She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
Do you realize what and why you are celebrating this Christmas season?
Do you realize what and why you are celebrating this Christmas season?
Are you so caught up in the events and planning of Christmas that you have forgotten the "Christ" and the "mass," which means we are to worship and venerate Him? Most of us do forget¾perhaps not intentionally¾because of all our busyness and neglect. We look with anticipation to the gifts, music, decorations, food, family gatherings and such, and for some, this means Christ is the One who is left out as He stands and knocks. As an ironic iconoclast, we feast and honor Christ while He is left outside in the cold (Rev. 3:20). Maybe you fear and dread the Christmas season and see it as a time of stress and family dysfunction, or possibly you just do not care. But, for us to be effective, growing Christians, Christmas needs to mean more to us than just a holiday we either relish or avoid. It is about what Jesus did, and what He gave¾intimately and personally¾to each of us.
Christ Was Birthed in History
A few centuries ago, the early American Puritans thought that they were corrupting the purpose of Christmas with all their festivities and rituals. Imagine that! They started to see that their feasts and gifts were distracting from the worship of our Lord. The food and the yearnings of the children were creating a precedence of more importance while the veracity of Christmas was being ignored. After taking a serious look at the what and why of Christmas, the 17th century Puritans decided that since every Sunday is the Lord's Day to reverence, thank, and worship Christ, there was no need for a special holiday that proclaimed to do this when in fact it did not. So, they decided to get rid of Christmas altogether and they banned its practice. Christmas became an outlaw practice where the people who dared celebrate it were prosecuted. Some provinces even banned the making of plum pudding on December 25th. Thus, the celebration of Christmas, then called "Yuletide," was now called "fool-tide." You may think that this is "bah-humbug," but think it through. This was not to be anti-celebrating, as the Puritans had their fair share of great merrymaking, including Thanksgiving. But for them, it was more of a matter of reverence, to make sure Christ was lifted up and not just a "party" spirit. And thus, Christmas was rarely practiced or celebrated in
Christmas started to become more common in the late 19th century when the German immigrants came. Most of the Christmas traditions seem to have come from them. This started the celebration, but it did not take root any further until the retail industry took it over, distorting it to what we have today. Imagine how those Puritans would feel about it now! Christ was birthed in History; in so doing He must also be birthed into you and evident in you! The Puritans knew this. Do we?
I am reminded of a great event that took place nearly a hundred years ago. Alfred Anderson, the last surviving World War I veteran from
What does Christmas mean? Christmas is from the Old English words "Cristes moesse," and meant "the mass or festival of Christ." The earliest incidence of this word is from 1038 A.D. and it mainly referred to the celebration of "The Lord's Supper." What Christmas really means first of all is Christ's birth. His name and birth were foretold centuries beforehand (Isa. ; 9:6; 42:8). Then, in His time, Christ, who was preexistent and sinless, was conceived by the Spirit and was born as a man¾as a baby no less, a miracle that is unprecedented. All this is vital to our faith and practice, and to the understanding of the gospel (Matt. -25, Luke -56; 2:4-7; John 1:1-9), for it shows us His Lordship and His love. Jesus' very title means He is with you right now. Immanuel symbolizes that "God is with us," He is our salvation. His Name is also His nature, for He is God and fully able to save us by placing Himself in our stead, of living a sinless life, and taking God's wrath upon Himself so we would not be lost forever (Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-3,14; 4:9-10; 8:56-59; 17:5; Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:17-18).
The marvelous mystery of Jesus is that of His humanity, that He became one of us. He descended Himself into the mire of our earthy human lives. He came into a manger, a stable for animals, and was born in a feed trough in a cave so we could have grace, hope, and a mansion in eternity. This is beyond our comprehension or our appreciation. What does this mean? It means that because as God, He was and is able to take our sins upon Himself and appease God's wrath upon our sin, we can be saved and have eternal life. This is His incredible gift to you and me. He is God with us, because He walked, lived, worked, and existed in all aspects that any human has ever lived and existed. He became identified as one of us while still remaining God, the Creator of us! Jesus is both God and man, not a hybrid like Hercules, not a percentage of one over the other, but fully God and fully a human being. He is birthed into history, into this world, yet He is not from it. He is the ultimate Christmas gift, a "wrapping" of His sufferings and a "bow" of His love that is for us all (Matt. -25). We need to be able to have the awareness of whom He is and what He did, to perceive Christmas not from what we get, but in what we can give Him as our response. And, then through the wrappings of our life, He can be made known as we become more purposeful and faithful all through the year.
The Jews, at the time of Christ, thought a royal king would come to save them. That is why they accused Him of blasphemy. Even though they knew the Scriptures, they refused to accept the Word or Him, and held on to their presumptions instead. People will accept a human Jesus, a baby, but not a Divine Jesus. It is the same problem we have today, both in our presumptions and our acceptance of truth. So, when you are out looking for a Christmas gift, perhaps you might consider what you can give Him¾perhaps a New Years resolution you can stick with. But, think about this: what can you give to the One who literally owns and has everything? What can you give back to Christ? Obviously, a tie or kitchen appliance or a list of promises we may never keep would not be appropriate. So, what will you do?
Jesus was born into the world, yet He was not from it. That is, He did not come from it, since He created it, nor is He corrupted by it, less He be corrupted by sin. Jesus Christ is God incarnate! Jesus must also be born/formed into you (John 3:7; Gal. ; )! So, has Christ been birthed in you? And if so, is He evident in you to those around you? This comes down to what we give back to Him. Our faith as a Christian is from our salvation and security in Him. We are not required to give back, but we should. Giving is the evidence of His work in us. Perhaps what we need to think about is what we can give God this year.
What Gift Will You Give?
Giving and receiving gifts can be fun as well as stressful. But, consider what we give in life. If we are not set on the right path, it is even more daunting. Not having a gift or having a bad gift comes from a life of struggling with which direction in life we should go. It is being pulled two ways¾either to God or to our selves and the devil. James tells us in chapter four that there is a proper direction we should go and warns us of the consequences if we decide not to go that way. There are rights and wrongs and absolutes in life, all requiring choices from us as to the direction to head for and go that are essential to honoring God and relating to people. We are called to direct, hands-on action without delay so we can connect with God and then better connect with people. We are to humble ourselves before God and, at the same time, resist the devil, as we cannot serve both. When we draw near to God, the devil is pushed further away. If we draw near to the devil, then God is pushed further away. The signpost is clear where we are to go; however, the direction we choose is up to us.
The most precious gift we can give is what God wants the most. God wants us to make the fervent attempt to repent, get right with Him, and not lead a double life, trying to follow two contradictory paths. These are the best gift we can give! When we do seek to serve two opposing mindsets, God's versus the world's, we are being hypocritical, and create broken relationships, shattered lives, and unmet opportunities. This leaves us in despair as the devil and our ways have no hope or purpose other than to steal what God has to give to us. We already have joy and completeness in Christ when our hearts and minds are centered on Him. So, the bottom line is the call to submit and surrender to God, allowing Him to be our only Lord and direction. Then, He will lift us up beyond our greatest desires and plans to a much greater plan and purpose in life (Gal. 2:20-21; 6: 3-5; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 10:19-25; 11:1-3; James 4: 7-10; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)!
JOY will be the critical character that inspires and leads us. Joy empowers our enthusiasm and recognizes that Christ will lift us up in His time. It sees the hope to come and takes delight in the moment, even in times of harshness. Joy will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, others, and our circumstances with an expression of delight and real, authentic happiness from and in harmony with God and others (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Cor 12:9; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; Heb 10:34). However, there is a catch to this! Joy must be declared and evident even when it is not visible (James 1:2-4). The joy we are to have is His¾His love filling us so it spills out. Joy must carry us through all of our experiences and situations. It must rule our character and response, not our expectations and desires. Joy must set the tone of how we engage God and then respond to others, whether it is prosperity or adversity, whether we are in the oval office or living in the streets.
If we are not joyful, the rotten fruits will come in and take us captive. We will bow to despair and bitterness. Despair limits us like a ball and chain from growth and the enjoyment of life. It cuts us off from relationships, and our learning experiences from and God. It leads to depression that cuts us off from seeing hope and purpose in what life and eternity are all about! We have to always be mindful to place joy in all aspects of our life and expectations. If you are having problems, take a serious look at despair and where it will get you, because there can be no delight without joy. You can have no true confidence without joy. What we suffer through, what we go through, what we give up is of no comparison to what we gain! Christianity and suffering are the ultimate delayed gratifications.
Finding God That Perfect Gift?
What do you give someone like a Donald Trump who seemingly has everything? What do you give God who literally has everything? I would not know what to get "The Donald," perhaps a solid gold eggbeater if I could afford one, but I do know what we can give God. When you go through the Scriptures, you will come across some major themes that God honors. These are the gifts we are to give. And, when we make a commitment to give to Him what He honors, we will in fact be giving Him a real Christmas gift or a New Year's resolution, which is the best present we could ever give! What can that gift be? Well, it is not our anger, bitterness, selfishness, or our personal power plays and agendas (Gal. -21). Rather, it is the gift of living our lives empowered by Him (Gal. -23). It is the gift of "your self," that means you are seeking to be poured out to Him so, I am less and He is more (Mark 12:3-29-31; John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14). This means we are to seek righteousness (Matt. -34). We do this by seeking Him as Lord and not just Savior (Psalm 57; 138:7-8; Prov. ; John 15; Rom. 8; Phil. 2:1-18)!
Our gift to Him is how we respond to the gifts He has given us which are the gifts of life and of grace. We can best do this when we are headed in His direction, following His percepts from a grateful, willing heart and mindset. This is called "purpose," and this means knowing who we are in Christ and what He has done for us, and then acting out our relationship and redemption by being obedient to God's will. It is the pursuit of God so He becomes the driving force, inspiration, motivation, and reason for all we do in life. That is, we devote our lives, character, virtue, Spiritual Gifts, abilities, and call so the best can be realized in all people and all situations. The meaning of life is not about feelings, desires, career, money, or power. It is about relationships and developing our spiritual maturity, which produces our character. These are the only real things we can take with us to Heaven!
Yet, so many Christians will venture into Galatians 5:19-21 and live their lives by their works and agendas, spilling those rotten fruits onto themselves and all those around them, stinking up the world and environment far more than any toxic waste could ever do. Dysfunctional relationships from a bitter heart create unbearable pollution to life and relationships! We do this by focusing on our pain, hurts, suffering, and our past so we do not see Him and the wondrous call and grace He gives us (Psalm 147:1-3). We cannot live in the past (Prov. ). We must not be consumed with lament and disappointment with ourselves or with others, because we cannot go back and redo last year or any part or aspect of our lives. We cannot redo lost and forgotten opportunities. And, it really does not do any good to wish we had turned left when we should have turned right or turned right when we should have turned left. Basically, regret is a useless and self-destructive emotion because we cannot make the changes it calls for. Regret keeps us focused on the past so we do not do anything different for the present and future. Regret belongs to darkness; let us not live this coming New Year in darkness.
What we give God should be the gift that glorifies Him. How we respond to life and other people will be rooted in how we respond to God. Do we fight Him or do we glorify Him? How do we know? The answer is in how we are with our attitudes and mindsets; are we humble or proud? If we are proud, we are serving the devil, even though we may think we are serving ourselves. If we are humble, then we are serving our Lord. This strikes at the root of our mindset and motivation in life.
Some Gift Ideas for God You Should Consider
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matt. 23:12.
The first gift we can give is the willingness to Submit. To submit means to obey, which means to line up under. It is a military term that means to "get in line" under the leadership of those who are more mature. It is the surrender of our lives to God so we are in His will. We are urgently called to accept the absolute authority of God. We are under His authority whether or not we acknowledge Him, so we might as well acquiesce. It does no good to fight God, as Jacob discovered (Gen. 32:22-32). The subject of submission in Peter and James also refers to fights and quarrels so they do not build and take us over. Jacob's dispute with his brother had to be resolved; connecting with God enables us to connect with others, a gift that comes back to us and into all of our relationships (Gen 33; Phil. 2:5-8; James 4:1-6).
We are called to submit to God's mighty hand. This means God's covering power, God's controlling power, and God's sovereignty¾God's love because God is in charge. The mighty hand of God is the loving, caring hand of God in charge of us. It can be a shelter, deliverance, a testing, or a chastening. God's mighty hand is always His best love for us so we become our best for His glory (Duet 26:8; Phil ; 1 Pet. 5:5-9)! So, do not debate with God; humble yourself under His will, under His Word, and under His power.
To grow and to be mature and faithful requires us to submit and to be humble. The result is respect, cooperation, unity, community, and the power of His Fruit at work. But, if we do not submit, rather have disregard for unity or no respect for authority, our sinful nature will win out. The result will be quarrels (because of pride), discord, and shame. We have to see that God wants us to submit; this is best for us both individually, and collectively as a church. Being a Christian and a church is about relying on Him, not ourselves. It is about His mighty power at work in us¾not our feeble ways! His favor and power will be poured out on us when we are faithful, obedient, and meek (strength under control). Nevertheless, be warned that pride is the opposite of these, and that it will destroy relationships and churches fast and furiously. That is why God hates it so much! Thus, to be confident in Jesus and be used by Him, we need Him to empower us. With this mindset and His empowering, we do not need to worry or fret because our mind is not on our status, situation, possessions, or experiences, but on Christ. This comes about when we realize that Jesus does indeed care, and loves us ever so deeply!
The next gift we need to consider is to resist the devil. This means to beware of the devil and resist him, to be sober and vigilant (as in alert) of Satan's tactics and influences. This means that in practice, we are to flee the devil's kingdom, his values, and his wisdom, and embrace God's kingdom, values, and wisdom. This has more to do with moral values than spiritual warfare. The devil does not have equal authority or power as the popular "Ying/Yang" philosophy states; rather, he only has the power we give to Him. God has absolute power. The devil is not invincible; he is easily thwarted. We put on God's armor so we can fight his temptations and flee from him; we evade the lusts of our heart and world by running from it, not toward it (Eph. 6:11-18; James. 3:15, 17; 4:4, 7-10; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)!
Why would we give this gift? Because, it is for God, and we and all those we touch in life will benefit from it. When we are resisting the devil, we are able to maintain a proper direction in life. We will be able to give the gift of pleasing Him and seeking His purpose. The right gift department we are to go to, which is the Bible, helps us go in the right direction. So, we need to ask directions to this department so we know where we are heading. When we draw near to God, we undertake His precepts and apply them to life. God is consistent; when we seek Him, we find that He has already sought us and will continue to reveal Himself and the depths of His love all of our days on earth as well as throughout eternity. The key to this is our willingness to confess our sin and move toward Him and away from false and deceitful ways.
The next gift we need to take a careful look at is the gift of Purification. Purity means we continue our growth with God so we are in a harmonious relationship with Him (Matt. 5:8; Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; 5:22; James 4:8). Purity, which is also called Holiness, means being set apart for God's exceptional use in our daily life. It is a call for us to heed and to respond to Him, which is our devotion to Christ in action. It will keep us from being contaminated by the devil, our desires, and/or the ways of the world. We must see our sins and weaknesses, and be humble before the Holiness of God. We may not be able to overcome all of our sins, but our desire is to go in the right direction. This means we are different from other people because we are in Christ. However, it does not mean we are better. We are saved by His grace, and set apart for His service and glory by His election only. We must be careful we do not become condescending or judgmental, as self-righteousness will quickly contaminate holiness in the minds of others who are not there yet. Nor, should we set ourselves apart from others we do not like or whom we consider sinful, because all of us are sinful. Remember, Jesus Himself had direct contact with the sinners of His day, and called the worst sinners to spread His Gospel.
Purity results when we draw near to God as in our refinement in Him, developing our personal bond with God through the disciplines of the faith (Ex. 30:19; Isaiah 28:16; Matt. 7:7; James 4: 7-10; Rev. 3:20). The gift is to do our best to understand and learn about Jesus, so we can be more like Him in our character and behavior, and to reflect what He has given us because of our gratitude and love. Thus, we respond by living a life pleasing to Him because we are chosen and precious in Him. Our call is to continue to draw near to God! The key issue here is even though we are chosen, in order to be fully accepted, we must have repented! Our repentance is a result of our salvation; it comes after His saving grace. If repentance came first, our salvation would have been earned, and we can't earn it (Acts -39; Rom. ; - ; 10:14‑17; 1 Cor. 1:18‑2:16; 15:1‑8; 2 Cor. -6:2; Gal. 2:15- 5:1; Phil. 3:4-14; Eph. 1:3‑14; 2:8-9; 1 John 1:9)!
Why would we give this gift? Because we are chosen by God means we are people belonging to God for a purpose. Just as Israel was set apart to be priests and missionaries to the world, we too are designated to reach the world (Gen. 12:1-3; Duet 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 28:9; Isa 43:10, 20-21; 44:1-2; 61:6; Hosea 1:6-10; Mal 3:17; Acts 2:11; Rom. 9:25-26; 10:19; Eph 1:4). So we can purify your heart. This means that submission to God produces humbleness, which then produces right attitudes and motives.
This gift helps us understand with application our responsibility for our spiritual growth. God provides the plan, Christ is the way, the Spirit is the guidance, and the Bible gives the precepts; however, the gift we provide is the will of our hearts from our humbleness, and we further exhibit it with our hands and feet. The focus is on trust and obedience. So, let this gift be given so we all can live as if our lives belong to our Lord (as they do), and strive to be our best for His glory. When this gift is working, we will strive and practice moral and spiritual purity and holiness, being in the world but not touched by the world (Acts 15:9; Rom. ; 2 Thess. 1:8). We are purified when we obey the Truth, which enables us to grow in our spiritual formation and show love and self-sacrificing character (Matt. ; Luke 6:27, 35; 1 John 3:14-18). (Also: Duet. 30:1-10; Matt. 5-6; Eph. 4:17-5:14; 1 Pet. 1:13-22.)
The next gift on the list to reflect on is to humble yourselves. It means we have a correct understanding of whom we are in Christ and how we are to go before God. This does not mean we are to hate ourselves; rather, it means to have a right respect and relationship with God (Prov. 3:5). Our attitude toward God will greatly affect our attitude in our communication and actions. These will be revealed by the motives of our heart. We learn humility by the spiritual disciplines of being in His Word, and practicing before God our dependence on Him, the seeking of His will, and being in prayer. Our motivation is to be the realization that we are saved by grace, and kept by His love (1 Kings 8:58; Psalm 25; Mark 1:7; Luke 9:23; 18:9-14; 22:27; Romans 12:3; Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 1:18; Phil. 2:8; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:3-5).
This also refers to submitting to the sovereignty of God (Proverbs 1:24-33; 3:34; 6:16; 8:13, Isaiah 57:15; 66:2; Micah 6:8; James 4:7-10). We remove our pride by "clinging" to the cross, confessing our sins, and seeking forgiveness from God and others whom we have offended. Our discipline in the faith will help strengthen our walk as we continue to grow in Him. In the context of Scripture, being humble is the opposite of being proud, and refers to the irrationality of foolish people who do not use wisdom, but choose rather to seek folly and thus bring adversity upon themselves. This is not the gift we should give our Lord. Remember the gift of submitting to the sovereignty of God. God's plan for our lives is far better than any desire, evil or good, we could ever have. Thus, it is logical and beneficial to be humble in Him (1 Pet. 5:5)!
Why would we give this gift? Because humility is mutual. When we are faithful and humble to God and to others, it builds our character and community. This parallels James 4:6-10. James puts the emphasis on poverty and oppression while Peter's emphasis (1 Pet. 5:5-9) is on our being disillusioned as a result of persecution and subsequently falling away from God. Humbleness and submission help us to be accountable and to honestly assess our actions and performance. This attitude of humility is a parallel to an attitude of submission. Submission attacks self-promoting posturing and pride; the attitude of humility attacks and nullifies the self-love mentality that causes pride. Humility minimizes arrogance and removes pride. It is the misunderstanding of our fallen nature and weaknesses that causes us to think we are better than we are, and that causes us to strive to lift ourselves above others and God. Remember, God hates pride; we do not want to give Him that! He does not deserve it, nor are we worthy to give it.
Humility admits that most importantly God, but also others are responsible for our achievements. Humbleness enables us to be teachable persons who are willing to have a good attitude of submission and servant-hood, persons who confess sin and remember how Christ served us! Humility is not self-hatred or having a "poor me" attitude. In contrast, arrogance lifts our self-interests and self-sufficiencies, which seem necessary and good. However, when we are self-sufficient, we not only fail to see our need for redemption, but also fail to see our need for growth in spiritual matters. Therefore, self becomes the god, and any work of the One True God is muted and put aside.
Why would we want to give the gift of our humility? Because, He allows us and even desires for us to cast all of our anxiety and cares on Him! Being humble denotes being active in our faith and trusting in Him, so we trust God to direct our lives. When He is in control, we need not worry. Life is not about our circumstances; rather, it is about how we learn and grow in Him by our trust, faith, and obedience! Life and all that happens to us is for a reason and that is that we learn and are built for eternity. It also means being repentant of one's behaviors and attitudes. But, even more, it means that being totally dependant upon God produces a better attitude that creates better actions. Humility is the gift that comes back to us greater that what we gave, as it benefits us more than it benefits God! So, cast you anxiety, fears, trepidations, stress, and difficulties upon Him! All of our cares are to be surrendered to our Lord. Not some, not a little, not almost all, but all of our cares¾all that we have held in the past, the present, and will be in the future. It is the gift that comes back and touches all those around us, too.
The gift of humility can also be a solution to problems that seem overwhelming to us. Christ wants us to seek our comfort in Him. He does care for us! Receive His care, receive His love, and surrender your doubts, your frustrations, your concerns, and your frailty. Trust God's love in all of your circumstances. Allow Him to be your inward peace and contentment! We are to have an attitude of accepting whatever God provides, and being happy with it. We are not to seek self-gratification or temporary happiness in the shallow things of life. The fruit of anxiety is discontent, distrust, selfishness, unhappiness, and stress, as the focus becomes your situation, and not who you are in Christ. Being discontented will prevent the work of God in your heart and your will (Proverbs 16:9; ; Romans 9:19-21; Philippians. 4: 10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-9; Hebrews 13:5).
Why else would we give this gift? Because He will lift you up. God alone deserves the right to be exalted and honored. God is the only One to exalt us! This is an essential attitude we must take before effective Christian character, maturity, or spiritual growth can be possible. God's plan for our lives is far better than any desire¾evil or good¾we could ever have. His promise is relief from persecutions, either in this life or our life to come. The application is to trust Christ, to keep praying, and trust in our Lord, knowing that His love for us is real and true. God is merciful and is moved by our struggles; He does care. The mighty hand of God is the loving, caring hand of God in charge of us. Christ is our shelter, He is our deliverance, and His mighty hand is always His best love for us so we become our best for His glory! So, do not debate with God; humble yourself under His will, under His Word, and under His power.
When we accept His mighty hand, we are also accepting His love; then, we will be lifted up. We can endure the pain and difficulties that life brings, for He will lift us up. We can endure the troubles and trials, for He will lift us up. We should never think that our circumstances are too difficult; rather, we should seek to cast our anxiety on Him because we have the confidence that He does care for us. Take heed; God will not lift us up until we are ready for it. Our grace came after the cross. Our crown comes after the cross. Suffering comes before glory (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7-9; Duet 26:8;Jug. 2:18; 10:16; Psalm 107:9; Prov. 3:34; Isa. 2:11-12, 17; Ezek. 17:24; 21:26; Luke 1:52-53; Phil 4:13). Thus, it is logical and beneficial to be humble in Him (2 Chron. -15; Prov. ; 25:6-7; Isa. -12; ; Matt. 18:4; Luke ; ; ; ; 1 Pet. 5:62)!
The next gift we should contemplate on is the giving of the gift of our Purpose. Christ calls us to a purpose for our life, a reason we were created and made. This means knowing who we are in Christ and what He has done for us, then acting out our relationship and redemption by being obedient to God's will. It is the pursuit of God so He becomes the driving force, inspiration, motivation, and reason for all we do in life. Remember, we are called to devote our life, character, virtue, Spiritual Gifts, abilities, and call so the best can be realized in all people and all situations. The meaning of life is not about career, money, or power; it is about relationships and developing character. These are the only real things you can take with you to Heaven. The key is to learn from your life, experiences, and your surroundings (Psalm 57; 138:7-8; Prov. ; John 15; Romans 8; Phil. 2:1-18).
God created you as special and unique; He gave you talents and abilities, and brings you opportunities to use them to become more like Him. Purpose will help you see these aspects, His call, and your prospects so you can engage them. Then you will be willing and able to put your faith into action for His glory. The side effects? A life that is more joyful and content! Yes, there will be ups and downs, but with the Creator on your side, any plans you may have had become insignificant; they would not bring you even close to a life that is meaningful! He calls us to be holy, to be mature, to have character, and to give Him glory. Let us look to His ways and follow His call to give us direction for our new year. Be determined not to follow the evil desires of your sinful nature or the enticements of the world; rather, seek His glory. Let us place Him first in all things and all portions of our lives. With the right attitudes and goals, we can go through life without fear (Joshua 24:15; Matt. ; Acts ).
Why would we give this gift? Having a purpose or direction in our life from what Christ has given us calls for our response and choice. It calls us to be the light and the salt (Matt. -16). Ask yourself this question: What can you do to be in the Light, to be a gift? We can look to what lies ahead and make a commitment to be our best with the time and opportunities that we have left. We can make a needed change in our character and spiritual maturity. And, we can do this by our commitment and willingness to pursue our spiritual growth. A gift we give is the gift of an improved self¾to be more motivated to give Him glory and make the most of the time and resources He has given to us. That gift will come back to us in greater abundance in the form of an improved relationship with the Holy, Sovereign God of the Universe with Whom we could have no contact without His incarnation and accompanying sacrifice.
Consider what you are doing with your life and your relationship with our Lord. Has it really impacted you in all aspects of your life? Consider giving Him the gift of your trust, obedience, and devotion. In addition, this is the gift that keeps giving because this gift will have incredible, immeasurable results that will swing back your way. It will be the gift to be a blessing to all those around you because you become a better child of God. By living a life of real authentic Christianity, you will be living a life filled with purpose and distinction, a life worth living, a life of contentment.
Need Some More Gift Ideas for God?
· Be willing to give God the gift of your repentance. To repent means to completely and utterly turn away from your desires and deeds and toward His love and plan. Repentance was the central pronouncement of Jesus' earthly ministry. Real, authentic repentance is sincere; we will regret our past behavior and be on guard in future relationships so that a moral and lifestyle change will result. It is God's desire that we repent of our sins and come to His way. Repentance is not just sorrow or regret for what we have done, or even to change our minds. Rather, it is the changing of all we are, our goals, aspirations, values, and behaviors so that we turn a complete 180 degrees from the way we were. Repentance is a life that has been changed! (Matt. 4:17; Acts 17:30; 24:14; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 1 Thess. 5:6, 8; 2 Tim. 2:5; 1 Pet. 2:22-24)
· Be willing to give God the gift of your faith. This is the willingness to live out the Christian life we claim we are living. It is the actual implementation of His precepts into our daily life, because these precepts are better than anything we had planned. We must have a life that matches what we say we believe; faith is the quintessential tool to make this happen. This is where we take what we have learned and believe and put it into action in our relationships and opportunities. Our faith and our deeds must not operate independently of each other (Psalm 34:4-6; James ).
· Be willing to give God the gift of your Mind, a mind that is focused, to the best of your ability, on His precepts and character. Instead of filling our minds with needless junk, let us fill it up with things that will help us grow in our faith. Instead of a romance novel or a cheap magazine, pick up a good book, a classic, a book to help you grow, and read the ultimate Book, His Word, the Bible. If you are willing to grow closer to God, then fill your mind with things and ideas that are pleasing to Him (
· Be willing to give God the gift of your heart that looks to how Christ lived and desires to have the same compassion for others that He had. See people as His children, as your brothers and sisters, as community and family. Love is the prototypical character we are called to emulate. Let us not be caught up in the ways of the world; rather, be caught up in the Way of Christ (Mark 7:21; 1 Cor. 12; 1 John 3:17-20).
· Be willing to give God the gift of your witness. Real, authentic faith and a focused mind on His precepts equals a real and authentic witness. Be real, be authentic, and be poured out to Him. Have the courage to take your life into the lives of others by showing them the great news of what Jesus has done (Acts ). We have a responsibility to live our lives as His ambassadors of truth with the great commandment (Mark -31; 2 Cor. ), and see the hope we have to come! We have the call to fulfill the great commission by making disciples, not just converts and "pew-sitters" (Matt. 28: 18-20)!
So, which gift is the best one for you? Well actually all of them, because each one is essential for your Christian formation and your growth in Him. Why would we give all of these gifts? These are the gifts that bring Him the glory, and empower our lives so we can be stronger in Him and more effectual to others. We will be better connected with Christ so all of our relationships and activities will have His empowerment and blessings. And, do not forget the Fruit of the Spirit, God's work in you!
The gifts are rather simple for us to take a look at. All we need to do is look at the list that is found in James 4:7-10. James gives us ten to look at, submit, come near, wash, purify, grieve, mourn, wail, change, and humble ourselves. Each one leads to a closer relationship with God, and to a life that is bearing fruit, building character, and becoming more mature and thus more valuable, capable, and influential to others around us. This is exhibited and practiced by maximizing our time with God through the disciplines of the faith, Bible reading, devotions, prayer, and godly fellowship. It comes from trusting our Lord and His plan, thereby taking the focus off us, the ways of Satan, and the world. We are to be vulnerable in confessing our sins and drawing to Him as LORD. When we are humble, God is glorified and He lifts us up. It is not about our way; it is all about HIS WAY (Prov. 24:3-4; Isa. 45:7; Jer. 29:11-14; Phil. 2:3-4)! When we chase the devil and/or our pride, we will sink below the tossing waves in a sea of despair, a life that boils over with trouble (James 1:6-8). The key to preventing that sinking is to allow God's work in us, and for these commands to take root so our lives reflect righteousness. When we remove our sinful attitude of pride, He is glorified.
When we accept Christ in our life, He needs to be Lord of our life. We are to take responsibility for allowing His conviction to touch us deeply; then we can let go of our ways and surrender to His way (Matt. ; Luke 11:9-10). We must stop trying to manipulate God to give us our desires and needs, and concentrate on what we are to give Him. This is about how we are to worship Him in all that we do¾in total trust and total devotion. So, let us stop combating with God, stop fighting within ourselves, and stop the hostility with one another and concentrate our efforts toward God's glorification and worship. This means we are to recognize sin and its destructive nature. It may look good, but it will take us away from God and others and leave us bankrupt in our relationships and filling us with bitterness and despair.
So, what can I do? Give Him the gifts, all of them. Start slowly if you must, but give them without reservation and with much haste. Do not laugh at sin; guard against it. Do not accept the worldliness of the world. Rather, model maturity and character because you are being empowered by the Lord. We are to flee the world's influence while being the influencers of it. We are to flee the devil while being on guard of his tricks and trade. You may be thinking that only the weak and cowardly would surrender themselves-even to God. But, the fact is, only a coward will refuse to allow ultimate greatness in themselves that is only achieved by yielding totally to Christ. He is greater than those who are His (John )! The challenge to this call is the world's ways. Sin is so enticing we can easily slip off God's path. Thus, we need to be willing to give to Him so we get more from Him¾more faith, more growth, more maturity, more character, and insights from our life and walk in Him. When we do, we can become more guarded against sin because a bigger picture is in our sight-Christ, His example, and our willingness and commitment to follow. When we see Him rather than our personal viewpoints and desires, we will grow, mature, and be prepared for anything!
Remember, we may be giving these gifts, but these gifts are for our benefit! It is like a child on Christmas who gets all the best presents and who has given little to others. This is what our Lord has done for us, He has given us the greatest gifts we could ever need or want. But, if we refuse to give to Him, we are the ones who lose out. We will be controlled by others, by desires, and by the past. We will allow our circumstances to get the best of us when we should be giving our best to Him so our lives mean something, no matter what happens. God does not want us to be controlled by the past or to be fearful or cowardly. Rather, we are to learn and grow from our experiences, but not be tied to them so they become our identity. We have been born again in Christ; our old life is old, and it is no longer who we are. Thus, we are to grow closer to Him and be an example to others who are still in the old life without being influenced and enticed by them. Our focus needs to be what is going on now, what God is doing, and how we can contribute to it. Not just what can I get, but what can I learn and gain to be better for His glory? Take comfort; God does indeed have a plan for you even when you cannot see it. His will for your growth in Him is clear. He wants you to be faithful and good so others can see in you a demonstration model for the new life that they can have, too. He gives you the ability, the power, and the strength to endure and to enjoy (Gal. 6:7)! The most important gift we can give God is for us to keep our eyes focused on Christ, with racehorse blinders on to block off the rest (Matt. 7:24; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:25; Phil. 3:14; 2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 2:3).
In Matthew 22: 42, Jesus asks, who do you say I am? Once you recognize this, you can start to pick out your gifts for Him, taking one at a time so they can build. Remember that Jesus is history, not fantasy! God's revelation is clear; it is filled with our best in mind. He desires to see us grow. He wants us to be powered by His Love and yearns to see us saved. When we are, He wants to see our gifts at work. When we lose sight of God, we venture into all kinds of heinous actions and corruptions. This is what brings on the wrath of God, because it hurts too many of His children, whom He loves (Titus ). Have you allowed Jesus into all aspects of your life, surrendered and poured out to be His Bethlehem? Then Christ can use you to form others around you as Christ formed you, because we cannot do the work of God unless we are the people of God!
So, give Him the gift of your life. For Him to be in you, you must yield all of your rights and will to Him! Do not put off for tomorrow what you should do today. This applies to our spiritual formation and our response to His love for us. We are given the choice of what gifts to give; all are best. None are the norm for most of us. So, what are you going to do? The gifts you give will come back in greater fruition so you will be connected more firmly in Him and in others, all of which will echo throughout eternity. Allow Him to build and mold you; make the commitment, the resolution that will last all of your life until you are called home. This requires your trust and your heart and your will; you can do it, for He has done it for you. And, you will see His marvelous plan and purpose for you unfold in ways you never imagined, touching others because Christ has touched you.
Remember, we are called to become more like Christ. In order to best do this, we need to flee the world's influence while being the influencers of it! Let this coming New Year be the year that you grow further in your knowledge of Christ and the impact of your faith because you have been transformed by the power of God. The result will be a life that is a gift, a life that is holy, a life that is pleasing to Him and a blessing to others!
Here are Some Thoughts to Consider for the New Year:
Read John chapters 14:1-6 and 15:1-8; 11-14 and James 4:7-10, knowing you are Christ's friend and are called to abide in Him.
1. What does Christmas mean to you? What should it mean? What can be learned from the Puritans and the Christmas Truce of 1914?
2. What do you need to do to be focused on building your life on His precepts?
3. Which of these gifts have you given God already? How is it going?
4. Which gifts do you need to work on?
5. What can you do to better give God these gifts?
6. Which gifts are the most problem for you to give and why?
7. What is in the way of your giving these gifts to God?
8. What will your life look like when these gifts are functioning more prevalently?
9. What can you do to live by faith as a verb (action)? Most Christians just "think" about living the Christian life and do not really apply their faith to the reality of their daily lives.
10. Can you benchmark some goals? That is, can you draw up a spiritual action plan for the coming year? Just as a business plan is essential to establishing vision and building a business, so is establishing a plan to build your faith.
a. What is this plan's vision and goal?
b. How will you accomplish this goal?
c. Who will help you be accountable?
11. What can you do to see that these goals become realities and not end up on a piece of paper in the trash?
12. Consider you cannot change how others treat you, but you can change how you treat and react to how others treat you!
a. So, how do you treat others?
b. How do you react to others?
c. Are these actions in line with the character that Christ calls us to?
Resolution #48 Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of (J. Edwards). See more of The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.
Remember to place Joy in all aspects of you life and expectations. If you are having problems, take a serious look at despair and where it will get you. There can be no delight without joy! You can have no true confidence without joy. Keep in mind that what we suffer through, what we go through, what we give up is of no comparison to what we gain! Christianity and suffering are the ultimate in delayed gratification!
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of several books including, Into Thy Word, and A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Founder and Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of several books including, Into Thy Word, and A Field Guide to Healthy Relationships. He is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
© 2005 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org