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“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children. how much more will Your Father. who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”  Matthew 7:11

As we explore this topic, perhaps we should first come to some consensus concerning what exactly a gift is.  If you’ve read any of my other posts (and a sincere thank you if you have), you know I tend to jump right on to look for standard definitions.  So some of the concepts they choose in their definition of gift are voluntary, no expectation of a return gesture, freely given.

I take the Wednesday paper.   That I go out in the morning and it is there is not a gift.  I expect it in return for the payment that I make and there is a requirement that it be there.  I go out on Thursday and there is the morning paper.  This I didn’t request.  This I didn’t pay for (nor am later subsequently billed for), freely given.  If it continued day after day, I would say it was a mistake; maybe a new delivery person, but it does not.  It is a gift.

I have a dog.  We take walks together.  Given the size and power of the dog I am not going to make a claim concerning who exactly walks who.  It’s kind of a mutual determination kind of thing.  Anyway, as we walk a person down the street who I’m not acquainted with other than a wave now and then is mowing his yard next to the sidewalk.  My neighbor would not know this, but my dog is not all that fond of machinery or at least the loud sound of lawn mower.  So I can either move across the street in adequate distance ahead of time, be drug across the street if I wait too long, or come to a complete halt no matter what I try until the lawn mower leaves.  But none of that happens.  My neighbor not only stops mowing the strip between the sidewalk and the curb but completely shuts off the lawn mower.  My dog and I quickly and serenely pass by with a thank you for his gesture; his gift.

My point?  Well for one, both of these are small things I know, but I would submit to you that they happen more often than we think; the cup of coffee purchased by a coworker, the stranger that let’s us in line in front of them, the person who stops to help us pick up some dropped papers etc.  Ironically, sometimes we avoid or feel bad about accepting these gifts.  Can I trust the person?  Why would they do that?  I don’t want to owe anyone, anything.

Additionally, often these “gifts” come from people we know; family members, coworkers, friends.  And that is why we sometimes miss the fact that they even happened.  “Oh, that’s just the way so and so is.”, we tell ourselves after they’ve given up their seat for us the thousandth time or given us their last piece of gum.  Somehow it turns from a gift to an expectation.

Jesus is trying to make a point.  He has been teaching the multitudes in His famous sermon on the mount.  It started out with the beatitudes and has now come to the point about approaching God.  Some would have said that you can’t approach God directly.  Some would have said that you have to go through someone else; a Pharisee or other leader in the temple. Still others would say you have to be good first; rich, powerful, famous, then you can approach God.  Jesus has just finished exhorting everyone; all you need to do is knock, ask and/or seek and there will be opening, granting, finding.  Christ goes on to make an illustration that drives the point home.  You and I can be evil.  You and I can decide to be selfish, stingy, hurtful people.  Yet even You and I can sometimes be generous.  You and I can help a loved one when they are in need.  If You and I, who can be evil, still know how to give good gifts, do good deeds for one another; how much more will our Heavenly Father, who knows no evil, who’s very nature is only Love and Generosity shower us with blessings if we will only approach Him and ask.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ tells us Our Heavenly Father is waiting.  He is waiting patiently.  Why is He waiting you might ask?  Why not shower His gifts upon us right now?  For one, I believe it is pure wisdom.  You see in waiting for us to ask, and in our asking, we have to acknowledge that that we believe in Him, we acknowledge His existence and power.  If we didn’t believe in Him; we’d never ask in the first place.  How quick we might be to misguidedly attribute God’s blessings to fate, luck or our own abilities if we didn’t first humbly come to Him and ask.

It’s not my words; it’s His.  It is not my promise; but His.  Our Heavenly Father never says what He doesn’t mean; never makes a promise He won’t keep.  Seek Him and His Gifts.  Go to Him in prayer, both seeking and praising.  He is Good.  His gifts are Good. He is waiting to give.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father; thank you that You open Yourself and Your abundance to us, asking only that we will come to You, in faith and ask.  Give us the spirit of humility that we come to You and ask; not out of a sense of deserving, but out of the sense of lost without You.  Forgive our doubting nature, believing as we do that there must be a catch.  Fill us with a desire to rightly praise Your Most Holy Name for the abundance, generosity and perfection of Your gifts freely given.  We pray this in the Name of the Greatest Gift of all, Your Son Jesus Christ, given to us for our salvation.  Amen

“…The Lord commanded saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord, Whoever is willing of heart…..'”  Exodus 35:5

“…and they spoke to Moses saying, ‘They bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.'”  Exodus 36:6

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul….And great grace was upon them all….all who had possessions of land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds and laid them at the apostles feet”  Acts 5:32,33

“So let each one give as he proposes in his heart…..for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

So????? How much is enough (OH NO, You Scream, not one of these type postings!  guilt, shame, derision)?  No sir.  No ma’am.  Not this post.

I have been humbled and privileged to work in several leadership positions in various churches I have belonged to.  One of the overriding concerns and dare I say it (yes I will), worries that each of those churches have had revolves around giving.  The members never give enough to meet the budget so ways need to be found to cajole, beg, plead, guilt them into giving more.  God Sighs!  And I believe God sighs as much as at the church leadership as He does at the congregation, if not more.

Over and over and over again in the bible, there are times of need.  The Israelites need a special place to worship God (the tabernacle).  These Israelites should have been the poorest of the poor for they were slaves rushed out of Egypt by the Egyptians.  Yet by the GRACE of GOD, the Egyptians had given them incredible wealth in gold and silver.  So much in fact that when it came time to give to the building of the tabernacle, it was not a commandment for all to give.  God only wanted the offerings from those who had a willing heart.  Now imagine this, so many gave so much, that the builders had to ask Moses to make them stop.

In another story, Ruth is poor and worse than that she is a widow from a foreign land.  There is no person or family to which she can turn for help.  If that wasn’t bad enough, she was responsible for another person, her mother-in-law Naomi, who was too old to help with provision.  Ruth touched the heart of a rich man, Boaz, who commanded that grain would be purposely left for her so that she had more than she needed.

Now we come to when Jesus Christ died and was resurrected.  The church is growing by thousands in a day.  The people who are joining the church come from all aspects of society.  There are those who are poor and widowed.  There are those who are wealthy with lands, houses and property.  Please, please, please notice this; Peter makes no booming command or great oratory about the needy.  Neither John nor James present a tablet said to be the writing of Christ calling upon all to give.  No, what the Book of Acts tells us is that the apostles were giving witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It tells us that they were of one heart and one soul and that great grace was upon all of them.  There was no forcing, no lamenting, no guilting.  It started and starts with Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters, there are really only two who know our hearts; ourselves and Our Heavenly Father.  Even then, we can deceive ourselves but Our Heavenly Father’s knowledge is perfect.  If I can not know your heart, how dare I make any judgement about you or your heart based upon something as trivial as money.  And lest there be any doubt; it seems to me that Jesus taught that money, especially large amounts should be considered trivial things when compared to what truly matters.

Also, dear brothers and sisters, the enemy does not want us to look into our hearts.  Satan wants us to covet and desperately hold on to our mortal possessions as if they are the most important things.  If we do give, the devil wants it to be out of pride and the desire for praise or out of fear of being judged by others.  He hopes that we will buy into a prevalent thought these days that as I give I should expect, I should plan on an even bigger financial reward as if giving to the Lord is some sort of investment scheme. Satan would love to see Jesus Christ’s church divided, worried, fearing for its very existence based on the want of money.  God forbid!

Finally dear brothers and sisters, clergy and lay leaders of churches; please quiet the voices of this world and listen to your heart. Feel, the Love, reach out and up for the Grace, pray for Guidance, Wisdom and Understanding.  There are those in need.  Don’t doubt that God is powerful enough to bring relief straight from heaven as He did manna so long ago.  Yet God has a greater plan in mind.  God wants to share the giving of blessings, wants to share the giving of love, wants us to experience the joy that He experiences in helping our fellow human beings.  It is through His generous desire to give us the opportunities to help, that He gives us the example of His heart.  So that by that example, we might be able to grow our hearts, which is among the greatest gift of all.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, as Alpha and Omega, it begins with you and it ends with you.  As Your Son Jesus Christ both taught and lived by example, give us a heart guided by You, longing for You, listening to only You.  Testify to us how You would have us give and through the Holy Spirit, give us hearts eager to respond.  Forgive us when we would judge others based on our own measurement about how much should be given.  We know that we will never be able to match the gifts that You have given us; especially Your Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ.  Yet let my giving, whatever the amount, be a connecting of my heart to Yours, Loving Father.  In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord we pray.  Amen.

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