Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gifts or Giver?

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We’re surrounded by so many blessings, we sometimes take them for granted. Generally, around the winter holidays, we see an upsurge on social media, extolling the virtues of thankfulness, and that’s great. Sometimes it even sticks and we find ourselves being mindful to be grateful on an everyday basis.

But, going a step beyond not recognizing the plethora of blessings God pours out on us daily, I ponder whether we often times look to the gifts of God, rather than to God Himself.

The church isn’t a building, it’s the people of God that gather together, the body of Christ. That’s blessing enough, in many circumstances, especially when it’s a congregation of hungry souls seeking after God’s best for everyone, led by a godly man or woman who won’t compromise with the world or ignore, or even hide sinfulness that threatens his or her congregation.
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But, as I look around, it sometimes appears that people look to, follow or even worship individuals within the body of Christ. Yikes!

We see how whole congregations fall apart when their leader falls from grace. We read how pastors of mega-churches are being investigated for financial fraud and mishandling of the funds their congregations have entrusted to them. When pastors are making millions of dollars a year from the giving of those who trust them, sometimes the very poorest among us, I have a problem with that. Not to say that pastors can’t prosper financially, but, I’ve often heard it said that God sends you more when you don’t let it stick to your fingers. There are too many needy people in the world that the church isn’t reaching, though giving may be at an all time high.

Looking at what some consider a polar opposite to the church, we have science, another incredible gift of God. How exciting to have the need, the drive, the ambition and intelligence to seek out the mysteries of God and His universe, the world around us, and our own bodies! It must thrill God to see us exploring all He’s given us. Observing the world around us can create peace and excitement. Discovery can be phenomenally fulfilling. Wonder is a beautiful gift in itself.

Yet, there are those who put science above the God Who gave it all to us in the first place, even denying that Someone greater than they can conceive, has orchestrated everything around us and within us.

I’ll never understand how the minds that can fathom what most of us find unfathomable and seek out great mysteries, can be locked into their own little paradigm so snuggly, that they can’t see beyond it.

Life doesn’t just happen. It’s created. To be created, there must first be a creator. That sounds like Logic 101 to me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” – Luke 11:13 (ESV)

We all have so much in common, but our thinking can be so diverse. It’d be silly to assume that everyone thinks like we do, yet many of us carry that myth well into adulthood.

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 Art and music are often such an integral part of our lives that we don’t notice it surrounding us. Yet, there are many of us who feel that these beautiful things are the substance of Life itself; enthralled with the places it takes us or the serenity or excitement it brings us; putting pleasure before anything else.

Money is certainly something people put first in their lives, giving their lives away in pursuit of it, giving it the authority of a god over their every day comings and goings. Some people put so much effort into acquiring money; they leave no time to enjoy what it can afford them.
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Working! We have workaholics who set no time aside for anything else, not family, not vacations, not even the God Who gave them the strong hands and the brilliant mind with which they themselves into an early grave, because they’re driven to work, work, work. I’m not pondering the reasons behind it, just that it happens.

Our children! Don’t get me started. How easy is it to put them first, before the God Who gave them to us?

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When we look to the gifts God gives us instead of looking to God Himself, we make those gifts into gods. One of the most important commands God ever gave us tells us: I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me. He doesn’t instruct us this way because He’s arrogant and selfish, thinking more highly of Himself than He ought, though there is no one higher. He knows that we’ll miss out on so much that He has for us, if we serve His gifts instead of enjoying them. We can’t really enjoy them if we don’t honor the God Who gives them to us.

When our focus is so single-minded and focused on one gift, the others fade from sight, though they’re still there to enjoy if we can allow ourselves the freedom to look up and see them. When we focus on one gift – we become slaves to the gift and to how we think the gifts benefits us.

“Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.” – Nehemiah 7:66 (ESV)

Are you seeking God for what He can give you? Are you seeking a relationship with the God Who gives? Or, are you denying yourself the opportunities to really enjoy everything life offers, by denying He’s the God of every good gift?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Light…” – James 1:17 (ESV)
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