Tag Archives: Gifts

Messy Presents

We want our presents in pretty paper
All wrapped up in a shiny neat bow
We want our faith to be the same
So our doubts and struggles never show

Yet the greatest gifts aren’t neat and tidy
Like the manger birth steeped in blood
A child born like any other babe
With the addition of dirty stable mud

And Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross
After flogging caused welts and spit adorned
The bleeding brow of the King of kings
Ringed by crowds who mocked and scorned

Each trial and loss we face in life
Can draw us closer to the God we need
If we don’t bury the doubts that rise
But seek the gift each death has freed

Open the messy presents He gives
To find healing for all of life’s woes
Remember when you grieve the most
The Babe born to die for you knows


Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life, Poetry

When Re-gifting Is Okay

Did you ever receive a gift that just wasn’t your style? You know, those garden gnomes for your apartment? Or that bright orange sweater that just doesn’t go with your coloring? Admit it, you’ve received at least one gift in your life that you were tempted to re-gift; maybe you even went through with it.

Generally, re-gifting is frowned upon, especially if the person who gave you the gift is your mother-in-law or son, and they find out. And if the person who received the re-gift knew it was re-gifted they probably wouldn’t be very happy about it either.

Yesterday in church we learned about a gift that has been re-gifted to every believer; and it is okay. In fact, it’s better than okay. It is the best re-gift ever! Unfortunately, we often treat it like a gift we don’t want and don’t use it.

This gift is one that God the Father gave to Jesus. Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV) says,

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Did you catch that gift? Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He has been given power beyond comprehension. And He gives that power to the disciples so that they might go forth and teach others about Him. As followers of Christ, you and I have been given this same power. Don’t believe me based on just this passage? How about this one:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:11-13 (NIV).

Jesus said that those who believe will do greater things than He did! He re-gifted to His believers His great power by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

Yet we still try to do everything He asks us to do in our own power. As a result, we grow weary because we don’t succeed as often as we think we should. Then we doubt; we doubt whether we believe enough; or whether God cares about the things we are trying to accomplish; or whether we are even on the right track with the things we are trying to do.

Sometimes, though, we decide to actually use this wonderful re-gifted power that Jesus has given us. The results are astounding; and we find that re-gifting is not only okay, it is the most wonderful thing we have ever experienced.

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Filed under Faith, Jesus, Life

This Is My Gift to My King

Today is Epiphany. This morning on our way to church I said to my son, “Yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas and today is Epiphany.” He replied, “Did you just realize that?” Clearly his gift is a quick wit among other creative talents.

Epiphany is the church holiday in which we celebrate the Magi from the east visiting the child Jesus. They brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but before they bestowed these gifts on the young Jesus they offered Him their worship. The Magi worshipped Jesus not for what He had done for them but simply because of who He is. The story of their visit is recorded in Matthew 2:1-12.

In church this morning our pastor talked about the significance of the three gifts the Magi brought, and then he asked what gifts we can give to Jesus. I decided I would share the significance of the Magi’s gifts, as well as my thoughts on my gifts to my King.

The first gift of the Magi was gold. This was the customary gift given to kings. This gift points to Jesus as being a king from His very birth. He is the highest of royalty. The Magi sought Him as the King of the Jews. He is ultimately revealed to be King of kings: “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16 (NIV).

The second gift of the Magi was frankincense or incense. It was customary for priests to use incense in the temple as part of their worship of God. It was the priests who presented sacrifices in the temple to atone for the sins of the people. But these sacrifices were only temporarily effective for that purpose and had to be repeated over and over. This gift of incense points to Jesus as the final priest. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14 (NIV). He has been our sacrifice once for all to atone for the sins of the world.

This third gift of the Magi was myrrh. This is a spice that was used in burial. This points to Jesus as a prophet who will be killed for preaching the truth just as the prophets of the Old Testament were killed. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37 (NIV). Jesus knew that He would be treated just as the prophets were. He was born for this purpose — that He would die and be buried with myrrh to atone for our sins. But praise God, He rose again.

So what then is my gift to my King? What can I give that is worthy of His glory? First of all I give my worship of Him simply for who He is and not for what He has or will do for me. I can give my time and myself. As I listened to the sermon this morning, though, it occurred to me that one of the greatest gifts I can give to Jesus is this blog. As I write to glorify His name and to share His mercy and love with others, I hope that this gift is pleasing to Him so that someday I will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21 (NIV).

What gift will you bring to the throne of the King?


Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Service

Opening Gifts

Today is Christmas Day! Hallelujah! It is a wonderful day of celebration and great joy!

I’ve been thinking today about gifts, wrapped and opened. (Well, technically I was thinking about it yesterday when I wrote this and scheduled it to post).

Sometimes a gift is difficult to open because the person who wrapped it used a ton of strong tape and sturdy wrapping paper, with ribbons strung around every possible direction. You know the kind – you wonder if the person who gave it to you really wanted you to see what was inside.

Sometimes a gift is easy to open, placed gently in a gift bag that is open on the top. This is the easiest way to wrap a gift, especially if it is an odd shape, or if it is a collection of things.

Sometimes it is easy to determine what a gift is based on its size and shape, or how it sounds when you shake it; especially if it appears to be something you asked for. Other times it is impossible to determine what a gift is from the outside because it has been so cleverly disguised by the giver.

Once a gift is opened, we are either delighted to have received it because it is just what we wanted or wonder if the giver really knew us at all. Some gifts are practical and are put to immediate use. Other gifts are merely decorative and end up sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Still others are meant to be useful but don’t adequately serve the purpose for which they were created or given, and they end up in a box in the attic or the garage.

But there is one gift that is always easy to open. Even if we don’t know we wanted or needed it, once we truly open it up and use it, it will serve the purpose for which it was given. But if we think it is merely decorative and keep it on a shelf, it will only collect dust.

This perfect gift is the love and grace of Jesus! It is the greatest gift mankind has ever received. But so many never open the gift because they think it is too hard to open. Others open the gift, but they don’t make regular use of it and so it has no impact on their lives. Yet there are many who have humbly accepted this gift, opened it, rejoiced at having received it, and put it to use each and every day. These people are blessed beyond measure, even when life presents its greatest challenges.

Has someone offered you the gift of Jesus Christ? Have you put Him to good use in your life? Of all the gifts you will receive this Christmas, He is the most important. Don’t leave Him unopened and unused. He is what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas!

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 (KJV).


Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, postaday2011

Giving a Gift that Is Needed

Last week I wrote about my good advice to spend time each morning reading my Bible instead of getting online on my computer first thing and checking email, Facebook, and blog comments. I have been sticking to that plan, following that advice, every morning since that first one when my computer wouldn’t go to any of those sites. It has been wonderful! I finally finished Ezekiel and have moved on to other books of the Bible.

Yesterday morning I read chapters 5 – 8 of Zechariah. I am really enjoying this minor prophet so far, but in many respect it is still not an easy read. (Much better at 6:30 a.m. with a cup of coffee than at 10:30 p.m. all bleary eyed and ready for bed).

One passage in particular challenged me to think about whether I am doing all I can to please God, or whether I am more concerned about my own comfort.

Zechariah 7:4-12 (NLT)

 4 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: 5 “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? 6And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?
7 Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah were well populated?'”
 8 Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
 11 “Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. 12 They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.

As I read this, especially verse 6 (in bold), I wondered if we haven’t done with Christmas what the Jews did with their holy festivals while they were in exile. We focus so much on partying, on eating and drinking together, and on exchanging gifts, during this season. Do we do this just to please ourselves? Or are we doing it to glorify God?

The World Vision gift catalog has been on my mind a lot this Christmas season, and I’ve pondered giving to those in real need instead of to those who aren’t. If you aren’t familiar with World Vision or their gift catalog, let me explain what it is all about. Through the catalog, you can purchase a goat or chickens or a well for water or a yurt or any number of things for those in need around the world. And you can purchase these things in the name of a loved one and receive a gift card or small gift item that you can give to your loved one letting them know what you have given in their honor. I’ve actually done this before for my three college roommates one year, and they loved it!

Thank about it. How many people are on your Christmas list who really don’t need that sweater or tie or bottle of perfume or kitchen gadget or book that you were thinking about getting them? Wouldn’t they be better off with the warm feeling they would get from knowing they had helped someone in need? And wouldn’t that please God more because you would be showing mercy and kindness to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor.

Imagine if we all replaced just one of the gifts we were going to buy for someone who didn’t need anything this Christmas and bought a goat for a poor family in Guatemala instead? Just one. Not your whole Christmas list, but just one gift.


Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, postaday2011, Service

A God of Surprises

Christmas Day is more than half over. The presents are all opened and some have been tried out already. We’ve eaten our Christmas “dinner” of glazed spiral ham, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and rosemary cauliflower and carrots. There’s still pecan pie for dessert, but I’m still too full.

Last night we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is my favorite service of the year. We always close by singing Silent Night as each person lights their candle from the candle of the person beside or in front of them. All the other lights are dimmed and by the end of the song the place is lit mostly by candlelight. It always amazes me how all of those small flames can add up to such a bright light. It is a wonderful reminder of how we each carry the light of Christ in our hearts and together we can light the world with His love.

We had a guest speaker, Steve Halliday, who shared a message of the surprise of Christmas. Even though God foretold the coming of the Messiah, with at least 100 Old Testament prophecies regarding His birth alone, when it actually happened Jesus’ birth was full of surprises. Instead of the King coming to earth into a rich and well-connected family, He was born to a young peasant girl and a carpenter. Instead of being born in a posh hospital, He was born in a lowly stable. Instead of announcing His birth to royalty and aristocrats, the angels brought news of the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds. Nothing was what you would expect; it was all full of surprises.

Steve shared a story of how when he was a child his older sister always tried to guess what her Christmas presents were. She would shake, squeeze, and hold presents up to the light trying to figure what was in the box. She didn’t like to wait and wanted to know what the surprise was. His story reminded me of the time, when I was 9 or 10, that I really wanted to know what was in my presents. One day before Christmas, when no one was home, I carefully peeled the tape and opened every one of my presents, discovering what each one was. Christmas was not the same that year. There was no surprise on Christmas morning (though I had to feign surprise so as not to be found out!).

The rest of the Christmas Eve message was that God still has surprises for us today. We might have some idea what He is going to do because He has told us in His Word. He will give us wisdom if we ask. James 1:5. He will answer our prayers if we pray in His name. John 14:13-14. He will take care of all our needs. Matthew 6:31-33. The real question is how will He fulfill these promises. Therein lies the surprise. And if the incarnation is any indication, all of God’s surprises will be wonderful, indeed.

I often complain that I wish God would let me in on His plan. Seems my tendency to want to know what my presents are ahead of time is still there. But I think I’ve learned my lesson. As I thought about the promise of God’s surprises and the disappointment I felt that Christmas morning when I knew what all my presents were going to be, I realized that it is best not to know ahead of time what God has planned. It is better to have faith that the fulfillment of His promises will be better than I can ever imagine. Then when His surprises come I’ll be delighted by the wonder of His glorious gifts.

On this Christmas Day, I wish you all the wonder and joy of the surprises God has in store for you!


Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life, Music

The Greatest Gift

As Christmas approaches and I think about shopping for family and friends, what gifts shall I buy for all of them? What do they want?

Then I think, more importantly, what do they need? What they need is the greatest gift ever given. It is the gift that the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11. This King who left His throne in heaven to be a little baby, to come and live, and then die, all for our sake.

This is the gift we all need, the gift given in love. It’s not a gift we earned or were entitled to, which is what makes it the best gift of all.  Unlike the gifts that Santa brings, it is not predicated on being on the “nice” list. We do not forfeit this gift because we are on the “naughty” list. In fact, in reality we are all on the “naughty” list but God loves us nonetheless.  As Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

We need not give anything in return; we can just accept the gift. But somehow, just accepting this loving gift of our Creator, the gift of Himself, creates in the heart a desire to give something in return. Of course, there is nothing God needs from us. So what can we possibly give? The best gift we can give to God is ourselves and our devotion to telling others of His greatest gift.

Over the past week or so I have been listening to a lot of Christmas carols. I just love O Holy Night and What Child Is This? and O Come O Come Immanuel and Silent Night and so many others that sing the praises of this wonderful gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh. They make me smile and cry tears of joy all at the same time.

This greatest gift of all has been offered to everyone, and that includes you! Have you received it yet? It truly is the most precious gift you will ever receive.


Filed under Faith, Family, Jesus, Life