Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Click Here and Be Thankful!

Well, Thanksgiving is upon us, and you know what that means...


I heard someone say once, "Only in America can you have a whole day devoted to thanking God for what you already have, and then the next day go out and trample over one another in the name of a good sale for things you don't need!" But it seems to me that things are getting worse. I was already complaining when I saw that Walmart was gonna start their "Black Friday" sale at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day - that seemed ridiculous enough - but then I saw a flyer announcing that K-mart's event begins at 6 AM Thanksgiving Day!

Click © 2006 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
I think it's time to start a movement. We've heard so much over the past few years about "putting Christ back in Christmas". I think it's time we remind people to put the Thanks back into Thanksgiving! We need to remind people that Christmas is about more than presents and Thanksgiving is about more than just rushing out to buy presents! These holidays, for the Christian, ought to be times of reflection and celebration. Just as Christmas becomes the celebration of the greatest gift of all, when God sent his Son to live and die for us, so Thanksgiving is a time to remember the many gifts God has given each of us, especially the gifts of life and family and love. These gifts are greater than all the "stuff" we can ever buy in a store (Luke 12:23), and that's a lesson Adam Sandler's character learned the hard way in the 2006 movie, Click.

In the movie, Sandler plays Michael Newman, an aspiring architect who just isn't happy with his life. He loves his wife and kids, but he hates so many of the things he has to endure, and he is especially bothered by the fact that he can't afford to give his family all the stuff they would like to have. By a strange turn of events, he meets Morty (Christopher Walken), who gives him a universal remote - but this is a special remote that actually controls Michael's entire universe! Now he can rewind his life to watch his favorite memories as if he was really there again. He can pause life and make changes without anyone noticing. And most importantly, he can fast-forward through anything in life that seems unpleasant or uninteresting to him. It's not that he ceases to exist during those fast-forward moments, but the movie explains that Michael just goes into "autopilot" mode until he gets to the scene he wants to be in again. He's there, but he's kinda like a zombie, and he'll have no memory of those moments unless he chooses to rewind and watch what happened.

At first, the remote seems like a good thing, especially because it will allow Michael to avoid all the stressful parts of life. But what he doesn't understand in the beginning is that the remote remembers his preferences, and eventually it will learn to automatically do what he used it to do in the past. In one scene, being heartbroken that he can't give his children the presents they want, Michael decides to fast-forward his life until he gets a big promotion at his job. His body goes into "autopilot", and his consciousness resumes at the celebration of his promotion. But then he realizes that in choosing to skip to this scene, he has shaved two years off his life. His kids are older, his dog has died, and his marriage is on the rocks because his wife has noticed how - on autopilot - he just doesn't seem to care about anything except work. And now that a precedent has been set, the remote will remember what Michael said he wanted and will begin to work on its own!

Now, the Scriptures encourage us to work hard (Colossians 3:23; Ecclesiastes 9:10). There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to do a good job at work, hoping to get a promotion or wanting to be able to provide for your family. But the Bible never commands us to be workaholics, and it never places a high value on all the things money can buy. In fact, it warns us that it is far better to learn contentment and live a godly life than it is to focus too much on making money (1 Timothy 6:6-11).

"Then Jesus said to them, 
'Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. 
Life is not measured by how much one owns.'"
- Luke 12:15 (NCV)

Don't go through life on autopilot
Eventually, the memory function on Michael's remote begins to kick in, and he finds himself losing whole decades of his life because of the choices he made early on. His daughter grows up in the blink of an eye, His marriage disintegrates, and he even misses his own father's funeral. Even though Michael made enough money to buy all he wanted, he could not buy back years wasted or love lost. The painful moments when he zaps back to reality and realizes what he has lost remind us again of the truth that life and family and love are much more precious than any of the "stuff" of this world, and we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones not to live our lives on autopilot. It can be tempting in stressful times to want to withdraw and disconnect, but we have to learn to be there and love each other through the hard times, even if selfish habits are hard to break. Remember Jesus' teaching that the most important lessons in Scripture are to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34).

Maybe that's why the gift of God for those who accept Christ is not immeasurable wealth or unshakable comfort, but eternal life in the presence of God, in a city filled with all our loved ones who also served the Lord (Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:1-8).

When we're young, time seems to move slowly. The first 18 years of my life, it seemed like a year was an eternity. Every year, it seemed like Thanksgiving and Christmas would never get here! But as time moves on, years get shorter and shorter. I look back at some of my college experiences and think, "That wasn't so long ago!" And then I realize a decade has passed, and it's hard to believe! When time seems slow, it can be easy to wish we could somehow skip over all the boring and/or painful parts, but as the days grow shorter and the years pile up, we begin to understand what the Bible means when it says that life is short.

"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears 
for a little while and then vanishes."
- James 4:14b

But even when life is difficult, God is good.

Amber and I have been through a torturous couple weeks, where it seemed like nothing could go right. First our washing machine had to be replaced, then our car needed new tires. Two days after the tires were replaced, the car broke down, and we ended up having to buy a new car, but then it had its own issues that put it in the shop for several days. On top of that, Amber was sick with a stomach virus, and she was under a lot of stress from work. Meanwhile, I had things to get done for the church that took a lot of time, it seemed like money was running short, and our personalities were beginning to clash. To explain everything we went through would take a long time!

In the midst of all that, it could have been tempting to wish for a universal remote so we could fast-forward through the drama to a calmer point in life, but if we had done that, we would have missed so many reminders of God's faithfulness and so many important times together. One evening, amidst all the stress, Amber and I cuddled up on the couch, and we talked about how thankful we were to be going through these things together instead of each on our own. Another night, even though it was late and we were tired and it was freezing outside, we took a walk in the park together, just looking at the Christmas lights and re-connecting after a long day. Those things didn't cost us a dime, but as Brad Paisley would say, it was "Time Well Wasted", and we wouldn't have traded those "Little Moments" for anything in the world. Those weeks also reminded us of the importance of friends and family, many of whom prayed for us and helped us with problems we faced. Some encouraged us without even knowing what we were going through. Despite everything, I just found myself thanking God over and over for the little blessings he showed us all along the way!
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ... Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 4:4, 6-7 (emphasis mine)
If you're going out Black Friday shopping this weekend, be careful. But whether you go shopping or not, I hope you'll remember to keep the Thanks in Thanksgiving this year by taking time to thank God, not just for the stuff you have or the money to go out and get it, but for the gifts of life and family and friends and love, and especially the gift of Jesus. Maybe you can even put the Giving back in Thanksgiving, not just by buying luxuries to give as Christmas gifts, but by giving out of your abundance to those who are needy. There are so many people out there who don't even have the ability to provide for their most basic needs, and there are so many who are struggling in today's economy just to keep the bills paid. Maybe we can afford to spend a little less on the "stuff" we don't really need in order to give a little more to preserve the precious lives of others around us! If nothing else, we can always afford to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ that transforms lives!

Or maybe you don't have an abundance. Maybe you're one of those struggling through a hard time financially or in a relationship. Don't forget that life and love are still precious and God is still good! Trust in the Lord and look for his blessings!

Whether you're reading this on Thanksgiving Day or another day, today is the day to live with a spirit of gratitude and generosity. Show your love to God and those around you now, because time is fleeting and life is short. As Garth Brooks once put it, "Tell that someone that you love just what you're thinking of, if tomorrow never comes."

What are you thankful for today? How has God blessed you?

More importantly, how will you express your gratitude and share your blessings?

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