EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day throughout November, we'll bring you one devotional from our archives about Thanksgiving, giving thanks, gratitude, or giving of ourselves. Check back every morning as you thank the Lord for your many blessings!
Dream word – COST
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” NKJV.
A Time of True Thanksgiving
The final Thursday of November, of course, is the dedicated day in America for the celebration of ‘Thanksgiving.’ Harvest Celebrations are however not new. No, not at all. For an innate thankfulness to a ‘Higher Being,’ the ultimate giver of food and fertility is found in almost all indigenous peoples, even amongst the once flourishing, native Indian tribes of America. Yes, the need to say ‘Thank you’ is a human trait, not a Christian one.
Such polity to a ‘Supreme Being’ however, might be offered by pagan peoples, more out of relief and fear rather than be a thankfulness which is offered out of the relaxed joy of a gifted prized possession. Relief in the sense that a seemingly capricious God has finally come through with the goods once more and fear, in the sense that that we must be thankful lest He not continue to come up with the goods next year if we don’t acknowledge His present and most beneficent goodness. If we have to sacrifice an odd virgin to maintain this fertile flow, then so be it. Whatever it takes.
It was a commercial decision to regulate the specific start date of ‘Thanksgiving’ and was overtly chosen by this other ‘nation of shopkeepers’ to make sure that the selling days before Christmas were as long and as profitable as they could possibly be. To this end then, the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus are regularly sacrificed on the altar of commerciality each and every year, for tomorrow in America, is the start of the Christmas period and all the fun and all the feasting, all the selling and all the competing will now get under way with the earnestness gobble of a chocoholic waking up in the Hershey’s factory.
I was told yesterday of a Christian man who after years of serving his local church and heading a very successful ministry to children had one day, just up and left his calling, his duties and his responsibilities. Apparently a tornado had gone through and damaged his own church so badly that one Sunday the doors had to be left shut for that Lord’s day and so, he had opportunity, for the very first time, to go and visit another church nearby. In his opinion, this “other church” was bigger, better and shinier in oh so many ways than his own, that he just “up’d sticks” and decided he would go there instead. Now, we all would like to see this seemingly fickle move as being indicative of some much deeper reasons for the abandonment of years of profitable ministry but no, there was nothing deeper. The reasoning and the decision was as shallow and as a fickle as that. It was very simply, a much more nicer deal.
I think if we are honest, we could acknowledge that much of our church choices are commercial ones. Yes, much of our church choices are from a ‘what’s the best deal I can get for my kids and my marriage, for my future and my personal happiness’ sake, rather than for any other. Pastors know this and so all their programming panders to these ‘spiritually’ commercial needs. So much so, that Pastors have become the high priests of the annual sacrifice of the Virgin and her Son. Oh don’t worry and please don’t be too upset, for this sacrifice can be justified in oh so many ways, that in this now commercialised and man centred religion which we have created, we leaders spend most of our time making sure we are lining our shelves with so much shiny and cut priced Christianity, just to make sure that our shameful sheep might never actually be seduced to go and shop elsewhere.
Yes, most church leaders in America especially, actually live under the dark cloud of a commercial fear, where the Shekinah stenched breath from the mouths of disappointed founding member stockholders, fill the air with the condemnation of commercial loss, the like of which should only be found in the boardrooms of K-Mart and the once great American car industry. Unfortunately though, it is this same cloud of “fear and condemnation of loss” that most of the time fills both the pastor’s leather bound studies during the day and their horror filled dreams during the night. Yes, like all good shopkeepers, pastors face daily the questions of “What do I need to do to keep my shoppers and then go and get me some more!” So, should the congregation numbers drop and with it the fertile flow of money, materials and manpower suddenly cease to flow, then in the face of such commercial condemnation from remaining members, inevitably, the virgin and her Son shall be sacrificed again. Whatever it takes you see? Whatever it takes.
To break the sacrificial commercialism of the church, the question we must ask of our own local churches is this, “What can I give?” Not “What can I get?” The question we must ask of our own local churches is this, “What will it cost me to serve here?” Not, “What can they offer to keep me here?” You see, real Christianity, the heaven branded stuff, is never cut price! Pastors, don’t you know that the possession of something valuable and costly brings with it such a great care and thankfulness from the possessors of the same, that their words and their lives will inevitably ooze with the relaxation and joy of a true thanksgiving. No fear you see, no manipulation, just a confident and heartfelt thankfulness.
This Thanksgiving then Pastor, leader, commercial sacred and spiritual feeder, why don’t you stop the annual sacrificing of both virgin and her Son on the altar of competitive cut price commercial Christianity and simply begin to offer them the real deal? Stop cutting Him down and selling Him cheap! Rather, go raise Him high and make Him costly. Maybe then, maybe in a few years time, we as a nation can then begin to live in a time of true thanksgiving. Tell me tonight then, just how valuable is Your Jesus? Don’t ask yourself, “What will they have to do to keep me?” But rather ask yourself, “What has it cost ME to follow Him?”
Listen: “Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.’”( 2 Samuel 24:24a NKJV)
Pray: I am persuaded, Lord to love You, for I have been changed to bless Your name. I am constrained by this great Gospel, forever to worship Thee. (From ‘Precious Jesus’ by Thomas Whitfield)
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