Gift Given – Gift Received?

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your righteous regulations.
I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as you promised.
Lord, accept my offering of praise, and teach me your regulations.
My life constantly hangs in the balance, but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
The wicked have set their traps for me, but I will not turn from your commandments.
Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end.       Psalm 105-112 (NLT)

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.        2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
It’s the time of the year that gift-giving has become the media headline and an obsession of most breathing persons. We have taken over the job of Santa Claus and have made lists that we are checking twice, three times… oh, admit it! We have lost count as to how much we check our lists and try to figure a way for our limited funds to cover the wishes of the recipients. Many of us struggle to learn, and in turn teach our children, the true meaning of Christmas. We desire to focus on the Gift of Jesus the Messiah and be the givers that Jesus taught us to be. How do we change? How do we truthfully teach our children? Here is a truth: Nothing of good and lasting change will come without a price. So what am I willing to spend to make a change? I believe there are Three Steps. Simple but not necessarily easy.
Step One: Bible Study. Simple. Too simple, you say? If you are not giving at least 30 minutes to Bible study every day, then do not knock what you haven’t tried!
Think about how many people are “members” of your church. How many attend 3 out of 4 Sabbaths/month? How many also attend Sunday School or a weekly small group? If attending a class, does the class require some reading/study outside the 30 minute class or is the teacher spoon-feeding the members what he/she believes?
There are no shortcuts to Bible study. That is why “they” call it study. Unlike some of the subjects I had to devote my time in school, the time I spend reading the words that God gave are relevant to my life and I do use them every day. Every time I read passages in my study time, I come away with some “nugget” that teaches me, encourages me, or just makes me think about what I believe. This simple first step has had a profound effect on my life. God has used it to speak to me. 1 Peter was the anchor that I held during a divorce. Luke 22 and John 14-16 began my healing after my son died. 1 Corinthians 13 is among several passages that speak into my marriage today.
Step Two: Words to Action. If I had a manual to teach me how to paint my house but never did what the manual told me, my house would still be the same brown color it is now. Studying the Bible is the first step; putting God’s words into action is the second step.
It takes God’s Word and His Spirit to direct me in the path that He has for me. God has a purpose and a plan for me to fulfill that purpose. He has and will continue to gift me for that purpose. I remember when God opened the door for me to be a part of His mission to Hungary. Yes, the country in Eastern Europe. That country had never come into my plan for my life! And the opening was about doing a children’s camp, much like a Vacation Bible School that are a common occurrence in the summer here in the States. I was flabbergasted! I have never done a children’s Sunday School class. I have done children’s musicals but I was always very clear – I teach the music, someone else organizes and keeps control of all the little ones! I was panicked at the idea of leading a team to a foreign country I knew little about and do two two-week camps! Finally, in my prayers that quiet voice of the Holy Spirit got through to me and said, “I did not ask you to do it all, Jody! I just asked you to organize the team and make it happen.” Sure enough, God already had a woman picked out with teaching giftings to work with children. And she knew others and we knew some more and before you know it we had about 15 people to come in two waves to do the camps. We were just God’s instruments to empower the others. God just needs willing, obedient hearts.
Step Three: Fellowship. We are not islands. God tells us we are His Body, each a part with a function and made to work together. He teaches us that as we grow in Him we produce fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. We need the fruit in order to work together as He wants us to do – in unity.
I am not going to lie or sugar-coat this step. I have found it difficult to connect with a fellowship. I am not looking for a “perfect” fellowship because then I could not be a part of it! I am looking for a group of people who want to reach out and welcome those who do not know Jesus. A fellowship that will then nurture (disciple) those new to faith in Jesus no matter their “station” in the world and challenge me to grow in my faith in Jesus. I look for worship that isn’t started with an “order” that cannot be flexible or stopped by a clock. I haven’t found that fellowship. Today, at this moment, I am wondering if God isn’t asking me to “infect” the fellowship of which I am a part. It seems I have been a part of that struggle for a very long time. But not as long as Jesus has! If I am His disciple, His ambassador in this world, can I do no less?
And so I come back to giving. Jesus is showing me how to give in ways that do not cost money. I may not see this side of heaven what my giving may mean in the Kingdom. God is asking for willing and obedient hearts. The rest is His to direct and complete.
As we go to church on Christmas Eve and sing Silent Night let us take a moment and bow our heads and ask God, “What would you like me to give You, my King?” If my ears are truly open, I have a feeling that the answer will be quick. Listen.
This song by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant is worth a listen. Sung by Amy Grant, I Need a Silent Night

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