Everybody Loves a Gift

This morning as I sit in the cafe of my hotel here in Rwanda, I think about all the gifted people Ive met in the last two weeks. This trip is almost over and as always I am moving into that contemplative mode. I am thinking about what I have seen, what we have done, those we have encountered and the wonderful relationships that God has allowed me the opportunity to continue or begin.

As I think about all this one of the things that popped into my head was a question. Why does God give us gifts? By gifts I mean, talents, abilities, skills, propensities, and certain personalities, or even spiritual gifts, that we read about in the Bible.

I have come to a conclusion: The gifts are given to us, but not for us.

I have met artists on this trip, one in particular who has become a very good friend, and I look forward to our continued developing relationship. His Name is Ludigo http://www.ludigocreations.org He is truly a gifted individual, not just as an artists but also with an entrepreneurial mind. He was telling me that much of the art world is moving to more of a cause minded approach, which he says is an antidote to the natural insecurity that many artists deal with. It gets the focus off the gift or the art and on to the cause, which gives more meaning to the gift itself and more confidence and creativity to the artist.

I love this concept, and it reinforces my conclusion that God gives gifts to us, but not for us. Do we get pleasure in employing our gifts? Yes. The pleasure however should be in the reception of the gift by someone else not merely in the gift itself or what it does for us.

This mistake is made in the church all the time. We can make the mistake of putting the focus on the gifted not the gift giver. We make the mistake of putting emphasis on the gifted and not the purpose of the gift.

The gift is not our purpose, it is merely a tool to express our purpose. I think we avoid all these mis steps if we understand, God gave gifts to us, for others. Not for us to set around and rave about the gifts but to use those gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.

Don’t misunderstand me, we should take huge delight in the gifts God has given us and enjoy them to the fullest, but never lend to the gifts some kind of virtue.

Remember if you are gifted it is what it implies. You were given something. You can’t take pride in something you were given, you didn’t earn it, and you didn’t create it, so the proper response to it is to be grateful for it, and be intentional in using it.

I want to encourage you if you have gifts in your life, use them. Don’t sit on them, don’t sideline them, don’t avoid them. Use them, but, in using them do so with the understanding that they were given to you for others, for the kingdom of God, for the church, for the community, for expressing the purpose of God in and through your life.

Everyone likes a gift, so give yours out and make someones day.

All I Want for Christmas is a Cheap Guitar?

A few years ago my wife and I were gearing up for Christmas. We were making our plan, putting the lists together, asking our kids what they wanted and enjoying every minute of it.

My youngest daughter was 4 years old at the time. She had her heart set on a little acoustic guitar we saw at cracker barrel gift shop.

Like a good dad I went to check this guitar out and what I found was a cute, cheap little acoustic guitar.

I immediately surmised that it was just a toy really and if my daughter wanted a guitar we would get the real thing. The guitar at cracker barrel was $15.

I decided to go to the music store and look at real age appropriate acoustics. I found one I thought was worthy of Sydney and bought it. It was I think $50. It had real strings you could actually tune it. I thought she is going to love it!

So the morning finally came. We got up and had our Christmas morning tradition, I read the Christmas story, we took communion as a family, then we opened the presents. I think I was more excited than she was.

I waited anxiously as she opened it and as I thought she would, she loved it, or at least that’s how it appeared.

We had a wonderful time opening presents and then we moved on with the day getting ready for grandmas house.

The girls were at the table eating breakfast and I was walking to my room down the hall and overheard their conversation. Sydney leaned over to Taylor and said in a quiet voice, “do you think Santa doesn’t know where cracker Barrel is?”. I was stunned, I went in my room and laughed so hard. She’s just so funny.

I thought how sweet she was to be gracious when it wasn’t what she really wanted. I thought how ridiculous it was for me to not just simply get what she asked for.

I love life, and I love family. I don’t know why us dads have to complicate everything, but it sure can evoke some funny responses.

The Greatest Gift

The greatestest gift is without question Jesus Christ.

As my family grows and I get older the gifts I want become more and more clear and less and less material. Don’t get me wrong I love to get great gifts just like the next person, but when I really think about what I want for Christmas it is for my family to be together, for everyone to be healthy, and cared for and most importantly that myself and my family are serving and intimately connected to God through his son Jesus.

The more I think about it that is all our father God was trying to do when He gave us the best gift ever. Literally the greatest gift known to man.

I love giving gifts: there is nothing like hearing your spouse or kids say, this is the best gift ever! It makes your heart swell to know you hit the mark, you identified what would make the most impact on them and you made it happen. Wow! What a great feeling that is!

There is a scripture that personifies this thought.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:17, 18 NKJV)

And it’s related to this scripture:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 19 NKJV)

God saw our world his intended family, He saw the corruption, the confusion, and condemnation and decided to give us a gift. Not just any gift but the greatest gift.

This gift was…

1. Not the most flamboyant, but definitely the most expensive

2. Not the most prominent but definitely the most powerful

3. Not the most popular but definitely the most prolific!

This gift, the greatest gift, was not wrapped in the most beautiful paper but in swaddling clothes, it was not presented to the world in pomp and circumstance but in the humblest of contexts, this gift was the person of Jesus. God himself brought down from majesty to the very minimum of modesty the form of a baby.

This gift…

1. The perfect given son became flesh to become sin

2. The compassionate savior of our souls became sin to become our sacrifice

3. The victor over death hell and the grave became our sacrifice to become our savior.

And all for what?

To bring us as a gift to his father to say father your family is home together, healthy, healed, and whole.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NKJV)

Excellence…

Excellence simply means to excel. To be distinguished. To stand out above the rest. I was recently looking at the life of Daniel, the Prophet the bible literally says he had an excellent spirit.

His peers and his leaders saw this in him. Excellence is visible. The single greatest way to move forward in any area of your life is to embrace excellence, in our thinking, living, and being.

Excellence is the antithesis of mediocrity. Yet everywhere we look we see mediocrity. We see things half way done, we see short cuts taken, we see people wanting excellent results with mediocre effort.

If I asked the question who would love to have a life of excellence, success in your family, relationships, job/career, even personally, hands go up everywhere. Everyone wants that. If I asked Who wants their life to amount to nothing. You want to accomplish nothing, get along with no one, succeed in no way. No one would raise their hand. No one truly wants their life to be mediocre.

The problem is not a desire for excellence but a desire to fulfill the requirements of excellence. We can’t have excellence from mediocre effort. It doesn’t work that way. Daniel lived several principles that I think show his excellence and in living these ourselves we will find excellence as a result. Excellence will open doors that nothing else can.

1. Daniel cared about doing things right and He cared about doing the right things.
If you read the story of his life you will find that he did his best with what he had, and he had the right priorities. Two of the greatest enemy’s of excellence are an “its good enough” attitude, and having our priorities out of whack. Getting caught up doing unimportant things, while those things which are important are left undone.
My dad taught me a very important lesson when I was growing up. He said, if you want privileges you must fulfill responsibility. Another way to say it is do what you should do before you do what you want to do. This principle will bring true excellence into your life.

2. Daniel lived with a higher purpose which is how excellence is produced.
Colossians 3:23 says, “whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto man.”
In other words do all we do with 100% effort as if we were working for God himself. Our lives will be excellent if we live them with a higher purpose. As unto God.

3. He faced the worst with His best.
Daniel didn’t allow his circumstances to dictate his decisions or actions. We miss excellence when we react to hard, difficult or unfair situations with anything less than a spirit of excellence. Daniel was faced with betrayal false accusation, Peer Jealousy and persecution, but he never became spiteful, he never lowered himself to allow people or things to dictate his actions are decision making. He made decisions and acted on the foundation of his faith. He was living for God and not man.

I highly recommend you take a look at the life of Daniel, and recommend that you practice these principles he was so adept at. Care about doing things right, and doing the right things. Live with a a higher purpose. Face the worst with your best.

Lets live a life of excellence and see how it changes not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

God bless.