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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Giving it all away

Merry Christmas to all!  Hope this is a blessed day for each of you and your extended families.  As we look at the blessings of Christmas, my hope is that we will consider first the blessing of our Savior's finished work on the cross. It was one gift you couldn't wrap, but it is always available even after the Christmas tree is put away!  God is in the business of taking what is withered and worn, then returning them to places of robust growth IN HIM.  This is the message of Christmas - the changed life made possible only as a result of accepting the gift given in his Son.  As our life is made robust in his goodness, we are commissioned to share this life with others - allowing the many graces we have been freely given to be poured out in service to others. This is the expression of love God desires from us today - the pouring out of our lives, without strings attached, for those in need right there around us today.

Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!  The Lord rescues them when they are in trouble.  The Lord protects them and keeps them alive.  He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.  (Psalm 41:1-3 NLT)

When most of us think about the "poor", we usually associate with an image of a man or woman on the street corner, cardboard sign in hand, rolled up sleeping bag at their feet.  Their immediate request is for a few dollars - their most telling need is for a changed life so they no longer have to be beggars on the corner.  To be truthful, all of us approach God as "poor" beggars.  We may not come complete with the cardboard sign and bedroll, but we definitely have no means of supplying our own needs!  I think this may be why God points us to reach out the poor - so we connect his actions of grace and love as a means of providing the "pathway" to change in our lives.  

The poor are really anyone lacking something specific in their lives.  The beggar on the street corner isn't there looking for a new car, or a pair of sunglasses.  He is looking for his next meal, a little money to buy some used clothes at a local thrift store, or a something as simple as a roll of toilet paper.  The "beggar" in your front room may really be someone lacking something VERY specific in their lives - the joy of Christmas!  The joy of Christmas is found in only one thing - the person of Christ!  Maybe this is why we refer to his "gift" as the greatest gift of all.

Look at what God says about us giving the "gift" which really matters - the gift of meeting the needs of the 'poor' all around us.  Now, I am not saying we just begin to take notice of the needs around us because there is some "return" on our investment we can count on, but isn't it good to know that God looks favorably on us anytime we do what it is he has called us to do in the first place?  First of all, he rescues them when they are in trouble.  Do you see the connection between your "rescue" of the one who is lacking in something he specifically needs in his life and the "rescue" you might just need down the road in your own?  As we reach out to touch others, God is attentive to reach into those areas of our own lives where we need his specific help, as well.

Second, there is a sense of "prosperity" which is only best understood when you give what you have away.  It is kind of counter-intuitive, isn't it?  Giving what you have away almost implies being without something when you do, but in actuality, what you give away is returned to you in ways you might not ever imagine possible.  We cannot give away what we don't have, just like we cannot hold onto what we have been freely given!  In the receiving comes the idea of also giving away what has blessed us beyond measure.

Third, there is protection against our enemies.  Who would ever think reaching out to the poor (those with specific need) would come back to us in the form of protection against our enemies?  Yet, this is one of the rewards of learning to give away grace in unmeasured amounts.  Grace can turn an enemy away quicker than any form of rebuttal or retaliation.  Extend a little grace where it has not been deserved and see how much it sends your enemy into a tailspin!

Last, in giving away what brings "health" into the souls and spirits of those with "specific" needs, we find we enjoy the rewards of "health" ourselves.  I have often found when I am meeting the "specific" needs of another, God reaches into my life to touch something deep within me that needed his touch.  It is like in giving "health" to another, he gives "health" to me!  We have the means to turn the tides for many people in our path today - what we choose to do with what we have been given is truly what will measure the blessing of this day!  Just sayin!