thanks. And when we do — and model it for our children, teaching them to do the same — we taste one of the great pleasures God made us to enjoy. As Olympian Eric Liddell (1902–1945) memorably said that God made him to run, and he felt God’s pleasure when he ran, so we all were made to give God thanks, and feel God’s pleasure when we do.
“Will our children grow up in homes that thank God daily, regularly, spontaneously, gladly?”
Yet we find ourselves, as fathers and mothers, with a call to raise the next generation, while living in times that celebrate pride, rather than humility. Our generation’s sense of entitlement is off the charts, and rising. Will thanksgiving be a trifle for our children? Will they assume grace, assume God’s provision, assume blessing, assume resources, assume ability, assume community? Or will they presume little, and learn to thank much and express it?
Will our children grow up in homes that thank God daily, regularly, spontaneously, gladly — even as Thanksgiving Day adds its annual exclamation point?
Jesus Gave Thanks
In the end, despite our many failures, we want to model for our children what it would be like for God himself to live as human. And when he did come as man, he gave thanks. Even as God himself, Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus embraced the fullness of the humanity he took at that first Christmas, all the way down to the basics of our flesh and blood — including thanksgiving.
He thanked his Father in prayer (Matthew 11:25–26; Luke 10:21), not just privately but out loud for his disciples to hear. When he fed the four thousand, “he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Matthew 15:36; Mark 8:6). And when he fed five thousand, he began the same way (John 6:11). So memorable, in fact, was his giving thanks that later John refers to the location where the miracle occurred as “the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23).
“Jesus was the supreme human, and the supreme giver of thanks.”
Then, on the night before he died, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples (Luke 22:17; 1 Corinthians 11:24). So too, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and they all drank to the spectacularly gracious new covenant in his blood (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19). So pronounced was Jesus’s thanksgiving during that Last Supper that some traditions call the rite of remembrance “the Eucharist,” from the Greek for thanksgiving.
For Jesus, the God-man, giving thanks to his Father was no trifle. Jesus was the supreme human, and the supreme giver of thanks. Nor should thanksgiving be small for us, or for our children. What an honor, and pleasure, to not only taste for ourselves the joy of giving God thanks, but also share this joy with our children. Thank you, God, for Thanksgiving.
By Marshall Segal — 12 months ago
Have you ever wondered why history began with a lonely husband?
Why did God make man, and then pause? Why did he parade “every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens” before the man, before finally giving him a bride, a helper, a queen? In a paradise filled with good, there was one glaring not-good: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Marriage was a late arrival to the garden, and God clearly meant for it to be that way. With meticulous and patient care, he labored to set this wide and wondrous stage called earth, all so that these lines would reverberate, like a pleasant earthquake, through all he had made:
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. (Genesis 2:23)
Marriage was the consummation, not a last-minute addition — the image of God in flesh and blood, male and female, intimacy and security and procreation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them” (Genesis 1:27–28). God holds back marriage just long enough for us to feel how colorless a world without marriage would be. And then the wedding comes, and that mounting tension holding the whole earth hostage suddenly resolves — God makes two from one, and then one from two.
The beauty of marriage, however, wasn’t the inspiration for that first love story. God let the lonely man search high and low, near and far, all in vain, to hint at another love, a higher love, a better Groom.
Why Does Marriage Exist?
God let Adam stand uncomfortably long at the altar of creation so that we would long to meet Eve. Then he waited centuries more before sending his own Son to the altar, so that we would long to meet the Bridegroom and love him when he comes. Through the apostle Paul, God himself tells us what he was doing as he officiated that first marriage:
“A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31–32)
“Marriage doesn’t exist to remedy the loneliness of singleness; marriage exists to tell us that we need Jesus.”
Marriage doesn’t exist just to remedy the loneliness of singleness; marriage exists to tell us that we need Jesus. It’s a living exposition of Christ’s relentless and passionate pursuit of his chosen people, the church — and of the church’s restless ache for him. He would not rest until he had her; she would not rest until she had been found by him.
God calls husbands to love their wives in a way that shows the world something of Christ’s delight in us:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
Likewise, God calls wives to love their husbands in a way that shows the world something of our delight in Christ:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:22–23)
God has made each marriage a canvas for spiritual reality. A wife’s words, attitudes, actions, and decisions either honor or betray the Bride of Christ. A husband’s words, attitudes, actions, and decisions either honor or betray the Bridegroom.
My Delight Is in Her
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, when God reaches again and again for the imagery of marriage to explain the zeal and intensity of his redeeming love. For instance, in Isaiah 54:5–6:
For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name;and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.
When God conceived of husbands, he wanted us to comprehend something of what he is like. He painted weddings and marriages into his story as illustrations so that he could say to his people, “You shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:4–5).
God made husbands to delight in their wives so that we might know that God really does delight in us — that we might believe God when he promises, “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19–20).
God Walks the Aisle
Though he never married, Jesus knew he was the long-awaited husband of history. He knew his coming was the love the world had waited for.
When the Pharisees came to him and condemned his disciples for not fasting, he said, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15). For centuries, the bride had watched and waited, wallowing in sin and shame and separation — and then he came. The seed God had planted in the garden finally sprung up in the little-known garden of Bethlehem.
Instead of removing a rib, he now took on ribs and walked the long and lonely aisle to Calvary, “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7–8). The Bridegroom did not emerge dressed in white, but he was clothed in humility, raised in obscurity, showered with hostility, and then crucified in agony.
The first husband searched and searched to find his bride; this last husband died to have his.
Marriage of the Lamb
We know that marriage — in the garden and today — is meant to prepare us for something beyond marriage because one day marriage will end. “In the resurrection,” the Bridegroom says, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). God placed a bride and groom at the center of creation to plant the seed of a future marriage between Christ and his church. When Jesus returns, however, the marriages we have known will give way to the Marriage for which we were made.
“When Jesus returns, the marriages we have known will give way to the marriage for which we were made.”
When Adam came to take Eve, he sang, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” When Jesus comes to take his church, the nations will sing, “like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder,”
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure. (Revelation 19:6–8)
An angel will declare, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). The joy of a husband who finally finds his wife has always been a whisper of the thrill we will feel when this great and final wedding comes.
God gave us marriage so that he might one day give us to Christ. God gave us wives so that we might see something of the beauty he sees in his church. God gave us husbands so that we might see something of the courage, strength, and love in his Son.
By Rachel Jankovic — 3 months ago
When I was a young mother with an overflowing stroller, accustomed to strangers counting my children aloud, I could not have been more aware that this particular kind of fruitfulness was not generally admired in the world. I received vast amounts of godly encouragement from my husband, from the word, and from the church — but I was also very clear on why I needed that kind of encouragement.
Believing that what God says about children is true is not the same as living like it is true. As it turns out, this tremendous blessing of children that God sent into my life was the ground on which I learned the glorious truth that baskets full of fruit are heavy. Glorious, bountiful, fruitful, faithful living does not feel easy, carefree, relaxing, simple, or streamlined. The life of faithful mothering, it turns out, must actually be full of faith.
Mothers need to believe that the work we are doing is important, that it honors God, that it matters eternally that we do it well. And we need to remember these things when we are physically exhausted, emotionally frazzled, and spiritually thin. It can be hard to believe — in the middle of a wild day of toddler life in your little home — that what you are doing is kingdom-building, dragon-slaying, gospel-proclaiming, glorious work.
“It can be hard to believe that what you are doing is kingdom-building, dragon-slaying, gospel-proclaiming, glorious work.”
The flesh wants to see the Cheerios and the sippy cups and the sticky floors, and it wants to wallow in feelings of not being seen or understood. The flesh wants to believe that what can be seen easily by tired eyes is the extent of the matter. This is all. You, the bedraggled mother of all these dirty children, are wasting your life. You settled. You have been deceived, and now you are being shown to have been a fool with no ambition.
But the flesh, like always, is not on our side. It must be overcome by faith. It must not be listened to, put in an authoritative position, or believed.
Games We Play with Kids
I am sure that mothers throughout all of history have struggled with being discouraged, but our time is actually unique in the momentum that goes against the basic, faithful fruitfulness of Christian marriage. There were other eras when fruitfulness and fertility were still admired by the world. The flesh would not have needed to stand up to so much in that context, and the devil would have found other ways to keep women off task. But in this time, in our era, we are surrounded by a world that thinks it is inventing itself.
A young Christian couple can get married today and announce, without pushback, what their goals and dreams are. Essentially, this is our board game of life, and these are the rules we are playing with. Our goals are financial — we will view owning our own home as a reward. We want to plant for a life of leisure and harvest the blessing of relaxing vacations. In this world we think we are making, children would not be a blessing. They would not be a reward. They will not be our inheritance. We’ll probably choose a dog at some point. Success will be measured by our desires, and we will have done well when we have pleased ourselves.
But for Christians, we cannot imagine that we’re actually building this world, or the rules. We are not planning out the purpose of our own life — God the Creator has done that, and he has given us his word. This is the truth about the real world, about what actually matters, about what we must value and pursue and believe and live for. God has already decided these things, and they are not up in the air for us to decide.
What God Calls Children
If you look to Scripture to tell you what to think about children, you will find a shocking contrast to the worldly thoughts that all of us have been marinating in.
Even those of us who have always been pro-life have nonetheless taken on some thinking that children are objectively an interruption, a burden, a difficulty — unless you decided you wanted one like the world wants a pet. We have still thought the barefoot pregnant woman in the kitchen is a little lowbrow. We have allowed the world to shape our understanding on the most fundamental things of life.
What we need more than anything is to marinate more deeply in the truth of God’s word, to let those unbelieving thoughts be driven out by reality. Because what God says is reality, and we cannot and should not want to opt out of it. God says,
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is that man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3–5)
The modern Christian couple will shy away from almost everything in this passage. I don’t want that reward, thanks. I don’t care to be fighting with anyone, so this military language does not appeal. I’d prefer to not have a quiver of any kind really, much less one that is full of life. I don’t think that sounds like a blessing I want . . .
If you feel yourself shying away from the language that Scripture uses about children, know that what you are shying away from is blessing — God’s blessing. There is nothing in the world so heavy, so glorious, so desirable as God’s blessings.
Another Unexpected Blessing
Those first four children of mine that used to shock the world are now all taller than I am, all teenagers. It is easy for me to see the glory now. Proverbs 17:6 says that children’s children are the crown of the aged — and we are far enough into this parenting life to know that crowns are made out of things that take great effort. Gold that must be mined and refined in fire, precious stones that are found deep in the earth and cut and polished and worked until they can be set. Glory is heavy, like gold — but also like gold, it is real and precious.
“What God says about the world is reality, and what the world says about him is nothing but a mist.”
God has blessed us with a surprise pregnancy this year, a baby number eight — and while being pregnant at 41 was never one of my plans or ideas, I am deeply grateful. I know from the inside out that what God says about children is true and real. And when people are inclined to look at me with my pregnant belly like I am the dot on a wild exclamation point, I agree with them. This exclamation point is needed, because it follows after a testimony that God is faithful. He is merciful. He is doing great things for us.
Our God is the living God, the one who spoke all of reality into existence. What he says about the world is reality, and what the world says about him is nothing but a mist.