This is not going to be your typical Thanksgiving message.
I’ve been really contemplating and struggling with “being in the world and not of it.” This is one of those times of the year when all start to question what is important in life. Today is the day when we should pause and count our blessings. But the winter holiday season also officially kicks off tomorrow and, as people come together and celebrate Thanksgiving, we will start to feel the hustle and bustle of the holidays – Black Friday, Christmas, and New Year’s. I say we need to add Black Friday to the mix as this new holiday, which celebrates consumerism, has not been recognized as such for quite some time. Let’s face it, we have all bought into the idea that we need “stuff.”
Our own personal reasons are many and varied: greed, to impress, the thought that stuff equals success, or just because we want cool new things. Now I won’t stand and condemn others, because I am equally guilty. I too look online to see what wonderful Black Friday ads are currently dropping and what they hold. I frankly don’t like what we have become. No, I will not condemn, but I will look at how we have arrived here and ask, “Shouldn’t we start to change our worldviews and expectations?” There is no harm in doing this, and by exploring how we have arrived at this point as a culture then maybe we can remove those parts that are not “healthy,” especially to Christians. Again, I am speaking to Christians first and foremost because we are called to remove ourselves out of this world. We are to be in it, but not of it.
In Hebrews 11, Paul is talking about the Israelites that left seeking their promised land. But it also applies to us, the body of Christ. I know it would be so easy to just go back to the “world.” To just quit the struggle and embrace societies new acceptance of things like some of the current church’s stances on homosexual marriages, women as pastors, transgender issues, materialism, nationalism, progressivism, etc. We could just write off Christianity as a good “social gospel,” take out the offensive parts, and then go along to get along. However, Paul is admonishing in Hebrews that we don’t give up, because our forefathers didn’t give up.
Hebrews 11:13-16 (KJV)
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
We are strangers and pilgrims, spiritual Israelites, waiting for our better country. I don’t want to return to an earthly existence, even though it would be an easier way. Again, the Bible:
John 12:24-26 (KJV)
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
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John 15:18-20 (KJV)
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
I understand not wanting to be persecuted, called out, called names, sued, or physically and verbally attacked – to not “stand out” and be different. But God didn’t say that we get to blend in. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE A CHRISTIAN, THEN BE ONE!!! The road that we have been called to walk is a rough one. And as I told my homeschool group in our devotional time, in the Book of Deuteronomy, we are given iron and brass shoes for a tough trip. I am still trying to get out of the “worldly stream” of thinking. Again, we are given to such reflection at certain times of our life, or at certain times of the year, and this is one of those times – the times of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas.
How are we to live? Like the world, who can never ever have enough flat-screen TVs, pancake griddles, clothes, movies, games, and toys? Or like the pilgrims that walked the earth thousands of years ago, with no country of their own, few belongings, and but a promise of that country. Do we give in and start accepting the morals and beliefs of the progressive left and right? Where do you stand in your beliefs?
As we sit down with our families and give thanks for what the Lord has blessed us with, maybe it is time to have some tough conversations. It is never too late to make a change in our lives, and sometimes we hold on until God gives us a kick in the pants to get us to move. (How well I found, and am still finding, this out.)
Genesis 13:14 (KJV)
14 And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art…
Let us all look up now from where we are, not from where we came from, and decide how we are going to finish 2016, and begin and live for Christ until he comes again or until we are called home. I vote for following Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.
To all, Christian and Non, may you find Grace & Peace this holiday season,