Giving Good Gifts

So, how’s that Christmas shopping going? How many times have you heard that question this year? It seems like it is a common question this time of year as we approach Christmas, a time to celebrate Christ’s birth by exchanging gifts with our families and friends. But maybe the real question should be; how are you at picking out gifts? I find that the people who procrastinate at their Christmas shopping are the same ones who struggle to figure out what a good gift might be. They fear giving the wrong gift, so they put off their shopping.

Thankfully, God knows how to give the best gifts. of course the first and best is His Son Jesus, but also there’s the spiritual gifts that He gives to believers. There are many self tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12 gives a good list of these gifts as does Ephesians 4. These good gifts are for the benefit of the church, to grow it and build it up. But, there are other gifts that God gives. Our natural abilities and talents that helps us to do our vocations and hobbies.

Recently I was reading an article that suggested parents should not recognize or celebrate their children’s natural gifts and talents. Instead it was suggested that parents should encourage their children to work hard and excel at everything. All it takes is a little self determination and everything is possible. Well, I  believe that God creates each person individually, I mean look at your fingerprint- there isn’t another one like it. Our natural talents are meant for us and is a part of who God made us to be and should be celebrated. We as human beings are unique and specially created by God. We are not cookie cutter.

Sometimes, I think we can forget this. We try to be or do something we are not. We are trying to use a gift that doesn’t fit, because, well, we don’t have that gift. It is a fake it till you make it philosophy, but it’s not long and we can become frustrated trying to do something we were never meant to do in the first place. We should always operate in what we have been gifted in. It is the right gift. The right fit. The good gift from the ultimate gift giver.

I was reminded of this today. I am responsible to use the gifts I have been given, not try to use someone else’s gift. It is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit and it’s a struggle to figure out how to make it fit. In the end, it’s a choice to select to do what I am gifted to do and not try to do everything.God Bless -Nancy

 

Be Like Him

I’m a little bit late on writing this blog this week. I am one of those affected by an oncoming hurricane on the east coast. I have been thinking about the subject I would write about this week and I think I’ve found a topic; being transformed into the image of Christ and what that might look like in our daily lives. Two verses came to mind this week; the first is from the Book of Matthew; “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because  they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd” (Mt. 9:36, NIV). In this context Jesus had been visiting towns and teaching the good news and healing many and yet He was met with opposition from the religious Pharisees. The point I would like to point to is the compassion of Jesus. Few would argue with Jesus being compassionate. In fact, even those who aren’t Christians some times refer to Jesus as a compassionate person, a good role model to others and offering practical moral teaching. Those of us who are believers, know Him as more as we have felt His compassion upon us.

The second passage that comes to mind is from the Book of Nehemiah. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV) Why was Nehemiah weeping? Well he had asked  the news from Jerusalem, his home town. The report was bad. Everything had been destroyed when the people had been forced into exile into Babylon. Reports were coming in from those who had stayed in Israel and had not been a part of the mass exile.The wall surrounding the city was destroyed. It affected Nehemiah greatly. He took it personally although he was miles away, living in Babylon and serving as cup bearer for the king Artexerxes.

So, here we can see two examples of compassion for others that we can follow today. With many natural disasters and man made tragedies such as attacks and shootings, we have the opportunity to have compassion on others. Others need to know we care about them particularly when they have had disaster or tragedy strike them. What can we do? Nehemiah prayed and Nehemiah informed the King of the disaster of his home country.  The result? The king allowed Nehemiah to return home and provided the funds and supplies to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  We can do the same. We can pray, we can tell others and we can offer to supply aid. What we don’t want to do as we grow and move forward in out walk of faith is to fail to develop compassion on others. To grow hardened to tragedies or scoff others’ concern or worries. Sometimes we do that. There are so many tragic stories in the news and easy access to stories and news both fake and real on social media, I think we have become too good at dismissing the misfortune of others. Jesus had compassion on others. Nehemiah wept and prayed and fasted. He had a good job in a royal household, he didn’t really need to concern himself with the problems miles away. Yet he did. He took it personal. He made it personal. So did Jesus. He left Heaven and took on human form with all its limitations. He loved us. He had compassion on us. As we have opportunity let us do the same towards others. -God Bless -Nancy

Lighthouses and Labor Day, So What’s the Connection?

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain the connection. Is there really any connection? Probably not. But both provided for me a great reflection of the church in America. First of all, please don’t bash me for my opinion of churches. It’s merely my observation and how God has been speaking to me about the subject.  Yesterday was the first Monday of September when Labor Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States. It recognizes the labors and hard work of the American Worker and provides a day off from their labors. Banks are closed, no postal deliveries are made, schools are closed. Most people are off work, so they take in those last minute summer pastimes, like going to the lake, camping, picnicking and beach going. My husband was off work as well, so we decided to visit one of the beaches nearby. Of course, so did everyone else in the four surrounding states! Needless to say, we kept driving along the beach road, looking for a parking spot. This beach in particular has strict rules for where you can and can’t park. Believe me we know now, after receiving the gift of a parking ticket the first year we visited. So, we drove and drove and kept on driving, much farther than we had anticipated, until the road suddenly ended at a convenient turn around spot with a gated road. No, this was not a gated community, which had sprung up and taken the best beach access, but it was the beginning of a road to access a light house. There was a parking spot free along the roadside, so we decided to stop and walk to the lighthouse.

We were familiar with this lighthouse having spotting it from another beach along the coast, but we were never sure of how to access it. Well, let me explain, there actually is no way to access the lighthouse without swimming to it. It basically sits in the middle of the water probably a half mile or so off the beach. But…. it didn’t always. At one time it sat on the land and could be accessed by car. So, what happened? Erosion. Over time the land eroded and storm after storm probably aided in that erosion. There are multiple efforts to save and preserve the lighthouse and money boxes for donations are found as you pass the gates, that now prevent car traffic. It is eery to walk on the road and come up to an empty parking lot. There were plenty of people there yesterday enjoying the beach, after walking their way in, but sadly no way to really get close to the lighthouse. My husband and I have visited other lighthouses up and down the coast of the United States and even one in Cozumel, Mexico. All were accessible, and if you are in great shape you can climb up to the top.

So, what does this have to do with church? Well, I was thinking about what to write today to share with you about rest, Labor Day, etc. and the verse that came to  mind is from the Book of Matthew,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28, NIV). These are Jesus’ own words as He was talking to the crowd gathered. Some of you might have heard this before. It sounds great, Jesus wants me to rest, take it easy, you know not got worried about stuff. Maybe it will motivate me when I’ve feeling stressed out or over- worked. Well, kinda, but not exactly. See what Jesus was talking about is resting from religious burdens.  The Pharisees were like church managers in those days, and they were hung up about everyone following the Laws of God perfectly, that they sought to come up with 600 more to add to the originals. Yes, 600 just to clarify what a person could do on their Sabbath Day, which was the day God had given them for rest. Today, Christians rest on Sunday. But, do they? Recently I attended a gathering of believers and as I sat there, I began to sense an uneasiness. As I looked around, everything seemed okay, perfect even. But, that’s when I realized that was the problem. I have seen it in other get- togethers  in Christian circles. We all look perfect. From the outside anyway. We all look the same. Wait a minute, aren’t we supposed to be reaching the lost, you know the ones who aren’t in Christian circles and attendees in church services. Jesus, met people where they were and their lives were changed. Not on the outside, but the inside. You see, we who are believers are supposed to be changed into the image of Christ, but I don’t believe that means outside. Urban renewal has been popular for several years. Often the word “gentrification” comes up when talking about the renewal of old neighborhoods. It’s great to see old buildings reclaimed and houses fixed, but sadly, many of the original neighbors, can’t afford to live in these new homes. It’s out of their price range. Sadly, I see the same thing happening in the Western church culture. We try to fit people in to the church mold, remodeling the outside, but not really promoting inward change. We have created a hidden set of Sabbath day rules in regards to what we wear, how we should talk, how we should worship. But God looks at our hearts, not our outside appearances. Let me be clear though, I am only talking about church customs, not the Bible. We are to adhere to God’s Word. What I mean to say is we are called to shine the light of Christ, like that lighthouse I visited. But, have we walled ourselves off too much? Are we throwing money into the church to save it? But yet it still remains inaccessible to those who need it the most. Those who are being thrown by the storms of life and are drowning in despair? The church needs to consider whether our hidden customs are keeping people out. Are dresses and suits more holy than ripped jeans? Are Sunday services more anointed than Saturday night services? Is the King James Bible the only real Bible? Are men the only ones God calls? I know all these issues have been addressed before, but I just wanted to share what is on my heart. Jesus labored on the cross for all. We can enter His rest when we put our trust in Him as Savior. We do not need to make keeping the religious laws an entrance exams for those who want to trust Him too. Especially when there are just about customs and culture.Jesus is our rest from trying to be good enough or look good enough in church circles. As someone has once said, Jesus died to give us a relationship, not a religion. God Bless- Nancy