Greener Grasses?

If you had of asked me in April or May what I thought this summer would have looked like, I would have told you that it would have been greener grasses. That this was going to be the summer of grand adventures of the heart and mind, that this summer was going to be one to look back on with great delight because of the memories made and the experiences had. I was pretty sure that this summer was going to be the one where I had the greener grasses for once.

…Well, this summer has not turned out the way I had expected at all. And I found myself, just this morning, looking at some of the pictures and posts in my newsfeed and I caught myself envying their grasses. Beach posts, engagements, vacations, sunny days, weddings, happy smiles, new babies…

But then I had an epiphany. What if I tried to look at my own Instagram feed from a third-person perspective? Do my grasses look as green as my friends’? So I did.

As I looked at those photos, although some of them are a bit bittersweet because of how things are currently, I realized I have had a greener grasses summer. I met a fabulous friend. I made silly and fun memories with my niece and nephews. I got a new nephew. I got a ridiculously good tan. I got to go to five Blue Jays games. I went a canoe trip with some great camp people. I got to spend time at a cottage, in a hammock, reading a good book. I got to spend a good amount of time with girls I adore. I started rowing again.

…And even deeper and more importantly, I realized this summer has been a grand adventure. It has been one where I will look back with great delight. You know why? Because the greatest thing about this summer is that I’ve fallen more in love with Christ. I am more confident in the goodness of God to me than I was last year. I am sure of His faithfulness to me. I am more aware of the daily struggle and daily victories of leaning into Christ. I am more wholehearted about saying, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything else.”

If I go back through the journals from the last two or three years, this has been my prayer: Lord, help me love you more. Help me see your goodness. …And though He has had to slay me to bring me to this place, the pain has been and will continue to be worth it. Does this make the journey uphill any easier? Well, no. Not on a surface level. The days still move slowly. Each step is work. But deep down, I have hope. Hope that with my feet planted on the Rock that is higher than I, He is leading me somewhere good. Somewhere I will delight in His mercy and goodness. Somewhere I can say with even more assurance, Jesus is enough.

I don’t know what your summer has looked like or what will happen in the coming weeks. You could have be having the greatest summer of your life, or you could be about to face a very difficult tragedy. But, in the end, if your feet are planted on the Rock, your greener grasses are actually found in Christ, not in the storm or sun around you. Be encouraged, friend. Jesus really is enough.

Merry Christmas! Two songs for today. 🙂

“End of Exile”(Evan Wickham)

The maker of the sun and moon
The maker of our earth
Has made an even greater move
Himself is brought to birth

How blessed was all creation then
What heavenly release
When Christ to heal our broken hearts
Brought righteousness and peace

Chorus:
Glorious miracle
Here is the end of exile
God the invisible
Flooding the world with light

No star in all the heights of heaven
But burned to see him go
Yet unto earth alone was given
His human form to know
His human form that we denied
Took death for human sin
Overcame the great divide
Let resurrection in

Oh Perfect Love Eternal light
Igniter of the stars
Descend upon the world tonight
And heal our broken hearts

“What Child is This?/This is Our God” (Travis Cottrell)

What Child is this, who,
laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus
This, this is Christ, the King,
Whom shepherds guard, and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son, the Glorious One,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
This is Our God

Who is this Child asleep in the manger?
Tender and mild, this intimate stranger?
Recklessly, wildly loving a dangerous world.
Who is this Light invading our darkness?
Glorious might, the sun rising for us.
Conquering might,
He captures the hardest of hearts. We sing:

This is our God, living and breathing, Gm7 Bb
Call Him courageous, relentless and brave.
This is our God, loving and reaching,
Scandalous mercy and mighty to save.
Hallelujah! This is our God!
Hallelujah! This is our God
Hallelujah! This is our God! Sing praise.

Who is this One who will not condemn us?
Why would He come to shoulder our sentence?
Nothing we’ve done will keep Him from giving us grace.
Who is this One? We watch and we’re speechless.
God’s only Son, embracing our weakness.
He overcomes all death and He frees us to live.
And we sing:

This is Our God

This is our God, living and breathing,
Call Him courageous, relentless and brave.
This is our God, loving and reaching,
Scandalous mercy and mighty to save.
Hallelujah! This is our God! Hallelujah!
This is our God
Hallelujah! This is our God! Sing praise.

Who is this One who will not condemn us?
Why would He come to shoulder our sentence?
Nothing we’ve done will keep Him from giving us grace.
Who is this One? We watch and we’re speechless.
God’s only Son, embracing our weakness.
He overcomes all death and He frees us to live.
And we sing:

This is our God, suffering and dying.
Call Him the Hero, redeeming the lost.
This is our God, love sacrificing,
All that is holy, accepting our cross.
Hallelujah! This is our God! Hallelujah!
This is our God
Hallelujah! This is our God! Sing praise.

This is our God, living and breathing,
Call Him courageous, relentless and brave.
This is our God, loving and reaching,
Scandalous mercy and mighty to save.
Hallelujah! This is our God! Hallelujah!
This is our God
Hallelujah! This is our God! Sing praise.
Sing praise. Sing praise. Sing praise!
Oh, this, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
the Babe, the Son of Mary!
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing!
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son, the glorious One,
the Babe, the Son of Mary

‘Tis the Season to Share Songs: Christmas Eve

Don’t you just love Christmas Eve!

This is probably one of my all-time favourite songs because the lyrics are just amazing! …But I cannot find any recording that includes all three verses! Sheesh! So, check out this cool version, and then read the rest of the lyrics below!

“Oh Holy Night” 

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

 

 

‘Tis the Season to Share Songs: Christmas Eve Eve

When I was a kid, my siblings loved to tell each other on December 23, “Guys! It’s Christmas eve eve. Tomorrow we can say tomorrow it’s Christmas!” …We were cool like that.

So in [late] celebration, here is one of my favourite Christmas songs. ..And yes, I know that were I live it’s not so bleak, but still. Just go with the imagery, alright?

“In the Bleak Midwinter” (Lily & Madeline)

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air –
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give Him –
Give my heart.

Irenaeus, the Peace-Maker

The following is an article written for a class I am currently taking through McMaster Divinity College.

One of the great things about history is the great opportunity to learn the important lessons of life from those who have gone before us. There have been many a great man or woman with goldmines of lessons to glean from and be mentored by. One such man is Irenaeus of Lyons.

Irenaeus, the Peace-Maker, was likely born in the first half of the second century, sometime between 130 and 140AD. Irenaeus probably grew up in Smyrna, an Asia Minor city on the coast of the Aegean. In the 170s, he became a priest at Lyons to a relatively new church, under the bishop Pothinus, during the reign of Marcus Aurelis. In 177, he was sent as an delegate to the bishop of Rome, Eleutherus. It is uncertainty what was the nature of this mission. There is some speculation that he was sent because of a concern of false teaching in the area. While he was gone, there was a wave of intense persecution in Lyons and Irenaeus’ bishop Pothinus was martyred, along with many other believers in the area. When he returned, Irenaeus was chosen to succeed Polthinus as the bishop of Lyons.

Irenaeus’ peace-making, problem-solving mission of 177 would not be his last. In 190, Irenaeus was sent to Rome on behalf of a group of believers who had been celebrating Easter, Pasca, according to the Passover tradition, on 14 Nissan. The city of Rome had been celebrating it on the Sunday following 14 Nissan, and the church in Rome was attempting to cut off this seemingly opposing church. Irenaeus felt that both parties should be allowed to celebrate Easter as their tradition had allowed. Irenaues argued that this was especially important because no other churches in Asia Minor had been threatened with exclusion because of their Easter celebration date of Passover. Eusebius himself identifies Irenaeus as well-named: “a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches.”

Little is known of Irenaeus death, though tradition says he died on 28 June, 202. In the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, Irenaeus has been venerated and his feast days are on June 28 and August 23, respectively. There is some debate as to whether Irenaeus was martyred in the persecution of Septimius Severus, though this is very unlikely. No matter how Irenaeus died, he left behind a significant and important body of theological thought that would influence thinkers and theologians in the years to come.

Though Irenaeus was quite a prolific writer, only two of his books have survived in complete form: On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, commonly called Against Heresies, and The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, or Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. Fragments of some of his other letters and writings have been uncovered, but nothing as complete as these two works.

Certainly the longer of the two works, Against Heresies outlines the major objections to the gnostic beliefs that had cropped up in Gaul. After Aurelius had died, Commodus came into power in 180. Commodus was not known for his leadership ability, but he did permit a certain measure of freedom for the church. Perhaps because of this, the freedom gave rise to the gnostics. Irenaeus was concerned with one gnostic leader, in particular, Valentinus. According to Reeves, Valentinus had a great following in the 130s and was quite articulate. As a result, Valentinus was almost made Bishop of Rome. Because of the great influence Valentinus had over such a large group of people, Irenaeus sought to protect his congregants, and, showing his ‘peace-making’ hand again, used the opportunity to try to convert gnostics.  Irenaeus took up opposition with two of the main tenets of gnosticism, one the evil nature of the material realm, and the other the apparent special revelation that was required for salvation; for some gnostics, the freedom from the evil physical realm came as a result of this special knowledge, specifically knowledge through Jesus.

Quite in contrast, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching is a relatively new body of work for scholars, having only been discovered in 1904. In it, Irenaeus provides a brief summary of the Christian teachings. He identifies and reaffirms the oneness of God as Creator, Jesus his Word on earth, and the Spirit. He shows that Man was created to relate with the Word, Jesus. He also warns against the denial of the three basic and foundational truths of Christianity: denial of the Father as God, denial of the Son as Incarnate flesh, and denial of the Spirit. He wants believers to hold on to the only thing that is worth holding on to: the written scriptures.

Though separated from him by many hundreds of years, Irenaeus stands as an example of a true Peace-Maker. As exemplified by his ambassador role, his character as identified by Eusebius, and his attempt to convert gnostics with his arguments, Irenaeus sought peace wherever possible—peace between different groups of people, and peace between people and their Creator.

In all attempts to provide clear thinking on any subject, the modern apologist and Christian should also make every attempt to seek peace for divisions within and without a church community. Following the model of Irenaeus, the peace-maker, modern followers of Christ will experience the truth of the Psalmist: “Mark the blameless, and behold the upright, for there is posterity for the peaceable.”

Your Greatest Disappointment

What is your first reaction when someone says “Nothing is impossible for God”? What about when you hear “He’s so faithful!”?

Maybe you’re the person whose heart jumps in agreement, and you find yourself yelling out a hearty ‘amen’ in response to your computer screen. You’ve seen God show up numerous times, more than you can count, and you’ve come to a place where you would walk blinding into an open pit if God said to. You have no doubts about the hand of God in you life, and the prospects of God showing up when you aren’t sure how things are going to work out just thrills you!

…But maybe you’re the person whose heart actually sinks. …Your stomach clenches just a little bit when you hear those expressions. …Because there’s that one thing that always nags in the back of you head. Maybe it’s your kids: why hasn’t God changed their hard heart? Maybe it’s your spouse: when will God meet your expectations for a godly and intimate marriage? Maybe it’s your lack of spouse: Does God see your lonely heart? Maybe it’s your barrenness: How long will you bear this burden of desiring a child and go without? Maybe it’s news of a pregnancy: How could God add this to the insecure and uncertain place you’re already in? Maybe it’s your job: How long will God keep you where you are burning out? Maybe it’s your unemployment: How long will God keep silent on the job-front?  Maybe it’s your church… Your friendships… Your weaknesses. …It’s the thing that you are not really able to admit you doubt God on, but when you hear those expressions of God’s total power and ability, you find yourself steeling up your heart against the thought because you can’t bear the reality. Your heart doesn’t know what to do with this great disappointment. If nothing is impossible with God, why hasn’t He done something about ________?

…And sometimes it seems like the good and godly desires are the heaviest–why give the desire if you don’t provide for it, God?

 

On Good Friday, I had the opportunity to sit under 5 hours of teaching by David Platt. He spoke on the “Cross and Suffering” (see here for the videos and materials). Over the course of the evening, he spoke on 75 passages from Genesis to Revelation, providing a basic theology of suffering. Check it out–it will give you a solid and clearly thought out way of perceiving God and yourself while in storms. But the one thing that resonated almost immediately, and is still ringing in my head is this:

What if the greatest disappointment in your life is the very thing that God has been and is and will use to cause you to treasure the beauty of Christ? What if the pain you have, are, and will face causes you to be more enthralled with the glory of the gospel than you were before? What if the very thing that causes you deep anguish and mourning is what forces you to fix your gaze on the Great Shepherd?

Let me tell you: this is impossible to agree too. Everything in me grieves at the thought that God will never provide for my greatest longing. I feel as if to be okay with it is equivalent to slicing open my heart with a dull knife and pouring vinegar and salt into it. My heart falls like a brick and shatters. There is nothing I like about the thought of my greatest longing never provided for. To admit this breaks my heart like it’s never been broken…

…But here is the crux of it: Even more than this longing, my heart desires to know the beauty of Christ and to be consumed by it. And I’ll give anything to have it. ….Including never tasting the fulfillment of my longings.

What this means is I have two choices before me: will I cling to the hope that one day God might give me what I long for, or will I cling to Christ? Will I continue to mourn my loss of what will or will not be, or will I cling to Christ? Will I be overwhelmed by all I am ‘giving up’, or will I cling to Christ?

….Will I continue to cling to this hope-turned-idol my heart has wrapped in its death grip, or will I allow this great and painful and devastating disappointment to direct my gaze back at the only One who deserves anything, especially my worship?

And here’s something else: God has not called you to have faith for tomorrow. He hasn’t even called you to trust and obey Him in the coming hour. Only right now. …And now. …And again, now. Trust and obey Him in this moment. Fix your gaze on Him just now. And then do it again, now. …And on and on. But walk moment by moment trusting that the only thing more certain than our own desires is the promise of God’s faithfulness. …And His faithfulness is not a feeling. It’s a fact. And so, walking each moment trusting that whatever befalls you, God will use it to glorify Himself and to grow your enthralment of His Beauty. …Which means your greatest disappointment can be the means for your greatest worship.

The Submission of Abiding

I’ve been working my way through the book of John lately, and I keep coming across the word “abide”. In John alone, it’s used 9 times (6:56; 8:31; 15:4,5,6,7,9,10,16).

The word abide means “to be held, kept” or “in reference to state or condition: to remain as one, not to become another or different”. Interestingly, it also means “to wait for, await one”. Clearly, Jesus meant here that we are called to stay within the holiness and blamelessness (Colossians 3:12) that we receive when we enter into a relationship with Christ. I’ve always thought of it as just obeying Jesus, but it’s so much deeper than that.

If I’m to abide, remain, stay with Jesus, it means that I can’t and shouldn’t try to step outside the rule of the King. Jesus is Sovereign in all the areas of my life, and it’s a lie to believe that I can actually reign properly in any of them. If I abide with Him, I’m actually letting Him keep me under His protection, love, and mercy, but also under His power and authority. To remain under His power and authority is, at the very centre of our selfish hearts, the ultimate breaking of our pride.

Obedience then, is the total submission of our pride. Obedience says that His way really IS best, that His way really IS the freest way. It shouts total trust that God’s way, while it may look like the foolish choice, it will turn out to be the straightest way to the oasis.

One of the Puritans once said,

“Let me study and stand for discipline, and all the ways of worship, out of love for Christ; and to show my thankfulness; to seek and know his will from love, to hold it in love, and daily to care for and keep this state of heart.” (Valley of Vision, 41)

Oh Lord! May I remain in you always. May You remind me to trust you, to allow you to break my pride. Help me to love you by abiding in you!

(Original post here)

Woodpecker’s Perch

There is a white sail, I think,
Off in the distance. On the
horizon.
Simmering.
 
The gap between here and there
Is more of a door
Than a space Between.
I have felt something,
Hoped something, I think,
That I’ve never before.
It simmers.
It swells.
It overwhelms.
Sometimes
 
I sit on the edge of this mountain
Of rock, perched and observing.
What I hope is no more than
The breeze blowing
My hair.
The Lord will do what He will.
He has promised to provide.
Like the woodpecker diligently
Pecking, searching, eating,
I will bumble along.
 
You will be the source of
Everything
For me.
 
The ladybugs fly uninhibited
By the lack of rock beneath
Them. Over the water,
Through the air,
No matter what’s below.
Oh to have faith that
Trusts that He is enough.
 
That
He is
Enough.

 

–October 20, 2009

When God doesn’t say “yes”. …Or “no”.

One of the first things a new believer learn about prayer is that God answers them. “Ask and you shall receive” they are told. “Seek and you will find”, they are admonished. “Pray without ceasing”, they are encouraged.

…But what about when God doesn’t give you a “yes” or “no”? What about when God is just plain silent on something that you have eagerly, anxiously, desperately poured out before Him? What about that issue, the one deep down in your heart, the one that many other weaknesses stem from, the one that you keep going back to hoping that God will do something with or about….?

I have one of those… For me, it’s the one that when I hear “God is good, all the time. All the time God is good”, I secretly, deep down, find myself questioning His goodness. If He is good, why hasn’t He said something at all? Anything!

This Christmas God brought this little (read: HUGE) problem front and centre. I found myself railing against Him in anger, bitterness, and frustration, and He quietly reminded me of this truth:

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

Whether or not God ever deals with this issue, and I’m sure He will, my security and sense of peace does not depend on His answer or how He works out this issue in my heart. …My security lies in the truth of who God is. He is, by very nature, good. He has, by very nature, redeemed us. He will, by very nature, walk with us through the waters, rivers, and flames. …And these things do not change because He is, by very nature, unchanging. He is the Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel. Our Saviour.

And, whether or not God ever deals with this issue, I don’t believe prayer to be only about receiving answers but about coming to grips with who Christ is. If prayer was only just about God answering me, then we are doomed–God doesn’t revolve around us! Spurgeon said that “Prayer and praise are the oars by which a man may row his boat into the deep waters of the knowledge of Christ”. Prayer is the way our view of God is grown. I pray, not only to hear from God, but to also know God!

As I look at the coming year, as my eyes stretch across the horizon of 2014, I have this strong sense that this will be a big year of God working out the very crux, the very specific area of weakness in my heart. And I internally cringe a bit because my flesh recognizes the cost of uprooting the lies and sin that keep me clinging to the false god of “control and security”. But my spirit soars at the thought that my faith will be without borders. That no matter the answer I get from God on any topic, I will have a quiet and confident heart because of who He is. Not because He gave me an answer, but because I saw God. I came to understand a little more, how wide and long and high and deep is His love.

Be encouraged when God is silent. …Even in that He is there. Continue to walk forward. Continue to call out to Him. Continue to ask Him to grow your understanding of Him. He has never failed, and He won’t start now. He will walk with you through whatever 2014 brings. He has called you by name and you are His. Spirit, lead us where our trust is without borders!

Gifts Are the Meaning of Christmas

Originally posted on December 22, 2010

ImageI don’t know what year it was, but it was the year that I got the full Scholastic edition of The Chronicles of Narnia series. If I’m remembering correctly, I got a good number of good books that year. My little stash of gifts probably was very decent.

That was also the first year I can very distinctly remember the sinking feeling in my stomach that descended on me as we began to tidy up the living room of wrapping and boxes and settle in with our new things.

You know the feeling that I’m talking about? It’s the one that feels a lot like disappointment, but you can’t really put your finger on what it was that you really wanted. All you know is that you didn’t get what you really really wanted–you know, the thing that would have certainly made you entirely happy, for at least another 12 months?

That first year, the year of Narnia, was also the year my baby sister got a whole whack load (I’m not even exaggerating!) of Barbies. I was *just* too old to really ask for them, but what I would have given to get a whole box of lovely blonde dolls with outfits and new shoes. Seriously.

As I was thinking about that Christmas this morning, I had a couple of realizations.

First, gifts are central to Christmas. I know that because of the North American practice of giving gifts to practically everyone we know. Our gift giving is almost like our ‘friending’ on Facebook. If you saw their face once or you have one mutual friend, you give them a gift or a card. That leads to the second reason I know gifts are central to Christmas. We spend a whole boatload of money on it. In fact, I’d venture to say that most of the money we spend around Christmas is money spent on those 1001 gifts we have to give. The third reason I know is that when it comes to charity events or campaigns, we are asked to donate presents and toys to the children who won’t get any at Christmas.

There actually is nothing really wrong with most of our gift-giving practices, in and of themselves. …But as I thought about it, I realized that there is quite a bit wrong with our gift-giving motives. In fact, they are actually very perverted.

First? Our gift-giving often can and does incite us to a great amount of sin. What do I mean? Well, think about your own gift-giving. On the most base level, I can be jealous of what other people give because I can’t give “as good” (that is, expensive? gifts like they can. On the most surface level, that thought is envious of others. On a deeper level, it makes us feel a bit guilty if we can’t give as good a gift to someone but they give us a fantastic gift. On an even deeper level, it implies that we give gifts to make others like (or love?) us better. At the deepest level, it makes the gift-giving about the gift-giver, not the gift-getter. Our motive is [almost] entirely based on envy, lies, and selfishness. …That’s a receipe for sin if I’ve ever seen one.

If I manage to not have that thought or motive directing my gift-giving, I have often thought this thought: “Well, if this gift for Dad will cost $25, I’ll have to make sure I buy another $10 gift for Lauren to make it even.” Usually the thought isn’t so plain as that, but I’ve heard its relatives come out of the mouths of other shoppers, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks in this family of thought. Why is this thought sinful? On the surface level, it makes gifts about the monetary cost of them. Why not just give them all cash then? On a deeper level, it takes out the individual thoughtfulness and uniqueness of the receiver of the gifts. Instead of finding a special gift for mom, we’re looking for a good gift that we spent $25 on, same as John’s. On an even deeper level, it makes the gift about the giver, again, and not about the getter. ….Worship of money, concern for man’s approval, and selfishness? Once again, a potent and subtle receipe for sin.

I think the reason they incite us to such levels of sin is because gifts can be so powerful. On the surface, there is something so thrilling about giving a gift that you know the getter is going to totally love and will totally make them feel really special. There is something about opening a box and discovering something in there that is just so thoughtful and great and you didn’t even know you wanted it until you saw there nestled in the wrapping paper.

But on a deeper level, the reason presents are so powerful and so often incite us to sin is because presents are a shadow of the real gift that our hearts are always longing for. And because our hearts long for it, we are so easily swayed to believe that a twisted version of gift-giving will do.

Unlike our gift-giving, God gave freedom and life to us, not because of anything about us, but because of everything He is. He gave because He loved us, yes; but He gave because He wanted to restore His relationship with us–so He would be  glorified.

Unlike our gift-giving, God gives freedom and life totally unfairly and totally unequally. We don’t deserve this freedom and life but we get it anyway. …And we know some of our loved ones won’t ever receive it. That’s not fair. And some receive their life just as their fleshy one is giving out while some gain new life mere years into life here on earth. Some struggle with doubt and fear for most of their spiritual and fleshly lives. Some live in complete abandon with a charismatic obsession with Jesus. That’s not equal.

So presents, rightly so, are central to Christmas. We feast and sing and feast and laugh and feast and gift-give and feast and get gifts and feast all because WE were given a GREAT GREAT great gift from our Heavenly Father who knows how to give good and perfect gifts.

When Colleen challenged me to make next year’s Christmas about the Real Gift by not getting any other gifts, I balked a little bit. …I know that left unchecked, my heart would be miserable Christmas 2011. I have some rethinking to do about my gift-giving practices…

What about you?

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