Getting What You Could Be Giving

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? It’s almost embarrassing that of all the lavish Christmases and birthdays I have enjoyed, I can’t recall many specific gifts. Not that those gifts weren’t wonderful and appreciated at the time, but as they didn’t meet a sincere need I guess they were for the most  part – forgettable.

One special memory envelopes several Christmases. My mother is on an annual crusade to simplify Christmas. Especially when we were young, she tried to shrink the number of extravagant gifts and encourage us to be grateful, gracious and generous. One year, she decided to stuff all the gifts for every person into a few giant, black trash bags. Then, she pulled out the board game, Bible-opoly. She asked random questions from the game cards and the correct answer won the privilege of blindly pulling a gift from one of the bags. Then that person delivered the gift to the proper recipient and everyone watched with respectful attentiveness as the lucky one unwrapped their present.

Her  plan successfully slowed the mad dash to the tree and wild shredding of paper in disregard of gratitude. However, much to my husband’s chagrin when I brought him home for Christmas – the process drug gift-opening on for a ridiculously long time!

Recently, I read of another plan to reverse the focus of gift-giving and receiving. The leadership at Vine Wesleyan Church in NY surprised their parishioners with a backward offering. Instead of passing a red velvet plate, crooning about the rewards of being charitable – the church gave envelopes containing $100 each to it’s members 18 years and older.

“Traditionally we have taken a special offering at Christmas Eve and we have sent it to a Christ-centered ministry,” a note inside the envelope read. “This year the needs are greater than ever in so many places, including for some of us [in] our own families,” Rev. Christopher Baldwin said. (http://www.thechristianpost.com)

The church gave away about $8500. Is this a reflection of the TRUE meaning of Christmas? Did this church just twist the concept of giving, LYING about their motives? Does the gesture reflect God’s gift of Jesus to the world?

TELLING YOURSELF (and us) THE TRUTH… what would you do if $100 appeared on your seat in church this Sunday?

Who Do I Have to Love?

Every kid asks the question at some point.  In fact, most adults are still asking it quietly in their heads, although most of them have formulated an answer that belies their behavior.  What’s the question?

“Aren’t some sins worse than others?”

Will Davis Jr titled the fifth chapter in his book, “Ten Things Jesus Never Said,” It’s Okay Not to Love Certain People.  Yes, those two thoughts are related.  It seems that most people, due to the fact that they are human, cannot reconcile the concepts of disapproval and love.

The news is inescapable: Certain denominations are condoning homosexual behavior to the extent of ordaining them in leadership positions, other denominations are demonizing them for this blatant disobedience to God’s word.  Murder is justified by the age of the victim.  Spending beyond our means is acceptable if it makes us happy.  Sexual immorality is permissible if it’s only pictures.  Do some of these lies sound familiar?

How about this one: “It’s okay to judge.  It’s okay to condemn.  It’s okay to write off, avoid, criticize, dislike, and even hate people whose lifestyles repulse you.  The more sinful they are, the more it’s permissible to bash them.” (pg. 79)

Davis gives several modern examples of Christians behaving according to this unbiblical ethic.  Think of slandering a public figure that you don’t respect, or name-calling a celebrity with an immoral lifestyle.  Personally, the pastor of a church I once attended was discovered to have propositioned several women in the congregation.  As his insidious behavior became public knowledge, I participated in defaming him.  While demanding that he repent of his sin, I was engaging in a sin that would just as surely condemn me to hell.

“God doesn’t hate gays, [or any other specific sinner] and a person isn’t automatically condemned to hell just because he or she is gay.  It’s a sin, but it’s not THE sin – even though many churches and Christians preach, teach and act as if it is.” (pg 78)

Davis concludes every chapter of his book  with, Come to Me, All You Who are Weary and Burdened.  It’s surprising how exhausting it is to take the fight to someone, to argue or to hate.  Jesus calls us to love; Davis shows us that obedience to this command is for our good – it brings us peace.

Col 3:14 “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”