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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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Christmas Wonder

December 16th, 2014

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ.

This Advent, my thoughts and comments are about “Christmas wonder.”

Life presents moments that pique your curiosity until you just must know more. Some of those are coincidental; a few, but more than you might realize, are providential. I regret any time I was too busy to notice moments of divine providence. I am grateful for every time I allowed God to interrupt my plans with His opportunities. Such instances can change your course and shape your life in unexpected ways.

Christmas should be one of those times. On the first Christmas, the eternal and almighty God personally came into our world at an unexpected time (after 400 years of Heaven’s silence), to an unlikely place (to a stable, not a palace), and in an unimaginable manner (in a natural process possible only by supernatural means). The Creator became as His creation; the Eternal became subject to mortality; the Omnipotent became conventional.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ, presenting questions only God and faith can adequately answer. The Apostle Paul described the Incarnation to Timothy, his young protégé, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. Peter simply wrote, “[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NIV.

I love the Christmas story as told by Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Angels fill the Judean night with praise and pronouncements to humble shepherds routinely busy about their drab and daily life. Leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurried to find this One of whom the Angels sang. Of course, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph their story, as they later, “spread the word that had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” People’s “wonder” is variously translated as, “amazed, marveled, or astonished.” Christmas should arouse wonder and amazement.

Mary’s response provides my thoughts and comments today; “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV. What a model of spiritual life for you and me. Mary “treasured and pondered in her heart” the words and workings of God. Spiritual discovery originates in the heart, then engages the mind for understanding and the will for appropriate action. Generations earlier, Solomon gave strong counsel, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” Read Proverbs 4:21-27 NKJV.

Mary’s attitude was reverential; Mary “treasured” the Angel’s words that began her journey of obedience and trust, as she embraced the awe-filled story of the shepherds’ angelic visit and pronouncement, just as she would esteem the Wise Men’s journey from afar. She placed high value on all that God said and did and cherished it all in her heart.

Mary’s posture was wonder and worship. Mary “pondered” the Angel’s words. “Ponder” is the process of, “putting one thing with another in considering circumstances.” Mary was deliberate, reflective, and ultimately receptive. Mary’s reasoned response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant . . for He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.”  Read Mary’s joyous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.

This Advent, my prayer is that Christmas is released in your heart with fresh wonder and discovery.

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Exhilarating Moments

December 27th, 2013

“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” Matthew 2:10 NLT.

Spiritual exhilaration is momentary, but the discovery of Jesus impacts a lifetime.

My thoughts and comments today are about “exhilarating moments”

Sitting in a quiet house this morning after Christmas, I am struck by the contrast between this moment and yesterday when this room was filled with our family – kids, spouses, in-laws, grandkids, a great granddaughter, and a great grandson “on the way.” There was cooking, activity, laughter, conversations, busyness, fun and games, and exchanging gifts – with loving appreciation and good will to one and all. It was exhilarating. The gifts under the tree are now opened and gone; the families have departed. Now, the calm and quiet seem deafening.

In the Christmas narrative, Matthew reports the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men from the East. “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” Read Matthew 2:1-12. Anticipation, consecration, and finally celebration marked their journey. Who were they? From where did they come? How did they know to follow the mysterious, miraculous star? How long did they journey? What prompted the gifts they gave? But I think of a more important question. How did such miraculous direction from afar and such an exhilarating moment of discovery impact the rest of their lives? Spiritual exhilaration is momentary, but the discovery of Jesus impacts a lifetime.

“They fell down and worshipped Him. Then they . . gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But when it was time to leave, they went home another way.” Matthew 2:11-12 NLT. Inevitably, they returned to the routines and responsibilities of everyday life. Allow me a bit of a writer’s “poetic license” about the words, “They went home another way.” I know that refers to the Magi not retracing their steps to Jerusalem because of God’s warning them about Herod’s evil intent for the child. But for me, the words suggest a practical application: Christmas, the truth of God coming into your world, should be a permanently life-changing experience, not just an exhilarating moment.

If you understand the historical and personal reality of God loving you enough to give His Son and His Son giving Himself to be your Savior, you will not live as you did before such transformative knowledge entered your heart. Because of Christ’s birth, our calendar changed from BC to AD, “Before Christ” to “Anno Domini,” a Latin phrase that means, “Year of our Lord.” His birth changes everything and anyone forever! Christmas is a good time for lasting change. See Romans 6:4 NIV.

Jesus’ birth replaced man’s sinful plight with a spiritual destiny – any man’s history with every man’s possibilities – and man’s abysmal record with a Godly legacy, changing prejudices, temperament, habits, history, regrets, lusts, and vices. “For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether – the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new. All this is God’s doing, for he has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Phillips. Now that is an exhilarating life.

Christmas Day is past, but Christmas’ exhilarating celebration should not be over. Do you return to the usual, or does Christmas invite a new normal? Life is like that, exhilarating moments followed by the routines and responsibilities of daily life. If you can return contentedly to being who you were, doing what you were doing, and living as you pleased, then what you celebrated may have been a “Happy Holiday,” but was not the “Merry Christmas” God intends for you. Christmas is not a single day; Christmas is Christ born anew and living in your heart every day. See John 17:3 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your celebration of Jesus is transformative.

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A Christmas Change

December 26th, 2012

Christmas as a heart experience is forever.

When the angels had gone away into Heaven . .” Luke 2:15 NKJV.

The wait for Christmas seems interminable. Then each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event concludes. But Christmas as a heart experience is forever. I would suggest that how you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of angels’ visitations, shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been. Disruption appeared to be their new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. “. . flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when he arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven . .” Predictably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, forever changed by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing . . which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Angels return to Heaven, but there are lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, and work to be done – but also an unbelievable story to be told.

And Matthew writes of a similar experience for those royal visitors from afar, “They departed to their own country another way.” Matthew 2:12 NKJV. I know that is merely describing the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV. A person cannot bow at Christmas with true heart and worship and be the same as they were. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV. Christmas changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and even alters lives. Ultimately, Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is not about the pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings; Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now and forever. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God . .” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that change came with Christmas and remains long after.

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