The preparation for the holidays is one of my favorite times of the year. I like the hustle and bustle of shopping, eating out, visiting with friends and family, watching all the seasonal movies on TV. More importantly, I get more of a thrill by giving to those who are lacking.
I have had experiences where I have seen people give their coats to the homeless and provide meals to them on the street. Jesus said:
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 ESV).
This principle of giving works. It actually works!
I cannot say how many times I have given to others without expecting anything in return, only to have someone give to me in the very same way I did. It is like a law of physics, except this is more of a law of giving. The more I give the more comes back to me, sometimes even ten-fold.
I guess what I am trying to say today with this post is, we cannot take what we have with us. As much as we try in this lifetime to accumulate wealth, at the end of our lives, we will leave it all behind, and in some cases, the government takes it all.
During this time of year, let us give without holding back. Let us be examples for others to follow. The more we give, the more will come back to us. Then, the cycle will continue until we would not know what to do with all the blessings.
When I worship God, I stretch my hands in the air and thank him. I thank him for my life. I thank him for my family. But most of all, I thank him for my relationship with him. That, had it not been for him believing in me, I would not be where I am today—praising him with every breath I draw into my lungs.
David did the same, except I have yet to dance as he did when he defeated the Philistines to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:14, 16, 20-23).
That day was special. That day, the Lord God fought on David’s behalf and won (2 Sam. 5:17-25).
Now, when I praise God, I praise him for fighting for me. I have the reassurance that he will not leave me or forsake me, and just as he had done with David, he will send his armies before me to make the way clear so that it seems as if I have accomplished it all on my own.
It sounds crazy. I agree. But after seven months of God’s constant intervention in my life, healing me of my neck problem, ridding my heart of bitterness, exiling those who despised me into utter darkness, he has yet to fail me:
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).
And I will continue to praise him, lifting my arms in true thanksgiving for extending his mercy over my life and the lives of those in my family, just as it says in (Ps. 148:1-4):
“Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
Praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
Praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!”
Therefore, I pray also that he, too, may bless and fight for all of you as he has done for me because his mercy is great and his reach is infinite.
When I set out to read the bible from cover to cover last year, I did not know I would be in for a few surprises.
For instance, I had no idea that Job lived before Abraham, in spite of the fact that the Book of Job is located several hundred pages after Genesis. In addition, it was a revelation to me that after the flood, God declared that all animals would fear humans (Gen. 9:2 ESV throughout). And the thought that an honorable man such as Jabez, whose name meant “man of sorrow” or “borne out of pain”, had two verses written about him to demonstrate God’s blessings over his life (1 Chr. 4:9-10), left me wondering what else in the bible have I yet to discover?
The reading plan I used to accomplish this feat is part of the Olive Tree Bible Study app, which resides on my phone and on my tablet. I simply chose a chronological reading plan that consisted of the English Standard Version (ESV). When I travelled, I read it on my phone, sync’d it with my Olive Tree account, then, when I returned home, I picked it up from where I left off on my tablet. Even today, it makes for a seamless experience.
Choosing to read the bible chronologically has its advantages, too. I gained an incredible amount of insight into historical events when reading about the same story through two different accounts. I did not have to understand why certain things happened the way they did because the context remained the same throughout. The chronological reading plan is especially helpful when working through the Books of Kings and the Books of Chronicles, as the reign of kings can be quite confusing when studying it in a non-linear fashion.
All history aside, though, my favorite part of the bible is the gospels. In the gospels Jesus talks about how to get along with others (Mat. 5:43-48), how to have a relationship with God (Mat. 6:5-15), and what the ultimate goal for believers should be (Mat. 6:19-21).
And, of course, one of my favorite verses I cling to comes from the gospels:
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
In its basic form, it means that whatever I give is what comes back to me. I can attest that this principle works every single time I use it—and it does not apply to money only.
Anyway, I learned all these things in my first year reading the bible from cover to cover. I am hoping after having read the New International Version (NIV) this year, I will have something more to say about the experience.
In the meantime, I will quote this verse as my last thought for this post: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
At this very moment, I feel privileged, not in the sense of what I own, but in the sense of who is now in my life. I have felt this way ever since deciding in the spring that, after a twenty-year absence, I belonged back in church.
Now, the funny part about it all is that my wife, Luana, had never stopped attending. In fact, not so long ago, she was going to a revival church one week and a fundamental church the other. Given my skeptical mindset at the time, it made for some interesting comic fodder. I could not pass up the opportunity to razz her about the obvious inconsistency with believing two sets of doctrine. After all, both churches could not be right about salvation, I thought!
However, God was performing a great work with my life. All I had to do was to be patient.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27 ESV).
Through my church, I have learned to be patient and listen to what God has to say (James 5:7). I have learned what true peace means (Rom. 15:13) and I have grown to understand where I fit in the grand scheme of God’s plan (Mat. 5:9).
I have repented (Acts 3:19). I have forgiven (Mat 6:14). Above all else, I have taken into me God’s spirit to become a new man in Christ, of which would not have been possible had God not called me to be a partaker of his plan (Acts 2:38).
With that in mind, I extend blessings to all my readers so as you may also find peace.