We have grown up hearing that it is better to give than to receive. We have heard it so often and for so long it has almost become a religious tenet. To say otherwise would be heresy let alone making us appear to be selfish spoiled bratty adults. But inside we all know how terrific it is to receive. Yes, it is good to give. It is terrific to give. But receiving is really satisfying.
God is a good Father. He is the best. He would not do something that would not be for our benefit and the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world He gave us …” That makes us receivers. He, also enjoys receiving. Thus Psalm 107:1 and Psalm 136:1 admonishes us to “Give thanks unto the Lord.” Isaiah 42:12 tells us to “Give God praise.” This makes Him a receiver. He wouldn’t be a receiver if it wasn’t a good thing.
Actually giving and receiving are so interwoven it is difficult to sort them into something different. How many times have we given only to have been so rewarded internally for doing so that it outweighed what we gave? We received. It also works in reverse. When we graciously receive we give another person the same feeling of warmth we get when we give. Often receiving is a very unselfish act of care toward the giver.
God is a giver. We are givers. God is a receiver. We are receivers. Yes, it can be abused just like any good thing can be twisted into something harmful. But if we are reasonable fairly intelligent people we have to admit that receiving is great.
One of the disadvantages of aging is the closing of doors and the growing limits on possibilities. Lessened physical prowess and the restrictions of remaining years squelch dreams and ambitions. When I was young I dreamed dreams of adventure and accomplishments. Now that youth is in the rearview mirror reality forces upon me the truth that options are fewer and fewer with the passage of years. Jesus and His gift of eternal life are not some nice idea. They are a necessity for the continuation of life’s possibilities. With Jesus all is limitless. Age is but a bit of temporary inconvenience.
Emily Dickenson, our recluse New England poet, said it so well.
“I dwell in Possibility
A fairer house than Prose,
More numerous of windows,
Superior of doors.”
She closes with “The spreading wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise.”
With Jesus personal possibilities are limitless. With eternal life there is time to be a poet, a writer, a musician, a painter, a sculptor, a builder, an architect, a mason, a carpenter, an athlete, an organist, a singer, a plumber, a pilot, a tourist, a skier, a golfer, a botanist, an astronomer, a biologist or an orator.
Come with me and dwell in Possibility. Make Jesus the Lord of your life and open your mind to all that you can be. Age ceases to be a limiter and becomes a foundation for more and better. Some speak of spending eternity standing in God’s throne room singing His praises. I will instead show Him praises by becoming everything He dreams for me. Occasionally I will visit His throne room to say thank you and then off again for more adventures because Possiblity is more numerous of windows and superior of doors.
I just had a fascinating conversation where the other person said, “My father taught me to take a stand. Something is either right or wrong. There is no middle ground. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” “But,” I said, “what if you discover you were wrong.” “Then,” she said, “at least I stood for something.” It seems the virtue wasn’t knowing truth but being intransigent. I am so thankful I am not married to that person. She had learned something from her father and she was not going to change. Taking a position was to her a righteous position.
She is not the first person like this that I have known. One such person was someone who prided himself on the number of Bible studies he gave so others could learn his truth. The irony was he wasn’t open to change but he wanted those to whom he gave Bible studies to change.
The older I get the less I know. I don’t think it is the result of senility. I think it is the result of meeting righteous people who see life differently than I. I rejoice in the Biblical truth that we are saved by grace and not by knowing the right things. I do so hope in heaven when Jesus tells us the TRUTH we all will come to realize we all had it wrong.
If we were all like my intransigent lady we would destroy the world because peace talks, negotiations and compromises would be impossible. The only thing left would be to agree to disagree or to destroy the other. I fear we would choose the latter. Only God who knows everything can stand firmly without changing.
Anyone who owns a car has at least one time gotten in and turned the key only to hear a click. It’s a sickening sound. Most of us who are optimistic turn the key again only to rehear the click. And if we have really lost control of our brains we turn it the third time. If it didn’t work the first two times it isn’t going to work the third time because the battery is dead or so close to death it needs hospice. It’s time for the jumper cables. Hopefully there is a kind soul about who will let you connect to their car for electrical sustenance.
We could be the one who needs the power or the one who supplies the power depending on our personal supply. When we are with Jesus we are charged with enough power to overcome the world. That’s a promise in I John 5. But there are times when we aren’t so supercharged.
Spending time in the Gospels and Paul’s letters keeps us connected and allows His power to flow through us to others. These days, before the holidays, are especially hectic and busy and the time we have to pay attention to our spiritual life can be quite limited. Often we have to really purpose it. If we don’t, life’s chores just crowd our days leaving very little time for Jesus. It’s ironic that the celebration of His advent becomes the very thing to pull us away from Him. If you find yourself feeling a bit separated from Him don’t chastise yourself. He understands and is grateful for any time you can devote to Him, be it five minutes or an hour. Just don’t let it be zero or you will hear the dreaded click.
We have this nice kid in our neighborhood. He is about 10 years old and has a two year old dog named Buddy. Buddy is beautiful and weighs about the same as his master, who very faithfully takes Buddy for a walk each afternoon after school. Maybe I should say Buddy takes his master for a walk. Buddy is a handful and goes pretty much where he wants to go pulling his master after him.
Buddy reminds me of strong habits and propensities in our lives. We struggle to keep them in check but so often they pull us where they want to go. But this I know. There is no sin or desire so strong that we cannot overcome or control. Unlike Buddy’s master who is doing it on his own we do not have to face temptation on our own. Jesus’ disciple John wrote, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” That promise is in his small letter of I John in chapter 4. If you will put the word “overcome” in a concordance you will discover there are five promises about overcoming in I John. John was a son of thunder and he overcame. He was an overcomer and wants each of us to share the victory available in Jesus.
Here’s one of two promises in chapter 5. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.” The world is a pretty big place filled with many temptations and addictions. But none of what the world has is bigger or stronger than the power available to us. We have overwhelming power just a prayer away. It’s even stronger than Buddy.
On our walk today we came upon Santa. He had painted the big letters UPS on the side of his brown sleigh. I think that stands for Ubernorth Pole Service. I’m glad he got an early start this year because if what I saw is any indication of how busy he is, he is slammed. I kid you not. He stopped at more than half the houses. My dog and I eventually passed him and turned the corner before he did. He even had an elf with him and we were taking time to sniff along the way. Well, at least one of us was sniffing. Often after a good inhale she looks up at me trying to
understand why I am not down there enjoying the pure essence of it all.
As we rounded the corner I pondered about how wonderful it is that our heavenly Father is omnipresent; talk about orders needing to be filled and delivered. Our prayers and those of billion of beings on each of billions of planets are continually reaching His ears. The sheer cacophony of languages asking for something all at the same time would totally overwhelm a lesser being. But have no fear. He is more than up to the task. He is even anxious for increased attention from us. He loves it when we trust Him to care for us.
When speaking about Jesus, Paul wrote in Colossians 1, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” How marvelous to think that He and the Father are tuned into us all the time.
Tis the season for Christmas programs. Our schedules are filled with The Messiah, Readings of the Night Before Christmas and many children’s choirs. We passed a church this morning that had so many cars in the parking lot they were parked four deep. It would be a while before some people got out.
Some time ago I saw a choir where the children knew all the words and were spot on coming in and out when they were up. But there was something wrong. Something was missing. And then it hit me. The children were not smiling and there was little joy being expressed. They might as well have been singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm. The joy of Christmas isn’t so much the technical prowess of the choir but the emotion expressed. The children were prepared in their heads but not their hearts.
Oh Holy Night is only moving when the singers are moved. The Hallelujah Chorus is only wonderful when you cannot keep yourself in your seat but have to stand, not because it is convention, but because God is so great and so mighty. I have to say that this weekend I did hear and watch a mother and daughter sing a duet about Jesus Our King that caused me to well up; it was so full of love.
Jesus really is Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, The Prince of Peace. I heard someone sing wonderful counselor. He is a wonderful counselor but that is not what Isaiah was saying. Jesus is Wonderful period. Wonderful is not an adjective modifying counselor. Wonderful is His name. He fills our hearts with His splendor and love and majesty and it is beyond comprehension.
I am rapidly growing to hate Beryl Ives. I’m sure he was a nice man but I have an earworm of him singing Feliz Navidad and he is driving me mad. An earworm is a short piece of something audio, usually music, that continuously plays over and over in your mind. Researchers tell us that 92% of us experience an earworm once a week. I am so glad I am in the 8% who do not. Experts recommend chewing gum. Somehow it involves the tongue and jaw muscles that we use to form sounds and our mind responds by stopping the earworm.
It would be so grand if we had complete control over our minds. If we could choose our dreams or select which fifteen snippet we want as an earworm life would be even better than it is. When my sons were small we had tapes of someone singing verses of Scripture. We would sing (that is a generous term for the noise I made) them at night before they went to bed. To this day they can remember them. They would make perfect earworms.
A great song for an earworm would be “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 119:11. “He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91:11 “If God be for us who can be against us.” Romans 8:31. Then if we had total control over our minds we could turn the earworm off and replace it with another before it became irritating like Beryl Ives is to me right now.
Anyone have a stick of Juicy Fruit?
A thousand news worthy things happened in the world today. A hundred personal things happened to each of us today. If the world was asked, “How was your day world?” The world could have selected the hundred really wonderful things that happened and respond, “It was a great day today.” Or it could have selected the hundred really rotten things that happened today and say, “Today was horrible.”
That very same question could be asked of us. And our answer would be based upon which ten things we selected out of the hundred things that occurred. Now it is true some horrific event or some spectacularly great event could have happened today that would totally dominate our answer. But it is a rare day for that to occur. 95% of the time the choice is ours. Whether we had a great day or a rotten day depends on what we decide to think about.
With Jesus in our lives we have additional help in selecting the good things because it is God’s will for us to live the abundant life. The abundant life Jesus promises us is not about our bank account. It is about the joy of loving others and seeing that love produce good things. I have yet to feel bad about doing something unselfish for someone. I always am rewarded by knowing life is better for someone. It can be something as small as a smile or a compliment or a thank you or some word of appreciation. When we validate others our personal stock goes up.
When we do this, we become Jesus-like. He is a validator. He says to us, “You are the kind of person I want to live with forever.” Wow! That is major validation.
I would like to sing the praises of procrastination. The wind prevails from the west so the street gutter in front of my house has over filled with maple and oak leaves. Just last evening I finally said to myself that when I awaken in the morning I would rouse myself to action against the forces of nature and clean the gutter; after all it is December 8. I should not have waited so long. Now comes the good part. Early this morning as I was coming down the stairs toward the kitchen I heard what sounded like a heavy truck out front. Lo and behold it was the city cleaning my gutter. My tax dollars at work! What would have taken me at least two hours or more and a possible heart attack because of lugging the leaves away was done in less than five minutes and my heart is still intact!
My neighbors had cleaned their gutters with much blowing and lugging away. My gutter was cleaned by persistent patience. I am feeling a bit smug. I am about ready to adopt a new ethic. “What does not have to be done today can wait until tomorrow.”
As grand as this sounds, (to some) it really doesn’t work when thinking about eternal life. Paul said it so well in II Corinthians, “This is the day of salvation.” There are two reasons for this. Number one is we have no guarantee there will be a tomorrow for us. And secondly, why would we want to live a lesser quality of life? Making Jesus our Lord and Savior makes life so much better. It reduces stress, it takes away our worries and concerns about the future. And it also helps make us better people. Why wait? Don’t wait. Procrastination is only good for raking leaves.