The Greatest Gift

Merry Christmas!  In this penultimate entry in our series, God Moved into the Neighborhood, we talk about the greatest gift ever given.  When Jesus came to earth as a baby, He came bringing with Him the first and greatest Christmas gift.  He gave us the gift of knowing God.  Keep reading or listening to learn more.


The Greatest Gift

Okay, so I want to take a little poll this morning: Who’s finished with all your Christmas shopping?  You don’t have to make any last-minute trips out to the store this afternoon.  Alright, tougher question: Who already has everything wrapped?  I think we’re officially done in the Waits household.  Do you have any gifts that you’re especially excited to give this year?  We have a couple of cool surprises picked out, but I can’t say anything in present company.  I actually have one in particular I’m pretty excited about…but I can’t say anything about that either in light of other present company.  Do you remember the best Christmas gift you ever received?  And forget for a minute that you’re in church and get totally materialistic.  What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever gotten for Christmas?  I’m not sure what would go on my list.  I remember getting new cymbals for my drum set when I was in high school.  That was pretty fun.  A few years ago, Lisa got me a donut maker about which I was awfully excited.  Part of that, though, was due to the fact that it combined two things I love—kitchen gadgets and donuts—into one appealing package.  It was even shaped like a donut! Read the rest…

Digging in Deeper: Psalm 119:37

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

How often does a path into temptation and sin begin with our eyes?  The other night we had to run some errands together as a family.  As a part of the errand, we gave our boys the chance to spend some birthday money they had been saving up for a while.  They knew ahead of time that this was going to happen.

We started the evening at Cracker Barrel for dinner.  As we were getting ready to leave, one of them asked if he could buy something from the store there because he had seen something he “really” wanted.  When this request was turned down, he started to press a bit harder to get what he wanted.  I told him no a second time and observed that he was suffering from “I-see-I-want-itis.”

It’s pretty easy to recognize when little kids have this.  They walk into the store and almost immediately start asking for everything.  Can I have this?  Can I have that?  What about that?  Oh! this is the thing I’ve always wanted!  It’s a pain in the neck to start with, but it also represents a longer-term effort on our part to teach them self-discipline.  We know that buying something just because we’ve seen it and had that little flash of desire flare up is almost never wise.

Or do we?  You see, the root of “I-see-I-want-itis” is a much larger tendency to let our eyes lead us into sin.  And as adults, we are still very much afflicted by it.  I don’t know about you, but I experience it in the small when I go to the grocery store without a list (and sometimes even with a list!).  We see commercials and are affected just like kids are.  The items are different, but the heart is the same.  We see television shows or movies and want what those people have relationally.  We want what they have economically.  We want what they have physically.  We let our eyes pass to even less worthwhile things and the descent happens all the more rapidly.

We see, we want, and we pursue it to get that itch scratched.  And it feels good because scratching an itch always feels good.  But, scratching an itch can become a habit.  We can fall into the pattern of scratching every single itch we get.  Then we scratch more because it keeps feeling good.  Eventually, though, we get a sore.  Sores get infected.  Infections can kill us if left unchecked.

Just like the psalmist asked for here, we need to learn the discipline of turning our eyes away from worthless things.  We can’t go through life with blinders on, but we can learn to assess value quickly and turn away from things that are worthless.  We can turn instead to the ways of the Lord.  We can turn to His Word and let that be our guide into the ways and patterns that bring life.

The truth about all people is that we tend to let whatever it is that most fills our field of vision determine the direction and quality of our lives.  Let us make sure that our field is not filled with things that are worthless, but things that are of eternal value.  That is where we will find life.

Morning Musings: Jeremiah 32:39

“I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that God gives to His people.  One heart.  The NIV renders the Hebrew here “an undivided heart.”  How often has a divided heart resulted in trouble in your life?  It has done plenty in mine.  When our heart is divided, we are trying to give our devotion to more than one thing.  That never goes well.  As Jesus observed, when we try that we invariably wind up hating one thing at the expense of the other. Read the rest…

Digging in Deeper: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“…pray without ceasing…”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Pray without ceasing?  What on earth is this supposed to look like?  Are we supposed to be on our knees 24/7?  Are we to go around talking to God all the time such that people will always wonder if we are talking to ourselves like someone talking to a Bluetooth headset out in public?  How are we supposed to give our full attention to other things that demand it if we are praying constantly?  Clearly, I’m not as faithful a follower of Jesus as I should be.  Have you ever thought like this before? Read the rest…

Morning Musings: 1 Timothy 1:15-16

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”  (ESV – Read the chapter)

Paul was called to receive the gift of salvation so that others might come to a saving faith as well.  We know this is true from Paul’s own testimony, but also from the example of his life.  Do you know who else was saved so that others might come to a saving relationship with Jesus?  You were!  So was I.  So was every person who is a follower of Jesus or who has ever been in the past.  God gives us the gift of salvation not only for ourselves, but so that others might come to a saving knowledge of Him through us.  In other words: If you have been blessed by God, the purpose of that blessing was so that you might be a blessing to others. Read the rest…