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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Day 4 - Ministry Gifts

Day 4: Ministry Gifts
(Loving God With Our Strength)

Meditation (3-5 Minutes)

Begin by being still before God.  Read Colossians 1:17 and meditate on the words.

Colossians 1:17 (NIV)
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

1)    Be still and know he is God. 

2)    Think about your life.
a)    What is it like?
b)    What is causing you stress?
c)    What are you grateful for?

3)    Think about the words, “He is before all things.”
a)    Your father knows everything you are going through.
b)    He was there before you, preparing the way.
c)    Think about a difficult time in your past.  Do you now understand that God was before you throughout the ordeal?
d)    Take a moment to bask in the relief of God’s promise to be “before all things.”

4)    Think about the words, “In him all things hold together.”
a)    Are you “in him?” 
b)    If so, everything in your life will “hold together” and improve your personal ministry. 
c)    Think about a difficult time in your past.  Has that “held together” and made you stronger?
d)    Take a moment to bask in the relief of God’s promise that “all things will hold together.”

Prayer (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Ask God to speak to you during this devotional time.

2)    Requests of the Christ Child (Appendix 1):
a)    Ask for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas.
b)    Ask for understanding…
i)    Understanding for how your life is “holding Together.”
ii)    Understanding of what is happening around you.
c)    Ask for wisdom…
i)    Wisdom to know how to respond to your circumstances.
ii)    Wisdom to be able to fulfill your personal ministry this Christmas.
d)    Turn to Appendix 1: pray and update.

3)    Gifts from the Christ Child (Appendix 2):
a)    Think about the practical Christmas gifts you have received. 
b)    How did they help you fulfill you personal ministries or calling?
c)    Praise God for them.
d)    Turn to Appendix 2: pray and update.

4)    Gifts to the Christ Child (Appendix 3):
i)    Do you plan to give any practical gifts this year?
ii)    How will they help the people you will give them to?
iii)    Pray that these gifts will serve God’s purpose.
iv)    Turn to Appendix 3: pray and update.

5)    Ask God for knowledge of his will for you this Christmas and the power to carry it out. 

6)    Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Bible Study (10-15 Minutes)

As humans, we were formed to serve God.  Each of us has a role of service on earth.  Much of this service may seem insignificant until we understand how all things hold together.  As Christians, we are to turn our entire lives over to God.  Occasionally, God calls us to dramatic or great things.  More often, our calling is to perform every day tasks for the Glory of God. 

God expects us to wake up every morning asking for knowledge of His will for that day and the power to carry it out.  God will grant us this knowledge and the power to fulfill our purpose.  If we are pursuing our purpose, God ordains each of the tasks we do throughout the day.  These tasks will hold together and form a tapestry that mysteriously and wondrously ministers to the world around us.  We minister as we live our lives. 

Background Scripture

Read Colossians 1:9-12.  We are to ask God to fill us with the knowledge of his will through all_____________.  (Write your answer in your journal.) 

We pray for knowledge of his will so we can live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.  Through the ordinary tasks of our lives, we bear fruit and grow in ______________.  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Our strength comes from God as he blesses us with “all power according to his glorious might.”  What comes from this strength?  ___________ and ___________.  (Write your answer in your journal.)  Take a moment to praise the Father, who has qualified you to “Share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of Light.”

Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-5.  Jesus’ work on earth was complete.  Write his prayer in verse 4 (in your journal). 

Are you working towards completing the work given to you?  (Write your answer in your journal.)

Write Jesus’ prayer in verse 5 (in your journal).  Ask that you be glorified in God’s presence. 

Many of the gifts we receive at Christmas facilitate our ability to complete the work God gives us.  God goes before us in all things and plans what we need.  Our gifts “hold together” and enable us to fulfill our ministries.  Like Jesus, we glorify God by completing the work he gave us to do.  Ministry gifts help people complete their work on earth.

Ministry Gift: Fountain Pen

Cecil grew up in a home with seven children.  The family did not have much money for Christmas.  On Christmas morning, each child got a stocking.  This stocking contained all of their Christmas gifts.  Each stocking had an apple, orange, and some pressed Christmas Candy.  “Our mouth watered for that candy as we tried to fall asleep on Christmas Eve,” Cecil reported.  “We were allowed to pick one twenty-five cent and one ten cent toy to go in our stockings.” 

“Did you have a favorite gift?”  I wondered. 

“I always asked for a fountain pen.  You could get a wonderful fountain pen and pencil set for twenty-five cents.  I used my pen all year in school.  I was able to help my brothers and sisters with my pen and pencil.”  While pens are essential to our everyday life, many of us take fountain pens for granted.  There are always plenty to use.  If we forget one, we can ask someone to loan us one.  We casually leave them on counters or walk off with ones that belong to others.  We find several at the bottom of old and discarded purses. 

Would we be so careless with our pens if we could only have one?  I have a vision of a tiny Cecil, 65 years ago, feeling blessed to have his very own fountain pen.  How he must have treasured and cared for that fountain pen.  “Did you ever lose it?” I asked. 

“No,” Cecil answered.  “I took it with me everywhere.” 

Cecil is not completely practical.  He also has a playful side.  “For my ten cents gift, I always asked for a toy.  My favorite was a toy monkey that climbed a stick.” 

Ministry Gifts: Shoeboxes Filled With Soap

Our church has a ministry for migrant workers and their children.  Many fill shoeboxes with gifts for the children.  The gifts they appreciate most are the ones that are the practical.  They love soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and deodorants. 

Most of us take these practical items for granted.  We travel and stay at hotels.  We casually open a bar of soap or bottle of shampoo and use only part of the contents.  The children open these shoebox treasures and use all of the contents.  When a bottle of shampoo is empty, they probably fill it with water to take advantage of all of the contents of this bottle. 

These children are not completely practical.  They giggle and glow as they play with the toys in the shoeboxes. 

Ministry Gift: China

Grace has always loved Christmas.  She grew up in a Christian home that made a big deal out of Christmas.  One gift that stood out to her was dishes.  It is interesting that this gift cost her parents nothing but time and effort.  Grace married right after the war.  It is traditional to give china as wedding gifts but because of the war, stores could not get china.  They sold redeemable certificates for when the china was available.  Grace got china certificates at most of her wedding showers. 

“Since the store had the phone number of my parents, they got the call when the china finally arrived.  They had the certificates.  Instead of calling me, they went to the store and redeemed all of the certificates.  They wrapped the china and put it under the tree for me.  I was thrilled on Christmas morning when I opened my china.”  Grace received this gift twice, once at her wedding showers and once at Christmas.  “I loved it both times.”

Grace’s parents ministered to Grace by doing an errand that would have taken Grace’s time.  They ministered to her spirit by using this errand to surprise her and make her feel treasured.  Grace uses the china to serve people in her home. 

Grace is also not completely practical.  She also loves getting gold jewelry and gold accessories at Christmas. 

Ministry Gifts: A Warning

There is a word of caution about giving ministry gifts.  Not everyone appreciates them.  People that enjoy ministry gifts tend to be practical or in need.  Ministry gifts may include things like blenders, vacuum cleaners, irons, and mops.  One woman complained, “My family only gives these gifts so I can do more work.”

If you are very practical, you may tend to give practical gifts yourself.  Be sure your gifts model the receiver’s preferences and not your own.  Gifts are for the Christ Child and not for us.  The Christ Child came to meet the needs and even the wants of his children.  Make sure you are following his model as you give your gifts.

Read Hebrews 13:20-21.  If we ask, God will equip us with what we need to fulfill the ministries of our lives.  At Christmas, we have the opportunity to give gifts that help people fulfill their personal ministries. 

Application (5-10 Minutes)

1)    Making It Personal
a)    Do you know what your ministry purpose is this Christmas?  How are you ministering to the people around you in the ordinary tasks of your day?  (Write your answer in your journal.)
b)    List any gifts you could ask family members for that would assist with your ministry.  (Write your answer in your journal.)
c)    Pray for the ministries of people around you.  Ask God to show you ways to make their lives and ministries easier and more effective. 

2)    Praying Continuously  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
a)    As you go through your day, look for people helping others.  Be sure to notice the simplest things.  Notice the tools they use to help.  Praise God for the people and the tools you observe.
b)    Ask God to send you three ways to help other people today. 
c)    Take the opportunities God hands you.  These opportunities may be simple or complicated.
d)    Communicate your gift needs in 1b above to a family member or a friend. 

3)    Ending The Day
a)    Did you carry out your daily tasks to the Glory of God?  If not, confess.
b)    Did you minister to those around you?  If not, confess. 
c)    Thank God for the ministers in your life.
d)    Ask God to provide the tools you need to fulfill your ministry this Christmas.

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