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Giving Me to Him

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

***

Darren remembers accompanying his father out shopping in the toy department of

Hamleys one  Christmas Eve.

Dad said, ‘What a marvellous train set. I’ll buy it.’

The girl behind the counter looked pleased and murmured, ‘Great, I’m sure your son will really love it.’

Dad replied with a glint in his eye, ‘Maybe you’re right. In that case I’ll take two.’

***

It’s Christmas and the focus is on giving.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a follower of the Christ child or not…watch the commercials.  Many of them even have the phrase that pays, “It’s better to give than to receive!”  In our world and culture, for the most part, the value of the gift is the price that was paid.  By price I strictly mean dollars and cents.  Another way that gifts are valued is if it’s what the receiver specifically asked for.  Many kids will be handed elegantly wrapped expensive gifts that will be tossed aside as they continue to look for that one thing they circled and highlighted in three colors on their list to Santa.  It won’t matter that someone worked extra hours for that gift, it wasn’t what they wanted.  And gosh darnit, the TV announcer even said, “It’s what they really want this year.”  We place a lot of value on ‘wants’ and ‘price’ don’t we?  Gifts that come from the heart…well, they are uncommon, rare, and even unusual in our fast paced ‘keep up with the Jones’ world.

 

So what gift goes above and beyond?  What gift can’t be out valued or undercut?  Is there such a thing as a gift that is so personal that no money can be stacked against it?  Is there a gift that doesn’t just say “Merry Christmas” in a season but says “God loves you” everyday through the year?  What could a gift like that look like?  Simple answer.  It’s you.  It’s me.

 

I know what you’re thinking…sounds like a Hallmark Card.  I know it does…but it’s the truth.  We’ve talked in the past two weeks about sacrifice and service.  Both of these items are about giving.  Sacrifice is when we give beyond what is average.  Service is when we know we have something, like talent or time or energy or something tangible, that would be of use to someone else…and we serve with that thing.  Both are out of our very own lives.  And when done in the name of Christ and for His glory and purpose, we give Him us.

 

What’s it take to live a life that is given to Christ?  The first thing it takes is believing that He first gave all of Himself to us.  The Creator (John 1:1-3) came as a baby (Merry Christmas!) and put on flesh like we our own to walk with us and be an example for us.  That baby grew to be a man who would ultimately sacrifice this earthly life we’re familiar with so that we could be with Him again in Heaven.  Jesus simply asks us to do the same for those around us.  If we give to Him like He’s given to us, we will do the things we have record of Him doing.  We will love others through our actions and words and ideas and strengths.  Our sacrifice and service will be evidence of our choice to lay our lives in His hands…as a gift to Him.

 

So what’s that look like for you?  What’s that look like daily for you?  Do people around you see that you’ve given your life to Jesus?  Do your choices, words, and expressions mirror the relationship with Jesus you claim?  When we give our life to Christ, we’re saying to Him that we trust Him with it…and however he wants to use it, we’re game.  Many compartmentalize our faith in Christ …me too… so that our Christianity is only part of our full life.  For example, I’m a husband, a dad, helper with Cross Country, house owner, and church service attendee.  From His point of view, our relationship with Him is everything…everything we do, think and say grows out of us giving Him everything we are.

 

Think about how you life can be a gift, each and every day, with whomever crosses your path.  Trust that He directs your ways and gives you opportunities to share yourself…the self that you gave to Him.  Trust that whatever is asked to be sacrificed or given in service will be supplied to you.  You know that smile you see when I child receives a gift so special they can’t help but show their pearly whites?  That’s what you’ll see on God’s face.  : – )

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

ed

 

 

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The Gift of Service

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

****

A couple from the United States traveled to Beijing with their six-month-old baby girl. This was the couple’s first child and they were understandably nervous about traveling with her on a 16-hour flight. They called the hotel before their trip to inquire about babysitting services and the hotel’s facilities. When they arrived in Beijing, the hotel gave them a warm welcome to put them at ease. The family was escorted to their room, where the hotel had set up a baby tub with rubber ducks, a baby bottle steamer, milk warmer and a night light for the guests. The hotel also placed a humidifier in the room since the family might not be used to the extremely dry conditions in Beijing. The family was overwhelmed by the hotel’s attention to detail.

However, upon arrival, the young baby developed a rash on her neck and body. The babysitter and room attendant came to assist on her day off. She took the initiative to find out the hours of a pediatric hospital nearby. She knew it would be challenging to get an appointment on a weekday with no notice, and found out that if the couple wanted to see a doctor, they would have to wait in line. So, she went above the call of duty and woke up at 2:00 a.m. to obtain a number and a spot in line for the guests. She then waited in line at the hospital for more than six hours. The guests arrived and only had to wait 15 minutes to see the pediatrician. The parents broke down in tears, and were very touched by the babysitter’s efforts to treat them like family and the genuine care from the team. Upon departure, they noted that this was their first Ritz-Carlton experience, but definitely not their last.

****

Customer service is one of the most talked about areas in the business world.  How one is treated on the phone when calling a company, or how one is treated when walking in a store, or how one is treated when walking through the checkout line can either guarantee a return customer or guarantee a bad reputation.  And, either way, the customer’s experience has a good chance of reaching other people’s ears.    Ritz Carlton’s service is known around the world as some of the best there is.  The company prides itself in going above and beyond to give guests the best possible experience they can.  The experience they look to create isn’t artificial.  It is very personal.  I’ve heard many Ritz Carlton ‘wow’ stories.  Some of these stories will bring tears to your eyes.  Some will have you wondering why they did it…because you know they lost money.  But to the Ritz Carlton staff, it’s not about money.  It’s about serving people…about noticing things that would normally go unnoticed in today’s culture.  It’s about seeing the actual need hidden in a quest’s request.

 

One story I recently read was about a Ritz Carlton employee who attended the same church as a local eighth grade teacher.  This teacher had shared a story about a female student in her class who had been recently diagnosed with a form of hard to treat cancer at the age of 13.  One of the girl’s big regrets is that she would not live to attend prom at her soon to be high school.  The Ritz Carlton employee’s heart and mind started working…remember, this girl isn’t even a guest.   The employee and her team jumped into action and secured the Ritz’s ballroom, formally invited some of the 13 year olds closest friends and family, had the seamstress from the Ritz make her a gown like no other, and provided a “Prince Charming.”  The IT guy from the hotel became the photographer and the lead visual person for the hotel became the DJ.  The chef provided choice foods for a 13 year old and friends.  And…this girl had the night of her life dancing all evening on legs that contained debilitating cancer.  The Ritz Carlton received nothing for this in return.  They simply served.  This girl’s family, after spending lots of time with this employee and her staff, considered them family…so much so that the seamstress who made the girl’s gown also handmade another gown that she was soon thereafter laid to rest in.

 

A lady came to Jesus one day (recorded in Matthew 26:6-13) while he was a guest in another person’s house.  She was so taken by her creator that she came to him and gently poured a very expensive oil/perfume on his head and hair.  Those present were “indignant.”  They demanded to know why she wasted this very expensive perfume.  With scowls on their faces they argued that the money could have been used to give to the poor.  Jesus responded with the question, “Why are you bothering this woman?”  He went on to simply say that she was serving her Lord.  Many of them sat there and probably struggle to understand what he meant.  They saw a woman who was not invited, who was sinful, and who was seemingly wasteful.  Jesus saw humility, bravery in approach, and openness to forgiveness that only he can give.  Jesus saw that she was willing to serve him.

 

The author John records that Jesus also took the servants role and washed his disciple’s feet (13:1-17).  In the latter part of this passage, Jesus says that we will do well to follow his example by washing one another’s feet as well.  In fact, Jesus goes on to say, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  Jesus gives us the example of serving…even taking on the lowly role of a foot washer.  It wasn’t about him.  His service was for others.  His very life was completely lived for other people…not himself.  He asks us to do the same.

 

How can service be your Christmas gift to Christ this year?  What things will you change in your life…your daily life…that will help you live more fully as a servant of the High Priest?  The Ritz Carlton employees train very hard to live out their servant qualities while on the job…and they are recognized around the planet for how they successfully accomplish their goal of caring and comforting their guests like no other in the travel industry.  How are we/you doing in this area?  How are you doing in this area with your family, your neighbors, your church family, your colleagues, your team mates?  Serving is about living life for other people.  Christ did not consider serving something that was just part of his life…like something special he did in his weekly schedule on Friday mornings at the local food pantry.  It was his life.  Is service to the King and those he died for just part of your life, or is it life to you?  Can this be your Christmas gift to Him this year?  You don’t even have to wait for New Years for this new resolution.  : – )  Put a smile on and start now.

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

Ed

 

Questions for growth:

  • In what ways have you been served?  What memorable ways?  Ways that go against what is normal in today’s society?
  • Do you remember serving in a way that you felt completely blessed?  What did you do?  Do you remember what prompted you?  Was it a gut feeling, a voice?  Was it natural or did you have to convince yourself?
  • If we’re honest about the last question, I believe that we will agree that the ‘blessing’ that Jesus talks about in John 13:17 is a feeling like no other.  Do you want more of that?  It’s a simple question with a simple answer.
  • How can you/we turn your/our hearts around to realize that being a servant isn’t just a chore or duty or job, it’s what we were created for?  Jesus was born to serve.  We were too.

Thinking about Sacrifice At Christmas

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

***

Musical Instrument + Reindeer = Organ Donner

Really Quiet + Armed Crusader = Silent Knight

Snow + Frankenstein = Snowball Fright

Reindeer + Cow = Sleigh Bulls

Rope + December 24th = The Knot Before Christmas

Christmas Carols + A Dozen Flowers = The 12 Daisies of Christmas

Christmas Carol + Money = Jingle Bills

The 25th of December + A Girl’s Name = Christmas Carol

Telling Santo Your Wishes + Computer = Santa’s Lap Top

Snowfall + Chinese Cooking = Shovel the Wok!

***

 

Isn’t Christmas wonderful?  It really is.  It always seems to approach too quickly and is over before we know it.  However, for those of us who remember the reason we truly celebrate, we know that the offer of sacrifice is the best gift of all.

As Christians, we know that one day long ago our king was born.  He was born to die.  At the appointed time, He chose to sacrifice himself for us.  And I believe we all know that story…we get that picture.  But when it comes to sacrifice for us on a daily basis…as a gift to those around us…we sometimes don’t know what that really looks like.  Some of us do.  Myself, I sometimes need reminded.  Here are a couple of pictures of sacrifice.

The story this week, even though it is the Christmas season, doesn’t focus on the one called the Son of David…Jesus.  This focus of sacrifice is taken from two stories in the life of King David himself.  The first is taken from 1 Chronicles 11:15-19.  The short version of this story is follows.  David is resting between battles with the Philistines.  He is thirsty.  Three of his closest friends and advisors broke through enemy lines to get their king, their friend, a drink.  When they brought back the water, David took it and poured it out on the ground before God.  He realized that these men had risked and even offered as a sacrifice their very own lives on his behalf.  He felt that he was not worthy of their sacrifice.  He had done nothing for it…so he gave their sacrifice symbolically to God.

The next story comes from 1 Chronicles 21:22-24.  The story here sets up the chosen future site of the Temple of God.  Long story short again, David has sinned before God and has retreated to bow before God and offer himself to the Lord knowing that his sin has cause heartache for the nation he leads.  The land he is on is not his.  It is owned by a farmer.  An angel of the Lord is there.  The farmer and his sons, who were seemingly caught off guard by the whole situation, bowed before David his king as David is praying to God and talking to the Lord’s angel.  David, after experiencing God’s mercy, is determined to build an altar there as a way to honor and worship his Lord.  The farmer bows down and on the spot gives him, King David, the building they are in and the land it is on…as well as oxen to sacrifice.  This man shows true humility before David and God…offering nearly all he has minus his family as a gift/sacrifice.  David said to the farmer in 21:24, “…I will not take for the Lord what is yours, neither will I sacrifice burnt offerings I have not paid for.”

Here we have two stories of sacrifice offered on David’s behalf and for his sake.  Because of the weight and value of each, he makes sure his heart is pure in view of them both.  True sacrifice, as David found, has value, comes from the heart, and can’t be asked for or coerced.  The first story wasn’t about a drink of water.  It was about 3 men willing to give all they had for their friend.  Christ later defines the truest love as when one lays down their life for another…willingly.  The second wasn’t about the gift of land and oxen.  It was about a man who willing gave without being asked, nearly everything he had, out of honor and loyalty.  King David realized that this was from someone else’s heart.  He had no sacrifice in it.  He had to pay for it in order for it to be from him.

Do we sacrifice for others around us like David’s ‘mighty men’?  Do we offer all we have on the spot when presented with the opportunity as the farmer did?  Do we recognize what true sacrifice is, as David did in both circumstances, to accept them as holy and with great value?

Let’s let our sacrifice grow this Christmas season to be holy and pleasing to God.  Let’s not wait for New Year’s Eve to make a resolution to live new lives of worship.  Let’s set our hearts today to be open to sacrifice when called and when our gut says give.  This is the truest story of Christmas.  The story of Christmas isn’t for us to keep; it’s for us to give away.

Merry Christmas!  He has been born!  He has been born indeed!

Ed

 

Questions for Growth:

  • When has someone truly sacrificed for you?  Do you remember anyone sacrificing for you?
  • When have you sacrificed for someone else?  Now, I know that most of us won’t even want to mention this out loud because it’s not about us.  But how did you feel when you did sacrifice?  I remember getting calls in the middle of the night and saying, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”  I remember seeing people who needed something I had and I reached in my pocket and pulled out what they needed…not thinking of what I’d be missing.  You probably have too.  Isn’t our goal to have daily experiences like these…both giving and receiving?  There’s so much that goes into this, but for now, true understanding of who owns everything and how much we have to be thankful for will suffice.
  • Explain in your own words why Jesus isn’t just a story for us to hold dear, but for us to give away.  (Genesis 12:3b)  How do we live it daily?  How will you live it this week?
  • Is God specifically calling you to sacrifice on his behalf or someone elses right now?  How long will you wait before you do it?
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