Better to Give?

“It is more blessed to give than receive.” These are words that we hear often during the Christmas season. However, whenever I hear it, I usually have this little “cringy” sort of thing in the back of my neck. (No. “Cringy” isn’t a word, but it’s the perfect adjective for my feeling.) Here’s why I feel this thing:

James 1:16-17a – “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”

Ultimately, Jesus is the only giver. We can’t be givers ourselves, unless we have received from Him first. We must first be receivers before we can become givers. Anything I can give to someone else, well…anything that’s worth giving, in some way first came from Jesus himself. Maybe this is also part of why He made this statement. He understood that anyone who is a giver has already received from Him. We become “more blessed” when it all comes full circle and we begin to reflect who He is as the giver.

Psalm 23:1 – “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

If we are in Christ, we are given all that we need. There’s nothing we need that He will not provide. This is the meaning of the phrase “shall not want.” It means He will provide and we can live satisfied and confident that we will be given all that we truly need. As people who have all that we need, we are in the perfect position to share. . . to give. When we realize that most of our stuff is just stuff and the things we truly need can not be taken away, it becomes much easier to give. Not only is it easier to give, but giving actually becomes a natural expression of the love we have for others. We also begin to reflect the character of Christ to others as well. At that point, we also become more grateful to Christ for all that we have been given and ultimately, we worship and glorify Him. 

 

So, I’m in agreement with Jesus. “It is more blessed to give than receive.” But I’d like to point out to the world that we can’t give until we have first become receivers of the greatest gift in the world – Salvation in Jesus Christ. That alone is the greatest blessing, but we become EVEN MORE blessed when we begin giving to others out of this abundance. Our primary position is one of “receiver” and then our goal should be to become a “giver.” Or maybe the better way to say it is that our primary position should be to “give” good gifts understanding that the only way to do that is to receive from Christ first?

What do you guys think?

 

PS – I don’t think this has any real bearing on my previous thoughts, but it’s interesting to me that these words of Jesus (“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”) are not recorded in the Gospels. They are recounted by Paul (Acts 20:35) as he speaks to the Ephesian elders. There are many things that Jesus said which are not recorded in the Gospels themselves, but this is the only one which is referred to by Scripture itself.

 

 

Criminal Behavior

roadblock2We met under the cover of night. We slipped into our cars and cautiously veered around the road blocks – careful not to draw attention to ourselves. We communicated quietly or with our eyes so as not to make much noise. We handled the goods with care as we swiped the merchandise from it’s location and transported it to the designated area. By the time we had finished, we had relocated all the goods without any issues. Everyone had done their job flawlessly. The cops didn’t suspect anything. The items were delivered and we were safe in our homes celebrating a successful mission.

I love my Community Group! We successfully completed the mission described above last night. We delivered Christmas gifts to a needy family. For now, they live in a duplex that will be torn down in the next couple of months and so their streets are blocked off. We were able to bring a little joy to this family and even share the Gospel with them.

Thanks Jennifer! God needs more people scheming on His behalf! I’m happy to be a criminal for God’s glory! Thanks for the opportunity.

 

Our Wonderful Life

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Sometimes saying, “I’ll pray for you.” just isn’t enough. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Our friends have lived out this passage and I want to tell you about it:

We had an incredible experience last night!! A bunch of friends (both old and new) surprised us and showed up at our door Christmas caroling. It was Nov 20th. We gathered the family to hear them and when they finished singing, they explained that they knew our year had been tough (with my unemployment) and wanted to come “be the church” to us. They handed Miranda a gift bag and then (like the movie) one by one filed by and dropped $$$/gifts in. We were all in tears. In addition, we received tons of cards and beautifully written notes from people who were unable to come as well as financial gifts both large and small. Some of the small ones are incredibly touching too – from students and people who really don’t have much to give.

Their presence, encouragement, love, and gifts could not have come at a better time. Although God has carried us through this past year, we have had discussions lately about how we’d make it through the next few months. We’re learning to trust Him more and these incredible friends were the faces of God’s provision for us last night. I can’t describe how much of a blessing they really are. My friend Josh said that God could have just given us the $$, but instead, out of His goodness, He decided to bring His people together so we’d receive both $$ and encouragement. God knew what we needed. He is an incredible provider!! He is good!! And we are blessed!!! It’s truly a Wonderful Life!!! I am grateful, humbled, honored, and probably most importantly: I know the LORD and His character better because my friends and family have represented Him so well to us.

I’d also like to say a great big “THANK YOU!!” to everyone who played a role:

Those who came.
Those who sent messages or $$ or both.
Those who organized and planned.
Those who were sneaky and lied to us so it’d all work out.
Those who got the word out.
Those who drove such long distances to be with us.
Those who prayed.
Those who cooked.

We are especially grateful to God for bringing these people into our lives, for providing us with $$ and encouragement, and for motivating them to “be the church” to us.

Here are the videos and pics:


From It’s A Wonderful Life -Steve and Miranda, posted by Laurie Godbold on 11/21/2010 (37 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

2nd Father’s Day

sm-Story TimeTomorrow will be my 2nd official Father’s Day. My first with 2 children. Miranda was asking me what “Kasen and Kesleigh” could get me. (I put “quotes” around their names ’cause they have no concept of Father’s Day yet.) I really didn’t have a clue. I have everything I really need. I’m truly blessed beyond anything I ever imagined. I’ve been thinking about how I could answer her though. What do I want? Well, I’m not sure she can arrange for Kasen and Kesleigh to get it for me, but here’s what I want.

First and foremost, I want my children to grow up to be madly in love with Jesus.

I want my children to be “arrows” like Psalms 127:4 describes them – arrows attack the enemy in his territory and work to expand and advance the kingdom.

I want more time to be with my family and I want to have great experiences together.

I want to be able to provide for my family in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways.

I want to live as an example to my children by being a man of character who chases after God even if it seems crazy.

I want to laugh, play, and enjoy my bride and children by being truly present with them in everyday life.

I want my bride and children to know how much they are loved.

I want God’s grace to continue to grant me favor. I want to become an awesome husband and father and I understand that it’s truly a never-ending journey!

My list could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.  I think I’ve communicated the main thing I was trying to say. Besides, I’ve gt the most amazing bride and children in the world. Is there really anything more I could want?

Using my Gifts

Another assignment was to write about how we can more effectively use our gifts and God-given personality in our lives.

Family
I should begin playing guitar and singing more often around the house. Maybe even write some songs for Kasen. Miranda has been after me for years to play more often and specifically wants me to play for Kasen. I’ve just gotten lazy about getting the guitar out, so this is one area that I could easily make a change in.

Church
I use my gifts and talents all the time in church. I teach Bible Studies, lead groups, step out in faith on certain  projects, and I lead the congregation in worship on Sunday mornings with the musical abilities God has given me. My personality comes out in everything I do. I often wish I had more opportunities to teach outside of the youth program. I could certainly be more effective in using my gifts if I could arrange for some other people to help in the areas where I’m not gifted. This has been difficult, because volunteers are hard to come by, but I will make it my goal to find some help with attendance, finances, organizational/administrative stuff. This would free me to do the things I’m gifted in – looking into the future with faith, teaching, leading/training others, thinking creatively, etc.

Work
As a youth minister, church is my work.

Letter to God

OK – So evidently in class the other night (while I was in the hospital) Dr Ayers, gave a journal entry assignment to write a letter to God describing how we feel about our spiritual gifts and what areas we should improve. Here we go:

Dear God,
Gosh, that’s not near enough of a salutation, but there aren’t enough words to truly give You the greeting that You deserve either. I want to take a moment to express my gratefulness for the spiritual gifts You’ve given me. Growing up, I would never have guessed that I’d be the man I am today. Your presence in my life has truly been transforming and the gifts You’ve given me have been a huge part of that work. I was the kid who hid behind the curtain in elementary school, and now You’ve got me in front of groups of people telling them the good news! In this latest assessment, it seems that You’ve given me the gifts of leadership, teaching, and faith. Although I’d never taken this test before, I’m not surprised by the results. When I looked at the results, they resonated in my soul. You have truly made me this way and in discovering these gifts, it’s as if I had known them all along – like uncovering something that was already there. I’m so excited and feel so blessed that You have given me the privilege of being a steward of these things and I’m excited to see how they will be used. What places will You carry me to use them? How will You craft them inside of me so that they will become sharper instruments in Your hands? Lord, help me to completely surrender to You. I do not want to be a bad steward. I would love to one day see You and hear the words “good and faithful”  used of me in regards to how I used these gifts.  Lord, it may be strange, but I also want to thank You for giving me the weaknesses that I have. I am clearly not very good at serving, giving, or compassion and so those are great opportunities for me to grow. They will also be areas where I can learn to trust in the body of Christ and grow by watching them. I understand that these areas are probably areas where I will get myself in trouble, areas where I will fail, and be criticized, but these are also opportunities. I will be able to demonstrate my love for You by being obedient in these ways.  These may very well be the greatest demonstrations of my love for You. It’s my prayer that I will be able to honor You in all of life. I want to honor You by working within my giftedness and efficiently serving You, but I also want to honor You in the ways that make me uncomfortable and probably don’t come as easy to me. Allow me to bring You glory with how I live. Thank You for breathing life into my bones and giving me these opportunities. It’s a privilege to be by Your side and to serve You. It’s an amazing honor for a finite sinful man like me to be given such beautiful opportunities to make eternal differences by being a steward of these gifts. I don’t want to let You down, but I’m gonna need Your help. I also trust that You will help – so Thanks for that too.

Luv ya! Steve

Spiritual Gifts Assessment

Gift Over the years, I’ve done quite a few different spiritual gifts assessments. The one we did tonight in class was a “blind” test. (One where you don’t know what gifts you’re answering about) It also included a large list of gifts and defined them a bit differently than the one I normally wok with. Here are the scores I got tonight:

Leadership – 24
Teaching – 23
Faith – 23
Pastoring – 21
Hospitality – 19
Exhortation – 17
Wisdom – 17
Administration – 16
Prophecy – 12
Evangelism – 12
Mercy – 10
Giving – 6
Service – 5

The test I normally use only checks for what they describe as the “motivational gifts,” which includes only 7 gifts: Teaching, Perceiving, Exhortation, Administration, Giving, Serving, and Compassion. Each time I’ve taken that one I end up with Exhortation and Teaching as my highest scores. Interestingly enough they define exhortation a little differently – in this test, it is a combination of encouraging and pastoring. The test I took tonight pretty well matches what I’ve seen before if you take that into account.

Certainly interesting results considering the kinds of things God has been placing on my heart lately. Hmm????

My Beautiful Bride Today

Miranda was exceptionally beautiful to me today. I’m not sure what the deal was, but today she looked even more incredible than normally. Maybe it’s this “radiant glow” thing that people say happens with pregnant women. Maybe it was what she was wearing today or the attitude/outlook she had on life today. Maybe it was my outlook on life today. Maybe it was the way that God shined His light on her today or how all the planets aligned to cause a special gravitational pull which subtly pulled on me causing a heart palpitation within my chest cavity blah, blah, blah. Bottom line. . . . I don’t know what it was today – I just know that I’m so blessed. God has given me such an incredible gift in my bride. I’m so excited about our future together. It’s gonna be so cool to watch her as a mom to Kasen. I’m excited about the team that we’re going to be in raising him.

Our lives are about to change in huge ways once Kasen is born and I must admit that my excitement about the future also has a tiny little hint of sadness/fear about those changes too. I mean, I love my bride and the relationship that we have. I love that we can just get up and go to dinner or travel to Houston to do something fun. I love hanging out with her and cuddling in front of the TV for a quiet night at home together. I’m a little fearful that these days are almost over. Of course I’m excited about what’s coming and how we’re gonna be changed, but I’d be completely clueless to not recognize the beautiful thing we have now.

I thank You God for everything you’ve given me – for my bride, and these incredible early days or marriage, and for the amazing future You have in store for us with Kasen. It’s gonna be so good!!! I love You God!!!

The Nativity Story

Nativitystory2 We went to see the movie the other day and I thought it was great! I don’t think the High School guys who went with us enjoyed it too much, but it followed the Biblical account pretty well. Mary and Joseph were portrayed as a couple who didn’t know each other very well, and he was definitely older than she by quite a bit. This is very likely considering the customs of the Jewish people in those days. Her visit with Elizabeth and the shame that went along with her pregnancy was  also shown well. The town of Nazareth was also shown pretty accurately. The houses were made of stone which would have been true for them and Joseph is shown in one scene cutting rocks. We have typically thought of him as a carpenter but the actual greek word “tekton” means “a worker who builds.” In those days since building were made of stones – that more than likely would have referred to a stone mason. The scene where Joseph asks for Mary’s hand in marriage was good too – he spoke of going back home to prepare a place for her as would have been their custom. I just discovered one thing wrong in the movie last night in my hermeneutics class. Mary and Joseph probably would not have been traveling to Bethlehem alone ’cause Nazareth was a “branch” city of David. This meant that there were probably lots of folks from Nazareth who had to go to Bethlehem for the census – not to mention Joseph’s family – parents, brothers, sisters, etc.

Nativitystory_1 I really enjoyed the shepherds and the kings too. The shepherds fields really looked like the fields that I was able to see in Israel – not fields like we think of here in the US – but much more rocky. I also was intersted in how the shepherds were shown as old men. I had always thought of them as young boys, because it was the lowliest of jobs and because of the way I imagined David growing out of it. Anyway, those young boys certainly grew up – I had just never really thought of it quite like that. As far as the kings go, more than likely they weren’t there that night, but the whole idea of the three stars/planets aligning together during that time is accurate according to astronomers today. The scriptural account (Matthew 2:11) says that the wise men came to a house so it probably was later. It could have been as much as 2 years later ’cause Herod wanted the children 2 yrs and under killed. The way the kings described their gifts – Gold for a king, Frankincense for a priest, and Myrhh for sacrifice was pretty cool too.