Tag Archives: gifts

December 24 – Treasure The Gift

2 Timothy

Twice in chapter one, Paul says something to Timothy that got my attention this Christmas Eve morning. First, in verse 6 he tells the young preacher to “Kindle afresh the gift of God.”  Then in verse 14 Timothy is told to “Guard… The treasure which has been intrusted to you.”

Are your presents wrapped and under the tree waiting for the family gathering when those things, bought with those special people in mind, will be revealed? I finished wrapping my gifts yesterday and I’m looking forward to going to church tonight, then going to my sister’s house where we will open those treasures and enjoy watching the grandkids’ excitement.

What if you’d spent everything you have on a gift for the one you love? Wouldn’t you hope they’d at least appreciate it? You’d probably want them to love it, cherish it, protect it, show it off. You’d want them to use it correctly and carefully. You wouldn’t buy it expecting them to discard or abuse it, or set it aside and neglect it. Would you? I mean it cost you everything.

This weekend we are celebrating the most precious gift you’ve ever been given. And yes, it cost Jesus everything to buy it for you. He bought it wanting you to receive it with joy, to treasure the gift of forgiveness that cost Him His own blood.

Paul tells Timothy in chapter two to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”, to be a good soldier, a fit athlete, a hard working farmer. In speaking to Timothy he tells us not to be ashamed, to be diligent, avoid worldly and empty chatter. I hope you read this letter to Timothy. It contains the owners manual for the gift God gave you through His Son.

We’ll celebrate the birth of the Savior this weekend. But we are celebrating not just a birth. We’re celebrating a life, and a death. We are celebrating the free gift of salvation this Baby was born to purchase for us. My prayer is that we will guard this gift, treasure this gift, use it and share it just like God intends for us to do.

Merry Christmas, dear ones.

May 25 – Mow The Lawn

1 Chronicles 23-25

Everyone had a job to do. These chapters tell of the division of responsibilities for the Levites. Some were purifiers, some bakers, some were assigned to offer burnt sacrifices, and 288 of them were assigned to the praise team.

Often in Scripture we read about the division of labor: God’s people coming together to use their gifts and abilities in service to the Lord. I believe it’s a theme we in the 21st Century still need to apply to our church fellowships.

Has God laid on your heart to volunteer in the nursery? Do it. Maybe the person who is filling that position now is being called to teach a Sunday School class. Maybe in that Sunday School class there is a little girl who needs to hear the Gospel from this person.

Have you thought about mowing the church’s lawn on a regular basis? Maybe that’s God nudging you to serve in that way so the pastor can spend more time visiting people than sitting on the mower. Mowing the lawn is an important service. Should you be the one doing it?

There is something for you to do within your church fellowship. Being an elder, serving on the bereavement committee, updating the webpage, helping with VBS, putting flowers on the altar, pulling weeds, being a greeter, singing in the choir, washing dishes… In fact, your church will not be as effective without your obedience to God to use the gifts and abilities He blessed you with.

We need healthy churches. I pray your church is one because you are faithful.

Christmas 365 Days A Year

Ha! We had our family Christmas last night. My sisters and their families, including five children under the age of 5, and two dogs, made for a rocking’ evening. A niece flew across the country to be with us. Colorful presents everywhere and a bunch of little kids eager to dig in. I think the entire house was shaking with excitement.

Then came the opening of gifts. Boxes, paper, singing dolls, foam swords, Legos, and race cars were everywhere. Confusion? Just a little.

But it was so fun. The gifts that were given and received were done so in love. There was something personal and special about each one. And there were lots of hugs. It really was a great evening.

But I’d be ok not to do that again until next year!

This morning, I was reading the three short letters John wrote. They are found toward the end of the Bible, and I thought it was fitting that John’s theme seems to be, love. Love is what Christmas is all about, isn’t it?

John points to Jesus as our example of love and reminds us that we are to love like Jesus loves. God is love, John says. And those who know him, who have him living in us, must love each other.

So what does that look like? Is it a warm, gushy feeling? Is it the reaction to a kindness shown us? (I just love the earrings you gave me)

Jesus, by example demonstrated love for us in that while we were still sinners, he died for us. He didn’t sit back and feel love. He showed it. Love is something you do.

Love is not even close to what modern society tells us: that we can’t help who we love, or that we “fall” in love like it’s out of our control. Those ideas are lies from Satan to cheapen true love, the love of God in us that propels us into action. Love is a choice to set aside ourselves and concern ourselves with the welfare of others, both in this life and for the life to come.

Jesus gave up a throne to become a baby in human flesh. Jesus gave up comfort to go into the world and tell everyone he saw about the way to the Father. Jesus gave up his life to buy my forgiveness, and yours.

That’s love. Jesus said people will know we are his if we love one another.

My prayer is that we all will choose to demonstrate Christ’s love as we look forward to another year. May we go out of our way to befriend an unsaved neighbor, to reach out to a hurting coworker, to pick up the phone and reconnect with that person we’ve neglected far too long. May we actively demonstrate the same kind of love Jesus showed when he was born in that manger 2000 years ago.

In other words, may we live Christmas 365 days a year.

Why Christmas?

Christmas is next week. I doubt that bit of information comes as much of a surprise to anyone. The whole world celebrates Jesus’ birth whether they want to admit it or not, whether or not they believe that baby in the manger was God in the flesh. Carols fill the airwaves weeks in advance. Colorful lights sparkle from rooftops and streetlights. Everybody and their brother has a Christmas special on TV. Presents are bought and wrapped, plans for family gatherings, office parties, even ugly Christmas sweater parties are in full swing leading up to the day. Even business are closed on December 25.

Many people will attend a church service, even if they haven’t been to church since last Christmas.

On December 25 we celebrate the most important birth – ever. The writer of Hebrews tells us why this event is so important. He spells out who Jesus is and why he was born that day in Bethlehem. God planned, before he created the universe, to join his creation in flesh and blood, to walk where we walk, experience life like we experience life, and to go to the cross so that he could bridge the gap between us and him.

We have forgiveness because this baby grew to be a man who went to the cross to pay the penalty we deserve for every sin we commit. We can have fellowship with him, we can enter his rest, we are co-heirs of the promise, and we have the assurance of heaven because that baby whose birth we celebrate, God with us, lived and died to give us the ultimate present. Himself!

Many of you have spent a lot of time and thought, picking out the perfect gift for that special person in you life. You bought it, brought it home, probably looked at it a thousand times and imagined your loved one opening it. You wrap it carefully in the best paper you can find and put that finishing touch on the package, a bow and a card that says, To…, From… As the day approaches, your level of excitement grows with the knowledge that your loved one is going to love this gift!

So the day comes. You hide the gift behind your back and approach your loved one. With a smile on your face, you bring the package around and offer it to that one who means so much to you. You can’t wait to see their reaction.

What happens next is life changing. Imagine if your loved one refuses the gift. Imagine he or she holding the wrapped package, then putting it aside and walking away. That gift is their’s for the taking. What if they don’t take it? It’s bought and paid for. Their name is right there on the package. They just need to accept it.

But imagine your loved one accepting that gift, opening the package and holding it close to their heart. Imagine them wearing the gift, using it as it is intended. Imagine them protecting it, showing it off to their friends, cherishing it for a life time. Isn’t that what you, as the giver of the gift, planned for all along?

That’s, “Why Christmas.” You have the most important gift you’ll ever receive right in front of you. It’s forgiveness. It’s cleansing and freedom and fellowship with Jesus, the baby whose birth we are celebrating. God’s grace is the best, most wonderful possession you will ever have. And it’s yours for the taking.

I pray you will cherish that gift like no other. God has forgiven you. The price for your soul has been paid. Will you accept it?

Precious Jesus, I pray that everyone reading this blog knows you as their Savior. That’s why you were born that day 2,000 years ago. But for those who have yet to accept your gift, I pray they will talk to you today, that they will ask you to forgive them, that they will turn from sin and toward you who has bought the most wonderful gift they could ever receive. May this Christmas have real meaning for each of us as we consider why you were born. Thank you for the baby in the manger, for the man who lived and died so that each of us can know you. Thank you for Christmas.

Are You A Toe?

In I Chronicles 23-25 you will read a lot of names listed there. These were men who were given the responsibility and privilege of serving God in his temple. 

God calls every one of us to serve, too. Paul likens the Church to a body with hands and feet, fingers and toes, eyes and mouths. No one is called to fulfill the duties of all the parts of the body. A body is not just a toe. But the toe has a necessary function in a healthy body.

As does a finger or an elbow, an ear or an eyelash. A healthy body has every part working at it’s best.

That’s true in a healthy church, too. If I am called to be a finger and I don’t do my best, the hand can operate, but not at it’s best.

I think many churches are operating as cripples because some of us aren’t doing our parts. And some toes are trying to do the work of  fingers.

The question is not, HAS God called me into ministry? The question is, WHERE is God calling me to serve? Your church fellowship needs you. Are you called to sing in the choir, take care of babies in the nursery, be a greeter, sweep the floors, teach a class, visit shut-ins, type a bulletin, care for a web-page, wash dishes. There are tons of opportunities in every church where God wants to use your abilities. 

Tomorrow is Sunday. Are you ready to fulfill your calling? Many people don’t have to wait until the first day of the week. They are busy doing what God has called them to do throughout the week. But my prayer is that you will hear God’s voice, answer his call, and be about doing what you are needed to do in the body of your church.

If we obey God’s call, our church fellowships will be healthier, we will be happier, and all of us will be blessed. Then others will be blessed through us.

And all to the glory of God!

I Am Amazed

I was reading in Exodus today about God’s instructions to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle. I don’t think I ever read this portion of Scripture without being in awe.

I am amazed at the details of the instructions. God was interested in every stitch, every stone. And every part of that tabernacle held special meaning.

I am amazed at the amount of materials required to build the Tabernacle. Where did they get all that gold, bronze, and silver, all the wood and stone there in the desert? How did they dye the enormous amount of thread needed to make yards and yards of material so it looked like one piece of cloth?

I am amazed that, in the desert, men could forge golden cherubim, tiny hooks, utensils. They sure didn’t have the machinery we have today.
I don’t know how long it took to complete the Tabernacle but it amazes me they ever got it done. It took three weeks for my bathroom to be updated and it’s a tiny bathroom. There in the desert, so many individuals completed so many tasks. How did they do that?

God would remind me that the Christian life should look like that. Each of us should identify our gifts and use them to build the kingdom as we lead sinners to Jesus. The world should stand in awe of us and ask themselves, how did they do that?

Does seeing God alive and working in us amaze our unsaved friends and family? It should.

God, you are amazing. We who know you know that truth. Now, God, equip us to show the world just how awesome you are. In these days when the Truth of Scripture is being attacked and disregarded I pray that your people will stand, that we will work together, that the world will see your grace in us and want what we have. May they recognize your greatness because they see your greatness in each of us. And may they be amazed at what you do and who you are through us who represent you.

October 31

Mark 13:24-37; Matthew 24:29-51, 25:1-20; Luke 21:25-38, 19:11-27

I was ready to buy a new car. I had driven mine for about five years and was shopping for another when my brother-in-law, Ron, said he’d like to buy my old one. We agreed on a price and I turned over the keys. He got into the car and immediately adjusted the steering wheel. I said, “I didn’t know that did that.” Five years I drove my car with the steering wheel on my lap and never pressed the button that would raise it. Needless to say, my brother-in-law loved teasing me about that.

About five years later I was ready for a new car and once again Ron wanted to buy my old one. And once again, after agreeing on a price I gave him the keys. He got in and sat in the driver’s seat and started playing with the buttons. He asked, “Do you use the fog lights much?” I looked at him and sheepishly said, “I didn’t know I had fog lights.” Let’s just say he will never let me forget that one.

How foolish am I?

Our Creator God has give us so much. Are we using his gifts to the fullest? As Christians. he has given us life and love, grace, forgiveness, hope. What are we doing with those precious things? Do we use what we have for the purpose they were given – to lead lost souls to Jesus?

All that we have materially and spiritually we have for one reason only. To. Use. Them.

Jesus tells us in the parable of the talents that we who have been given much will be given even more if we are faithful with what we have. And what we have will be taken away if we refuse to use it for God’s glory. How foolish would that be?

Father, I pray that you will find us faithful. May we be grateful for the many blessings you shower upon us. And may we use each one to reach out to lost souls and draw them to you. May we use what you have given us and produce a crop that is pleasing to you.

September 25

I Chronicles 9:1-34; Nehemiah 12:1-47

Jerusalem was rebuilt and the repair of the wall completed. The priests were ready to begin ministering and the gatekeepers were assigned their responsibilities. But first the people wanted to praise God.

I have a degree in music education. The beginning of my teaching career found me teaching children how to play musical instruments and later, how to use their voices to make music. I have such good memories of elementary bands and middle school choirs.

So when I read about the two choirs that had a part in the celebration recorded in Nehemiah, it got my attention. I certainly would have been a part of that had I been there! I find it a great joy to be a part of a group of people who work together to turn notes on a page into harmonies and beautiful music.

While practicing my clarinet or singing an alto part I hear only that particular progression of notes. Sometimes it’s boring and repetitive and I can’t make out the melody. Sometimes getting the rhythm correct or the fingerings running smoothly is tedious.

But when I sit among other individuals who have also spent time on their individual parts, together the result is beautiful. It all makes sense when everyone is playing or singing their part.

Another look at the Church? I think so. I am wondering how beautiful the music of your local fellowship sounds? Are you a group of people who individually spend time in God’s Word, who know and use their spiritual gifts in the fellowship and in the community? Are there those who prepare lessons from the Bible, who change diapers in the nursery, who sing in the choir and who plow snow in the winter? Are there prayer warriors and sacrificial financial supporters, encouragers and counselors? 

One person can’t do it all. But working together produces something beautiful, music to our Lord’s ears. What part do you play? Are you practicing to perfect that piece of music set before you? Your part might not seem all that important to you. A third clarinet player or a percussionist playing a triangle might not think they have an exciting or important position in the band. But take away that part and the whole piece is effected. Something is missing. The music just doesn’t sound like it should. If everyone only played the melody all the time the music would be hollow. It’s the harmonies that make the music work!

My prayer is that you will take hold of whatever part of your local church you are able. And that you will perfect that part of the ministry. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your part isn’t important or necessary. You are part of a great work. May the result produce music that pleases our Lord.

June 22

2 Kings 11:4-21, 12:1-16, 10:28-36, 13:1-3, 22-23; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21, 24:1-16

I used to be a good clarinet player. I use the past tense because I haven’t played in years. Someone has said if you don’t use it, you lose it. I know that’s true.

As I was reading our scripture this morning, Jehoiada’s words to the Levites reminded me of my clarinet. The priest certainly wasn’t talking about music but God seemed to bring it to my mind as I read, “… all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them.” (2 Chronicles 23:6)

Now I know we need to be careful about pulling a scripture out of context. But I think God is convicting me for not guarding what he assigned to me. He gave me musical ability and I’ve squandered that away.

Can you identify the gifts and talents God blessed you with? Maybe God is asking you to guard them. Use them for his glory. He gave those things to us for a reason. Don’t miss out on the blessings that come from using them in service to our Lord.

Guard what the Lord has assigned to you.

June 4

Proverbs 24:23-27:27

Some of the proverbs make me laugh outloud. Especially the ones about the quarrelsome wife. I’m sure old Solomon had his share of quarrelsome wives.

Some of the proverbs are puzzles to me. I find myself reading and re-reading those and even then I’m not sure what they mean.

Others grab me by the throat. They convict me and drive me to my knees.

And sometimes a proverb will stop me in my tracks. It’s like I’ve never seen it before or thought about God’s truth in that light. Like today.

I know we are tested every day. Things happen and our reaction to those things measure our faith in the Lord. They measure our commitment, our belief. But I guess I pictured those tests as the bad things that happen. The big things like illness, loss of job, infidelity, death. Or smaller things like gossip, my reaction to the slow driver on the road ahead.

In Proverbs 27:21 Solomon says… The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.

Did I misread that? We are tested by praise? What?

Is it hard for you to accept a compliment? Sometimes I think Christians believe it’s a sin, or prideful to admit when we are able to do something well. Maybe we fail the test if we deny what God has gifted us with.

I don’t think Solomon means we are to deny our God-given gifts. But I also know God doesn’t want us bragging about them, either. 27:2 says… Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.

It says LET another praise you. People tell my nephew all the time that he is a good baseball player. My sister is often complimented for being a good nurse’s aide. Are they to deny those gifts because they are Christians? I used to receive praise for my ability to play the clarinet. Was I wrong to say, thank you?

There is a difference between being prideful and arrogant, and being humbly aware of the blessing God has given us. Maybe passing the test isn’t always minimizing our gifts or denying them. Maybe passing the test is acknowledging God’s hand in our accomplishments. Just maybe we can actually pass this test without letting praise go to our heads.

Remember, God didn’t gift you with an ability because you are so special. He gifted you with that gift so he can use it to reveal himself to those who benefit from your gift. 

Can you sing? Then get out there and sing for the Lord. Can you make friends easily? Then do it and give God the glory. Are you a good policeman, speaker, lawn mower, artist, parent, teacher, cook, mechanic, writer… whatever! Do it for the Lord. 

And when someone says you’ve done a good job or recognizes your talent, accept the praise humbly, graciously, and thankfully. And point them to your Savior, the giver of gifts. That’s what he had in mind all along when he gave you that gift, anyway.

God, I pray that your people will be aware of the tests that come our way today. Whether trials by fire or by praise I pray that you will find us faithful, that we would pass the test with flying colors and that others will see you in what we do and say. Thank you for gifting each of us with something special. Help us to use those things with confidence and for your glory.