Mark T. Bube
Give thanks to Him; bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And His faithfulness to all generations (Ps. 100:4-5).
Time: the older we get, the faster it seems to go by. Is it that time of the year again? When we were very young, it seemed to take forever for our birthday to arrive. But now, birthdays seem to blast by with ever increasing frequency.
When we became young adults, we had the feeling that our whole life was just beginning to open up before us. The possibilities for the good that we thought we might do seemed boundless. Some years later, however, while we rejoice in the grace that has been shown to us each day in Christ Jesus, we also find ourselves confessing that, while by God's grace we have had some "good days" in our lifelong struggle with sin, we also have had many days when we wondered how the Lord could possibly love such miserable sinners as we are.
Scripture tells us that God created all thingsincluding time. One of the principal characteristics of time is its periodic nature. Time is divided into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years, which are continually being recycled as the clock goes by. We tend to think of ourselves as being forty-eight years old (maybe even forty-eight years and fourteen days!), not 1.5 billion seconds, or 25 million minutes, or even 17,546 days old. There are other, maybe less precise, units of time as well, such as day and night, or the seasons, which can refer to the calendar (winter, spring, etc.) or perhaps to the local economy (planting or harvest). One thing is clear, though: "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22). And, of course, there is the Sabbath, that great foretaste of the timeless eternal rest that awaits God's children.
In schooling his Old Covenant people in righteousness, our Lord laid before them a pattern of periodically remembering his goodness: "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you" (Deut. 16:16-17).
The Old Testament feasts have passed away (having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ), and today we are charged to pray without ceasing and in everything to give thanks. The Greek word for the giving of thanks is eucharisteo, which reminds us of the words of the institution of the Lord's Supper: "And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me' " (1 Cor. 11:24).
Most of us return thanks to God before each meal, acknowledging that the food set before us has come from his hand. And yet, down through the years, God's people have also found the practice of remembering his goodness and faithfulness to be very appropriate during the harvest season. It certainly is in our own day, when true religionwhich begins with the fear of the Lordis increasingly being either completely ignored or actively ridiculed as some form of superstitious fanaticism. We need to be reminded that the Lord is God, that we are to think his thoughts after him, that occasions to suffer shame for his name are a cause for rejoicing, and that, in his works of providence, he takes special care of his peoplehis bride, the churchand disposes all things for our good.
Well, what is it that you have this year to be thankful for? With what grace and good gifts has God showered you?
You begin, of course, with God himselfthat he is your Godand that he is good. And you go on to see his grace in your redemption by Jesus Christ from the fires of hell. You have the gift of his Holy Spirit dwelling within you. You have the assurance, as you endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him, of being in the state of grace, with the hope of the glory of God. He has provided ministers to open the Scriptures to you every week as you gather to worship the King and hear his Word preached, and elders who watch over you as Christ's undershepherds. You have loved onesespecially the kindred citizens of heavengiven to accompany you on your earthly pilgrimage. Finally, as our Lord reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount, you have been blessed in "all these things [that have been] added to you."
If this has been an especially difficult year for youwith, perhaps, the loss of a loved one, health, or employmentyou have even more to be thankful for, as God uses these things to draw you ever closer to himself. He is causing you to be ever more diligent in the use of the outward and ordinary means of grace, by which the benefits of Christ's mediation are communicated to his people.
Our reasons for thanksgiving should not be restricted to our individual or family blessings. What is it that we in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church have to be thankful for in the past year? We think of the Lord's Days, on which we have gathered to worship him, and the triune God has met with his chosen people. We marvel as Orthodox Presbyterian congregations are being established here at home in numbers that surpass anything we have seen in our sixty-three years of history, and new presbyteries are being formed.
We are humbled by the privilege he grants to us of carrying his precious gospel to the ends of the earth. We are awestruck as we see the power of his word preached to the hearts of the heathen. We are filled with gratitude as kindred churches, who are also loved by Jesus, are being gathered and established in remote places like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the jungles of Suriname to worship the living and true God.
We have seen the internship program grow and another generation of young men being better equipped for the pastoral ministry. A new Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC has been established, and the first courses are now being taught. Much-needed Christian educational materials continue to be produced.
We go on and think of the servants whom Christ gave to his church, whose earthly labors were concluded in 1999. Who will soon forget George Haney's wise, humble, and patient counsel and his ability to put a fatherly arm around the shoulders of a younger man facing a difficult time in his ministry? Who will forget Charlie Dennison, with those eyes that twinkled with delight as he led God's people into the presence of the King in worship, who so passionately reminded us of the heritage that is ours, by God's grace, through the struggle and sacrifice of those who have gone before us? We remember Roger Ramsey, who taught us much about persevering in grace through long periods of unrelieved suffering. We think of Harvie Conn, whose hearty laugh has been described as "a handshake heard across the room," and whose work on the mission field among the street women in Korea, despite the very real personal danger, pressed upon us our Lord's concern for the "outsiders." We remember Chip Stonehouse, who gloried in the grace that is shown to us sinners. Oh yes, God has been good to us.
In 1949 the Sixteenth General Assembly of the young Orthodox Presbyterian Church determined to "set before the churches a plan of setting aside the month of November as a month of a special thank offering for missionary work and Christian education," and the first Thank Offering was received. Now, a half-century later, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is preparing to receive the fifty-first Thank Offering for the same purpose: to advance the cause of Christ through missionary outreachboth at home and abroadand Christian education.
This month, as Orthodox Presbyterians have been doing for the past fifty Novembers, please join with us in remembering God's faithfulness through a generous Thank Offering. Yes, "the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations."
Mr. Bube is the general secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions of the OPC. He quotes the NASB. Reprinted from New Horizons, November 1999.