Advent Day 16, The Gift of Encouragement

December 16

The Gift of Encouragement

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

When you feel a need for encouragement, how do you get it?  Do you call someone special?  Do you exercise or paint or play a game with your son or daughter?  How about singing or dancing or just watching a play or a movie? Or maybe it’s just connecting with a good friend over coffee or tossing a ball to your dog.

We all need encouragement from time to time, don’t we?

Today’s gift is what I see to be the Gift of Encouragement.  It’s probably just the way I’m wired, but I see encouragement all through the paragraph that begins with Verse 18 of Chapter 5: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV)

Within the past year or so I took a spiritual connection assessment.  It asked a series of questions about how one connects with God.  Some people connect with God best by being out in nature; some in quiet solitude.  For me, my strongest connection with God is in worship.  I love to worship and sing my heart out and I love those musicians who lead worship and so skillfully take us to a place of complete adoration of God.  And truly, when one is fully immersed in worship, I can understand how Paul connects it with being drunk.   And I see this as a gift of encouragement in that he says “to speak to one another with psalms…”

The Psalms are a fabulous source of encouragement. Many are David’s personal journal entries.  I can so relate to David.   Often he begins a Psalm, such as Psalm 69, with a cry: “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life!  I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold… I am weary with my crying… I wait for my God…” And then, as he journals and writes and ponders the greatness of God’s blessings through the next several verses, more than likely in song, the Holy Spirit takes him to a place of adoration at the conclusion: Verse 34: “Let heaven and earth praise Him!”

May I encourage you to encourage one another, through the words of the Psalms, or through other places of Scripture?  Write them out as prayers and give them to one another… and encourage one another.

That is the true Gift of Encouragement!  God gave us His word, filled with songs of blessings.  Yes, you can read them yourself. However, isn’t it great when God gives you a word of Scripture that he wants you to share with someone else?  Or he directs someone to a specific passage and they write it down and give it to you?  This is how the body is built up. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, answered the call of her destiny with a song and a word of encouragement.  Following her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and as she met with her cousin Elizabeth — who was also supernaturally pregnant, carrying her son, John the Baptizer — Mary quotes the Old Testament song of Hannah from 1st Samuel 2. 

“I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation.  Nothing and no one is holy like God…” (1 Samuel 2: 1-2, The Message)

The words of both Mary and Hannah!  That is sheer joy and encouragement all in one!  May you receive this gift, and be available to give this gift to others, during this Advent season.

Father God, thank you for those who encourage me when I need to be encouraged.  Thank you for blessing me with every spiritual blessing.  May I be both a giver and a receiver this Advent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 15, the Gift of Christ, an offering, a sacrifice

December 15

The gift of Christ himself, an offering, a sacrifice

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Do you know that “smell” is one of the senses that can trigger a very specific memory?  I still remember the smell of our new, plastic telephones in our brand new home in 1967.  Can you remember your grandmother’s perfume?   Or how about the leather smell of the saddle of your first horse or new car?  A certain flower?   A visit to a different country?  Bombay, India in late June has a different smell than the moutains of Switzerland in the spring time. 

What is the most pleasant fragrance you’ve ever smelled? 

One year at Bibletimes Marketplace, our children’s summer Bible school event, one of the workshop leaders talked about the fragrance of the burnt offerings by the Old Testament priests.  He took some seasonings, popular in the Middle East, like cumin and paprika, and mixed in some rosemary plants and rose petals, and threw it in a fire.  What a beautiful and amazing aroma it was!  And you can imagine the additional flavor similar to smoked brisket as the carcasses of bulls or rams were offered to the Lord.  The Bible suggests that such fragrant offerings were pleasing to the Lord God. 

Today’s Gift if the gift of Christ himself.

Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

Paul writes that Christ loved us so much, he gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 

It’s hard for most of us to get our hands around the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son, and that such an offering, a sacrifice, was pleasing to God.

There are two things to think about here as it relates to the sacrifice of Jesus.  The first is that a true sacrifice is one that is offered by oneself.  In the Old Testament, Leviticus Chapter 1 has certain rules about offering a sacrifice.  The first is this:  when a man offered bulls or birds, Leviticus says he did the actual killing himself.  And then, he gave the slain animal to the priest.  There is a reason for that.  You must offer your own sacrifice to identify with the killing of life. 

The second rule from Leviticus as it relates to sacrifice is that the one making the offering is to skin the animal and give the meat to the priest to burn.  But the skin is offered to the priest to keep as a robe.   This is so significant!  God had to kill and skin an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness in Genesis, Chapter 3… to cover their sinfulness.  In the same way, the offering, the sacrifice of Christ, clothes us in righteousness.   God doesn’t see our sin when He looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus, clothing us in a garment of praise, with a beautiful aroma, that is pleasing to the Lord our God.

So, this gift of Christ himself, an offering, a sacrifice… is, indeed, the Greatest of All Gifts. 

Receive this gift today… the gift of our Lord Jesus!

Father God, I give my heart to Jesus today!  Thank you for this most wonderful Gift.  Thank you for the sacrifice He gave to clothe me in His righteousness.  May my life give off the sweet aroma of the love of Jesus to everyone I meet today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald