The Full Complement

“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:34, emphasis mine)

Not required to sell

There’s this attitude that creeps up on me every once in a while. While I didn’t have everything I wanted growing up, my needs were met and I was consistently surprised with the big Christmas and birthday presents I received. The major things that inspired a slack-jawed and drooling fervor did I find wrapped under the tree or hidden at the end of a brief scavenger hunt or beneath the small hill of lesser presents that shared the space on the dining room table with my birthday cake. My parents did well in keying what I wanted to what I actually received. But I still want stuff even today—fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years removed from my childish materialism.

“A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.” (Proverbs 17:8)

The one thing, however, that I’ve found growing up and growing older is that I have the authority and the ability to surprise myself (not really, it’s God who surprises us) with things I didn’t know I needed or wanted. This being said, as I continually look for that better thing I think complements my person, the paradigm of atrophy and apathy and complacency (in a word: depredation) continues to gnaw at me. This is why God continues to show mercy and love and grow in me His contentment. It’s in Him that we are able to stop reaching out for more to the neglect of what we already possess. And we possess Him in full if you didn’t already know that (See 1 Corinthians 3:21).

Required to tell

Keep your eye on your stuff, but not in that way; and not in that way either. What I should have said was “keep your eyes on God”. Because if you get your eyes off Him and begin to show too much interest in what He’s given you without seeing that He is the greatest gift, the natural course of the aforementioned cycle of the wearing-down of things will show with more poignancy. The writer of Hebrews says “knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Our treasure truly is in Heaven (See Luke 12:33-34). But God is so generous! What do we do when once we cross that threshold of having enough and then enter into having “more than enough”? Here’s a good watchword (Psalm 116:12-14):

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.”

You’ll reach a point where the harvest in your life is more than you can handle (See Luke 6:38). Don’t let that dissuade from giving thanks and enjoying what the Lord gives. Give out what you feel led to give out to whom you feel led. But don’t let it eclipse His face. Continue to “take the cup of salvation” and talk to the Lord. Maintain that childlike relationship that got you where you are today. And when it says “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people”, understand that there are things you agreed to do for the Lord when once He brought you out “into a wealthy place.” (Psalm 66:12) Do those things for Him and don’t be afraid of what other people think. That second part of the passage reminds me of the injunctions of the Lord against being ashamed of Him before those who don’t know Him (See Matthew 10:32-33). This is serious stuff.


Owning Our Worst Enemy

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Paul writing to the Romans (12:20). Can’t cite that verse without the next one (vs. 21): “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It’s one thing to “turn to him the other [cheek]” as Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel (5:39). Quite another to literally give something to someone to fulfill a need, if they’ve mistreated you. It takes time and effort to acquire the food in the first place. When they see that you’re willing to give what you worked for, with honest heart and pure motive, something happens to them. Don’t look for an outward response though. This all seems like pretty elementary stuff. Simply explained and easier to live out the more you do it. But here’s another way of looking at it.

Have you ever thought about that Romans passage with reference to yourself? Not sure if it’s meant to be conveyed along those lines, but I will say that the hardest person to forgive oftentimes, is us. One of the firmest convictions I have regarding God, is that He always looks upon us with eyes of love. There are all sorts of variables here, such as the whole love/judgment paradox and the fact that some people actively hate Him and continue to do wrong, in spite of professing an aligned moral compass. Work through those. I’m referring, right now, to God’s response to our mistakes. The ones we do that hurt others, however inadvertently. The deeper we get in relation to others, the more chance there is for that fine line to be crossed, and to rub someone the wrong way. I’ve done it before and I always hate it. I tell myself that I could’ve waited. Could’ve prayed more about the fine points of the relationship and not said the thing I did. Here’s what silences those nagging thoughts: Jesus forgives me upon asking. It’s as simple as that. There’s no way that I love myself more than He. But that’s exactly the reason why I hold out and refuse to let it go. I tell myself that I care for and love myself more than Him. And that’s not correct. Forgive yourself as readily as you’re called to forgive others. Overcome evil with good.

As an aside, when Isaiah stood in the presence of God and saw the angel take the live coal from the fire and put it in his mouth, the angel then told him “lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged.” (Isaiah 6:6-7) When Paul refers to feeding our enemies, ourselves included, it’s understood that we’ve taken pains to forgive them prior to doing so. Our motive of heart remains pure when we’ve forgiven the offense, in them and in ourselves.

“Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thoud didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.” (2 Samuel 12:20-21)

David might seem calloused and uncaring. What he’s showing here is radical self-forgiveness after having repented.

Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Winter begins (usually) on December 21st and then we have Christmas. A fitting close to a (hopefully) good year and a nice respite from the daily grind as we prepare for yet another year. It seems to have been positioned at just the right place on the calendar.

“for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, emphasis mine)

Well, God loves everyone. What Paul is saying here is that God loves it when we give out of “the riches of [our] liberality” (2 Corinthians 8:2). I draw a Christmas card every year and have since 1999. The marginal cost of the card stock and printing fee is nothing compared with the joy on people’s faces when they receive something that was handmade (albeit photocopied, nicely) for them. The maxim “it is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35) is proven time and again and consequently, I look forward to this time of year for that reason above many others.

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

I bring up this point to say that we, as Christians, are celebrating Christmas for a specific reason. The birth, the inception of Jesus into this world, to live and then die for us begins—at least contemporarily—with Christmas. Before I go any further, please dispense with the jargon and nonsense disputing the “actual” birth of Jesus, when He was born or if He was even born at all. As well as how His birth, life, death and resurrection are somehow repeated throughout history and other “myths”, thereby dilluting the efficacy of Him as human and as God. Thank you. Moving forward, I would like to say, citing the first line at the top of the page and also the comment from Paul, that if God loves a cheerful giver, doesn’t it follow (preceed?) that God loves a cheerful…getter? And by getter, I mean those who get (i.e. purchase) the gifts that they in turn give to loved ones. Walking through the mall today and another store, I noticed the countenance of many people who were consumed with the atmosphere of spending frenzy that permeates much of American culture and society around this time. They didn’t seem like they were mindful of the overarching truths regarding the season. I understand that these topics I’m touching on have been hammered out for years now. And I understand why we say “Happy Holidays”—so as not to offend someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas (I really wonder how offended the average individual who didn’t partake of Christmas would be if you told them Merry Christmas with a pure motive)—but walking through these places with a friend, I felt like raising my voice and reminding them why they’re doing this at all. Then again, it’s not really my thing to draw attention to myself in spite of yelling “Jesus” above the fray. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men (and women, and elves) unto me (John 12:32). How does that phrase go? Oh yeah: Jesus is the reason for the season. And there is exponentially more joy to be had (year round) by celebrating Him  and giving from that motive. Yes we’re busy. But we can make time.

One simple gift per recipient, handmade if possible. A card that says you love someone. Bake some love into a batch of cookies or a pound cake. I’m not trying to tell you what to do. What I am saying, however, is to please, please maintain and cultivate the joy and wonder of what it means to receive the most precious gift that anyone possibly could: The Lord and Savior, the Creator, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas! “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account”. (Philippians 4:17)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (teachability), temperance (self-control): against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22)