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December 6

To Give or to Receive

 Near the close of his words of exhortation to the Ephesus elders recorded by Luke in Acts 20, the apostle Paul reminded them of something Jesus once said:

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Acts 20:35

I love to give gifts. I love the reaction of unexpected gifts, so I enjoy giving even if it is not a special occasion such as a birthday, wedding, or Christmas. I buy gifts all during the year when I see something that reminds me of someone. Sometimes I save the gifts for a special occasion and sometimes I give it to the person right then.

I enjoy receiving gifts and I am grateful for them, but I don’t get really excited. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have been really excited in my entire life. You might describe me as a flatliner and that would be fairly accurate. It is not that I don’t appreciate them, I do. I just don’t squeal with delight as others do.

Things changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and began the battle. I learned that it is better to receive sometimes than to give. I received so much love from so many people and in so many ways that I was overwhelmed. I learned to receive cards and prayers on a daily basis. I learned to receive acts of kindness when I looked like I might not make it through the day. I learned to receive baked goodies and food made with love when I did not want to eat at all. I learned to receive the help of my family and friends when I needed it most. I learned to RECEIVE.

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[Photo by Michelle on Unsplash]

Isn’t that what God asked us to do when He sent His Son at Christmas? God asked us to receive His most important gift of all time. Have you received God’s gift of His only begotten Son?

Dear God, as we go through the season of Advent buying gifts and preparing for the birth of Christ, help us to remember to receive Your Gift, Lord, and cherish it always. Amen.

Dianna Smith

Additional readings: Mark 2:17, John 13:8, Romans 5:17, 1Peter 4:10

December 20

[Five days until Christmas. Is your joy increasing? Today, John Piper’s devotional connects with me on a personal level. Hope it does with you too. Read December 20 and then the post.]

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:11

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping – the indescribable gift – as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our rejoicing in God.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 64*

Is Jesus’s gift of reconciliation sitting unopened in your life?

One way to tell if the gift lies dormant, is the level of joy you have in knowing Him. Do you consider Him the best gift you’ve ever received?

For years after receiving His gift of grace, surrendered, walking with Him to the utmost of the faith I’d been given… I wondered: Where’s the joy? It’s promised, but it wasn’t something I felt.

Opening the gift of Jesus can be a long journey and requires a willingness to accept the depth of your own sin and your need for Him. It takes a continued life of obedience to what you know of Him. I can tell you today, after persistent pursuit, the gift is worth the opening.

Whatever spiritual work He calls you to do, whatever may seem dangerous and makes you vulnerable to others through confession and stepping out of your comfort zone, whatever He calls you to let go of, it is all part of the process of opening the gift of reconciliation. Tearing away the lies the world has bound around your heart, laying down self for what He says is best…

This my friends, is the way to open the gift. And, Oh my! the joy I have today is indescribable. I often call it ridiculous. Because it just makes no sense. But OH! what a gift.

Father God, today I pray for all those who have not yet opened the gift of reconciliation through Jesus. Prepare their hearts to hear Your Spirit reveal truth about who You are and who they are before You. Bless them with the faith to surrender and obey. Bless them with the humility to fully receive and open the gift of Jesus. Amen.

 [Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

December 4

[Today’s post follows the reading of the December 4 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper.]

Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Open your heart to receive the best present imaginable: Jesus giving himself to die for you and to serve you all the rest of eternity. Receive this. Turn away from self-help and sin. Become like little children. Trust him. Trust him. Trust him with your life.

– John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, page 22*

Have you ever considered Jesus as one who serves you? What does it mean to you?

How can relying on yourself keep Him from helping you?

And sin. What sins do you find more appealing than Christ serving you?

Father God, You care for Your children in so many ways. Open my heart to embrace my need for You. Open my mind to understand trusting You means letting You serve me through Jesus. Grow me to be Your obedient child.

[Feature Image Photo on blog by Greg Weaver on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

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December 2

[Remember, the offering here is to be read after the December 2 devotional in The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.]

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

John 5:44

If there is a longing in your heart this Advent for something that the world has not been able to satisfy, might not this longing be God’s Christmas gift preparing you to see Christ as consolation and redemption and to receive him for who he really is?

–John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joypage 17*

What is your heart longing for this Advent season? the things of man? or the things of God?

Consider dissatisfaction in your heart. Could it be your Christmas gift from God to turn your heart toward the one true Gift of Advent?

Father God, show me where I continue to hope in the things of the world for my own glory rather than seeking Yours. Show me how to fully open the Gift of grace and experience the indestructible joy of the freedom and forgiveness found in Him.

[Feature Image Photo seen on blog by Ben White on Unsplash]

*© 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.