The Gift that Never Stops Giving

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Joy from a gift given is temporary, but the joy from the gift of God lasts forever.

Scripture of the Day

1 Peter 1:8-9

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

So, what did you get for Christmas? Did the longing for the gift equal the satisfaction you hoped it would bring? The joy from every gift is temporal, but not the joy of the LORD.

Throughout the day I have been thinking of you, friends who have chosen to stop in here for a moment each day to hopefully be refreshed as you press on to know God more. Writing this blog has been one of the greatest joys in my walk with God, and I thank you so much for joining me on this quest to go deeper with God.

As I thought about what I would say to you on Christmas day, “Merry Christmas” could not adequately express the greeting I wished to give. It feels a little “surfacey” for a blog that seeks to go deep.

Frankly, we don’t use the word “merry” all year long except for when Christmas rolls around, and it is a somewhat antiquated term. So, what is meant by this term?

A search on Google yielded these results: “cheerful, cheery, in high spirits, high-spirited, bright, sunny, smiling, lighthearted, buoyant, lively, carefree, without a care in the world, joyful, joyous, jolly, convivial, festive, mirthful, gleeful, happy, glad, laughing.”

Thing is, if we have lived long enough in the world we know about tragic events as have unfolded in this fallen world as well as in the life of my church in the past two weeks – two young lives tragically lost, a week apart, due to merely curving off the road and hitting a tree. Young children diagnosed with cancer. Spouses being unfaithful and breaking one another’s hearts.

How can simply saying, “Merry Christmas” bring the joy we hope it will? It can’t. A day can also not extinguish the hardships this life brings.But the message behind the term “Merry Christmas” is life-changing and brings a joy that nothing in this world can ever take away.

The gifts God gives us are temporary, as is this life, but the gift of His salvation never ever fades away. A secret joy is stirred in our souls that covers all the disappointments a fallen world brings. This life with all of its blessings and burdens was never supposed to be our joy. He is. His word, His Spirit are an ever-present joy to those who have learned to abide.

So, I wish you a Joy-filled Christmas and life, friends. When the floor beneath your feet is unstable and your heart longs for the pain just to stop, there is a joyful refuge we can run to, and it was revealed on what we now celebrate as Christmas. This joy, this gift, is not just on Christmas day. Jesus is ours forever.

Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Son. May we walk in the joy of the LORD every day of our lives, cognizant of Your sacrifice and love for us.

A Holy Gift

Mundane Monday: Don’t give up!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Fanning into flame the gifts of God might just start out as a sparkler, but God can do a lot more with a sparkler that is lit than one that isn’t.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Timothy 1:6-7

“Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

It’s Monday again, and the prospects of all that needs doing around here are booming. But I need to be still before Him, first. Reading this familiar passage this morning is such a perfect start to another Monday.

We are a people who need new beginnings. We make a mess of things and long for a fresh start. Each day we get one, for God’s mercies are new each and every day. But we also get a new beginning to every week, every month, every year, and so on.

What good news this is – we don’t have to be stuck in a rut. I can hear someone saying, “Yeah, but nothing ever changes. It is so hard to go against all the challenges against me”. Yes, but not impossible. Don’t give up.

Sure, there will be hurdles – some seemingly insurmountable, but if there were no effort, the accomplishment of our goals would not be as satisfying. Sometimes even Christians will come against our efforts. The disciples were guilty of this, too, when they questioned the motives of other believers who were also baptizing new believers. May God help us to all spur one another on just like Paul did to Timothy. We are all on the same team – some leaders, some followers – all important – all needed.

Sometimes we just need a reminder – of what God has done in us, what He has placed in us. But most importantly, we need to recall Who will complete the work He began in us. This supernatural component to our calling takes the pressure off of us to think that we have to produce the results. Don’t give up.

Faithfully stewarding our talents means we need to keep pressing toward our goals even when it seems we are not making progress. In Christ, no effort is wasted, even if the results aren’t what we had hoped for … don’t give up.

Timothy needed some encouragement and reminding, too. It might have been someone calling out a gifting in us, or it might have been a gentle whisper from God, placing a vision on our hearts. Either way, we must be faithful to the calling on our lives, making the most of every opportunity – for we never know which investment will produce the best results for God’s kingdom. Don’t give up.

Paul did not just encourage Timothy to work at the gift of God placed within Him – He also told him not to fear. Fear of failure, fear of man – so many fears that can limit and plague us, but God. It is in trusting God with the results of all our labor in the LORD that we are free to work at our gifts, knowing He is pleased and will do with our offering what He wills.

Don’t give up. Fanning into flame the gifts of God might just start out as a sparkler, but God can do a lot more with a sparkler that is lit than one that isn’t.

Lord, thank You for the talents you have given, that we might serve You and make You known. Help us to not grow weary in well doing. Be glorified in us, LORD!

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Generous God

God is generous

1 Corinthians 1:5-7

For you were made rich in every way in him, in all your speech and in every kind of knowledge– 6 just as the testimony about Christ has been confirmed among you– 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25:14

“The LORD’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.”

We worry about provision in a world system that requires payment for everything. Yet God says that if he takes care of the grass, flowers and a small sparrow, He will provide for us, too. Trouble is, flowers don’t spend well in our economical system and sometimes we don’t know how God is going to do it, but He always comes through.

His provision is vastly more than we could ever imagine and lasts for all eternity. What kind of God is that? The richest person in the world according to the world’s riches could not compare with the riches God has for those Who would call upon His name and be saved.

We were (past tense) made rich in EVERY way – but it might not always appear to be the case. Man looks at the outward, but inwardly God is at work in amazing ways. We received everything we needed when we were saved, but sometimes we do not perceive it.

When my kids were little, I wanted to instill in them a love of learning.  I wanted them to treasure knowledge and wisdom, for wisdom opens our eyes to see the truth, and knowing God and His truth is the greatest gift of all.  When other kids were getting electronics, my kids got books. When I would come back from Homeschooling convention, they would run up to me and wonder what devotion or new journal I got them.  I pray that sticks with them their whole lives through.  Knowing God is our greatest treasure.

When we don’t understand, we can come to Him and He will generously give us wisdom without finding fault. When we lack faith, we can run to His Word and to Him and He will give us hope.  When we are weak, we can cry out to Him and He will strengthen us. When we are depressed, He gives us the gift of joy.  When we are hurt, He comfort us. Once again we come back to the word, “relationship”.  Access to these precious gifts He has bestowed is given when we come to Him and He does not withhold.

Lord, thank You for giving us everything we need, and most importantly – the gift of Yourself and Your only Son.  Help us to be a grateful people, recognizing your generous provision for your children.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Three: The Law

Gift of Gods law

 

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”

This Christmas, when we think about getting what we want, I am thankful that God in His wisdom does not always give us what we want.  Further, in His mercy, He did not give us what we really deserve – His judgment.

We are all rule breakers in one way or another, often rationalizing our weaknesses away, but God’s righteous standard is held.  He does not leave us in a state of deception, but opens our eyes through His perfect law found in His Word, revealing our sin and need for a Savior.

What a gift – absolute truth – steady, unchanging and Holy in a chaotic relevant world.  In a culture that demands its own way and makes laws to condone its sin, there still stands a righteous standard.

Many feel that this standard set by God steals our freedom and joy, but no greater freedom has anyone than the one who can see his sin that shackles him and can walk away from it.

Even though we could never fulfill God’s commandments perfectly, God in His sovereignty and mercy fulfilled it for us.  His law brought condemnation so we could see our need of Him.

As we visualize ourselves opening these gifts that You have given us, Lord, help us to see Your law at work in our lives and to submit ourselves to Your will in every area of our lives.

 

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Day two: Salvation

 

gift of salvation

Ephesians 2:8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Hebrews 7:25

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Acts 4:12

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

As we look forward to Christmas (11 more days!!!) this blog will contemplate twelve of the greatest gifts that God has bestowed on us. Here we are on day two of twelve . . . have you opened this gift yet?

On the second day of Christmas, He gave us salvation.  This precious gift of life was meant to be lived in relationship with God, but our sins blinded us of our need and took away the purpose of this life: knowing God.

From the moment we first understood our surroundings, our proclivity was to follow the flesh.  The pull of sin tempted us to crave our own way, yet God had compassion on us.

We tried to fill that void with a solution of our own design; running to any mechanism that could help us cope with the mess our sins made, but only One could solve our problem of sin: Jesus.

Others tried to fix our problem, too, but it only left us empty, bankrupt, separated from God; and ultimately were only a temporary solution.  Until Love opened our eyes to see our need and His provision.

The counterfeit suddenly was seen for what it was and our eyes saw and understood this great salvation.  A salvation that is eternal, no longer leaving us unfulfilled.  What a great Savior, One Who is able to save completely all who call on His Name.

Lord, thank You for saving us and not leaving us in our sin.  Thank You for opening our eyes and drawing us near to You and saving us once for always.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day One: Life

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Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Psalm 139:14

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. At first blush, this song seems rather carnal and materialistic, but the original intention was a vivid example of our lives hidden in Christ.

Although we can complain that Christmas items are out at stores right after Thanksgiving, the early church began the Christmas celebration a  month out and then the timing for the commemoration of the Twelve days of Christmas was celebrated from December 25th through January 6th, leading up to the Epiphany.

These Twelve Days of Christmas are purported by some to be an esoteric code for Christians to remember their beliefs, to others a traditional song reminding us of the Wise men who came and brought gifts all those years ago, and to still others, a secular song with no inherent meaning at all.

But for the early church to set aside a month to celebrate the birth of God is a reminder to us that we can also benefit from this tradition.  Not a month just to be busy, but time to reflect on the significance of what Christ did for us.

Arriving at a perfectly historically accurate understanding of the purpose of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” might be impossible, but perhaps a new tradition is in order.  As a catalyst for sincere praise in this season of giving, over the next twelve days this blog will reflect on twelve amazing gifts that God has given us as we lead up to Christmas.  Day one . . .

On the 1st day of Christmas, our Creator gave to us “Life“.  The complexity of the creation of mankind blows my mind.  From the tiniest cell packed with DNA, to the hairs on our head, eye color, stature, personality – to every detail God lovingly placed in each of His children – our God is awesome, a genius; thoughtful and loving.

This gift of life is often painful, challenging, joyful; a wild mix of emotions.  But to feel is to live.  Each day a gift, whether it was a day filled with trouble that sent us running to our Father, or a day filled with bliss that caused us to be filled with gratitude, every day has a purpose in the scope of eternity.  The “good”, the “bad”, however each moment is assessed by man – ALL of it is used by God miraculously woven into our lives for His glory and our good.

As we come to kneel before our King this Christmas and consider afresh this gift of life, what is the greatest gift we bring now to our Creator, but to offer our lives back to Him in worship?

Lord, thank You for life.  Sometimes it hurts so terribly bad and we wonder how You could ever take such a mess and make it beautiful, but somehow You do.  Lord, thank You for every day of this life and help us to offer each day back to You in sincere gratitude and worship.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 9 – The God of Rest

God of rest

Ezekiel 20:12, 20

“I also gave them my Sabbaths as a reminder of our relationship, so that they would know that I, the LORD, sanctify them. 20 Treat my Sabbaths as holy and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”

Psalm 127:2

“It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.”

Isaiah 30:15

“For this is what the master, the LORD, the Holy One of Israel says: “If you repented and patiently waited for me, you would be delivered; if you calmly trusted in me you would find strength, but you are unwilling.”

Many religions of this world mandate earning salvation by good works.  Rules are made and conditions set that must be met. But those who walk with Christ are pardoned by the only true living God, not by their good works, but by the confession of their mouth, professing their need for salvation.  The One Who set the righteous standard is the only One Who could meet it, too.

God’s provision of salvation for all of His creation was an invitation to rest.  This is completely opposite from any other man-made religion which places the emphasis on us or on anything that we could offer to the one perfect One.

The rest God offers is not so we could become lazy or take for granted His amazing gift, but so we could take time to slow down and know Him.  It is a reminder of the goodness of God who invites us to simply trust in Him instead of ourselves.

God wants to fight our battles and take care of us; to hide us in the shadow of His wings.  Our greatest joy is found in complete dependence upon Him.

It is a curious thing that the God of this universe would choose to rest when He did not need to.  He leads us by example and is faithful in all His ways, showing us the way so we can follow.  In resting in God, we renew our strength and faith and recognize our frailty before an all-powerful God.  We are just a vapor, a mist here for awhile, but God is the great I AM, the Eternal God.

Lord, thank you for the gift of rest.  Help us to rest in You and to never forget our relationship with You is deepened when we pause to focus on You in this weary, busy world.

Christmas Countdown Day 2: The Nature of the Gift

Photo Credits onecentatatime.com

Photo Credits
onecentatatime.com

Hebrews 5:2-5, 8-10

2 He is able to deal compassionately with those who are ignorant and erring, since he also is subject to weakness. 3 And for this reason he is obligated to make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.  4 And no one assumes this honor on his own initiative, but only when called to it by God, as in fact Aaron was.  5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but the One who glorified him was God, who said to him, “You are my son!  Today I have fathered you.”  8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered.  9 And being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.  10 And he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

Babies have a way of softening the toughest heart.  We are captivated by their helpless needfulness and beauty.  Okay, some babies might be more attractive than others, but we still marvel at how amazingly they were made.  How much more to be a witness of God incarnate, swaddled in rags, held by humans.

Babies are born in a fallen world but have not yet had the opportunity to choose sin.  Christ was born in the flesh but was fully God and never chose to sin.  Perfect in every way, yet treated as a criminal.  King above all kings, yet He chose to be a servant.  Honored, yet He chose dishonor.  Glorified, yet He did not choose glory, but chose humility instead.  He is One who can identify with our weaknesses, yet chose not to indulge the flesh.  He is the only One Who is blameless, Who is able to pay for all of the sins of humanity.  This gift is extraordinary and unlike any other – yet it is completely free.

I am a bargain hunter by nature.  With five kids at home, I need to be.  It is a joyous moment when I am able to get a prized item for a deal, but if an expensive item were begin given away, I would wonder what was wrong with it.  The value of human life, however, is not able to be determined – it is higher than money could afford.  How much more, then, is God in the flesh as a baby worth?  How astounding a gift, how immeasurable and lavish for God to give Himself – so humble and vulnerable – offering Himself to His own creation.  A divine gift from Heaven to earth.

I imagine the peoples from the Old Testament all looking to the promised Christ, much like we look forward to Christmas today – only they had a deeper longing.  Their eternal fate rested on this gift of God’s Son.  We eagerly anticipate something special we have desired, but they desired their very soul’s salvation.  Year after year they wondered when the prophecies would be fulfilled, and today we must guard against merely struggling for deals and just squeezing in moments to commemorate the meaning of Christmas.  While complaints can be heard about not enough time for shopping, souls are starving to understand what this baby in a manger really means.

The motivation for His gift is unparalleled in all of time.  He is the One who set the rules we violated.  Enemies clothed in guilt and shame, He looked at us with compassion and love and chose to give instead of condemn.  May that be our motivation, too.  As we look toward Christmas, may we rejoice in this amazing gift and share gifts with others, but may we also not neglect to bow down before the King of kings.  May we also awaken from our cookie-induced sugar comas and see the symbolism and intent behind many of the traditions we celebrate – His glory.

Thank You, LORD, for coming to earth to save us all!   Thank you for Your wisdom and the greatest gift we could ever receive – Your Son.  Help us to worship You each and every day, at Christmas and all year through!