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Christmas Generosity

December 22nd, 2015

 

“Manage [your God-given gifts] well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” I Peter 4:10 NLT.

Generosity of heart engenders generosity of hand.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Christmas generosity.”

When the Wise Men followed the miraculous star to the Christ child of whom the prophets had written, “They fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 NKJV. In grateful humility, they presented themselves as preface to their gifts. Generosity overflows from grateful hearts. Generosity of heart engenders generosity of hand.

Let’s be practical; who doesn’t enjoy receiving good gifts? As I write, my wife, Gayle, is wrapping Christmas presents. As our family has grown with kids, grandkids, spouses and in-laws, and now great grandkids – and when you add to those the number of friends with which we have exchanged gifts across the years – there are a lot of presents to give. The Christmas celebration includes the practical expression of generosity. Generosity is the DNA of Christmas. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV. Giving is God’s nature.

Receive gratefully, then give generously. There is joy in shopping, choosing, and giving thoughtfully selected gifts. Paul recalled Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 NIV. When you understand the principle, it is plain and simple; giving produces the greater blessing. God doesn’t promise to multiply what you are given; generously, He blesses what you give. Read Luke 6:38 NLT. Solomon wisely encouraged, “Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.” Ecclesiastes 11:1 NLT.

You are gifted. God made you with unique gifts to offer others generously. “God has given gifts to each of you from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” Read 1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT. Celebrate Christmas generously, neither measured nor managed. Be generous practically, giving patience, kindness, mercy, grace, love, and such like. Be generous personally, living without constraint. Be generous spiritually, sharing God’s love faithfully. Be generous financially, giving thoughtfully. Be generous emotionally, forgiving unconditionally. Forgiveness is given not loaned. Jesus was clear, “Give as freely as you have received.” Matthew 10:8 NLT. Be that person.

Today, I pray for you to practice generosity until that becomes your natural expression.

Christian Communications 2015

Generosity

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Christmas Gifts

December 23rd, 2014

“Thank God for His Son – a gift too wonderful for words.” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT.

Giving that is meaningful is inseparably sourced in love that is authentic.

My thoughts and comments this Advent are about “Christmas gifts.”

Christmas gift giving is an art form with some people. Christmas is easier for people like my wife, Gayle; as Christmas approaches, she has already planned for family and friends and thought of the gifts most wanted and needed by them. Such people anticipate what best serves or delights the recipient. I admire people with such a talent. I don’t struggle with the act of giving; I find joy in that. Read 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 NIV. I struggle to know what to give, unsure if my choice of gifts will be enjoyed, or appropriate, or best meet their need, or serve them well. My dilemma is finding a gift that expresses my love and appreciation adequately and accurately.

Christmas is such a special time of year. I love everything about celebrating Christmas – the wondrous Christmas story, times together with family and friends, the tree and decorations, the Nativity scenes, flickering candles and logs in the fireplace, Holly and wreaths, eggnog and sweets, Christmas choirs and carols, mistletoe, and, of course, beautifully wrapped presents under the tree. But none of those would mean anything apart from God’s greatest gift to you and me. Among all of God’s generous and gracious gifts, God’s greatest gift was given at Christmas.

Nativity reduced (2) Paul found the generosity and grace of God’s gift to be inexpressible, “Thank God for His Son – a gift too wonderful for words.” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT. Christmas’ greatest Gift could not be described more beautifully or accurately. For some who decry the commercialization of Christmas, Christmas is only commercialized by those who overlook Christmas truth. Read James 1:17-18 NIV.

Christmas need not be separated from gift giving. The Wise men, “rejoiced with great joy . . and fell down and worshiped Him, opening their treasures they presented gifts to Him of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:10-11. Their gifts were costly but not extravagant, unusual but not inappropriate. Their love and joy would not let them do less. Those gifts expressed their hearts’ response to the far greater Gift – the promised and long awaited Messiah, who was the Son of God and would become the Savior of men. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV. Gift giving is appropriate to your celebration of Christmas.

As a boy, I heard my Dad often say, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Across the years, I find that true. Christmas is the testimony to that truth. Giving that is meaningful is inseparably sourced in love that is authentic. Love always prompts a generous response. The Good News that angels proclaimed to shepherds describes the perfect gift of which John later wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Read John 3:16-21 NIV.

The better you know the person to whom a gift is given, the more your gift will meet their need and bring them joy. God’s Christmas Gift responds exactly to His accurate estimate and adequate supply of your greatest needs. “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV. And His gift empowers, as well as obligates, each recipient of eternal life that, “we should use whatever gift [we] have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV.

My prayer for you this Advent is that you receive graciously from God and give generously to others.

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Gifted

October 14th, 2013

“Stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV.

The purer the gift of God within, the more humble the heart and life possessing it.

My thoughts and comments today are about being “gifted.”

You have seen gifted people. They work with ease and assurance. Things seem to happen more effortlessly and successfully for them. They learn to expect success. Our son, Bruce, is an example; he is a master craftsman, building custom homes and church facilities large and small. The same task would baffle me. Bruce reads the plans, “sees” the structures as intended, understands the necessary engineering, and knows what building materials and skills are necessary to accomplish that. He is talented and experienced, but more. He is spiritually and naturally gifted with talents and skills that time and diligence have further developed.

God also designed your spiritual life to operate out of giftedness, both sovereign and supernatural. “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV. God has placed gifts in you equal to the calling and purpose He intends for you. Do not allow them to reside dormant and unused.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . .” James 1:17 NIV. Differentiate gifts from God for your personal blessing and edification from those gifts of God for your effective service. The Kingdom of God does not succeed because of your natural talents and human abilities; the best of those will ultimately be inadequate to His exceeding and eternal purposes. His Kingdom flourishes by the dedicated efforts of spiritually gifted people, submissive to Lordship and serving within His anointing.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “As each one (that means you) has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God . . Do not neglect the gift of God that is in you . .” 1 Peter 4:10/1 Timothy 4:14 NKJV. The more you recognize and respond to the God-given and Spirit-anointed gifts within you, the more confidently and effectively you will serve God.

God accepts the responsibility to provide you with what you need to do His will effectively, then instructs and directs you in their application. You are to accept the responsibility to discover, develop, and then implement your spiritual gifts and natural talents, “If anyone ministers, let them do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ . .” 1 Peter 4:11 NKJV. The ultimate goal is to exalt God, the Giver of gifts, not the gift nor yourself.

Paul’s message to the Christians at Rome is good counsel for us as well: “For I say, through the grace of God given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith . . Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . .” Romans 12:3/6 NKJV.

Here is what I have observed about gifted people: the purer the gift of God within, the more humble the heart and life possessing it. Young Timothy received good advice, “Do your best to win full approval in God’s sight, as a worker who is not ashamed of his work . .” 2 Timothy 2:15 TEV. Desire God’s approval above all else.

My prayer for you today is that you accept giftedness with neither boasting nor apology.

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Creativity

March 20th, 2013

“God created man in His own image.” Genesis 1:27 NIV.

God is the Creator; you and I are to become His willing apprentices.

My thoughts and comments today are about “creativity.”

I admire people who understand and consecrate their creativity. Every person is gifted by God with creative abilities and potential, and that includes you. All persons are innately gifted in a diversity of ways and measures. On this, the Bible is clear.“God has given to each of you from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.” Read 1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT.

I read an interesting quote about the creative process, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Safely in God’s hands, you do not fear your mistakes. Creativity is so much more than the expression of one’s native talent, brilliance, or artistry. Creativity is the profound submission of yourself as a simple vessel through which the genius and greatness of God can flow. God is the Creator; you and I are to become His willing apprentices. The more prepared and diligent you are as you offer yourself to Him, the more creative you become.

Giftedness may differ in its nature or expression, but God is the source and origin of all gifts, and their best and fullest expression is with His empowerment and direction. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . .” James 1:17 NIV. Some use their giftedness constructively and profitably for the common good and well-being of themselves and others. “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16 NKJV. Others leave gifts undiscovered or dormant, or use them selfishly and destructively.

God is the Creator. The Bible begins with the establishment of that truth, and underscores it in the New Testament. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . God created man in His own image . . all things were created by Him and for Him.” Genesis 1:1/27/Colossians 1:16-17 NIV. How then could you have been “created in His image and in His likeness” without potential for creative expression? Creativity should be more natural to us than is often the case. Creativity has to be valued and nurtured. As children, teens, or adults, some are praised and encouraged to cultivate their giftedness, while others lack necessary reassurance or opportunity to discover and develop latent gifts.

Among family and friends, I marvel at the unique expressions of Godly creativity. Often I see something as ordinary while they see extraordinary possibilities awaiting their touch. My wife is creative in so many ways, but especially as a hostess who makes anyone feel special; our son is an artistic genius at design and construction of homes and churches; our daughter sees beauty in people and loves them until they see it in themselves. (And talking about the grandchildren’s variety of interests and abilities, well that might just sound like bragging.)

Our friend, Jill, is masterful at managing people and administrating projects with skill and efficiency. Devi is a gifted author, teacher, and interior decorator. Ken, a pastor and church builder, is a creative force of unlimited ideas to reach and serve people. Rick and Andrew express exceptional creativity in sharing Biblical insights and teaching clarity. Rod has more stories, ideas, and images in his heart to communicate with children than he has time to fully pursue. Michael is an unbridled reserve of energy with wide-ranging, artistic creativity. Paul’s decided, “We have different gifts according to the grace given us . . use [your] gift in proportion to [your] faith.” Romans 12:6-8 NIV.

Pray as did Jabez, “Bless me and enlarge my territory.” Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV. Creative potential is unlimited, unless you accept boundaries or allow others to impose them. Unwise comparisons with others will undermine your own God-given gifts and your confidence in using them. Read 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 NKJV. Be inspired by others’ gifts, not intimidated; share your gifts freely, not sparingly. He gave them; glorify Him with them.

My prayer for you today is this: serve God and others well with the giftedness He gives.

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Failure Isn’t Final

March 8th, 2010

“I was afraid.” Luke 19:21 NIV

“Life has direction – flowing toward you with blessing, or away from you from lack of that.”

My thoughts today are, “failure isn’t final.”

How would you reward a very capable financial adviser who accepted management of your retirement savings, but did nothing with them? His only explanation? He was afraid to lose your money, and simply held your original investment for safe return. Would you praise him for his caution, or replace him for his waste of valuable time and loss of expected gain?

Jesus told just such a story about the Kingdom of God, illustrating each individual’s responsibility for good stewardship of Kingdom opportunities – both ample resource and generous reward. Read Luke 19:11-26 NLT. Among several people given valuable opportunity for reward, one was overcome with his fear of failing and simply hid what was trusted into his hands for safe return it later. Fear keeps you from trying. His ultimate failure was greater than the failure he originally feared.

Here, in Jesus’ own words, is the principle He is teaching you, “To those who use well what they have been given, even more will be given. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken from them.” Luke 19:26 NLT. “To those . . from those!” Do you notice in Jesus’ words the direction that life flows? Life has direction – either flowing toward you with blessing, or flowing away from you because of your lack of that. What he thought safe cost him more than he knew, until all was taken and entrusted to another more committed to his master’s pleasure.

There’s a life lesson in that. Don’t try to fail, but don’t fear to fail either. Everyone deals a bit with a fear of failing. I don’t think anyone enjoys failing. It doesn’t feel good. It’s embarrassing and discouraging. It seems a waste of one’s time, effort, and expense – and often is. There is a difference between failing and being a failure; anyone can do the first; no one has to be the latter. And there is a distinction between failing something you try to do, or failing to be who you are meant to be.

But here’s another side to consider; some of life’s most valuable lessons can come from attempts that failed. Often future success can be built on past attempts that didn’t work. Failure sometimes is the cost of learning how to succeed. It’s not the end of the world; learn something useful from it.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb, had many failures in his experimentation. Rather than be discouraged by those, he is reported to have reasoned that he had eliminated hundreds of ways that would not work. He was that much closer to success, and he did succeed. He made failure serve his efforts. So can you. Failure isn’t final, unless you let it be.

Being averse to every risk is a sure way to miss any reward. You won’t do everything right the first time; no one does. Keep trying. You won’t do everything well on your first try; no one will. Keep trying. But if you are afraid to try, you will never do anything right or well, maybe not do anything at all. You are gifted and possibly needing to believe that.

“God has given gifts to each of you from His great variety of gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you (see that life-direction?) . . do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT. God has given you many gifts; gifts for His purpose and use. How you use those determines your life’s rewards.

My prayer for you today is that you freely give your best to God and others, without fear.

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