Tag Archives: spiritual growth

The Importance Of Giving

As a kid, the greatest thing about Christmas was getting presents. Now, as an adult, it’s giving them. Instead of being consumed by the anticipation of wondering what’s in the wrapped box, now there’s the anticipation of their reaction. For me, the excitement is in the waiting up until Christmas thinking about how much they’re going to love it. The feeling of getting the right gift for someone else is priceless.

Did you know that giving is good for you? Studies show that giving gifts builds your emotional heal as well as your relationships with others. “The Psychology Behind Gift Giving” by South University says, “Giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude, as well as strengthen bonds with others.“ It also has greater value to you if you give without expecting anything in return.

You and I were created to give. When Genesis says that we were made in the image of God, I believe that’s one of His attributes that we were given. Think about the most famous scripture in the Bible. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that He GAVE His only begotten Son” (KJV). We give gifts because God is a giver. He gave us life through creation. He gave us His Son so that we could be with Him one day. He also encourages us to follow His example of giving.

Acts 20:35 says, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive’” (AMP). This Christmas season, focus on giving more than receiving. Find someone who has no ability to return the favor of buying you a gift, a give them a gift that will bless them. You’ll get psychological and spiritual benefits, and it will help you connect with your creator. This year, discover the importance of giving.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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The Black Hole

One of our family traditions on Christmas Eve was to go look at Christmas lights. We would go to church, then my mom would want to drive around in different neighborhoods. She would oooh and ahhhh at how creative people got with their lights. Sometimes whole streets would be involved and have a theme. Those were her favorite. House after house was lit up, and to her, that was Christmas.

After she had seen enough, we would drive to our home that didn’t have lights. She called it “The Black Hole”. It became a family joke. If people were coming over, we’d tell them, “Turn left on our street, then look for the black hole.” On the outside, we may have had the darkest house on the street, but inside, we celebrated the true meaning of Christmas every year. We were taught that Jesus was the light of the world and that it was more important that our lives be light.

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them” (GNB). This prophesy was looking forward to when Jesus would come into the world. The promise was that people who lived in the Black Hole would one day see a light and have hope. Where there is light, darkness hides. Jesus used His light to show us the way to the Father.

Jesus gave His light to us as His followers. Our lives should be doing the same thing. We need to live in such a way that people in darkness are drawn to us, and we can show them the way to the Father. Living life as “The Black Hole” is not an option for us. We must let our light shine brightly. Without your light shining, how will the people around you, who live in darkness, ever find their way to God? You were planted right where you are because God needed your light to shine right there. This Christmas time, let it shine brighter than ever.

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Fixing Our Brokenness

My son is very interested in bells. He loves learning about them and watching them ring. When we went on vacation, he found a porcelain bell and wanted to get it. I tried to talk him into one of the metallic bells, but they weren’t as pretty. When we got home, my fears were confirmed as I unwrapped the porcelain bell. It was broken. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened and I hoped he wouldn’t ask for it.

I went to the store and bought some gorilla glue. Before we left for school, I ran back into my room and glued it back together. When I got home, I went to check on it. The glue left a white streak all the way around it. When I tried to make it ring, it didn’t sound like it had. I was disappointed in my ability to try to put it back together. In my effort to fix it, I was hoping to make it as good as new, but I couldn’t.

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, you and I are born broken. We spend a lifetime trying to compensate for our brokenness, and we do everything that we can to fix or cover up our brokenness. The problem with fixing things like brokenness is that we never return to our initial potential. We think we need to be fixed, but the truth is that we need to be healed. We need to be made whole, and only God can do that.

Isaiah 9:7 contains one of the most famous prophesies of Jesus. It says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings” (MSG). I love that God’s desire wasn’t to fix us. It was to make us whole. He knows that each of us are broken, and He sent His Son to bring the healing that we desperately need.

Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

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Give Thanks

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

When is the last time that you stopped what you were doing and truly thanked God for all he’s done for you? In I Thessalonians 5:18, it tells us that no matter what your circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks. Even if nothing seems to be going your way right now, there is reason to give thanks.

Having a thankful heart is a mindset that you have to create. We are not naturally thankful creatures. You need to practice being thankful with others and with God. When you truly make being thankful a part of your life, you will find that your attitude, your outlook and your perspective will change for the better.

Here are some reasons I have found to give thanks.

1. For salvation

Each of us should be eternally grateful for what Jesus did on the cross for us. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn our way to Heaven. It is only because God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins that we have that ability. I don’t have to spend my life hoping and trying to be good enough one day. The price for my sin was paid for by Jesus.

I love how 2 Corinthians 9:15 says it: “Now thanks be to God for His gift, precious beyond telling, His indescribable, inexpressible, free gift!” We have a very good reason to be thankful today. You do not have to spend eternity separated from God if receive His son into your life.

2. For God’s faithfulness

I’m thankful every day that God’s faithfulness doesn’t rely on my own faithfulness. 2 Timothy says that even if we are faithless or are untrue to Him, He remains faithful and true because He cannot deny Himself. What God has promised He will do, He will do no matter what.

One of my favorite promises in scripture is found in Philippians 4:19. I remind myself of this scripture when things aren’t going my way. It says that God will supply all of my needs according to His riches. I often want Him to supply all of my wants, but He has promised to take care of my needs. I have air in my lungs, a place to sleep and food to eat. That is something to be thankful for.

3. For what He has done

How many times have we prayed and asked God for something and He’s done it? Too many to count I’m sure. I often thank Him for the big things when He does them, but what about the little things? Have we thanked Him for a good night’s sleep, help on a test, safe travels or for food to eat? We constantly petition God in prayer and rarely thank Him.

When He healed the 10 lepers in Luke 17, only one came back to thank Him. Jesus asked him where the other 9 were. How was it that only one came back for something as big as a life giving healing? I want to live my life like that one who came back and worshipped Him and thanked Him.

I know it’s hard to do sometimes. I’ve been at points in my life where it seemed I had nothing to be thankful for. The truth is that I had a lot to be thankful for, but I wasn’t looking for it. Wherever you are today, stop and give thanks to God. You will find that it will change you when you live with a grateful heart.

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Praise God

In the early 1990’s, I signed up for a music subscription service. Each month, Maranatha! Music would send me a tape of praise and worship. All I had to do was mail them a check each month. It doesn’t take long to build up a collection that way. Their tapes were most of the music I had. I fell in love with Praise and Worship at a young age. I loved what it did for my soul. If i was having a rough day, I could pop in a tape, and my troubles would disappear for a while.

Music in and of itself is powerful, but Praise and Worship is on a whole other level. It’s not just singing, it’s your soul crying out to the creator of the universe. Each song is a prayer that magnifies Him. It refocuses our attention from ourselves to our God. It changes our perspective of our problems. I think that’s a big part of why the Psalms in the Bible are so popular. It’s not just David being honest that we relate to. It’s his prayers and praise that our soul longs to give to God.

Psalm 147:1 says, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (ESV). I don’t care what your situation is, praise is fitting for it. It’s always the right time to praise God. Are you on top of the mountain? Praise God. Are you struggling in the valley? Praise God. Are you stressed out? Praise God. Did you get a raise? Praise God. It is good to praise God and to have a song of praise continually in your mouth.

If you’re not familiar with modern Praise and Worship, go to YouTube and search for Bethel Music, Hillsong, Kari Jobe, Matt Redman or just type, “Praise and Worship mix”. Let praise fill your heart and mouth today. You were created to give God praise. It’s not just something we should do for a few songs on Sunday morning at church. It should be a lifestyle that honors God. When you begin to live a life of praise, everything in your life will change because God inhabits the praises of His people.

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Remember God’s Faithfulness

Do you ever sit around and remember the good old days? I’ve found that I do it from time to time. I’ve also noticed that it’s usually when I don’t like the present. Depending on what’s going on in your life or the world, that can be pretty often. I remember living over seas and we would sit around and reminisce about food we missed. Doing that often helped us get through some days when we would have rather been here.

Our memories are powerful. They can invoke physical responses like laughter, tears or pain. God gave us memories because He knew that we would need them to remember His goodness. He knew that we would need to know that He’s been faithful to us and will continue to be. If you’re struggling with the present, go back to the past and remember what God has done for you.

Here are some Bible verses on using remembrance to help us.

1. I remember the days gone by; I think about all that you have done, I bring to mind all your deeds. I lift up my hands to you in prayer; like dry ground my soul is thirsty for you.

Psalm 143:5-6 GNT

2. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence]. Remember [with gratitude] His marvelous deeds which He has done, His miracles and the judgments from His mouth,

1 CHRONICLES 16:11-12 AMP

3. “Moses said to the people, “Always remember this day. This is the day when you came out of Egypt from a house of slavery. GOD brought you out of here with a powerful hand.

Exodus 13:3 MSG

4. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

Psalms 63:5-7 ESV

5. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:17-23 NLT

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The Snowball Effect

When people see that my middle initial is “P”, they immediately want to know what it stands for. I usually grin and say, “Procrastinator!” I tell them my motto is, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” I say it tongue in cheek, and sometimes it takes people a minute to catch how I changed the famous saying. Even though I’m joking, procrastination is something I struggle with and have to fight against.

It was one thing when it was school work, but then it bled into my job. After a while, I realized I had been procrastinating on my calling. God’s still, small voice was always there reminding me to get started, but I always found a way to put it off. I always figured I had time. Then one day I realized I had been putting God off for over ten years. I prayed, “OK, Lord. When you’re ready, I’m ready.” Things began to fall into place, but it was slow. Even now, I struggle sometimes with how slowly God is moving to make things happen.

I began to get upset at God because I want Him to move quickly now that I’ve decided not to procrastinate. I didn’t like how little was being accomplished. Then I was reminded of Zerubbabel’s message from God in Zechariah. He was told to rebuild the temple, a massive undertaking. I’m sure he struggled with the lack of progress it was showing. That’s when God spoke in Zechariah 4:10, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (NLT).

Getting things started is always the hardest. It’s like the snowball effect. Things start small, but over time they grow exponentially. If you’re in the beginning stages of doing what God asked you to, stop comparing yourself to others who are farther along. Don’t despise the small beginnings. It’s important to get the foundation right and to take your time. God is pleased you’re on the journey. Take it one step at a time, and trust Him to complete it. If you haven’t started yet, quit procrastinating and do something to start today.

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