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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Dominion of Gift

All is gift.

The two greatest works of God are creation and redemption. Both are undeserved, unearned, and un-asked for. Both are givens. Both are gifts. Both gifts establish ways of life that had not previously existed.

More gift than the sun is the Son, and more than breath is His blood, and more than fruit is the indwelling Spirit, and all the good is gift. The central event in human history is gift, from Christ’s coming and through His crucifixion and resurrection. The nature of God is that of generous giver. Paul argues in Romans 8 that if the Father has given His Son, how will He not with the Son graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

These past two-thousand years of church history are a record of how the gospel of Jesus Christ has been leavening the lump of the world. I am not a post-millennialist for a number of reasons, but this does not deny the greater work of God’s gift in Jesus Christ, in the gospel, that has been and is changing the world.

Gift reigns At least we can say that God reigns, who gifted His Son. We can say that Jesus reigns, who gave Himself and then gifts His people with the gift of justification, the gift of sanctification, the gift of His Spirit. Jesus Christ is Dominus, Lord, and His new dominion is a dominion of gift.

From Him and through Him and to Him are all gifts (per Romans 11:36). What do we do with this? We say, Amen! We believe. We receive the gift by faith (as we receive the gift of faith itself), eating and drinking and proclaiming His death until He advents again.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Giving Delight

We always do what we most want to do. That’s not to say we don’t have competing wants, but the strongest want wins. That means that we always sow what we most want to sow, and if we reap what we sow, then we always get the harvest we were working for.

So what do you want to reap?

This is the final exhortation for #NoDisorderedContentmentDecember. It relates, as have the others, to a common advent/Christmas activity: giving. Think of gifts as seeds, and so which kind of reward to you want for sowing presents?

There is an invisible law that governs rewards. Jesus applied it to those who give to the needy with the motivation “that they may be praised by others.” Want to be seen and have others say nice things about you? That’s easy. “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:2). But that’s a lesser contentment.

There is a greater reward, a better harvest, a higher level of joy available. That belongs to those who give, and in this specific case, give in secret, “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). Of course Jesus’ teaching doesn’t require anonymity all the time, it requires the heart’s highest order of contentment in pleasing the Father.

So presents can be given in pretense, a false display of feelings. Gifts can be given with strings attached, gifting that obligates rather than frees the other up to enjoy.

Give because it’s a delight, and you will know delight from beginning to end. Give as a demand, and you will find it demands more of you than anyone else.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Wrapped with Ribbon

I am fond of saying that there are a lot of ways to mess things up. Gift-giving is one of those subjects that falls under such a proverbial tree. Let’s say that there are four kinds of ribbon you can use to wrap your gifts, and only one of them is well-received.

Three kinds of ribbons stick to your fingers. First is giving wrapped in guilt. You feel like you must give because that’s the “tradition,” or you must give because the other person gave you something last year and it was better or nicer than what you gave him. Or you give because you just haven’t been around or you haven’t been kind to that person, or your kid. The present functions as a kind of payment.

Second is giving wrapped in fear. You are worried about what that person is going to think about you if you don’t give or depending on what you give. Or you are worried that they won’t give you something nice if you don’t give them something nice. Or you are afraid (parents) that you will ruin their idea of Christmas for years to come if you don’t make it special.

Third is giving wrapped in self-righteousness and pride. This may be the worst because it often looks like a different color on the top of the ribbon whereas guilt and fear show quickly. This gift-giving terrorist knows how to wait. He gives to be given back to, not in terms of a gift but in terms of recognition and appreciation. She counts how many days it takes for the thank-you card to arrive. This is grab-giving, taking by giving.

The last is giving wrapped in love. It is free, glad, and humble, It seeks to make happy, not to fulfill an obligation or to make a requirement. This is true giving, the only kind with no strings attached.

We have many opportunities to give and be given to, especially around this time of year, and there are a lot of ways to sin. By God’s grace we can repent, and we can also get His grace to help us do it right.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Grasping and Grabbing

If one of the central sins in the heart of man is grabbiness (and it is), then what would be the best solution?

When the kids can’t wait to rip open the twelfth present before they’ve finished opening the seventh, what do responsible parents do? They calm everyone down with a grapefruit face, then make a mental note that next year no kid get more than six presents. Actually, they don’t need any.

When a greedy man gathers as much as he can, hoarding it away not just for himself but away from others, how would we counsel him? We’d say he’s wrong because having more doesn’t guarantee happiness. Look around.

When a critical woman complains and lost her gratitude in the back of the pantry months ago, how would we help her? Similar to the above, we’d probably tell her that she’s not looking hard enough, and, if she did, then she would realize it isn’t as bad as it could be and, that it turns out she has plenty of good.

I’m not saying that self-control or training your kids to have self-control is bad, nor am I saying that mammon gluttony and whiners don’t need an attitude adjustment. But when we see how God responds to grasping, grabbing men, we see that He gave.

To save us from our selfishness God gave His Son as a sacrifice and His Spirit as our strength. Greed is overcome by a superior satisfaction not by trying to gut desire. God so loved the world, which He saw enslaved to grabbiness, that He gave the spotless Lamb. Law doesn’t change man’s heart, grace does, and from Christ’s fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.