Tagged: Encouragement

Wenceslas, Stephen, Boxing Day, and Gift Returns

What do a Czech duke from the 10th century, the first Christian martyr, a British public holiday, and a crazy rush to return unwanted gifts to the store… have in common?

They all happen on the day after Christmas!

  • Known for his unusual charitable lifestyle as a wealthy man, “Good King” Wenceslas went outside on an unbearably cold day to bless a poor man on December 26… at least that’s what the Christmas carol reports!
  • Stephen was the first Christ-follower to lose his life for preaching the gospel of salvation. Celebrated in many countries and church traditions with a variety of customs, the feast of St. Stephen falls on December 26.
  • Boxing Day in the United Kingdom is a public holiday with roots in the 17th century. Servants and tradesmen required to work on Christmas for nobility were given the day off on December 26, often with a “Christmas box” of cash and small gifts.
  • And then December 26 is that day when America heads to the stores (or the Post Office) to return or exchange gifts… unwanted or duplicated Christmas gifts! With thousands headed out to stand in long lines, the retail success of the day hinges on how early the store opens and how deeply the after-Christmas sales slash prices.

Four streams of tradition flowing on one day, together drawing attention to the capacity of the human heart to give and to receive… to sacrifice or to be self-absorbed. What makes the difference?

Or better, WHO makes the difference?

That man or woman who hears about Jesus, then meets Jesus, and then follows Jesus by faith… that one has a different heart… a heart that beats in union with His heart.

December 26 is no ordinary day… but it should be. There’s nothing wrong with returning a gift. But as you make contact with others today, thank God you have a gift to return… and gifts still to give.

  • The gift of a smile.
  • The gift of a kind word.
  • The gift of a patient manner.
  • The gift of encouragement to a harried worker, who has to serve you today.

It may be the day after Christmas, but His birth was not the end of His mission. It was just the beginning. He not only came to inhabit our world.

He came to inhabit you.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23, 25

Estimating the Value of a Human Soul

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

Her words have stayed with me for all of my adult life. I was 18 years old. As a second-time guest at a Bible study, the youth pastor’s wife introduced me to several other kids by saying, “This is Don – he is a really neat guy – you need to get to know him!”

Me? A “really neat guy”?

What she did was esteem me before others. She expressed a value for me that I did not even possess for myself. By introducing me to others as a valuable, worthy person, she used the occasion as an opportunity to exercise love.

She determined my worth and value by the way she talked about me. This is the essence of the word “honor.”

Most of us in the church family are more conscious of our personal “ugliness” than anyone will ever know. We beat ourselves up and often come to church beaten by the world. Should church be a place that adds to our sense of failure and insecurity?

Of course not! Honor someone with value and affirmation today. A kind word and a smile. A hug and a warm embrace. A note or a quick phone call. Any soul Jesus died for was a soul of eternal worth and value to Him. We are not flattering people: we are establishing their true worth in the sight of God.

Why should we value others any less than He did?

People: God’s Penny Jars

Romans 14:19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

I use to have a penny jar at home… not any more. Let me tell you what happened. Day by day I used to empty my pocket change into my penny jar, but as my kids got older, I noticed the level of saved change began going down! While I was adding to the jar regularly, someone else (I will not name names) was taking my contributions away — the result? No more change for emergency Big Mac attacks!

That really captures what Paul is dealing with in Romans 14. God is building a bride for His Son and we are very much a part of the process. In the church we are called to “edify” or build each other up — not to tear each other down. The way we speak to each other and the way we treat each other adds to what God is doing or detracts from it.

So pretend the church today is like a great, big penny jar for God. Every day He adds to our lives as we read His Word and spend time alone with Him in prayer. With a deep affection, He encourages us, guides us, corrects us — whatever it takes to build us up into a mature, godly lover of Jesus Christ. The level in the penny jar is raised daily as we walk with Him.

And as we come to interact with other members of His family, He intends that the building continue. But does it? Or do we take away from what God is doing in others? In every conversation I have a decision to make: will I add to this person’s life or not? Worse yet: am I going to pilfer what God has stored up in this person? Sound like an odd concept? Consider the range of decisions we can consciously make when we encounter a brother or sister in Christ. Some quick examples…

  • In general conversation: am I going to speak about my needs or focus on encouraging someone else?
  • When I hear of a brother’s failure or weakness: am I going to spread damaging information about him or be graciously silent?
  • When we disagree: am I going to argue my position or listen to your heart?

Every member of my family needs my contribution to his or her life. God made us that way — and I need your contribution too!

Let’s stop pilfering from the “penny jar of God” in the hearts of others. Let’s start emptying pockets of kindness into each other’s lives. Let’s do it today!