Monday, January 20 – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) Your problem is that you think this whole life thing is about arriving. Working for the weekend. Accomplishing that next big goal. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Life, according to the example that we have in Jesus, is about becoming. If anyone ever had the right to “arrive” it was Jesus. Yet, he chose a life of becoming. A life of learning and growing. A journey to become all that he was created to become. He is our example and your life, my life, all of our lives, are to emulate his. Jesus wasn’t a master musician. Jesus wasn’t a journeyman electrician. Jesus wasn’t a sculptor or a CEO or an entrepreneur. Jesus was Jesus. He stayed in his lane, stayed at his post and worked to be the best Jesus he could be. He had talents, just like you and me and he used his talents to serve God and the world, just like you and me. He simply lived, learned and grew in his relationship with God and others. He stayed at his post, no matter what.
Tuesday, January 21 – “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’” (Acts 1:7) If you have a party and someone brings you a gift, but you are so busy mingling with everyone at the party that you never open the gift, have you really received a gift? A gift never opened, isn’t truly a gift. It is a two-part transaction. A gift must be both given and opened. It doesn’t matter how “well-intentioned” your distraction was or how “important” the other matter was that kept you from opening your gift. A gift never opened is a gift never received. A gift never received is a waste, for someone put a great deal of care into giving you the gift in the first place. Today, we have the words of Jesus telling us that we can stop worrying about “times or dates the Father has set”. You will never know God’s big picture, so you can stop being distracted and open the gift that God has given you. Don’t miss out on opportunities to use your talents simply because you are pursuing things for which you will never know.
Wednesday, January 22 – “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” (Matthew 25:14) Speaking of things that we will never understand. Try this one on for size. God uses humans to carry out his will here on earth. You and I are part of God’s plan of salvation and redemption. In fact, God has created you and gifted you with specific talents in order to bring about his plan of salvation and redemption for the world. You probably thought that you were simply here by accident, taking up space, with no direction or purpose. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. You are a part of God’s master plan and he has created you and gifted you with specific talents for such a time as this. Your one and only job in life is to grow in wisdom and stature and be the best you that you can be. What talents do you have? How can you use those talents today to bring about the salvation of Jesus for the world? How can you use your talents to contribute a verse to God’s redemptive plan for creation?
Thursday, January 23 – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) In this world we see gifts as a way for us to get paid. Athletic gifts, use them to get rich. Artistic gifts, use them to get rich. Business gifts, use them to get rich. In fact, our culture has taught us that if it can’t make you money it really isn’t a gift. Compassion, grace, teaching and benevolence, just to name a few, aren’t seen in our world as gifts. God defines gifts as anything that we have received in order to “serve others” and administer “God’s grace in its various forms”. God doesn’t desire for you to use whatever gift you have received in order to get paid. God doesn’t mind if you get paid because of a gift you have received, just as long as you don’t forget the real reason for God giving you gifts in the first place. You are good at whatever you are good at in order to serve others and administer God’s grace. If you can be that and get paid, more power to ya!
Friday, January 24 – “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:15) You have a light that God has given you. This light was given in order to shine. In order for light to truly be light, it needs to be seen. A light never seen is a light never shown. A light never shown is darkness. God has given you talents in order for you to use them in service to others and to administer God’s grace. The gifts you possess are exactly what someone is out there seeking right now. Your light is the light that they are seeking. If you don’t let it shine, they will never see it. Don’t be shy. Don’t be fooled into thinking that someone else will come along and shine their light. Open the gift that God has given you and let your light shine for everyone to see. Use your talents to make this world a better place. What you have been given is exactly what someone today is seeking.
Monday, January 27 – “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7) It is popular these days to talk about the Hindu and Buddhist concept of “karma”. Or, you reap what you sow. This is one of those points of agreement between world religions, minus the Hindu and Buddhist concepts of reincarnation, as it relates to karma. The concept of reaping what one sows has nothing to do with God punishing anyone. It has everything to do with the fact that your life will be directly impacted by how you live said life. Eat poorly, drink heavily, treat people horribly and you will be “rewarded” in your life accordingly. Likewise, eat a well-balanced diet, avoid drunkenness and treat people as you would want to be treated and you will be “rewarded” in your life accordingly. You might think that you are getting away with something right now, but hear these words – you will reap what you sow!
Tuesday, January 28 – “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” (Proverbs 3:9) God doesn’t hate rich people. God’s struggle is with rich people who worship their money instead of worshipping him. You can be rich and in God’s good graces. Us Americans must believe this because no other culture has experienced financial success like we have. The poorest American is rich in comparison to a vast number of people in the world. So, how do us rich people stay in God’s good graces? We give God all the glory and credit for our wealth. We do this not only with our words, but also with our deeds. We give to God from our abundance, not from what is left over. We are generous in our giving because that is who we are in Christ. We aren’t reluctant givers at the end of the month once everything else is taken care of. The former honors God with their wealth. The latter honors everything else but God with their wealth.
Wednesday, January 29 – “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24) There is a fine line that all of us must walk when it comes to using our treasures in the service of God. We don’t give in order to receive. It would be very easy to read our Proverb for today as an investment strategy. If I give money I will receive even more money in return, so it is good business to give away money. The problem is that money is to giving like a cough is to a cold. It is merely a symptom of some other underlying cause. Giving is a matter of your heart, which is an indication of who you are. If your heart, who you are, is not giving for the right reasons, it negates the power of giving. We don’t give because we have to or because we want to receive something. We give because that is who we are. We give because we have already received more than we could ever deserve or imagine.
Thursday, January 30 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Let’s not fool ourselves by trying to pretend that money isn’t important. A wise man once said, “I have been rich and I have been poor and rich is so much better!” Again, any conversation about God and treasure isn’t a conversation about money. It is a conversation about your heart, about who you are. I am sure you don’t have to spend too much time contemplating where your heart is today. The question for you is if you are willing to be honest about where your heart is and if you are willing to invite God in to transform your heart? Money is the easiest and the hardest place to start working with God. It is the easiest in the sense that it is right there and it is something that you can start working on immediately. It is the hardest because how you use your money reveals your heart and sometimes you won’t like what it reveals.
Friday, January 31 – “The King will reply, ’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40) When it comes to your treasures, you do what you do, you give what you give, not to churches or people or ministries, but to God. Yes, you are to use discretion and discernment when it comes to your giving; but if you are being led to give than give freely and completely without judgment. Don’t give expecting to keep control of what you have given. Give because you saw a need and God led you to fill that need. No strings attached, no judgment about worthiness to receive or even control over how the gift is used. Give your gift to God and let him work out the details. The honor and ability to help is your reward. Your giving isn’t an investment opportunity, it is a Thank You note to God for all of the blessings in your life. It is a way to worship and serve, a way to pay it forward, a way to be used by God in whatever God might be up to in any given situation.