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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

God's Love Language: Gifts

I'm continuing in the series "God's Love Languages to Us."

When I think of a gift I imagine a present: a beautifully wrapped package which contains something special given to me by the giver, usually as an expression of appreciation or love. The dictionary defines a gift as something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance.

God speaks the love language of gift-giving fluently. The Bible says that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17). What does James mean when he says “perfect gift?” I would say it is ‘the bounty of God.’ God is the superb Giver and his gifts are perfect. The word “perfect” is the Greek word teleios, which means “mature, fully developed.” These gifts, James says, are the very best, complete and without defect—undoubtedly full of blessing. They reach their intended objective.

One of the enemy’s strategies is to convince us that our Father is holding out on us, as with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Since God is good we can rest assure we don’t need any other person or thing to meet our needs. Warren Wiersbe said, “It is better to be hungry in the will of God, than full outside the will of God.” Everything good in this world comes from God. If something is not good, it didn’t come from God. Think about this: Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given to him by God. That’s a strange and unwanted gift, yet it became a great blessing to him (2 Cor. 12:1-10).
God’s gifts are perfect. Satan may present you with a beautifully wrapped present, but when we unwrap and accept it we end up paying the price dearly. God gives us many gifts. What we do with them is our responsibility.

Throughout the Scriptures God reveals himself as the ultimate gift giver. He said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in it--I give every green plant for food." And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:29-31). The rising and the setting of the sun, rain showers and thunderstorms, the flowers and grandiose trees, the birds, turtles and ducks, dogs and kitties, the seasons—are all God’s gift to us. God provides for his creatures every day.
Not only does he give his creatures everything they need to survive and thrive, but he gives them the free gift of grace and salvation. His greatest gift was his Son.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16; Eph. 5:1-2). Scripture paints an image of a loving and giving God:

• God gave his children, ancient Israel, the guidelines to a meaningful and fruitful life. They reciprocated their love when they followed his ways. He, in turn, showered them with gifts of love.
• Hebrew history records that God gave much to King Solomon (1 Kings 3:7-13).
• The teachings of Jesus were permeated with the concept that God’s desire is to give his children who love him good gifts (John 16: 16, 20).
• James and John describe God as a great gift giver (James 1:17; 1 John 3:1-2).
Undeniably, God expresses his love by giving gifts. One of those gifts are material things such as food, shelter, and clothing. Besides the necessities for survival, gifts God gives his children are:
• Time: I am responsible for the time God entrusts to me. Having down-time is important to our overall health, but I also must ask myself [and ask God to show me] if I’m wasting precious time.
• Money: The question is not how much of my money I give to God, but rather how much of God’s money I keep for myself.
• Possessions: I have to constantly keep myself in check when it comes to my clothes and shoes. I have to ask myself if I’m being a hoarder! The answer is often yes. In those cases I feel compelled to donate the possessions I really do not use that often. [I still have a long way to go!] I know my husband feels the same way about his “man-stuff”—tools, equipment, etc.
• Spiritual: Many of God’s gifts are spiritual—the gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, grace, peace of mind, joy, and a purpose in life.
• Spiritual gifts: Every believer in Jesus Christ has been given distinct “spiritual gifts,” abilities to perform certain tasks in the body of Christ. These gifts include wisdom, encouragement, teaching, knowledge, faith, prayer, healing, pastor, prophecy, administration, service, mercy, giving—read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Knowing your spiritual gifts will enable you to find your place of ministry in the local church.

The apostle Peter said, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).”
When Peter spoke of spiritual gifts he considered them a matter of personal stewardship. Just as we will give an account of our use of the material things, time, and money that God has placed under our control, we must give account for the use of our spiritual gifts.

How do we receive God’s gifts? Jesus tells us to ask (Matt. 7:7-11). Isn’t it amazing that the creator of mankind and this vast universe would invite us to ask him for gifts! In contrast, James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3, NIV, my emphasis).

The word gift comes from the Greek word charis which means “unmerited favor.” God’s gifts are never given to us because we deserve them. He gives them as an expression of love. Out gifts to others is how we show God we love him. It is how we say ‘thank you Lord.’ Our gifts to others should not be based upon what I can get out of it, or whether they have earned the gift. The gift should flow from our love for that person. When we give gifts we express God’s love.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

God’s Love Language: Quality Time

Personally, nothing is more important to me than my early morning time with God, and my walk in the woods with him in the afternoons. When these get disrupted—so do I. The Bible is clear: God is not some distant being. The idea that an eternal God, the almighty Creator, desires to spend quality time with his created is a unique aspect of Christianity. No other faith extols the ideal of having a personal relationship with their god.

In the Old Testament the Scriptures picture God spending quality time with his people beginning with Adam and Eve…until they messed that up. God and Moses spent one on one time together. Moses told God’s people that “God will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:8). He knew that firsthand. Abraham was called God’s friend.
The psalms speak of God’s love for his creatures and his desire to draw near and spend quality time with them. In the book of Hosea, God says, “I am the Holy one among you” (11:9). God told the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). The psalmist said, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:1-2). The psalmist was drawn to God because of God’s willingness to talk with him in his time of need. The apostle James said, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8).

Jesus tells us that the desire of the triune God is to abide in or make his home with the one who responds to God’s love (John 14:23-26). Dr. Gary Chapman wrote in his book, The Love Languages of God, “Jesus illustrated the concept of quality time as an expression of God’s love by the design of His own earthy ministry. He preached to the multitudes, but he spent quality time with twelve men.” Jesus focused his time and attention on these men, deepening his ministry, instead of broadening it.

He wanted these men to experience his deepest love, hanging out with them for 3-1/2 years. Jesus spent quality time with his friends, such as Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
God’s desire to be among us comes full circle. We read in the last book of the Bible, Revelations, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:3-4).

Quality time with God is a very important part of my life. And it is very important not to mix up quality time with God and service. There are many who are truly devoted to giving God their undivided time for hours a day (I wish I could say that was me). For these people their time with God isn’t ritualistic but deep and personal. For many, including myself, spending time reading God’s Word and certain devotionals and commentaries, and then meditating on what I read—with God, brings me into communion with him.

If you find you are impressed with a certain Christian’s accomplishments, chances are great it is simply an outgrowth of their quality time with God. If your love language is quality time, then uninterrupted times of communion with God are not difficult but joyful. Those who seek quality time with God will learn that he’s always ready and waiting to meet with them. It’s one of his love languages.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Five Love Languages

Are you familiar with the five love languages? Christian psychologist Gary Chapman is best known for his work “The Five Love Languages.” Whether it is our spouse, our children, co-workers, those we interact with in the body of Christ, or even God, each one of us has a love language.

Dr. Chapman says as people come in all varieties, shapes and sizes, so do their choices of expressions of love. More often than not, the giver and the receiver express love in two different ways which can lead to misunderstanding, quarrels and even divorce. If we can learn to speak our loved ones love language (and remember Christ calls us to love everyone) we will be able to effectively love and truly feel loved in return—fill our love tanks!

For example:
1. My love language is Words of Affirmation when I say: “I feel especially loved when people express how grateful they are for me and for the simple, everyday things I do.”
2. My love language is Quality Time when I say: “I feel especially loved when a person gives me undivided attention and spends time alone with me.”
3. My love language is Receiving Gifts when I say: “I feel especially loved by someone who brings me gifts or other tangible expressions of love.”
4. My love language is Acts of Service when I say: “I feel especially loved when someone pitches in to help me with running errands or chores.
5. My love language is Physical Touch when I say: “I feel especially loved when a person expresses feeling for me through physical contact.

What love language are you? What about your spouse, members of your family—blood and church?

The next five blogs are going to be focused on the five love languages of God and how we can fill his love tank!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why are so many people obsessed with celebrities & their stuff?

A blogger asked this week, “Why are so many people obsessed with celebrities lifestyles, choices, clothes, cars, homes, etc?” She concluded it was due to envy, jealousy, and boredom. Yes, but ti goes much deeper than that. The person needs to ask themselves, “why”—why am I obsessed.

French philosopher of social science, Dr. Rene Girard, developed the idea of mimesis or mimetic desires. According to Dr. Girard, the mimetic desire is motivated by an inner sense that “something” is missing. Scripture says, “You want something but don't get it” (James 4:2, NIV). That something, or soul-hole, lures many into a web of dangerous dieting. His theory is that our desires never come purely from ourselves; rather, they are inspired by the desires of another. The word mimesis means identifying with the original and involves some sort of participation. It is not the same as imitation, which suggests simulation or copying.

The mimetic desire describes our ravenous hunger for wholeness. It is so strong that people willingly stuff themselves with fragmented identities. Deep inside they feel “something” is missing. The culture and media machine have done a superb job of getting us all to believe “something” is missing and only “more” of what they offer will satisfy…and we devour the bait.

Scripture says, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness and sin, of greed and hate, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, and gossip” (Romans 1:29, TLB). Jesus knew man would deny God as his Creator and seek to remake himself in his own image. This is why he had to come and die. Jesus took onto himself every one of our faults, each imperfection—all our sin. As a result a space was created—a hole in our soul, that “something,” which can only be filled by him. God created us in such a way that only those who seek Jesus will be filled. We will never be filled by following celebrities or pop culture.

[this is an excerpt from "Torn Between Two Masters"]