Monday, October 10, 2011

We Really Don't Know Much About God's Desire For Thanksgiving

I am still taking a break from my writings on maturity because today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and I would like to address the idea of thanksgiving to God. Most of us think we are a people with a grateful heart but in truth we act more like spoiled rich kids. Most of our prayers are centered on ourselves and we treat our Father as if he is a terrible provider. We are seldom satisfied with his provision and are constantly demanding more. Those who disagree with me I encourage to consider the amount of debt you are carrying on your credit card. The credit card is a huge indication of our dissatisfaction with our Father's provision.

Setting that aside for a moment I want us to consider how we give thanks when we do manage to remember we owe it to our Father. Many of us do not like the thought of sacrifice because of our selfish nature. For a few people the great act of sacrifice is giving up Sunday morning to attend church and the tithe they put in the offering plate. Let's consider those two things and the attitude we have concerning them.

Would you say that you have a joyful attitude in going to church or is it a thing you need to do because it is what is expected? The real expectation is that our relationship with Jesus would fill us with such a joy that we would be rushing to get to church, and I mean rushing in the good sense:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
(Psalm 100:4)

It is a worthless "sacrifice" to give up your Sunday morning if your attitude nullifies your action. It you realized the great things Jesus has done and is continuing to do you would be overwhelmed with the desire to praise him. There should be excitement to enter into corporate worship. There should be an atmosphere of expectation and longing in offering up the sacrifice of praise.

Then there is your sacrifice of your tithe. Considering that everything you have has been given by the grace of God, offering back 10% is not much of a sacrifice. And before the anti-law crowd jumps all over this, the tithe is a heart response not a law requirement. Abraham existed long before the law and yet he offered up his tithe out of a grateful heart. Back in the beginning Cain and Abel brought sacrifices out of thanksgiving. Abel brought the very best and it pleased God. It is not that God needs these tithes. As he told us, he owns everything anyway so it is not that he needs it, but what we bring and how we bring it reveals our heart toward him. Do we really love and appreciate our God?

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Does love not compel us to bring our very best to God? It is sad that we use God's grace as an excuse for our lack of love toward him. Dressing up for worship does not make a person better but what we wear can reveal our attitude in the same way that our tithe does; in the same way we treat people does; in the same way we do our work does. God's grace should propel us to the top of everything as we want to respond to God with our very best in everything we do, say, write, create.

We have been called to sacrificial living as we deny ourselves to serve Jesus. Most of us want the best of both worlds but if our relationship is authentic then we are glad to give up the one to possess the other. Our salvation is not by works but by the sacrifice of Jesus, given freely to us. But our heart response to this is obedient love. Our response is a sacrifice of praise. Our response is to freely give, with great generosity. Our response is to love each other in the same manner Jesus loved/loves us. He calls on us all the time to set aside our needs for the sake of others, to be consumed by people and this is our worship.

In Isaiah 58 God is dealing with a people who have the right appearance but the wrong heart. Among the things he says he asks these questions:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
   only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
   and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
   a day acceptable to the LORD?
(Isaiah 58:5)

I encourage you to read the whole passage to understand the impact of these questions because it is followed by this revealing of God's heart and what he considers to be the true sacrifice of worship. Think of Jesus' teaching and example concerning the Sabbath day as you read this:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
(Isaiah 58:6-9)

We have a lot to learn about the sacrifice of thanksgiving and I pray we will continue our learning today. Many of us will stuff ourselves on this day in Canada with fine food. We call it a day of thanksgiving but I wonder who we are giving thanks to, and if we are worshiping ourselves instead of God. Make it a true day of giving thanks by sharing your food with the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the wanderer and looking after your family. Do this and God will find your sacrifice of thanksgiving acceptable and pleasing, and it will reveal your heart of love.

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