A Giving Competition

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15

A television commercial I enjoy at Christmastime shows two neighbors in a friendly competition with each other to see who can spread the most Christmas cheer. Each keeps an eye on the other as he decorates his house and trees with lights. Then each upgrades his own property to look better than the other’s. They then start competing over who can give the most extravagantly to other neighbors, running around cheerfully sharing gifts.

God’s people aren’t in a competition to see who can give the most, but we are called to be “ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:18). The apostle Paul instructed the church at Corinth: “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

At Christmastime, as we share gifts with others, we remember the generosity of God toward us—He gave us His Son. Ray Stedman said, “Jesus set aside His riches and entered into His creation in a state of poverty in order to enrich us all by His grace.”

No gift-giving could ever compete with the Lord’s extravagance. We thank God for the indescribable gift of Jesus! (v.15).

No gift is greater than the gift of Christ Himself.

The Good And The Bad

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

The Lord God prepared a plant [for] shade . . . [and] a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.
Jonah 4:6-7

The story of the rebellious prophet Jonah shows us how God desires to use both blessings and trials to challenge us and change us for the better. Five times in the book of Jonah it says that the Lord prepared circumstances for him—both good and bad.

In Jonah 1:4 we read that the Lord sent a storm. It says He “sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea.” After the mariners discovered that Jonah was the reason for this storm, they threw him overboard (1:15). Then God “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah” to save him from drowning (1:17).

Later in the book we read that “the Lord God prepared a plant” to shade Jonah (4:6). Then we see that God prepared a worm to kill the vine as well as a scorching wind and sun to beat down upon him (4:7-9). These circumstances were used to reveal Jonah’s rebellious attitude. Only after that revelation could God directly confront Jonah’s heart problem.

As we face different situations, we should remember that God is sovereign over both the blessings and the troubles that come our way. He desires to use everything to build our character (James 1:1-5). He uses both good and bad to transform us and guide us on our journey.

The Maker of the universe
Knows every need of man,
And made provision for that need
According to His plan. —Crane
The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the Lord.

Serious Fear

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.
Luke 2:10

After weeks of preparation by the children’s choir, the night had finally arrived for our annual Christmas musical in 1983. The costumed children began filing into the auditorium when suddenly we heard a ruckus at the back door. My wife and I turned to look and saw our own little Matt. Sobbing loudly and with a look of sheer terror on his face, he had a death grip on the door handle. He refused to enter the auditorium. After much negotiating, the director finally told him he didn’t have to go on stage. Instead, Matt sat with us, and soon his fears began to subside.

Although we don’t usually identify Christmas as a time of fear, there was plenty of it on the night of Christ’s birth. Luke says, “Behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Luke 2:9). The sight of the angelic messenger was more than the shepherds could process. But the angel reassured them: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (v.10).

In a world full of fear, we need to remember that Jesus came to be the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). We desperately need His peace. As we look to Him, He will ease our fears and calm our hearts.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings. —Wesley
God incarnate is the end of fear. —F. B. Meyer