The Ordinary Things

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Brian Waple

As I sit here pondering what I’m going to write, it occurred to me that it is in the ordinary things that we find God. Now, this is not to say that God isn’t present in the spectacular and majestic and extraordinary—He most certainly is. But, as we go through our days, as routine as they are, we have opportunities to see God working. And we have the privilege of joining Him in those things, being present to what He is doing, and being a part of the blessing that comes from Him. And when we think about that, shouldn’t we be thankful?

I was having breakfast with my son the other day. We talked about some pretty nasty events going on in the world and how things seem to be verging on the chaotic and hopeless. As we were speaking, I was reminded that God is in all of that, the good and the bad, just as He is present in our conversation. And then it dawned on me like a lightbulb turning on—be thankful. Be thankful for the opportunity to spend the morning with my son and speak with him of things secular and spiritual; be thankful that he has a good, reliable car and is willing to do all the driving around Seattle on a wet Saturday morning (Praise God for that!); be thankful that he is happy with his life and is able to take care of himself and is respected for what he does; be thankful that Cindy and I have a weekly opportunity to spend the day with our granddaughter and be a part of her growing and developing; be thankful that she has parents who love each other; be thankful that there is no strife in my immediate family and that we get along really well. And be thankful that God loves me so much that He has blessed me with an incredible wife who cares about me, looks after me, and is willing to spend the rest of her life with me.

These are things I normally take for granted—these ordinary, some would say insignificant, non-Facebook worthy things. But they are moments when God speaks to us in the ordinary and shows us how much He loves us and how much we really are blessed. And our attitude should be one of thanks. In his book The Voice of Jesus, Gordon T. Smith writes, “Gratitude is fundamental for the Christian believer because through thanksgiving we open our hearts to the Spirit of God” (p. 85). Wouldn’t it be a shame to close our hearts off to the generous blessings of the Spirit of God simply because we refuse to be grateful?

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT). During your day, take a moment to think about how God is being present to you and blessing you in the ordinary things. And then take some time to give thanks.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

The Most Valuable Thing My Minivan Taught Me

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Nate Champneys

When your minivan has 265,000 miles on it, you can be grateful for anything that works!My minivan has 265,000 miles on it and, as you would expect, it has many things wrong with it. One thing that I have taken for granted for years and that has stopped working in the last year or so is the heat controls. The heat controls are digital, and the control panel has completely stopped working, so the only thing I can control now is the fan speed. But intermittently the control will come back to life. Most of the time we get into our car and we just expect things to work and we forget the blessing that a simple thing like heat can be until it’s gone. But when my heat control works in my car occasionally, it is a cause for celebration and thanksgiving.

I have lived with my heat control the way it is for about a year, but this past summer, when the weather turned hot, it was not fun to live without A/C. Here is a crazy story—on the first day of the summer heat, I turned on my car and, lo and behold, everything worked, and I had some relief from the heat. My A/C continued to work all summer long, until the days turned cool and then, just as it had come to life, all the lights went dark, and I was back to only having fan control. But let me tell you, every day through the summer when I turned on my car and had wonderful cool air came out the vents, I thanked God for the gift of A/C. In the same way now that winter has come, although my heat control is not working, the system is “stuck” on heat. So, I can turn on the fan and have heat. It’s funny, now, every time I turn on my car and the heat comes on I thank God for the heat in my car.

It’s funny how such a stupid little thing, when taken a way and then restored, can be such a cause for thanksgiving. I began to think, why wait until something is taken away and then returned before thanking God for it? This has caused me to look around my life the last few months for the many little gifts God gives to me every day that I take for granted. When we look around at our lives through the lens of looking for the thousands of blessings God has given us, it really changes our perspective when we complain or worry about the things that we don’t have. God has given us a thousand and one gifts every day that we don’t even thank Him for.

In this Christmas season of giving, we give gifts because of the amazing gift God gave us through His Son, Jesus. But do we take time to recognize all the other gifts he is giving us right now? The clothes you are wearing right now. The laundry soap and water you used to wash them. The dresser you keep them in. The computer or smartphone you are reading this blog post on. The roof over your head right now. The light on the ceiling with electricity making it turn on. The heater that is heating the room where you currently sit. We are not owed any of these things, yet He has provided all of them to us while many people across the world do not have any of these things.

The Christmas season for many is a time of worrying about what gift to get for each person we care about and how we are going to pay for it. I encourage us all to take a moment and look around for the gifts that He is giving to you as you go throughout your day.

James 1:17—“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

“Nothing is Wasted”

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Brian Sharpe

One of my more formative experiences in high school was moving. I was in the middle of my freshman year when my parents came to me and told me that we would be moving from Buffalo, New York to Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that time, I was going to the same high school that my two older brothers had attended. I was having one of my best academic years. I had more friends than I had ever had in my life. I was doing well in sports. My life was going well. I had everything I could have ever wanted, and my parents told me I was moving. That transition was very painful. I went from knowing lots of people to only knowing my parents; all my siblings were out of the house at that point. It was a lonely time in my life. I mean, I could talk to people on the phone, but I had no one I could be with.

I look back at that experience in high school and realize that my family moving was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Now, God did not ask me if I would like to move. God didn’t even tell me that this experience was going to be for my benefit. I’m not sure I would have listened to Him if He had told me. But, looking back, God used that experience to get a hold of my heart and my life. I’m not sure if I would be in ministry today if I had not moved.

God is in the business of guiding and directing our lives. He is writing our story. I guess the question is, “Do we trust Him to write the best story for us?” When I was in high school, it wasn’t a matter of trusting God. In fact, I’m not sure if I was mad at God or if I understood that God was in control. I was too busy looking at my circumstances and not trusting in Him. I have learned since then that I can trust God. I can trust that He is good. I can trust that He knows what He is doing. I can trust Him with the details of my life. I just need to live in obedience and follow His lead.

I couldn’t have predicted all the good that came out of me moving. The opportunities I had because of that move were amazing. I was able to go sailing for 10 days in the British Virgin Islands. I was able to go to Mexico and Guatemala in college on missions trips. I had a friend that was a graduate of New Tribes Bible Institute who encouraged me to go there, and that is where I met my wife. While at New Tribes, I had a friend who after graduation went to Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so I went to Lancaster Bible College. When I graduated from Lancaster, my wife and I applied to churches in New York and Washington, where both of us were from, and God opened the door for me to come to Elim.

Looking back, God knew what he was doing. He knew the work that needed to be done in my life to bring me to Himself and to use me. We never know what God is going to use in our life to bring Him glory, but what we do know is that no experience is wasted in God’s economy. Even the most painful experiences can be used to bring God glory. We can be thankful to God in everything because we know God will use our experience to mold us and shape us into who He wants us to be. In this season, we can be thankful because God is writing His story on our hearts.

What’s the story that He’s writing on your heart? What experiences have you had that you feel have been wasted? Are you trusting God and the story He’s writing? Do you invite others into this story that God is writing? In the next couple weeks, we’re going to invite you to write this God story for others to see. Please open up and let us see what God is doing in and through you.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

It’s the Little Things That Count the Most

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Martin Schlomer and Donna McKenzie

Honestly, I like to see big things happen. Big accomplishments and big progress are home runs that get me excited. However, it’s the little accomplishments, the little wins that make up the real stuff of life. They’re not always very exciting, but they need to be celebrated

Last week, Donna McKenzie reminded me of the critical importance of celebrating the little things, those little victories, which are often overlooked and under-appreciated. As you read what she wrote, make note of those little things you can thank God for. They are bigger gifts than we may realize.

Also, as you read, continue to pray for Jeff, Donna, and Ryan. They’re special people and a gift to this body!

Martin

A Wave of Grief and a Moment of Joy.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what Ryan can and can’t do. In fact, I try very hard not to think about it. Once in a while, though, it sneaks up out of the blue and hits me. It takes me by surprise, then grief overcomes me. Last night was one of those times. I was sitting on the couch, minding my own business, when my neighbors’ son pulled up into their driveway. I looked out the window and saw that he had a few friends with him. They piled out and started chasing each other around. He looked so tall, so strong, and it hit me, reality. He is the same age as Ryan. Their birthdays are only a few days apart. They are both seventeen, soon to be seniors in high school. I sat and watched him for a few minutes, and then sorrow filled my heart. That is what my son should be doing! That is what he would be doing if it wasn’t for the Duchennes. Reality.

aircondionerIt is times like those that bring to light the reality of what Ryan has lost. At this point, the list for what he cannot do has far exceeded what he can do. It is getting harder and harder for him to have any sense of independence. Today I was watching Ryan as he drove his chair into his room. He reached down to the standalone air conditioner, turned it on, then a few minutes later he went back and turned the temperature down. I got to thinking, he does this quite frequently throughout the day. I wanted to cry as I thought about it; watching him do this simple task seemed to bring him so much joy. An air conditioner? YES! Why? Well, Ryan can control it. He can turn it on and off; he doesn’t have to wait or ask for help, this is one thing he can do, independently! It may seem like a little thing; it isn’t driving a car like my neighbors’ son, but it IS something Ryan CAN do and I WILL take it, as small as it might seem, and celebrate it!

Sometimes it is a little thing that can bring a wave of grief, and sometimes it can bring about a moment of joy. For today, I am choosing to see the joy in a little thing. To most, it probably seems minute, but to us, we will celebrate it as a small victory of independence for Ryan!

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

“Oh, Happy Day”

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

last wordBy Nate Champneys

On October 26, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. George Washington, during his presidency, asked for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” although at that time it did not become an official national holiday. Nevertheless, the idea of a day to focus on thankfulness has been a part of our history in the United States of America since our nation was founded. Now yet another Thanksgiving is around the corner with another Christmas almost upon us, and I feel it thus appropriate to focus this week’s Last Word on the idea of thanksgiving.

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” George Washington, October 3, 1789

The above statement is the opening paragraph of a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” given by President Washington. It’s hard to imagine our government making such a statement today. We hear the term, “Separation of Church and State” so often nowadays, but I don’t think people understand what the intent of our nation’s founders was when it came to religion. Obviously if Congress gave such a request to President Washington, they were not opposed to recognizing “Almighty God” as the source of all things good, nor were they opposed to prayer. They were, however, according to our Constitution, opposed to the government making laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They were opposed to government messing with the free practice of worshiping God, not to the worship itself. Thus it was actually the government itself that requested George Washington “to recommend to the people” to have a day of thanksgiving. It wasn’t an order forcing people to thank God, but a recommendation.

Thanksgiving by definition is, “the act of giving thanks.” And “thanks” is defined as, “a good feeling you have towards someone who has helped you, given something to you, etc.” So being that it is a “good feeling,” thanks is an emotion and something that cannot be forced upon someone, but can only be recommended, as Congress did.

But going deeper, thanksgiving by definition has to have an object. You can’t have thanks without a person to whom you are giving thanks. Are you getting it? Without an object, this definition of “thanks” turns into simply “a good feeling.” Without God as the focus of thanksgiving, we are simply happy that we are lucky. We are not thankful.

So to those who do not acknowledge God as the source of every good thing, Thanksgiving is reduced to being simply “Happy Day,” when they are essentially saying, “I’m so happy that I have so much stuff!” This is not meant to be a put-down, but it is the logical conclusion that you must come to if you do not give God the acknowledgment for what He has given you.

For those who recognize the reality that every good and perfect thing comes to us from our Father in Heaven, Thanksgiving Day is just that — a day of Thanksgiving. A day to remember and thank God for His faithfulness. And being that Thursday was instituted by our government, I think it is good to follow the recommendation of George Washington and to also acknowledge the “favors of Almighty God, especially by affording [us] an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for [our] safety and happiness.” So as you sit down around the table with your family and friends on Thursday, ask yourself, “Am I just happy … or am I thankful?”

“So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.” (James 1:16-18 NLT)

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

How Am I to Be Thankful?

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.

By Brian Waple

As we’re preparing for Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about the events of the past week and asking “God, how am I to be thankful?” I’m flying back to Virginia this week because of a serious concern within my own family. There are serious concerns within the Elim family, the nation, and the world that cause us to pause and ask, “How can I be thankful when all of these things are happening?”

I read a post from Katie Kierum the other day, part of which read: “I’m beginning to realize that the purest kind of worship we can experience is through brokenness.” Our brokenness. The brokenness of those we love and care about. It’s through brokenness that we really become aware of just how fragile we are, and how utterly dependent we are on God. And He remains faithful towards us, in spite of us. This alone is cause enough for us to be thankful.

So why does He remain faithful towards us? We certainly don’t deserve it. And it’s certainly not because of anything we’ve done. I think the best answer lies in Scripture. In Romans 5:8 — “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In Ephesians 2:4-6 — “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” And finally, in John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God enfolds us in His arms, broken and pitiful as we are, because He loves us. His kindness and blessings abound. Regardless of what is happening, God loves us and His love for us is everlasting.

So, in spite of everything that is happening to us and around us, in spite of our failings and brokenness, even if we fail to be faithful, God still loves us. And that is how we are to be thankful.

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.