I've done it. Taken the plunge. And it's even before the New Year. :) You see, every year I say I'm going to read through the Bible. And then I don't. Every. Single. Year. Well, for the last few years anyway.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe with you though, it's working out your physical body. No, I don't usually have a problem with that. It's my spiritual body that lacks. Every. Year. And what good is a physical body if the spiritual body is a wreck? Not any, really, as I've learned....and relearned. And as important as I say the Word is to our lives here, just about every time I sit down to plink on my keyboard, I have been convicted that the things that I say here.....they are words to live by, not just nice things to say. Pointing people to Christ and living as Christ live together well just as do grace and truth.
And so, a friend of mine texts me from far away. She says she's been thinking about me. And me? I've been convicted because ever since my study in Philippians that ended a couple of weeks ago, I have not really been digging in anywhere. So I kind of offer up a "whoa is me" kind of a prayer and asked the Lord to help. Guess what? He did. And this friend, she calls, well the 2012 version of a call. :) She says she wants to study the Bible. She wants to study the Bible with me. And I smile. And nod. And praise the Lord. And thank her for texting, and mean it (though it's necessary for me to mention that I have a flip phone and hate texting.)
Then I had another thought: I am a much better sprinter than I am marathon runner. I'm not sure how good this is in life since life, it's more like a marathon (whew!) than a sprint, but this insight did help me decide to do this 90 Day Bible Plan and not the read the Bible in a year plan. That and my friend said she was up for the challenge too. And doesn't fellowship always help?
So here I am, on the 4th day and the worry that I wouldn't understand and what could the Lord teach me if I don't understand? And the so-n-so begot so-n-so and...ugh, really how is that name even pronounced? And why, oh why does this even matter, kind of questions are dissipating because the Lord, He is teaching. Already. And why am I surprised?
As I ponder gifts and giving this Christmas season. I realised right there at the beginning of Genesis that God delights in giving good gifts. Yes, I know he says so other places too (see Matt. 7:11), but I see it here in the book of beginnings. And that is exciting! That having things is a blessing from the Lord. I look at the story of Adam and Eve. That the Lord gave them everything....everything (well, cept that one thing.) I see, then, the patriarchs starting with Abram, that the Lord blessed them greatly with spiritual and physical blessings. I also realise that He was starting a nation and yes, there was going to be many, many of them, so all those physical blessings could sustain them and help them and not a person had to go with out their needs being met. I really hope they were good at sharing!
And I was encouraged because sometimes I begin to think that all this stuff is just weighty baggage only helping to drag me down ever more into the pit of ease and comfort. I ask myself this: if all of it were taken away...all the gifts.... would I really say that I have everything still because I have Jesus alone? If I had, physically nothing, would I still say I had my Jesus, everything? And would he be enough? This is a question that convicts, I know.
But there are all over this dusty ball, people, big and small, and they do live with nothing or as close as you can get to it. Our David writes and says that he lives in a "straw covered mud hut, wants to be a farmer like his dad so as to help provide their daily bread, and that he washes their clothes in a basin." And my 10 year old asks, "what is a basin?" And you see why sometimes I struggle with how all this stuff can be a blessing. And Ernstia, she wants to know, "Do we have a car?" She wants to know what it is like to live in America. I'm sure that she has seen more in Haiti, than our boy living in the mud hut in Kenya has.
And the weight, it still is there as I ask myself if all this stuff just masks my spiritual poverty and if it was all taken away would I like what I see? As long as I can cling to my things and give only to those who are able to give in return and feel comfortable, I don't have to see my spiritual poverty. I can go on living, but not living out what I type here. And is that really living? That is when the stuff becomes a weight. When I trust in it rather than the One who knit me together in my mother's womb.
Giving is never an obligation, even for the believer. Everything, yes everything, that we are given is Gods, anyway isn't it? And it is in our giving to our church, to those in desperate need, and even our friends and family that God is glorified. Our giving is really, then, just an extension of what God has given to us, by his grace. It is not a guilt-ridden, tight fisted thing that we do. It is a matter of the heart. And our hearts, this is what God cares for really....that our hearts may be pure, even in our efforts to give.
When we give like this, we show that we trust in Him, not in our things. We trust Him to provide, not only in our bank accounts. We trust that He will meet our every need even if all is taken away and Jesus is the only thing that we have. Because Jesus is the gift that everyone needs whether they have plenty or little.
He is the one good gift that Compassion goes about sharing with the world because the physical and spiritual, they too go hand in hand. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36. And this is what I love about Compassion....giving in Jesus' name. Because he was a gift, we are able to, by His grace, be a gift this Christmas and give in His name.
One way to do that is to give through Compassion's Christmas Catalog or some other organisation that I have highlighted in weeks past. Pray about it would you? Gifts range from $4 to $500. They are gifts that will not soon be left behind un-played with...these good gifts will last a lifetime. So gather up the kiddos around the computer this Christmas morning and start a new tradition by giving a gift in Jesus' name through Compassion.