Advent Day 1. The Gift of Every Spiritual Blessing.

December 1st

Your best gift?

December, Christmas and gifts… they go hand in hand don’t they?  Do you remember the best gift you’ve ever received?  How about the worst gift?

Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective.  My sister tells the story of a gift she and her husband gave to each other one year.  Gutters.  Yep, gutters.  You might not think that’s a very romantic gift but for this newly married couple building their first home, rain gutters were an extravagant luxury.  So it was a delightful welcomed gift for each!

So, there are things we want and things we need.  I believe there are three basic categories of “needs” that we all have:

Physical needs:  food, water, a roof over our head, clothes on our backs, tangible things.

Emotional needs: happiness, peace, tranquility. Those are easy to identify. 

But this third one is sometimes harder to grasp: spiritual needs.  What are spiritual needs that we have? 

One definition is from a man named Howard Clinebell.  He is a clinical psychologist and a university PhD.  He says we all have at least seven spiritual needs in our core.  The first is this:  “All people need to experience regularly the healing and empowerment of love – from others, from self, and from God.” [1]  Love!

Paul says right off the bat, in Ephesians Chapter 1, verse 3 that Jesus “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  Jesus is the source of spiritual blessings!  It makes sense to me that even the worldly scientist says that spiritual blessing is love, because we know that 1st John 4:8 says that “God is love.” Jesus is the One who gives us the greatest gift we can have… every spiritual blessing… Love!

You know, I can live without physical needs… like a house or food, for while anyway.   I can survive without emotional needs, I don’t have to be happy.  But, I would say that none of us can fully live the lives that God has for us without embracing the unlimited spiritual need of love — provided by the grace-filled hands of Jesus.

And that gets us back to the Greatest Gifts.  John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” 

Open your hands and receive the first gift of the Season, the Gift of Love, the Gift of Every Spiritual Blessing!

 

God, thank you for the Gift of every spiritual blessing.  Let me receive it with joy. Let me receive Your Love this Season.  And let me give joy and love to others.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


[1] Clinebell, H.J. (1992). Well Being: A Personal Plan for Exploring and Enriching the Seven Dimensions of Life: Mind, Body, Spirit, Love Work, Play, the World. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

(c) 2011 Rich Ronald

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Advent… getting ready.

Advent: The Greatest Gifts of All

Welcome to Advent, the season that welcomes our Lord Jesus and leads up to the celebration of His birth.  This study will take, perhaps, a slightly different slant to the season as we open Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.  Why Ephesians?  Well, you are right to suggest that the book isn’t very “Christmasy.”  There are no stories about trips on donkeys, a baby born in a stable or angels singing outside the window. 

The book of Ephesians mirrors many writings throughout the Bible.  It includes these two main points:

  1. God loves you and has always had a plan for you
  2. And that plan has always included the hope and glory and power and wisdom and love of Jesus our Messiah.

Even if you have never bowed your knee to Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, know that God loves you and has a plan for you.

So, let’s take the month of December, between now and Christmas Day and give Ephesians a closer look. At its core, we’ll discover 25 wonderful gifts God desires to give each one of us.  They are The Greatest Gifts of All.   Are you ready to receive them?

From Ephesians Chapter 1:15-23 (NIV), a prayer for you from Paul.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The very words of God. 

Paul starts this prayer offering thanksgiving for the church.  He asks God to give them all wisdom and revelation so that the church may know God better.  And then Paul prays for their heart… so that they may know His hope, His inheritance and His power!  And then He affirms that that power is the same that raised a dead man to life and in its fullness, is available to us… filling everything in every way.

There will be a new devotional thought each day, beginning tomorrow, December 1st.  So bookmark this page, or subscribe to the receive your daily Advent devotional via the “follow blog via email” button at the right.

The 25 Days of God’s greatest gifts, from the book of Ephesians (chapter and verse in parenthesis):

  1. The gift of every spiritual blessing (1:3)
  2. The gift of being adopted as God’s son or daughter (1:5)
  3. The gift of being sealed with God by the Holy Spirit (1:13)
  4. The free gift of Salvation (2:8)
  5. The gift of work to do at God’s request (2:10)
  6. The gift of being a citizen of Heaven (2:19)
  7. The gift of grace for all ministers, that is everyone who ministers in Jesus’ name, for all believers (3:7)
  8. The gift of boldness and confident access (3:12)
  9. The gift of Jesus dwelling in our hearts (3:17)
  10. The gift of knowing how much Christ loves us (3:19)
  11. The gift of unity (4:4-6)
  12. The gift of grace (4:7)
  13. The gift of learning with a purpose (4:11)
  14. The gift a new self, in the likeness of God (4:24)
  15. The gift of Christ himself, an offering, a sacrifice (5:2)
  16. The gift of encouraging others (5:18-21)
  17. The gift of family (5:22-6:9)
  18. The gift of victory over the enemy (6:10-12)
  19. The gift of weaponry, the belt of truth (6:14)
  20. The gift of weaponry, the breastplate of righteousness (6:14)
  21. The gift of weaponry, the boots of readiness to share the Gospel (6:15)
  22. The gift of weaponry, the shield of faith (6:16)
  23. The gift of weaponry, the helmet of salvation (6:17)
  24. The gift of weaponry, the sword of the Spirit (6:17)
  25. The gift of prayer (6:18)


(c) 2011 Rich Ronald

“Not another test, God?”

When you were a student in school, how did you feel about tests?  Some of you were the super smart students weren’t you?  “Bring ‘em on!” you would say.  But for those of you who are wired like I am, you probably didn’t like tests.  Did you ever not study and then when the prof handed out the exam say a little prayer that evoked the supernatural:  “God, I know I didn’t study for this, but please, guide my pencil.  I need a miracle today.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

What about now?  How do you deal with tests?  I’m referring now to tests of faith.  I’m guessing that you have something on your heart today where you need God to show up?  To the believer, I would say we all do.  Everyday.  Don’t you need God everyday?  Especially today.

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It starts with a clear vision to be more like Jesus.

Have you been to the optometrist lately?  You know that vision test they do… “How is this?  Better or worse?  Fuzzy or clear?” 

Do you have a clear vision or life target?  This isn’t just a question for college students, this is a question for everyone.  What is your vision?  Or, taking a cue from the questioner in a job interview, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

For some this is an easy question to answer.  For others it might be a real challenge.  I’d like to think I’m a man of vision, but I must share with you that, today, I am no where where I thought I’d be five years ago.  God allowed circumstances in my life to reshape my vision to be more what He wanted for me.  And that’s a very good thing.  

We’ve been saying that we want to “be more like Jesus.”  That’s also a very good thing.  But what does that mean?  How do you plan to get from where you are today to that state of being more like Jesus tomorrow?  Does it mean paying closer attention to various spiritual disciplines like prayer?    Does it mean a major life change or a career altering decision?  Does it mean simply extending a loving, grace-filled hand to someone who needs it?

I believe, at its core, “being more like Jesus” comes down to loving your neighbor. 

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The CHURCH has left the Building

Twice a year, the congregation where I serve does an event called “The Church Has Left The Building.”  This coming Sunday is one of those days.  We will meet for a shortened time of praise and worship, then leave to go tackle various service projects in our area. 

Why do we do it on Sunday morning?  Mainly because we know that most of our regular church attenders do not have scheduling conflicts.  It’s been on their calendar for weeks, or years, to go to church on Sunday.  If the event was scheduled on Saturday, practically speaking, it may interfere with sports or other family events.  It’s also a great opportunity to get out and meet people who do not typically attend a church function on Sunday morning.

It’s funny, isn’t it?  Thinking about “the Church Has Left The Building.”  The first time I heard that phrase it caught me off guard.  Isn’t that a paradox, like “jumbo shrimp” ?  Growing up going to church every Sunday, “church” was a place, a building.  We went to Sunday School and then to the service.  But it was all at a location that was about 20 minutes from our home.  And we said we were “going to church.” 

But then, about 15 years ago, my pastor at the time introduced the congregation to “the building” — the four walls and the floor and the ceiling — and he called us, the people in the chairs, “the Church.”  Me?  “The Church?”  God bless Pastor Barry Tucker at Valleyview Church for speaking into our lives and showing every one of us the way Jesus sees us!  By 2011, in this day of “the emerging church” you have probably heard it repeated often: YOU are “the Church.” 

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Giving, and Receiving, the Perfect Gift

I want to talk about gifts and giving.  Yes, I have seen most stores are already setting up Christmas décor.  It’s early October, for goodness sakes!  So, how many of you are done with your shopping?  Most of us enjoy receiving gifts… and I’m thankful that most of the people I know also thoroughly enjoy giving the right gift too. 

Have you ever given the wrong gift?  You know, like giving your wife the “gift” of a new treadmill or a fancy bathroom scale… Not a good idea, guys.  True story: my dad once gave my mom a newfangled “electric broom.”  I think it was for Christmas in 1969.  A great lesson learned for me, at the young age of 10 years old: never get anything for your wife that has anything to do with making the work she does around the house easier as a, insert air quote marks, “gift.”  Vacuum cleaners.  Water-infused-mops.  Carpet steamers.  Something that makes it easier to do laundry…. Nope.  That’s the wrong kind of “gift.”  It kindof says that they need help doing their job… So if they need it to do a better job, just buckle down and buy it. Don’t wrap it up.  Don’t wait for a special holiday.  God bless my dad for trying, but giving the “gift” of the equivelant of cleaning supplies is just not a “gift.”

At least that’s what I took away from the conversation that followed once the wrapping paper and bows landed on the floor.  So, I have adamantly refused to ever give my wife a vacuum cleaner as  a gift… and I’ve taught my kids the same thing.

Have you ever given the right gift?  The perfect gift?  I’ve heard of many people scoring on that one… a piece of jewelry, a vacation, a handmade quilt…

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Act like Jesus?

What does it mean to “Act” like Jesus?

Do you like to act?  When I was growing up, my middle name was “Ham.”  I have always loved to get in front of a camera or get up on stage and pretend to be someone. 

What child doesn’t like dress up?  We were in a home last week and their 8 year old has this wall of bins in his bedroom that are organized around costumes.

I’ve studied acting and, in fact, for the past several years I teach drama on my day off.   Each semester there are about 15 elementary students and 30 junior and senior high school students that are learning how to act.  We play games like tic-tac-toe stage direction with the younger kids and improv and mime with the older ones.  We put on stage plays and musicals.

At its core, I believe drama is about being creative. And in the drama classes I teach, we celebrate that God is the Creator and creativity is His gift. 

So, when we are encouraged to “act” like Jesus, is it merely a show?  Is it merely pretending? I hope not…

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