That one time I tried to speak ...

This is for any of you who may be interested in reading my notes from that one time I tried to share a little part of my story and heart at the Northfield Christian Fellowship women's Christmas tea back in December.

I started like Paul does with a "family chat" kind of style in sharing a little bit of my history,  relational ties, credentials, and roles. But NONE of them qualify me except the blood of Jesus by the Power of the Spirit. Nothing I say matters if I don’t have love and submit to the Spirit. (And honestly I’ve done a lot of things, said a lot of things, without love.)
     1COR 13.1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
     MATT 12.36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak ... BUT!!! ...
     2COR 3.4-6 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
     DISCLAIMER: I’m emotional. I’m a crier. But it’s not to manipulate. I’m used to being a “worship cheerleader” singing what I'm passionate about. NOT a speaker. So bare with me.

"Giving the Best Gift"

So, pastors and teachers and theological scholars use these breakdowns to teach Scripture: Eisegesis VS Exegesis. Eisegesis is reading your own ideas/interpretation in to scripture. Handpicking verses (out of context) to support an idea, like lots of cults do. GETS DANGEROUS! Don't do it. OR There's Exegesis where there is critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible. And that is what I will be doing tonight.
    Tonight will be like unwrapping a gift. Actually we’re going to start unwrapping the BEST GIFT! Like when a parent starts to help a child peel the paper back on a present, and when they begin to realize what it is that’s wrapped up, they GO CRAZY unwrapping. Especially when we’re young and think that the gift is going to “change our lives”. But tonight, we will begin to unwrap the only GIFT that will truly change your life. It will be a gift that you can’t wait to share, or Re-Gift. Not re-gift like a White Elephant gift … But like the BEST thing you’ve ever seen or tasted or beheld and can’t HELP but give it to others.

JAMES 1.16-25
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.  
The best Gift ever given to us, by the Best Gift Giver there has ever been, was Jesus.  And the best Gift we ever have to give is Jesus and His love poured through us by the power of the Spirit. Because baby Jesus came, we got salvation and the power of the Spirit living in us!!! Some of y’all are like “uh oh! Is she going all charismatic on us?! Talking about that Spirit?!” No, but let me share the lyrics of an old favorite song with you. I’m a southerner and have southern gospel roots that influenced a few favorite Christmas songs. One in particular is Sweet Little Jesus Boy (originally I heard it sung by Mahalia Jackson. YouTube it.) It says:  Sweet Little Jesus Boy/They made You be born in a manger/Sweet little Holy chil'/Didn't know who You wus/Didn't know You'd come to save us Lawd/To take our sins away/Our eyes was blind/We couldn't see/We didn't know who You was

Read V16&17 again.
     That means that God is constant. He doesn’t change. So we can know exactly who He is as He reveals Himself to us. We didn’t know who He was. And still today there are so many things about God that we don’t know or don’t understand, even much about the Holy Spirit. BUT We need to ask God to show us Himself instead of mindlessly letting other people fill in the blanks for us. Like when you stare at those black-n-white images and close your eyes to let some picture appear in your mind’s eye.  COL 2.8 says See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Unlike those illusions, don’t let your imagination or other people’s “empty philosophies” run away with you. Let the Word of God inform you about the Image of God! We’ve got to learn to stop focusing only on the parts of God that make really good sense to us and start LOVING His mystery.     
     Then, every revelation of His immensity will be like the sensation of falling in love. BECAUSE IT IS falling in love. Falling in love with the Triune God. The Creator of the vast expanses of our Universe and beyond! Oh to know Him correctly this side of eternity and one day absolutely fully!!! Love God. Love Jesus. Love the Holy Spirit. Is that your heart?

Read V18 again.
This means that when we heard the Word of Truth, we became a new creation. We chose to follow Christ but not by our own initiative. We were  drawn in and given new life or “reborn” by the power of the Spirit! So here we are back to talking about the Spirit. Some of us truthfully don’t understand much about Him. So let’s look at the tip of the iceberg of what His role is:
-       Look at the example of babies, their gestation and their birth has NOTHING to do with them. They don’t control it. Their parents are the ones!
-       So let’s LOOK AT JESUS’ BIRTH! It was all the Spirit’s work! It was the Spirit who placed a Holy Child in Mary’s womb. And after His mother gave birth to Him, He relied on the power of the Spirit to live a sinless life. He was 100% God and 100% man. He could’ve snapped His little baby fingers to rush everything by or make Mary forgo labor BUT Phil 2 .8 says being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient. to the point of death, even death on a cross. He humbled Himself by being obedient to the Father's will instead of demanding His way. So, even starting with His birth He was setting the example for the way we are to live. To rely on the power of the Spirit to bring into fruition a God-honoring, God-exalting life in us.

Read V19-21 again.
Sometimes that filthiness and rampant wickedness comes out when we lose perspective of the Gift and stop following His lead. We focus more on the things He’s built us to do instead of God Himself, and we begin comparing what The Gift looks like in other people’s lives to ours.
     When our eyes are no longer on The Gift Giver but on others, we whip out our measuring sticks to see how others measure up according to OUR standards. And we don’t just measure, we use those sticks for beatings. If you’re not good enough, we beat you down. If we think you’re better than us, we beat you down. We lose our focus. We lose our perspective.  And we beat the life right out of people! Stop comparing. You were made to love the Gift Giver, to love God, and then, Love People. Go read Ann Voskamp's post about this. She is SO much more eloquent and deep and moving than this little blurb here.
     You were NOT made to LOVE your passion/talent. (Some of you just came to a screeching halt, I'm sure of it.)You were made to love God and love on people. You were, however, given your talent to do things only you can by the power of the Spirit … To be in the place that you are, around the people that you are, to make an impact for ETERNITY. When your eyes are on Jesus and you see that you and everyone else only measure up by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, you begin to treasure The Gift, Jesus, the Greatest Treasure. You begin to see that your very breath is a gift. And you begin to realize that not only spiritually BUT ALSO PHYSICALLY He is literally your very life. HE ALONE AUTHORS your breath and your life.  Give your families and loved ones a gift of infinite worth, the gift of a woman whose joy and peace effect ETERNITY.  A mother, sister, wife, friend who speaks LIFE into those who she’s around. Ask God to begin to work in you His eternal perspective = that you get to play a part of someone having ETERNITY stamped on their heart.
      As you start walking confidently with this fresh perspective, and you’re “baking, cleaning, writing, singing your guts out" for God’s glory and not your own, people will take notice and criticism will somehow find its way to your ears. If you truly want to be excellent and hone your skill, WELCOME. IT. You might say BUT WAIT, WHAT IF IT’S FROM MEAN PEOPLE. Consider the source y’all. Satan wants nothing more than for you to feel defeated and be rendered ineffective. But whether it’s from a trusted friend or a “meanie weanie,” take it with a grain of salt and continue doing whatever it is that God has called you to do.  There’s no need for self-preservation: read 1 Peter2.20b-24. There’s no need for self-promotion: read 2Cor3.1-2.  Just be at peace: read Romans 12.17-18

READ V22-25 again. A great OT example of this is Abram!
Genesis 12:1-3 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

    God says, "I will bless you" … and OUT OF THAT you will be a blessing to others.  HE ALWAYS GIVES US WHAT WE NEED! Are you allowing the Spirit to have His way in you so that His Presence in you is a sweet fragrance, an encouragement, … a gift? You know those people that are just life-giving to be around!  Or, do you repel and drain? Now stop thinking of anyone else here but YO SELF!
     God was saying to Abram to leave everything, lay everything down – because I (God) love you more than anything. My gift for you is the absolute greatest beyond your wildest dreams. But you have to leave everything you know, trust me with everything you have (which is simply what I’ve already entrusted to you), and you will have everything you need Because. I. Will. Be. With. You.
Look at these lyrics to another possibly familiar song that my dad used to sing - I’d Rather Have Jesus:  I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I’d rather be His than have riches untold/I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands/I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand//I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause/I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause/I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame/I’d rather be true to His holy name//He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom/He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb/He’s all that my hungering spirit needs/I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead// Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain/Or be held in sin’s dread sway/I’d rather have Jesus than anything/This world affords today.
     If knowing that no matter what Jesus will be with you, leading and guiding you, doesn’t warm and fill your soul with hope, then maybe you simply aren’t wanting Jesus more than anything else, right now.  BUT TELL ME THIS: who here wants to wake up on Christmas morning with a heart that wants The Greatest Gift more than anything else?!!!!! WHAT JOY!!!TO WAKE UP WITH TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY!!!
    So let me take the liberty to flip the words of this old carol for a little better understanding: God’s rest for you merry, gentle (wo)men! Let nothing dismay you. Remember Christ our SAVIOR was born on Christmas day to save us all from Satan’s power EVERYTIME we have gone astray, Oh Tidings of comfort and joy!!!
And with that refreshed perspective so let our prayer then become the lyrics to this familiar carol: Pray with me, please,
O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

He will come again.