God’s Gifts

This is the time of year for gift giving. Everyone is out looking for the perfect gift to give to a loved one, co-worker, or friend.

Can you imagine going through all of the work of finding the right gift, paying your hard-earned money for it, wrapping it up, delivering it to the recipient, and then watching them set it aside unopened?!

Or how about the one who opens the gift, but doesn’t show any gratitude at all?!

Or the one who says a sincere “Thank you!” but then puts the gift on the shelf and never touches it again?!

Christmas is the time we think about the greatest gift of all—God’s gift of His only Son. But this isn’t the only gift God gives. In fact, He is a lavish Gift Giver. So the key questions are:

  • Are you opening His gifts to you?
  • Are you showing Him how grateful you are for His gifts?
  • Are you using His gifts?

I’m starting a brand new series this Sunday, and going all the way until Christmas morning, looking at God’s Gifts. We’ll see what the Bible says about these gifts, including how to show our gratitude, and how to use them in a way that honors the Gift Giver.

I hope you can join us!

Ready? Or Not?

A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts about the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Or I should say: some thoughts about the donkey’s owners. I was struck by the ease with which those owners gave up their donkey when they heard the simple phrase, “The Lord needs it.”

There’s another small story in the midst of the activity just prior to Christ’s crucifixion, when He shared the Last Supper with His disciples. The disciples ask Jesus where He would like to have this meal, and He gives them unusual instructions: When you go into town, you’ll see a man carrying a jar of water; follow him. Go to the owner of the house this man enters and say, “Where is My guest room?” (Mark 14:14)

Just like the owners of the donkey, this homeowner was waiting for Jesus to call on him. The room was ready and waiting.

So I’m asking myself:

  • Is my life reserved for my Master’s use?
  • Am I saying “Yes” to other offers that would keep me from saying “Yes” when Jesus calls on me?
  • Is my life kept in readiness for my Master?
  • Or do I have to ask Him to wait while I prepare myself?

My heart is His. My mind is His. My talent is His.

I must keep all of these available only for His use. So when the call comes, “Where is My guest room” I can quickly answer, “Everything is furnished and ready for Your use.”

Are you ready? Or not?

I Have To Do It Now

As I was wrapping up our Thanksgiving series, I was struck by the verb tense that Paul used in all of the verses I was studying.

When the Apostle Paul writes that we are to be overflowing with thankfulness, and let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, and stay on our guard against slipping away from this, the verb tense is present tense. Simply put, he says, “Do it now.”

Not: Wait for better conditions … get things in order next Sunday at church … schedule a spiritual retreat.

The verbs are also in the active voice, which means I have to do it.

Not: Wait for a friend encourage me … hope my pastor can pump me up spiritually next Sunday … tune in to some sort of motivational speaker.

There is no better time than NOW, and there’s no better person than ME to do it.

“It is by little procrastinations that men ruin their souls. They have no intention to delay for years—a few months will bring the more convenient season—tomorrow if you will, they will attend to serious things; but the present hour is so occupied and altogether so unsuitable, that they beg to be excused. Like sands from an hour-glass, time passes, life is wasted by driblets, and seasons of grace lost by little slumbers.” —Charles Spurgeon

So what are you waiting for?!

The Blessing Of Fullness

Thanksgiving Day 2011 is over, but the days for giving thanks should never be over. Although that sounds humorous, for many of us it is an important reminder. We need to remind ourselves because it is so easy for us to go from overflowing with thankfulness, to feeling depleted and empty.

This is exactly what Paul reminded the Colossians in part 3 of our Overflowing With Thanks series—

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)

Here’s how the cycle works:

  • When we are thank-full to God for His blessings, we enthrone Christ in our hearts.
  • When we are Christ-full, He brings with Him all of the peace we will need.
  • When we are peace-full, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
  • When our hearts and minds are clear, we can better see the blessings for which we can thank God.
  • And when we are thank-full to God for His blessings, we start the cycle all over again.

We don’t have to run dry, or become depleted, or lose our joy, or be robbed of our peace. If we will remain watch-full to be thank-full, we will remain Christ-full, which will keep us peace-full.

May we never lose the blessing of fullness!

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I read a couple of blog posts yesterday, and I wanted to share some great Thanksgiving reminders with you. After all, yesterday wasn’t the only day of the year to give thanks, right?

Dr. Tim Elmore offers a great question for determining what we’re really thankful for: What have I been talking about recently that expresses my gratitude?

“Pause for a moment and think about it. You would likely never talk to a stranger downtown in a big city—unless you lost your child and can’t find them anywhere. Suddenly, you’ll talk to anyone who will listen and help.

“You probably wouldn’t talk to a person who lived in another neighborhood that you’ve never met, unless you saw their house on fire. Suddenly, it changes everything. You would gladly find a way to intrude and warn them.

“The reason you would talk to those people is because you feel strongly about your child and about the safety of people. That is a conviction in your life. Convictions are deeper than ideas or opinions. They are strongly held beliefs that you take action for, and perhaps would even die for.”

Seth Godin suggests that the best way to show how thankful we are is to do good work.

“For every person reading this there are a thousand people (literally a thousand) in underprivileged nations and situations that would love to have your slot. Don’t waste it.”

And Mark Driscoll shares “some verses from the Bible on thankfulness for you to digest on this day of feasting.”

But the most important quote I’m focusing on is this—

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. (Psalm 103:2)

I’m determined to be a man who gives thanks every day!

Happy Thanksgiving From George Washington

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me ‘to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’

“NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

“GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.”

Still So Much More To Learn

I was thinking about the disciples of Jesus. Can you imagine the things they heard and saw! With their own eyes they saw those jaw-dropping miracles. With their own ears they heard His profound teaching. They watched and heard Him pray. No one ever had the kind of access to Jesus than these men.

And yet, they were still so spiritually dull…

  • They couldn’t grasp what Jesus was teaching, even when He explained it to them privately.
  • Their faith was sorely lacking.
  • They argued among themselves over such petty things.

If these men—with their almost limitless access to Jesus—were still struggling in their faith, what would make me think I have ever “arrived”?

There is still so much more for me to learn about Jesus.

And I do want to learn more! I want to press in—closer and closer, deeper and deeper! I never want to stop learning my Savior’s heart and will!

What about you? Do you want more?

Thanksgiving Prep

Hopefully this will help you get ready for your big day on Thursday. Enjoy!

Thursdays With Oswald—My God Came Down The Stairs

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

My God Came Down The Stairs

     It is not our earnestness that brings us into touch with God, nor our devotedness, nor our times of prayer, but our Lord Jesus Christ’s vitalizing death; and our times of prayer are evidences of reaction on the reality of Redemption, so we have confidence and boldness of access into the holiest. What an unspeakable joy it is to know that we each have the right of approach to God in confidence, that the place of the Ark is our place, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness.” What an awe and what a wonder of privilege, “to enter into the holiest,” in the perfectness of the Atonement, “by the blood of Jesus.”

Oh, long and dark the stairs I trod,
With stumbling feet to find my God:
Gaining a foothold bit by bit,
Then slipping back and losing it:
Never progressing, striving still,
With weakening gasp and fainting will,
Bleeding to climb a God: while He
Serenely smiled, unnoting me.
Then came a certain time when I
Loosened my hold and tell thereby.
Down to the lowest step my fall,
As if I had not climbed at all.
And while I lay despairing thereby.
I heard a footfall on the stair,
In the same path where I, dismayed,
Faltered and fell and lay afraid.
And lo! when hope had ceased to be,
My God came down the stairs to me.

From Christian Disciplines

I am so grateful my God came down the stairs to me!

I am so awed that I now can come into His presence with confidence!

I am so humbled that God would save a sinner such as me!

He’s Here To Keep

Going through my youngest son’s writing journal for his classroom, I came across this gem that he wrote:

My Dad’s out of town
I feel alone
I’m feeling really down
He can’t reach the phone
All of a sudden the phone rings
And my heart sings
I pick up the phone
He said, “Only one more day”
And in his voice was a great tone
He said what I wanted him to say
One more time of sleep
And then he’s here to keep

Dads, listen to me: Your kids want you.

For your kids you spell “love” T-I-M-E.

Give them all the time you can. They want you for keeps.

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