FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Gift Giving

Gift giving has long been a subject for studies on human behavior, with virtually everyone weighing in from anthropologists to economists and psychologists to marketers and, of course, the gift recipients. Not at all surprising,  gift giving is a complex and revealing part of human interaction, telling us much about both givers and receivers while often defining relationships and interactions and strengthening or weakening bonds with family and friends.

Personally, I love gift giving!  Now some family members will tell you that I love shopping, but it actually isn’t the shopping that I enjoy; it’s the gift giving.  Not just any gift, but the right gift. The perfect gift.  The “you know it was picked out just for you” gift.  Like the actual Hollywood script of the about-to-be-released Star Trek movie that I gave to my then fiancé.  Or the logo that I commissioned and then had embroidered on shirts for my Sweetie.  And surely the pearl earrings and manicure for a student worker about to go on her first professional interview.

Psychologists tell us that the giver often reaps the reward, experiencing deeper joy and greater happiness than the recipient.  I can attest to the truth of that finding.  Sometimes I can hardly wait for someone to open their gift.  Like that logo and those embroidered shirts; they were intended as a Christmas gift, but I found myself giving the box to my Sweetie and begging him to open it about two weeks before Christmas.  I just couldn’t wait to see his surprise and, prayerfully, the delight in his eyes. (NOTE:  He did not disappoint.  Smile.)

To pick out such a gift, you have to know the person and you have to care about the person.

This is the heart of our Heavenly Father.  He knows us (Luke 12:7, Matthew 10:30 ESV); He loves us (Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:16, John 3:16), and as Mark Batterson writes, “He can hardly wait to keep His promises.  He can hardly wait to perform His word.  He can hardly wait to answer our prayers. And, when we simply take Him at His word, He can hardly contain His joy!”  Our Father gives us good and perfect gifts (James 1:17 ESV), including wisdom (James 1:5 ESV), salvation (Ephesians 2:8 ESV) and eternal life (Romans 6:23 ESV).

Isaiah 11:2-3 (CEB) identifies seven different spirits or gifts: “The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LordHe will delight in fearing the LordHe won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay.”  Paul identifies nine specific gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-10:  1)Word of Wisdom, 2) Word of Knowledge, 3) Faith, 4) Gifts of Healing, 5) Working of Miracles, 6) Prophecy 7) Discerning of Spirits, 8) Divers (or different) kinds of Tongues and 9) Interpretation of (different) Tongues.

Just as we choose gifts for our friends and family, God gives His gifts as He sees best.  All we have to understand is that He withholds no good thing” from us (Psalm 84:11 NLV) He has “appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues.  All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they?  All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30 CEB).  The answer is, “No,” because He calls us individually and uniquely and while He gives gifts to all, He also gives special gifts to each of us based on who He has called us to be.

Sometimes our gift giving goes awry.  Wrong size.  Hated color.  Stirred allergies.  Sometimes motives aren’t pure.  Occasionally things arrive broken or defective, and sometimes gifts just aren’t appreciated. God’s gifts are good.  God’s gifts are perfect.  God’s gifts are free.  God’s gifts are eternal.  But we have to claim them.  The gift in the box is no good.  Receiving a gift means untying the ribbon, opening the box and peeling back the tissue.  How would you feel if you knew deep within that you had purchased just the right gift for a friend or family member but when you gave it to them, they simply admired the wrapping paper and the bow informing you of their intent never to open it?  Where’s the joy?  How can there be squeals of delight?  What would be the purpose?

THIS WEEK spend time considering the unique and special gift God has for you?  Every spiritual gift is a reflection of God’s nature that He planted within you.  Your gift reflects God’s design and direction for your life.  This is not a gift that you want to leave unwrapped!  Opening it will bring you great joy and deep satisfaction.  You may want to spend some time engaged with this short Bible Study:  Why God Gave You Gifts found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/w/why-god-gave-you-gifts.html.


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Don’t Get it Twisted

In the 70s Lynette Hawkins Stephens, a member of the famed Hawkins Family Singers, sang:

“God has not promised me sunshine.

That’s not the way it’s going to be

But a little rain…mixed with God’s sunshine

A little pain…makes me appreciate the good times.

Grateful.  Grateful.

God desires to fill your longings.

Every pain that you feel, He feels them just like you.

But He can’t afford to let you feel only good.

Then you can’t appreciate the good times.

Grateful.  Grateful.  Be grateful.

Be grateful because there’s someone else that’s worse off than you.

Be grateful because there’s someone else that’d love to be in your shoes!

Be grateful.  My God said He would never forsake you.

Be grateful.  God said He would never, never forsake you.

Be grateful.

Be grateful. (Repeat)

For it will be alright!”

But sometimes, we get it twisted!

Indeed the Scriptures are saturated with God’s promises – great and precious, but they are not all about sunshine and roses or blue skies and happiness; they are good promises and they are promises for our good – through all the circumstances of life. (Read 2 Peter 1:4 and Joshua 23:14, NIV) 

Matthew 11: 28-29 says,Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” and Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”    These passages tell me that we will experience burdens and we will grow weary.  If we didn’t, we would have no need of rest.  Weakness, weariness and exhaustion are ours but also promises of rest, power, strength and the ability to soar like eagles.

Undeniably, no one likes trials, troubles or tribulations.  But we all have experienced them, are experiencing them or will experience them.  It is just a matter of time.  But because of the promises of God, Christians can look with different eyes at their challenges. James 1:2-4 tells us “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; [trials] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  We can look with joy at our challenges knowing that they will result in our growth – increased faith, boundless patience, greater power, enduring strength…  We can be grateful for these growth experiences and the love of God which will sustain us through each working them for good.

Gratitude is not easy.  Bonnie McMaken says, “It is an intentional, courageous undertaking, challenging our assumptions of what God’s faithfulness looks like in good times and in bad. If we are only grateful during good times, our response hinges on God’s gifts to us, and our gratitude becomes conditional and weak…,” but “[b]ecause God is faithful, we can be receptive to [H]im even during difficulty. This doesn’t mean we like the situation or that we have to find some sort of good in it while we’re in that situation. Sometimes the only good thing we will meet is God himself, and [H]e will sustain us.”  That alone, the assurance of meeting God and knowing that He will sustain us, seems to me enough to be grateful for.

Enjoy this version of Be Grateful:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZF5ikxdTfM