Saturday, November 26, 2022

What Gifts Will You Give Him?

Photo by James Petts 2013


During the Christmas season and always, have you considered what gifts you will give your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? What can we possibly give Him that could even come close to showing our appreciation for the greatest Gift ever given – God’s Son given that all who trust Him may have eternal life? (John 3:16)

His story proves that you can’t judge a gift from its wrappings. God the Father’s greatest gift to the world, His only begotten Son, destined to become the perfect sacrifice for all sins, and to return again to rule the universe in glory, was presented in a very humble way. He came as a helpless baby, born into a humble family, delivered in a lowly stable (Luke 2:7).

Just as the Wise Men of Christ’s day sought Him out and aimed to give Him their very best gifts (Matthew 2: 1-12), so do wise men and women of today seek Him and consecrate to Him their lives and the very best gifts they can offer.

You don't have to shop for these gifts, because He is the source of all good things (James 1:17). You won't have to go into debt over them, because you can't outgive God, and the more you give Him, the more blessings will flow back to you (Luke 6:38). They're always exactly what He would want and a perfect fit, as long as you're following His perfect will for your life. And you don't have to worry that they'll be returned -- you can be sure they will, as He gives back to you many times over all that you entrust to Him (1 Kings 17:10-16; John 6:5-13).

God judges our gifts to Him not on their greatness, because there is nothing that He needs from us. Anything we have is pitiful compared with His infinite wealth (Psalm 50: 7-12), and all that we have came from Him in the first place (James 1:17). Instead, He judges our motives, our willingness to trust all to Him, and the sacrificial nature of our gift (Luke 12:48; Luke 21:1-4). 

If He has blessed us with talents, material wealth, or other resources, He requires us to be a channel through whom blessings flow, because to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). But even if others do not consider us blessed in worldly terms, we can please God with our giving. When Jesus saw the poor widow throwing two mites into the treasury (Luke 21:1-4), He praised her more than all the others because she gave all that she had.

The absolute amount or greatness of the gift we give Him is not important, but what matters is how much of what we have we give back to Him. He is pleased with sacrificial giving because it shows our trust in Him, our faith that He will give back to us in abundance.

A sinful woman broke open a costly alabaster box containing precious ointment – possibly her inheritance or dowry -- that she used to anoint His Head. Jesus promised that this lavish gift would always be remembered in Scripture (Mark 14:3-9)

Elijah, prophet of God, followed God’s direction and asked a widow to give him her last morsel of food. When she did so in faith, God provided for her daily (1 Kings 17). God always honors His promises to those who trust Him in faith.

A similar story of God taking a seemingly small gift, multiplying and magnifying it to do great good, then giving back in abundance, is the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes (John 6:5), in which Jesus feeds a crowd of thousands with only a little boy’s lunch that he willingly gave. The disciples use the reasoning of men, not trusting in God’s supernatural ability to provide. 

But God wants us to demonstrate our faith – it is never a question of whether He is able, but of whether we have faith.  No one goes away hungry, and there are 12 baskets full of bread left over, which must have gone to the little boy to feed his family and no doubt the apostles and even his whole village.

In this season of gifts, may we always remember and thank the greatest Giver and Gift of all time. The best gift you could possibly give to anyone on your gift list is to share the Gospel with them! You can give it freely to everyone without taxing your budget; one size fits all; and they’ll never need to return or exchange it. Christ – the perfect Gift -- is truly All that anyone needs!
The apostle Paul thanked the Philippian church for their generous gift to his ministry, even providing for him when he was visiting another church that should have been more hospitable! He assured them that their sacrificial gift would be like a sweet aroma to God and please Him greatly, and that God would supply all their needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:14-19).  

Note that Paul said God would supply all their needs, not all their wants. Sometimes we get angry or disappointed with God when He gives us what we need, rather than what we think we want. But His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9) and He acts from the vantage point of perfect, infinite wisdom (Psalm 139:1-6), power, and love (1 John 4:8). He knows what we need even before we ask Him! (Matthew 6:8)
Note also that God will supply all our needs "according to," not "out of," His riches in Christ Jesus. It's as if you needed money to pay for the medical treatment of your sick child, and you happened to run into Bill Gates, who turned a sympathetic ear to your plight. You are hopeful that he might give you the money to pay the hospital bill "out of" his great wealth.
But what if instead he said, "Don't worry about the bill, because I am going to adopt both you and your child into my family. Then you'll have access to all my bank accounts and credit cards, you'll live in my mansion, you'll inherit my estate, and you'll dine at my family table." That would be supplying our need "according to" his riches, for we would be able to enjoy all of it.
Yet once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven, our position in God's family is like, only on an infinitely greater scale. We become God's children and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, inheriting eternal, abundant life here on earth, and one day in glorified bodies in a mansion He has prepared us (John 14:2), living forever (John 3:16) in glorified bodies that will never age, feel pain or sorrow, get sick, sin, or die. We will enjoy His presence and that of our loved ones in Him throughout eternity
May we give God what He has given us – our body, mind and spirit -- as a living sacrifice to His glory! 

© 2012 Laurie Collett (expanded and reposted from the archives)

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Thankful for Leftovers

As a child, one of my favorite blessings of the Thanksgiving feast lasted well into the weekend – open-faced sandwiches made with leftover turkey, giblet gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Not to mention leftover eggnog and pumpkin pie!

As an adult, I have been known to put leftovers to good use in a frittata, stir-fry, soup, or must-go stew. Often these repurposed creations taste better than their original components, and the time saved in not having to prepare a meal from scratch is an added bonus.

When God gives us “leftovers,” they are always first-rate, and never second-best, often accompanied by unexpected blessings. Six days of the week, He provided a daily portion of manna, or bread from heaven, for the Israelites to eat as they traveled through the wilderness (Exodus 16).

If they gathered more to hoard for the next day, it would rot, except for the day before the Sabbath. On that day, God provided a double portion of manna, so that they could save what was left over to eat on the Sabbath without having to work to gather it. Unlike the other days, God preserved the extra portion pristine without allowing it to spoil. These leftovers provided a fresh meal for the Sabbath, which the Israelites could enjoy as a day of rest, as He had commanded (Exodus 20:8-11).

Even God’s table scraps are a supreme blessing, not to be undervalued in any way. The Caananite woman who begged Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter was rebuked, as His earthly ministry was primarily to Israel. He gave her an analogy, saying that it was not suitable for the children’s bread to be fed to the dogs, but she reminded Him that even dogs could eat stray crumbs that landed on the floor. He then rewarded her great faith by healing her daughter (Matthew 15:22-28).

Food leftovers notwithstanding, mostly I find myself thankful for leftovers of a different sort – those blessings that remain after a trial or crisis takes away some of what I hold most dear. When I moved to Florida from New York, the U-Haul carrying everything I owned was stolen, including antique furniture inherited from my aunt, my computer, TV, and stereo. I felt overwhelmed by the loss of these heirlooms and modern-day essentials, especially in the midst of upheaval from a long distance move, leaving family and friends, and starting a new position.

And yet, some weeks later, the police found the U-Haul abandoned in a parking lot, where evidently the thieves had been interrupted while transferring their loot to another vehicle. Every stick of furniture and all my appliances and electronics were missing, but packed boxes remained. Long after I had given up hope of recovering anything, it was like Christmas morning as I opened these boxes to find precious family photos, videos and memorabilia, and even silver, figurines and artwork that had been in my family for several generations.

While the big ticket items were lost, the “leftovers” that were found were truly irreplaceable. I knew these were a special blessing from God even though I had not yet been saved by asking His Son to be my Lord and Savior. I had not yet trusted in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), but I already believed that all good things come from God (James 1:17).

Although I did not yet know Scripture, I began to realize that God truly does work all things together for good (Romans 8:28), as the insurance settlement for the lost items paid for a fresh start in furnishing my new home as I began a new life.

Recently, we have suffered material loss in Hurricane Ian at our beach home, but I am thankful that no storm can take away the beauty of God’s sunrises and sunsets over the beach, stars shining over a moonlit sea, and even a full rainbow arching through the sky (Genesis 9:13-16), seeming to originate from our damaged home! These “leftovers” remind me of God’s grace in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), His mercy (Lamentations 3:22), protection, provision and infinite love (Philippians 4:19). I am even more grateful that none of our family or loved ones were injured or lost their homes in the hurricane.

Jesus is not only the Great Provider but a great steward of all He provides, and I believe He would have us to be likewise. When he fed a great multitude of 5,000 men and their families with only five loaves of bread and two small fish (John 6:1-15), everyone ate their fill, yet there were twelve large baskets of food left over! No doubt this helped feed the disciples on their journey, after a generous portion was given to the young boy who willingly donated his lunch to be used by the Master.

It reminds me of Baptist fellowships, where the hostess committee is always concerned that there will be enough food for all who attend to enjoy. Thanks to the generosity of church members, not only does everyone get to eat as much as they desire, but the leftovers are put to good use in making meals for shut-ins and homeless and feeding the visiting missionaries.

During a prolonged drought and famine, the prophet Elijah asked the widow to bake him a little cake using all of the pitiful amount of oil she had remaining. She did, and was rewarded with a cruse full of oil that never ran out until the drought had ended! Even better, God later used Elijah to revive her dead son (1 Kings 17).

We can’t outgive God. Whatever resource -- whether time, talent or treasure – we entrust to His service, He will bountifully return to us, beyond measure (Luke 6:38; Malachi 3:10-12), overflowing beyond the point that we can even hold onto it! I believe this is by His design, so that we become a channel through whom blessings flow to others.  

These blessings may not be in their original form, and He may reward us in spiritual rather than tangible blessings, but we will never be disappointed. These “leftovers” represent God’s abundant provision for us according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), answering our prayers exceedingly abundantly beyond whatever we could ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20).

As we who celebrate Thanksgiving praise God for all the gifts He has given us, may we also remember to thank Him for the leftovers He generously provides, and ask Him to empower us to be good stewards, using these for His glory!

© 2022 Laurie Collett