Thursday, December 11, 2003
I'm going to be speaking at CWO tonight, filling in for Pastor Mike while he's following Tiger Woods on the west coast. I appreciate every opportunity I get to stand there, sharing from my heart what God is saying to me, seeing if it also has an impact on those around me, getting affirmation oftentimes that we're all in the same boat...
I'm going to start with the piece I posted last week on not buying myself "presents" before Christmas. In buying myself presents, I "rob" someone else of the joy of giving that present to me.
What's a present? What's a "good present"? It's that thing one gives to another that shows thoughtfulness, love, knowledge of likes and desires. It's that surprising thing that maybe you didn't know you wanted, but when you open it - it's perfect. It inspires gratitude on multiple levels, and stands the test of time in various ways.
I'm a difficult person to buy for - not only does one have to ask "would he like that?", but also "does he have it already?" I'd always buy the latest CD or DVD or book, and no one would know what I had or didn't have. And what might've been meaningful from someone else became to me just a thing.
Somewhere in that rambling, I want this thought to ring true: It's more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and receiving a gift well is a blessing on the giver as well. Then we'll turn to that beloved Christmas story in scripture - Joshua 6 through 8 :).
The people of Israel are given a wonderful present: LAND. In taking Jericho, everything was to be destroyed - nothing taken, nothing left behind. That was God's command, His call on what to do with this first city, the "first fruits" of Israel's move through the countryside. The next town was Ai. Scouts compared this much smaller town to the huge walls of Jericho and were underwhelmed: "We don't need more than a few thousand men to wipe this place off the map." They attacked - and were defeated. Why?
Because it was Christmastime - and I went to BestBuy to get FINDING NEMO on DVD. And to Family Bookstore to get the newly released Caedmon's Call CD. And to Barnes & Noble to buy fourteen books in their up-and-coming authors sale.
Why is this such a big deal? BECAUSE WE TEND TO THINK VERY VERY SELFISHLY. I could've gone to the store and gotten the DVD for another family, and I could've gotten that new CD for Pastor Mike, and I could've held off on the impulse book buying to save up for a special present for my wife. I went in thinking about my favorite people: me, myself and I - not God, not family and friends, not you.
And Achan could've JUST OBEYED and "sacrificed" by helping in the utter destruction of Jericho, rather than keeping some of the forbidden booty for himself. He knew it was wrong - that's why he stashed the stuff, right? There was no question what the directive was - selfishness overcame obedience, just as that same fleshly thing rises up and overcomes us today.
Again, why is this such a big deal? Because Christmas is coming for me. Friends and family will be giving me gifts, and I'll receive them with sincere appreciation and gladness anything-from-starbucks-is-fine-with-me. I am then free to GIVE FREELY TO THEM, NOT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN. I'm taken care of, and if people don't give me anything, I'm still ok - because I've been freely given so much already (Matt 10:8).
And in Joshua 6-8, Achan took something selfishly THAT WOULD'VE BEEN GIVEN FREELY at Ai. His sin thundered through all Israel. Think our sins don't effect the Body of Christ? They all acted self-centeredly, not consulting God on how to defeat Ai, but comparing it to Jericho and seeing that *they* had done so well there. But they were turned back, and felt abandoned. When God finally pointed out their sin - when He finally helped them root out the problem - when He was finally consulted on what to do - they routed Ai and WERE ALLOWED TO KEEP THE BOOTY. But it didn't do Achan any good since he was DEAD. All he had taken was all he was going to get.
In thinking about ourselves, we shove God way down the list. We move others way down the list. And Jesus isn't lifted up; God isn't glorified and honored. And others don't come to feel the love of God through us, and they're cut off from the blessing of being able to share gifts. Not a very merry Christmas there.